In the early afternoon on an October Sunday, Chandler slams his laptop close. A mechanical engineering student at UC Santa Barbara, he has spent the past few hours buried in work, the 70 and sunny weather tantalizing him all day. The thought of spending another minute inside studying on a day as perfect as this is criminal. He ditches his books for a bike and rolls downtown for an afternoon spin.
Chandler soon arrives on his Soma fixie at Mission Santa Barbara, a landmark standing watch over the city and Pacific Ocean below. Dating to 1786, when California was a Spanish territory, the Mission—as it’s referred to locally—is one of 21 outposts established by Spanish missionaries dotting the state’s coast from San Diego to the Bay Area up north. To this day it remains an active part of the Catholic Franciscan Order. Scanning downtown below, the centuries old Spanish influence persists in the architecture and red-tile clay roofs blanketing the city.
In need of an afternoon pick-me-up, Chandler rides into to the heart of downtown for a caffeine fix at Handlebar Coffee. Since its founding in 2011, this cafe has become an institution in the city, especially—as the name implies—amongst cyclists. The owners, husband and wife and former professional cyclists, Aaron Olson and Kim Anderson, have successfully transplanted a bit of the cafe culture they loved in Europe to Santa Barbara. With delicious coffee and tasteful bicycle themed decor, Handlebar offers something for cyclists and non-cyclists alike.
Chandler sips a cappuccino on the outdoor patio and watches a group ride stop in for a well deserved rest. As a former competitive racer himself, he appreciates the gathering place this coffee shop has become for cyclists from the local community and beyond. “Phil Gaimon was just here yesterday,” he says showing off his friend’s Instagram post from the day before with the ex-pro. “You never know who’s going to show up!”
Wiping a bit of foam from his moustache, the rejuvenated student hops back on his bike and heads into an international crowd shopping on State Street—the litany of languages floating though the air briefly giving the illusion we’re in the center of a European city. Soon, the street runs into the Pacific and Chandler detours onto the beachfront bike path, joining a stream of rollerbladers and families on four wheeled surrey bikes snaking along the coast.
“Maintenance was never really my thing,” he jokes, passing a couple of roadies patching a flat, “hence the fixie.” “When I was racing, it felt like I had to replace a new thing every week, but now I’ve settled on a simple bike with a few really good components.” Chandler’s bike of choice: a Soma Rush fixed gear bike with an Izumi Mash chain. “This chain is used by those Mash SF guys who bomb San Francisco hills on fixies with no brakes,” he says, pointing to his chain with black plates and gold rollers. “If it’s strong enough for them, it’s definitely good enough for me. Plus it runs super quiet.”
Navigating through the usual weekend craziness of skateboards, bicycles, walkers, and more competing for space on the sandy path, Chandler soon arrives along the harbor where a salty aroma of fish permeates the air. The fishing industry is still very active in Santa Barbara and this is the place to go for the freshest seafood; restaurants literally feet from the harbor are ready to serve you the catch of the day. Right now, it’s lobster season!
After taking in the views of the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north, Chandler decides to roll back home; it’s time to hit the books again. But he’s in no rush. Climbing back uptown, away from the harbor, he takes in one last ocean vista exclaiming, “I still can’t believe I live here!”
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