Pizza, Beer, Lost Helmets, and Found Friends: Training with Bike MS

Ijoined riders from all over Southern California and rode part of the Bike MS Bay to Bay route from Laguna Hill to Las Pulgas and back. It was a preview of the full event and served as a stepping stone for many riders who will be riding the Bay to Bay for their first time. Riders could do the full Day 1 route, 50-miles, or stick to a shorter 20 and 30-mile option.

For this training ride we started at the BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse on El Toro Rd, however on the first day of the Bay to Bay event, October 21st, riders will start at the Irvine Transportation Center. On this day, BJ’s provided a great central and ideal location for our crew because BJ’s has been a supporter of Bike MS and the cause for 20 years. Plus, we could all load up on pizza and beer after the ride.

Performance Bikes of Laguna Hills was also there with their mechanics to lead the different route options for the ride. Performance has also been a huge support to Bike MS in addition to leading the training ride, as they will be providing about 6000 protein bars, 5000 of gels and 2,500 chews on the day of Bay to Bay, a total benefit of more than $25,000 for the event. This saved expense puts more fundraised money towards research, programs and services for people living with multiple sclerosis. They also brought over some shop customers who had never ridden with Bike MS, but we’re really glad they finally did.

When I got to BJ’s, shortly before riders took off, I realized I had forgotten my helmet. I was pretty embarrassed, but I didn’t want to miss the ride by having to return home. When I informed the Bike MS crew that I made such a silly mistake, they quickly looked to find me a solution. My shame dissipated when I was met with several helpful riders offering to let me borrow their spares. Gratefully, I picked the helmet that fit best and was ready to roll. And now with a group of new friends who acted as wonderful ambassadors of the Bike MS message.

ParkingBJ's Restaurant &
Brew House Laguna Hills
Distance28 miles
Ride TypeTraining Ride for Bay to Bay
Route TypeRoad
Climbing1,106 ft
DifficultyCoastal, Straight, Non-Technical
Estimated Ride Time2 hrs
LinksStrava Route

Mile 0-9

Moving out of the BJ’s restaurant, we headed towards Alicia Pkwy. Along Alicia Pkwy, I ran into some other cyclists who were heading towards Solano Beach Station, unrelated to us. This road is popular among Southern California riders with great views and wide lanes. I caught the tail end of our group to catch up with some of the sweepers. I talked to a cyclist named Kim, and as we rode along, she told me about her loved ones who are living with MS. She rides to support them by being the captain of one of the top fundraising teams, Team Fancy Pants.

By mile 6 we were climbing up about 400 feet still along the stretch of Aliso Pkwy. This area of the route is more of a canyon ride experience as you pass the vast Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park and various other community parks.

Mile 10-16

As we rode into mile 10 and headed towards the beach, there were a lot more opportunities for riders to chat amongst each other. I talked to Oscar and a few others from team Beckman Coulter. Oscar recently retired from the company, but was excited to participate in Bay to Bay with the team. The event serves as a chance for him and previous co-workers to catch up on all the goings-on in the company, like a type of family reunion, except moving on two wheels. Another rider from Beckman Coulter, Paul, discussed how he pushes through climbs inspired by his friends who pushes through MS. Most of the riders I talked to share the same sentiment as Paul – though they may not have the diagnosis, they still ride on behalf of the folks who do. It is a welcoming and inspiring community.

We reached our midway point, Doheny Beach, and stopped for water and to refuel. The beach was packed on this Saturday, but nobody had any problems finding available facilities; this point will also be a fuel stop during the day of Bay to Bay. Some of the riders who were getting in the 40 and 50-mile training routes continued on towards Solana Beach, while our group planned to head back towards BJ’s. Instead taking the coastal route like we had getting to the beach, we turned around to head towards the trails in the San Juan Capistrano area.

Mile 17-21

Back towards BJ’s from Dohney Beach, we took the San Juan Creek trail. Despite it’s trash laden creek beds, there were several large groups of people picking up trash and cleaning up the trail. As cyclists we were especially appreciative of this effort and expressed our gratitude with waves and “thank you” to the volunteers.

By this point, we were all a little bit too tired to chat as we had earlier in the ride and our attention was on all there were to look at along the trail. As we passed through the neighborhoods of San Juan Capistrano, residents enjoying the beautiful day outside smiled and waved to us; we were met with many friendly faces on this ride. Breaking through the neighborhoods and back onto the roads, the climbing became more sustained, and our small peloton began to form gaps.

Mile 22-Finish

I was able to get up front with our leader Mike from Performance, along with Lisa from Riverside Bicycle Club. During the ascent up Camino Capistrano, I was thankful for their pace-making up the south county climb. We started getting into Mission Viejo and a little closer to our reward of pizza and beer. The summit-fever of an approaching finish was setting in. We rode up and alongside the I-5 until we saw the Laguna Hills/Mission Viejo station, which we could shortcut through to a bike trail.

This part was sort of an adventure because we had to maneuver our way up a handicap ramp that led us to the Metro station. Mike had been prepping us beforehand saying, “prepare for the cyclocross section,” but was surprised when he saw the station had been recently renovated to include ramps in place of stairs. He was happy to see this improvement, and that we could all still pedal up to the station instead of having to dismount and walk up several flights of stairs. We rode across the empty parking lot of the station, through to the Oso Creek Trail for about 4 miles.

The trail took us all the way to Cabot Rd. which we followed until we hit La Paz Rd., which would then take us onto Muirlands Blvd. The short segment of Cabot Rd. is on an incline and near the I-5 freeway entrance so we all had to be vigilant while turning right onto La Paz Rd. On this day, cars were slow and gave us plenty of space.

Heading down La Paz Rd. we recognized the familiar canyon setting that we had experienced a couple hours earlier. When we turned onto Muirlands Blvd., I realized we weren’t done climbing just yet. The first half of Muirlands Blvd was on a 3% incline wide lane road, lined with large suburban homes and pool backyards.It is certainly California’s suburbs at its loveliest. Getting over the last hump wasn’t bad at all and once we reached Los Alisos, I knew we were almost home.

When we arrived back at BJ’s, there were already some riders inside enjoying pizza and beer. Some had just finished and others had come in from the 50 mile route, which had started earlier in the morning. By this time hungry patrons were being seated for lunch, but you couldn’t miss the row of lycra kits and the sounds of collective laughter coming from the cyclists at the bar.

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