By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
I took my GPZ out for a ride
The engine felt good between my thighs . . .
. . . I headed for the mountains feeling warm inside
I love that GPZ so much you know that I could kiss her.
--Lou Reed, ”New Sensations“
While a motorcycle can certainly get you from here to there, anyone who buys one solely to commute is missing the point. Sure, it‘s got its advantages -- parking’s a breeze and the cops let you cut between cars -- but the truth is, if you‘re in a hurry to be somewhere, a motorcycle’s probably the last thing you should be on. The true joy of riding is not in the arrival; on a motorcycle, it really is the journey that counts. And in summer, with hotter temperatures, three extra hours of daylight and no rain, journeys beg to be taken.
Riding is an intensely visceral experience. On a bike, open and unprotected, you‘re at the mercy of the elements -- hot or cold, wet or dry, you feel everything. Steering uses your whole body, as you shift your weight and lean into turns, feeling and responding to every dip, twist and bump in the road. The wind rips at your leathers and roars in your ears. Every scent -- pine, orange grove, paper mill -- and every slight shift in temperature are inescapable. You are acutely aware of your surroundings; sight, smell, touch, even taste -- every sense is saturated. On the best roads, the great ones, as you throttle down, lean and accelerate into curve after curve and thought gives way to response, you, the road and the environment almost merge into one; you feel totally present and completely alive.
So what makes a great road great? In general, they’re all variations on the same basic theme: a two-lane road (the longer the better) through scenic and varied terrain, with smooth pavement, a good number of twists and turns, little traffic and, crucially, as few intersections (where most motorcycle accidents occur) as possible. And, however much of a daily cycle grind L.A. may be, the basin‘s blend of ocean, mountains, forests and deserts offers some of the best summer day rides anywhere, a good number of them ridiculously close to the belly of the beast. Here’s a quick tour:
When you need a quick fix, you can‘t do better than Mulholland Drive. Leaning through the first two miles alone, as it climbs and curves from Cahuenga until it levels off at Runyon Canyon, will bring a smile to even the most jaded biker’s face. The view south across the city is world-class, and in another mile and a half the northern vista opens up, the Valley sprawls out flat to your right and the dark bulk of the San Gabriels looms in the distance. It‘s far from perfect -- there’s too much traffic and way too many intersections -- but the location can‘t be beat; I had to ride at least 60 miles for this kind of action when I lived in Manhattan. And who knows, you might to myself. And that possibility should only increase as the days lengthen and the light lingers ever longer past the rush-hour blues.
SCENIC CORRIDOR AND
THE ROCK STORE
Almost every great motorcycle road has a great roadhouse somewhere along it. You know the spot: an old mom-and-pop place in the middle of nowhere serving up hot burgers, cold beer and loud music. Originally an old stagecoach stop, the Rock Store on Mulholland Highway (30354 N. Mulholland Hwy., Cornell; 818-889-1311), built in 1910 of the same red lava rocks strewn throughout the corridor, has been the Spago of L.A.’s biker community since Ed and Vern opened it in ‘61; that epitome of motorcycle cool, Steve McQueen himself, used to frequent the joint. If you’ve been wondering where all the motorcycles are in L.A., swing by any Sunday afternoon -- the bikes are lined up, polished and shining, by the hundreds. But it‘s the road you’ll want to come for. Take the 101 to Topanga, then pick up Mulholland Highway and follow it west, past the horse ranches, through the steep, brush-covered hills of Malibu Creek State Park. Just beyond the Rock Store there‘s a mad, twisting climb, past the uplifted and tilted remnants of ancient volcanic eruptions, to a stunning view across the entire corridor. You’re on your own from here -- the Santa Monica Mountains are laced with myriad canyons cutting through to the Pacific. Try Encinal and Decker, full of wildflowers and long, looping curves all the way down to the sea, and then maybe charge back up Latigo, a crazy, endless series of sharp switchbacks and hairpin turns that pumps the heart and puts any roller coaster to shame. Or dive into the cool, shadowy recesses of Malibu Canyon itself, its sheer walls hemming you in all the way to the ocean, then wind your way back to the 101 through Topanga, a canyon that alone would make any trip worthwhile.