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What’s New: To Live And Ride In L.A.

- Arriving in Los Angeles, I expected to see more Francos.

Do you know Franco? It’s southern California’s answer to Canyon. Franco likely lacks in Canyon’s engineering prowess and most definitely lacks its WorldTour presence. But it nevertheless shares the cornerstone principle of Canyon’s success. Both companies sell their bikes consumer-direct. By cutting out the wholesaler, the bike shop and their markups, retail pricing for, say, a Dura Ace bike should be a quantum leap lower.

Pricing is a true advantage for Canyon. A cursory inspection online, however, shows that Franco isn’t playing from the same book after all. For example, take the Franco Balcom S Dura Ace 9000 which costs $6,799. A Trek Madone 7.7 with Dura Ace 9000 sells for $7,199. That 6 percent difference is hardly enough for anyone to give the nod to Franco based on savings.

If there’s only one thing I’ve learned in 16 years of retail, it’s that nothing impacts purchasing behavior like price. In both brick and mortar and e-commerce, lower prices most dramatically drive higher conversion. The “Franco Direct Model” doesn’t seem to deliver, despite promises otherwise.. The brand calls Westlake Village home, its bikes are named for the area’s highways and byways, and its marketing seems targeted (isolated?) to Road Bike Action, a magazine whose voice and photographic backdrops make it perhaps best known as the SoCal Bike Bugler. Nevertheless, in nine days of riding all over L.A. I saw only one Franco. At first it was a surprise. Unless I’m missing something, however, I shouldn’t have expected anything different.

- Clichés are meant to be ignored. And little is more clichéd than gripes about Los Angeles traffic. But in how it paralyzes, then looms, then paralyzes, then looms — you can’t go blowing it off as mere cliché. How about “hors cliché” to describe an over-exhausted topic that’s simply impossible to dismiss?

In Los Angeles traffic seems to burden every consideration, and it gives riding a distinguished level of anxiety. But just a bit south of the city there’s an oasis of sorts, Rancho Palos Verdes. The traffic is less frenetic, the climbs in places are reasonably long, and the views are periodically exquisite.

Relative peace aside, though, am I the only one who finds the place unsettling? There’s a creepy vibe in the air, one that let me know I didn’t belong. It was like a gated community minus the gates. A walled complex sans walls. A cult compound without a known cause.

You do not belong.

Riding in Rancho Palos Verdes is like walking into a bright room occupied by whisperers. It seems a secret is being kept there. It obscures the surrounding beauty jointly and severally. It reminded me of my time in Arkansas, when the delight of my favorite roadside vista in the Ozarks once got undone by a freshly planted car crash memorial.

As you climb up the Rancho Palos Verdes ridgelines, the suggestion of wealth is everywhere. The hills are crammed with Spanish-flavored McMansions and well-watered golf links and the rolling green meadows of California’s equestrian noblesse. But once you crest the top, the would-be glamour half-collapses into a heap of absurdity. It’s here that you can peer through the trees and in between colossal homes you see the view their back terraces command. It’s not the infinite pool of the Pacific or a telegenic panorama of downtown L.A., but rather the monstrous port infrastructure of Long Beach. Dozens of skyscraping cranes and containerships and rail lines, overhung by yellow pollution from a Wilfred Owen nightmare.

I once read that Los Angeles is the “most photographed and least remembered city in the world.” Just a few miles away, Rancho Palos Verdes is distinctly different. Not for its comparatively civil drivers, but for the fact that it’s such a juxtaposition to see million dollar homes watching over the grim, industrial sausage-making of the American consumer economy. It’s searing, and it’s unforgettable.

- “…if your bike ever gets stolen, you can at least take solace in the fact that the illicit bike trade isn’t a very easy way to make a lot of money. ” A neat article. Sort of long. But worth a skim.

- Is there such a thing as reclaimed steel? If not, perhaps this bike will kick off the trend. It’s the most mouthwatering thing I’ve seen in awhile.