Locations: Oak View, Ventura, Oxnard
I lived in Oxnard for quite a while (I think 8 or 9 years) but in that time, I probably rode maybe 50 miles. Total. I had Old Yeller (got it while in college up in Santa Barbara), but never got into riding like I am now. So I didn’t appreciate a lot of things that the South Coast region had to offer.
First, the climate. Tulsa and Riverside are stupidly hot, and Tulsa insanely cold at times. Even LA is inconsistent, giving you some gorgeous days, some hot, some mild. You never really know. But Ventura, Oxnard, and SB range from 50-75° YEAR ROUND! You read that right: almost constant riding weather. Can you imagine how many miles we could ride if we didn’t have to deal with sub-zero and 100+° weather for half the year???
Then, there’re the roads. In short: they’re large. Okay, there’s some very small roads up in Oak View near Lake Casitas, but they have a very nice bike path (Ojai Valley Trail, a converted railroad line), so you can avoid the mountain traffic when heading to/from Ventura. Most of the roads have bike lanes, and those that don’t have such wide shoulders that it’s easily like another lane – unlike the massively generous 4″ shoulders we have here in Tulsa. 40 yards of grass to either side of the road, and 4″ of shoulder. Seriously city planners… think it through.
Ventura County varied the most from city to city. Oak View (where we were staying) was the most rural, with beautiful mountain and valley vistas, lots of trees, and a warmer climate. Ventura opens up to a more city / suburban feel, with a very nice beach and harbor area. Then there’s Oxnard. You lose the beach, but gain farmland galore. This is also where the clouds are densest and take the longest to break up.
Because I was visiting my parents down in Oxnard – and coming from Oak View – my 20 mile ride was literally all down hill! I felt bad for the riders I passed heading up, because I was cruising along, taking photos, and averaged 19.5 without breaking a sweat. Down hill = awesome. To top it off, since my wife and the kids were heading down to meet me there, I didn’t have to ride back. 😉
The people I encountered while riding were mostly friendly, though some of the younger kitted riders seemed rather stand-offish (I know, hard to judge while on a bike, just the vibe I got). Like Riverside, a much more casual feel than LA, but it also felt, I don’t know, snobbish? Odd, since Ventura isn’t really high-end or anything. But, that was the vibe.
Then there’s Santa Barbara. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to ride out there (would’ve taken me through Carpinteria, Summerland, and Montecito – talk about snooty) but I did visit. UC Santa Barbara is very much a biking campus. In fact, so much so that bikes have the right of way at all path crossings! Bike paths criss-cross and surround the campus, as well as leading to Goleta
Beach and reaching almost downtown. Beyond the paths and college, the city itself is very bike-friendly, with lots of bike racks, on-street bike paths, and cycling commuters galore. This area – even more than the LA beaches – gave me that surf-dude-on-a-bike vibe. They seemed to embody the bike culture. I regret not riding up there (though with all the food we ate and walking we did that day, I’m pretty glad I didn’t).
If LA county is the fast lane, and Riverside county the outskirts, Ventura county would be the easy going suburban roads, while Santa Barbara county is the hipster cruise frontage road.
A variagated riding experience, spread across almost 300 miles of southern California. All in all, with Tulsa’s relatively friendly nature, large set of off-road paths, and well-established bike culture, we have a pretty well-rounded riding environment in comparison to the areas that I rode out in Cali. Some of the best features (and a few of the not-so-good ones) rolled into a single community. Yep, biking in Tulsa – all things considered – is good. It’ll be nice to get back and ride with my new perspectives and appreciation for what we have and do well.