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Out of the Blue: Let's nurture Laguna's biking culture

November 21, 2013|By Billy Fried
  • Cyclists travel through Aliso and Wood Creeks Park.
Cyclists travel through Aliso and Wood Creeks Park. (Billy Fried )

Now that our community has opined that we don't want more cars circulating through our fair city, how do we make that a reality?

One way is to expand on what discerning mountain bikers across the planet already know: Laguna is a world-class place of steep climbs and technical descents, with breathtaking views and coastal breezes.

It's why two of the most famous cyclists in the world call Laguna home: Hans "No Way" Rey and Brian Lopes. It's like having Laird Hamilton and Kelly Slater living here. The similarities are striking.

While Rey — who Bike Magazine just called the World's Greatest Mountain Biker — has eschewed competitions in favor of free-riding some of the most treacherous terrain on the planet (akin to Laird chasing the biggest waves), Lopes has piled up 18 titles and keeps crushing the competition.

Rey says mountain bikers love to visit Laguna in winter, when the heat abates but it is still sunny and dry. But unlike the surfers along our coast, these amazing athletes are mostly invisible as they zip through the canyons of Laguna Coast Wilderness and Aliso and Wood Creeks Park.

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Plus we certainly haven't done much to acknowledge or even market to bikers in the way other destinations like Moab and Marin County have. And we don't have expanded trails and services that would bring a broader swath of the mountain biking public. This is a big loss to our tourist-serving merchants, who could use the counter-seasonal surge of business.

Nobody understands this better than Rey, who I recently interviewed on my radio show (Thursdays at 9 p.m. on KX93.5). As a global ambassador of the sport, Rey consults with several resort towns to help them become mountain-biking destinations. One such town is Livigno, a famous ski resort in the Italian Alps.

Business is of course brisk in the winter, but the hotels struggled with a precipitous drop-off during the summer months. So the community hatched the idea to become a bike-friendly area, with the goal of being certified (and marketed by) the International Mountain Bicycling Assn. as a destination resort.

According to Rey, "Their bike-related infrastructure goes way beyond extensive trails for any kind of mountain bikers, but also a 15-mile-long bike path, host to many bike-related events (including host of the 2005 Mountain Bike World Championships), bike parks and many related businesses as well as a network of 15 bike hotels."

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