The Marvin Braude Bike Trail - A California Coastal Bike Ride Through LA County
If you’ve ever gone to the beach in LA County you have probably spent some time walking along the bike trail that borders the beach. Along the bike path you see all kinds of people. Some skateboarding, some bike riding, some walking, and others running. Michael and I were spending some time at Manhattan Beach one day and I got to wondering exactly how long the whole bike path was. So when I went home from our trip, I did a little research and found out it was a pretty long trail! I got so inspired to go bike riding along the whole trail, that only a few weeks later I went for a solo ride along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail.
About the Marvin Braude Bike Trail
The Marvin Braude Bike trail extends, North to South, for 22 miles (one way) from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrence County Beach, and there is over 2,500 feet of total elevation gain round trip (44 miles), which is surprising because from the plain eye the trail looks fairly flat. If you plan to ride the whole trail, you will either need to be prepared to ride back or arrange some sort of pickup at the other beach. Since I was solo, I opted to ride the full 44 miles.
- Distance: 22 miles one way (44 miles out and back)
- Elevation gain: about 2,500 feet
- Average time to ride: 4-6 hours (depending on fitness)
During a ride along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail you will pass through several iconic beaches:
- Will Rogers State Beach
- Santa Monica Pier
- Venice Beach
- Marina Del Rey
- Manhattan Beach
- Redondo Beach
- Torrence County Beach
Map of trail:
Click the map below to go to an interactive google map I created of the trail.
- There are some public bathrooms along the way at different beaches, but it is probably a good idea to bring a bike lock with you so you don’t have to leave your bike alone in these very public areas where they could potentially get stolen. Unless you are riding this with someone.
- 44 miles is nothing to sneeze at, know your limits and come prepared. I definitely wasn’t in the best biking shape when I did this. I definitely had to push myself the last few miles.
- It could be fun to break this ride up a bit more and take a few stops along the way too and make a longer day out of it if you’d like.
You could take a stab at trying to find free parking either around Will Rogers State Beach (if traveling North to South) or near Torrance Beach (if traveling South to North). I didn't want to mess with finding free parking so I just paid a day use parking fee to park at Will Rogers Beach. At the time I did this bike ride, that was only around $6, but I'm sure that changes with time. Still, for me, it was worth it.
When to Ride:
Honestly, the weather in LA County is pretty great year round. You will most likely have a good time riding this any time of year! There will definitively be more people in the summer months though when more people are on vacation.
What to bring on your ride:
1) U-lock bicycle lock: This is only really important if you plan to park your bike for a bit and either, go to the bathroom or stop on the trail and leave your bike. You may or may not need this.
2) Portable Bike Pump: I always bring a small portable pump with me when I ride. I had to use mine on this trail too.
3) Multi Bike Tool: I always bring this with me in case I have to repair something on my bike.
4) Bike Tire Levers: I always bring this with me on a ride in case I have to replace a tube in my tire if I get a flat.
5) Sunglasses: Its sometimes easy to forget that our eyes need sun protection too. Always have a pair of sunglasses on hand. My favorite pair for cardio activities are Goodr Sunglasses.
6) Sunscreen: This should be a no-brainer, but always wear and bring sunscreen, I didn't put enough on and I got gnarly bike short tan lines. I really like Neutrogena brand. They even have a Zinc based sunscreen if you are looking for something more natural.
7) Electrolytes: to help keep you going and stay hydrated and energetic.
8) Padded bike shorts: A must! Your bum will thank you.
9) Snacks: If you are doing this whole trail, it will probably be wise to bring some of your own snacks if you don't plan to stop along the way. Pack what works for you. Some people like bars, some like sandwhiches, there no real rules. I like to pack cliff bars, complete cookies, and lara bars for quick snacks.
10) Water: I found that 3 liters in a Camelbak was good enough for me for the bike ride.
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My Experience On The Trail:
Even though I don’t ride my bike a whole lot, I thought this trail looked like a lot of fun and a really cool way to see all the beaches that connect to each other. The weather would be lovely, and there would be plenty of people watching to do. The one kicker was, since I was by myself, I would need to ride 44 miles to do the route round trip, and at the time I had never ridden that far before.
I decided I was still up for the challenge though because of a few things:
- It's a paved path, which means it would be easier than mountain biking paths
- The bike path looked relatively flat when I had seen it in the past
- I can usually ride about 15 miles in 1 hour on the bike at the gym, If I assume a slightly slower pace, I estimated it would take me roughly 4 hours round trip of biking.
- I know my body can sustain exercise for up to 26 hours (that's the longest I've done an activity without rest, on Mount Rainer), and I'm in much better shape than I was then... AND 4 hours is WELL within that limit
- Thus I concluded, that even if it was hard and that if I got tired, I would make it back regardless.
Ok, that settled it. I decided to go ride the trail on one of my days off from work. I didn't want to deal with looking for free parking in LA so I just paid for parking at the Will Rogers State Beach. At the time it was only about $9 for the day. I got there about 9am.
I put on my (mid thigh) padded bike shorts, strapped on my dorky camel bak backpack, equipped with 3 liters of water, some snacks, bike pump, repair kit, gloves.... I purposely left my helmet (it didn't seem like a high risk trail), and I accidentally left my sunglasses... AND I wore a giraffe t-shirt. Are you starting to get a good picture of how awesome I looked? Blonde Bombshells and Brazilian bikini bottoms ain't got nothing on me.
I should also mention that when I rode this trail, I didn’t own a road bike. So I rode the whole thing on my mountain bike. I would definitively suggest the road bike over a mountain bike, but hey… you do what you gotta do
I can describe the first part of my ride as easy breezy fun. The first bigger beach I passed was the Santa Monica Pier. Always a classic, but usually crowded. The ride through it was beautiful though.
I soon ended up at Venice Beach, where I anticipated to see the masses of weed selling venues, vibrant side shops, hippies, the homeless and hipsters alike... but I guess they were all still sleeping. I was still feeling good at this point. I was starting to lose feeling in my rear end though from sitting on my bike seat, which wasn’t a good sign so early in the ride.
Then I hit Marina Del Rey. I read that there would be a slight detour from the beach path when you hit Marina Del Rey. I got lost though for a bit, so let me reiterate the directions I’ve already mentioned above. You turn left onto Washington, and ride down the street (there are nice bike lanes the whole way), and you will turn right before the sign on Mildred Av. See the picture below? There will be a bike route sign too.
I didn't ride far enough and thought I had missed the turn off, but some nice ladies who had come from the opposite direction helped me find the route again. Once you turn at this point, the path is pretty easy to follow.
But before you get back along the beach you get to ride beside some pretty sailboats.
And along this neat bike road next to where a lot of boats are setting sail.
About the time I got back to the beach path on the other side of Marina Del Rey, I started feeling like my back tire was deflated. Cycling started seeming harder. Ok, I got this. I will pump it up... duh.
So I pulled over and attempted to pump up my back tire. I'm usually with Michael when I go riding, and I somehow was using my bike pump wrong and managed to let out a ton of air in my back tire instead of adding air. Defeated... I called Michael, and finally he helped me to get it working! I was lifting the little lever the wrong way. Oops. Did I mention I don’t ride bikes much. I mean, this site is called She Dreams of Alpine… not She Dreams of Bike Riding. Alas, the one thing about us multi-passionate adventurers, is that we are always up to trying new things, especially when they take us to beautiful places.
Ok so ... I filled up the tire, but kind of got flustered because 2 people pulled their bikes over and asked if I needed help, and I, being the independent woman that I am, was like "I GOT THIS".. and I totally didn't fill up my tire enough because I was rushing to show them how confident I was in my solo-biking-adventuring.
I started riding again, and things were getting slower and worse than before. So I pulled over again... and I realized my tire was STILL flat. This second time I filled it up properly.
Ok, back on the road. I rode by the El Segundo Refinery.
Then I hit Manhattan beach, which is lovely and probably one of my favorite beaches to visit.
When I hit Redondo, I knew I was getting close to the end of the South point of the trail. It's neat once you get to Redondo because you get to ride through the fish market area.
The last couple of miles felt tough, and I was pretty hungry. I persevered though and made it to the mile marker telling me I was at the end.
There is a little food shack to grab lunch at, so I grabbed a table and stuffed my face with quesadillas and enjoyed some more people watching.
I was only half way through my journey though, so eventually I had to get my butt back on the bike and turn around.
The ride back was tough at first, but I got a second wind at Manhattan beach and did well until the last couple of miles or so. The last 2 miles were really rough, and I made it back to my car properly wrecked. Not including my 30 minutes for lunch... it took me a whopping 6 FREAKING HOURS to ride the trail. Damn, I'm slow. I definitely fell short of my estimated 4 hours. I'm guessing a road bike would be much faster on a trail like this.
Some other things to note about my trip:
- I wore sunscreen, but not enough and got a horrible bike short tan lines that haunted my legs for months.
- Also, don't be stupid like me and forget sunglasses... my eyes were burnt too.
- 3 liters of water was plenty.
- Your butt will definitely hurt during and after the ride, just embrace that fact. When I had some downhills I would stand on my bike to get some relief.
- 5 hour energy and snacks for the road are a definite must if tackling LA traffic and a long drive back home. Did I mention that I drove back home 2 hours the same day that I did the ride?
I would totally ride this again, despite it being challenging, I really enjoyed myself. It was a solid workout in a beautiful area. This might be even more fun riding with a friend... you could take time checking out more of the areas, grabbing a longer lunch, shopping even...
The full ride is not an easy feat for those not used to riding 40 + miles on their bike. However, be happy to know that you won't be alone out there on your trek. There are all kinds of people embarking on their own Marvin Braude Bike Trail Journey.
Things to look for on your journey:
- Motorized Skateboards
- People standing in the middle of the bike trail
- Dogs riding in baskets of bikes
- Volley ballers
- Beach bummers
- Tan and blindingly white people
- Jamaican Music
- The smell of weed
- Muscle men at the outdoor gyms
- More people standing in the middle of the bike trail
- Intense road bikers
- And if you're lucky, super sexy giraffe shirt wearing girls on mountain bikes