Gorgeous topography, temperate weather, and a bike-loving populous help make Santa Monica an ideal destination for two-wheeled adventure. Whether you favor a leisurely beach cruise, a scenic road ride, or an epic patch of singletrack, the area’s diverse trails, roads, and tours deliver. Navigating the city by bike is also a breeze thanks to bright green bike lanes that help protect cyclists. By Elizabeth Jenkins
Pedal… or Not Electric Bicycle Tours
Best for: Bike tours
Saddle up for motorized bicycle tours that allow visitors to rest their weary legs as they zip merrily between the city’s most famous landmarks. With Pedal... or Not Electric Bicycle Tours, discover the soul of Santa Monica—from Muscle Beach to the historic Marion Davies Guest House—on two- to three-hour outings, or customize a private tour.
Marvin Braude Beach Trail
Best for: Beach cruisers
Known to locals as “The Strand,” this iconic multiuse recreational path stretches from Pacific Palisades to Torrance, packing in 22 miles of inspiring coastal scenery. Start your Santa Monica biking adventure at Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades, continuing past popular surf breaks along Santa Monica State Beach, underneath the Santa Monica Pier, and by the famed Muscle Beach. Continue along Washington Boulevard through Marina del Rey—the only stretch where riders encounter motorists—before hitting a coastal trail again in Playa del Rey. Those with stamina can press on through Venice, El Segundo, Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo Beach, all the way to the path’s end at Torrance County Beach.
Best for: Townie bikes
Seemingly tailor-made for townie riders, Main Street is especially desirable because of the numerous shops and restaurants, as well as the Sunday farmers market. The market has a free bike valet; plus, there are three bike corrals on Main Street, which make parking convenient and safe for riders. (The two corrals on the east side of Main Street have seven racks with room for 14 bikes, and the one on the west has four racks with space for eight bikes.) Thanks to the recent addition of green bike lanes on Main Street and neighboring Ocean Park Boulevard, Broadway, and Second Street, and several bike boxes, all of those streets are well-equipped for casual riders.
San Vicente Boulevard
Best for: Road bikes
Stretching from Ocean Avenue to Wilshire, this Santa Monica biking tour visits a lively mix of homes, shops, and restaurants. A dedicated bike lane allows cyclists to pedal from one end to the other, and dip into downtown via Ocean Avenue on the western end. The loop around the Brentwood Country Club, near Wilshire Boulevard, is a warm-up for many cyclists who ride in groups, particularly on the weekends.
Mandeville Canyon Road
Best for: Road bikes
This curvy sliver of asphalt bordering Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area is an extremely popular out-and-back training ride for cyclists. Thought to be the longest dead-end, paved road in Los Angeles, the route stretches five miles, rising a heart-thumping 1,000 feet into the hills. The route’s gentle grade (no more than 5 percent) and relative lack of car traffic make it suitable for all skill levels. Up for a challenge? Local racers have been known to sprint up the canyon in less than 18 minutes. The Mandeville Canyon Association has maps and route suggestions at mandevillecanyonassociation.com.
Best for: Mountain Bikes
Just north of town, the Santa Monica Mountains rise nearly 2,000 feet, creating an ideal playground for fat tire fans. Riding options abound off Westridge Fire Road, a wide dirt path that links singletrack trails along a ridgeline flanked by a 20,000-acre forest known as “The Big Wild.” Atop San Vicente Mountain a former cold war-era military lookout provides sweeping view of downtown Los Angeles. Alltrails.com has information, photos and reviews of the Westridge-Canyonback trail.
Backbone Trail (to Temescal Ridge)
Best for: Mountain bikes
Tracing the spiny crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, this popular 13-mile round-trip biking route begins at Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades and features everything a mountain biker could want: smooth singletrack, switchbacks, flowing descents, and just enough technical rocky sections to keep you on your toes, not to mention wide-open panoramas of the Pacific. Alltrails.com has information, photos and reviews of the Backbone trail.
Chow down before, during, or after a ride at these casual eateries. Known for its rental shops, Perry’s Café and Beach Rentals also boasts four open-air cafés, where riders often gather for snacks. At Back on the Beach find fresh, seasonal fare and outdoor patios. Fuel up with a California omelet in the morning or stop for grass-fed burgers in the afternoon. To end the day with a cold beer, try Big Dean’s Oceanfront Cafe near the Pier.
Perry’s Café and Beach Rentals offers nine Santa Monica bike rental locations and boasts the largest fleet in California. Choose from one-, two-, three-hour, all-day or multiday rentals, beginning at $10/hour. They’ll even supply tag-alongs for kids. Plus, the company’s Legends Historic Bike Tour ($59 adults, $50 seniors & students, $30 kids under 12) explores both Santa Monica and Venice, where surfing, skateboarding, and beach volleyball all originated.
Helen’s Cycles rents performance road bikes and mountain bikes for one, three, or seven days (not hours), starting at $65/day. Need a riding partner? Helen’s offers coed rides for intermediate to advanced cyclists the first Saturday of every month, a women-only group ride the third Saturday of every month, a beginner ride the first and third Sunday of every month, and numerous other regular local rides. You can also hire a guide from Helen’s to lead you on a private tour through the mountains.
Santa Monica Bike Center offers memberships to local bike commuters with perks like secure bike parking and even showers. But it’s also a boon for visitors, thanks to rental options, unique guided outings like an Urban Farm Tour or Street Art Tour. The center also dishes up advice on suggested routes for riders new to town.
Bike Attack Electric rents a constantly updated selection of electric bikes for up to a full day of pedal-assisted cruising.
- Ride with traffic - Riding on the sidewalk is prohibited in the City of Santa Monica and can result in a ticket. Ride on the right side of the road. Observe stop signs, signals and basic right-of-way rules.
- You can leave a bike lane
- Cyclists can ride on the road, instead of in a bike lane, at any time if they prefer. You may merge by slowing down and indicating to the cars behind you by pointing downward to the road. Always look behind you before merging.
- Use hand signals
- Communicate with the cars on the road by pointing left or right when you plan to turn, and if you need to stop raise your left arm, bent at the elbow in a 90-degree angle.
- Wear a Helmet - Helmets are required by law for any bicyclists under the age of 18.