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Nail polish heir Robbie Schaeffer jumps on his passion for bicycling

Robbie Schaeffer, whose father founded the OPI nail polish empire, became a bicycling enthusiast who now runs a cyclist-themed restaurant and leads bike tours.
(Emily Dwass)

Growing up, Robbie Schaeffer always assumed he would join OPI Products, the nail polish empire his father founded (and which was bought by Coty Inc. in 2010). And so he became a licensed nail technician and opened a salon in Studio City. But then Schaeffer switched gears, literally. A longtime cycling enthusiast, Schaeffer last year opened Pedalers Fork, a bicycle-themed restaurant in Calabasas, which combines some key ingredients of cycling culture: great coffee, healthful comfort food, an impressive selection of beer and wine, and a bicycle repair shop. Schaeffer, 34, regularly leads bike excursions from the restaurant, biking 100 to 200 miles each week.

When you look back at when you were working in the beauty world, would you say you’re happier and healthier now?

One hundred percent. I do love the nail world and the people in the beauty industry, but staying inside all day was really difficult for me. I’m a person who loves to play in the outdoors. In Los Angeles, we’ve been blessed with such an amazing place to live. Take a step back and look what’s around. Don’t be afraid to get out there. On a bike, or take a hike, or go for a run, or go kayaking, paddle boarding — all of these amazing opportunities are at our doorstep.

What is it about cycling that you love?

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It’s that sense of freedom. It’s pure fun. The wind is in your face, you’re moving fast. It’s competitive at times. But for the most part, it’s like that free spirit in you is being let out. You forget about everything. You just get on the bike and you go.

What kind of food do you eat when you’re riding?

I start my ride with a small bite. Coffee is a very integral part of it. Cyclists have different routines on what they eat. But you definitely want to get something in the tank. And we carry food with us. You should be eating every 30, 45 minutes on the bike, replacing calories as you’re riding. We’re not shy about how we eat, but we try to eat clean: We’re not eating fast food. Also, you want to be drinking water and some kind of electrolyte mix, so you’re supplementing that loss of electrolytes. After a ride, then it’s a celebration. We always say the greatest recovery drink is beer.

What’s the best way for a beginner to get into cycling?

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The best way for people to really get excited about riding is to join a group. You will get better and better, because everybody pushes each other. You slowly learn and you build your skill. If you’re by yourself, it’s hard to gauge your progress. You just improve when you’re with other riders. We try to go out at least once or twice a month on a destination or adventure ride, where we go to Ojai, to Santa Barbara or we head down south to Laguna. A bicycle is a wonderful way to see a city.

You’re a big supporter and on the board of the nonprofit Beauty Bus Foundation. Why is this cause important to you?

The Beauty Bus Foundation is a charity that provides free beauty and grooming services to those who are chronically or terminally ill. Not only for the person who is ill, but for their caregiver as well, because caregivers pretty much give up their lives for that person. We provide at-home hair, nail and skin care, to help patients maintain dignity and give them respite during a difficult time. We also offer pop-up salons in area hospitals. ... I visited a woman two weeks before she passed. Her daughter, who was her caregiver, said it was the first time her mother had smiled in three months. If we can do that, we know we’ve made a difference.

health@latimes.com

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