Despite both being residents of Malibu for numerous years and members of the City’s extensive cycling community just as long, bicyclists Meril May and Patrick Mason had not met until late last year.
Now, at least once a week, the two cycling enthusiasts go on rides together.
“We just had a ride last weekend,” said May. “Patrick and I had a great ride up in the mountains.”
Their newfound riding partnership isn’t the only one. Since late November, bicyclists of all levels have been finishing their weekends by participating in organized rides and then dining on Italian dishes together. That is all a part of the Mangia Ride.
The brainchild of Malibu restaurateur and devoted cyclist Antonio Alessi, the Mangia Ride is an effort to bring a sense of community to Malibu through bicycling and good food.
“The Mangia Ride allows people from the community to get together in a social way, share ideas and go riding” he said.
Every Sunday, beginner, intermediate and expert bike riders gather at Alessi’s Mangia Italian Countryside Eatery at 9 a.m. to socialize and prepare their bicycles for about 30 minutes. After that, they begin their two-wheeled trek, which can take them through the canyons or along the coastline.
At 11:45 a.m. the cyclists pedal back to Mangia. There, they sit, socialize and eat pizza, pasta or whatever dishes are donated from the restaurant’s kitchen.
Alessi said that is what the Mangia Ride is about at heart.
“The community gets together,” he said. “The kids ride, teenagers ride, the adults ride and the advanced riders ride. The riding, the eating afterwards and the sharing of ideas — all of these things happen.”
Alessi thought of the ride after founding the annual Malibu Gran Fondo last February with Serious Cycling, a cycling shop with locations in Agoura Hills and Northridge.
“It was successful, but not necessarily the vision I had,” he said. “I want to have a community ride. That is basically what a Gran Fondo is, a gathering of cyclist of all levels. They enjoy the sport of cycling together.”
Mason and May, friends of Alessi’s before the Mangia Ride, helped Alessi get the wheels rolling on launching the weekly event.
Alessi said the weekly two hour and 15 minute ride is for novice riders just as much as it’s for hardcore cyclists. The riders always embark on different paths determined by their riding level.
“The advanced riders choose their own route, so they might want to go on a hard climb, descend and then a long ride,” he said. “The less advanced riders might choose to take a ride across PCH and ride along the water and do an easy ride up to the Pointe or all the way down to Big Rock — just a leisurely, comfortable ride with the family.”
May said families could start at Mangia and enjoy a nice ride to the beach.
“You can enjoy the Malibu coastline from a bicycle instead of a car,” he said. “You are much more in tune with the environment. You get the smell of the ocean. You stop and look at the flowers. You can stop and rest if you want to.”
Since the Mangia Ride’s inception last fall, the number of riders participating has varied. Alessi said most Sundays, up to 20 bicyclists from Malibu and surrounding areas show up.
Mason said he has met several new people at the Mangia Ride.
“They are all local and have lived here all their lives,” he said. “We are all from different walks of life, different professions, semi-retired, retired or still working. Bicycling is a good equalizer. It doesn’t matter who you are. You are just going to ride.”
A couple of weeks ago, before their Sunday morning ride, Alessi, Mason and May discussed ideas such as getting schools involved and safety riding demonstrations.
Alessi envisions the Mangia Ride hosting its own Gran Fondo one day.
“We want to have all local people involved,” he said. “The whole idea of it is to be something where anybody can come.”
Alessi emphasized that all bicyclists are welcome to take part in the Mangia Ride.
“All they have to do is show up,” he said. “It’s a very easy ride to jump on. It is a community ride.”