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Let It Ride

From hip cruisers to haute paths, here's a manual to all things bicycle cool

January 06, 2008|Claire Martin | Claire Martin has written for Men's Journal and Outside. Contact her at magazine@latimes.com.

WHEELS WITH WOW

Cruiser-fabulous designs manufactured by Phat Cycles, Felt and Nirve are bestsellers, but for bikes elevated to an art form, ride to Freecity Supershop (www.freecitysupershop.com) in Malibu Country Mart. Using parts salvaged from EBay, owner Nina Garduno and her team of artisans hand-assemble retro-cool rigs such as the bohemian-blue "One Man Band" bike festooned with horns, scarves and flags. New to town is Derringer Cycles (www.derringercycles.com) on West 3rd Street in Los Angeles, which specializes in moto-hybrids. The bikes, modeled after 1920s track-racing motorcycles, are part-traditional bicycle, part-scooter; just pedal as usual, or zoom up to 30 mph on a tank that gets up to 180 miles per gallon. The fashion world is also channeling the bicycle aesthetic: Chanel (www.chanel.com) just introduced a Karl Lagerfeld-designed black cruiser with panniers made out of the house's signature quilted leather, and Cynthia Rowley (www.cynthiarowley.com) wheeled out one-of-a-kind, floral-print wheels during her latest runway show. "[They're] good for you and good for the environment," Rowley says. "You really could have a bike in a few different colors, and if you're a little fashion crazy, you could put it together with what you're wearing."

MR. FIX-IT

An unscientific survey of top cycle shops in Venice and Santa Monica reveals that Bike Attack (www.bikeattack.com), which has locations in both areas, boasts some of the hottest mechanics in town--picture rugged, outdoorsy types. "I don't know why the girls always come to my shop," says co-owner Andrew Smith, an aforementioned outdoorsy type with sandy-blond hair, "but they love my mechanics, that's for sure. We're conveniently located by all the paths, and my guys are always really friendly when they come in needing this or that."

PATHs TO ENLIGHTENMENT

Spend more than 10 minutes on Abbot Kinney, and you'll start wondering if a bike is required to navigate between the shops on the street. Venice's combination of beachfront acreage and bike path-lined roads draws many of the most fashionable cyclists in town: Cream-colored cruisers with pink tires and orange lowriders with painted flames usually outnumber classic black Schwinns. "In Venice, what you're seeing is people's personalities in the bike," says Garduno, whose Malibu shop is on another stylish route, Cross Creek Road. On any given Sunday, riders in flirty dresses can be spotted pedaling from boutique to boutique in the Country Mart. Across town on Larchmont Boulevard, bikes with strapped-on yoga mats are often parked outside neighborhood lunch spots.

SAFETY FIRST

Contrary to popular perception, riders over the age of 18 are not required to wear helmets in California. But if you want to be safe and not dork-out a cute ensemble, Helen's Cycles in Santa Monica (www.helenscycles.com) carries several style-conscious toppers. Try the Giro Ionos crystal blue, which accommodates ponytails, or the Trek Vapor with a pink Hawaiian-lei motif.

BELLS AND WHISTLES>> As two-wheelers morph into fashion accessories, ways to accessorize the accessory are spiking. Rowley now hawks leather saddle bags and wicker baskets that attach to the bike's rear rack. Electra's add-ons (www.electrabike.com) include mud flaps emblazoned with the iconic lady-in-repose and seats upholstered in denim or leopard print. Even bells are getting conspicuously chic: Mirrycle's "Incredibell Woodpecker" (www.mirrycle.com) is a sleek, retro-looking dome crafted from Japanese cherry or padauk wood.

WORK IT OUT

According to Sherri Rosen, a spinning instructor at Yas Fitness Center in Venice, a 15-minute whirl on a cruiser will burn only 20 to 25 calories versus 200 while spinning. "You're not getting your heart rate up, and that's what really gets the calories going," she says. Still, it's 20 more calories than jumping in the car. *

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