Wed Nov 11 2009: Albino Ducs in Los Angeles

Yay! Riding in California!

Gotta get our warm-weather, canyon-carving fix in for the winter before snowboarding season starts, so we booted down to Los Angeles to rent some hot bikes for a few days.

Scenic overlook of Santa Monica from Topanga Canyon

We picked up a 848 and Streetfighter from Racy Rentals in Santa Monica on Wednesday morning. The folks there are very friendly and got us on our way fairly quickly. First thing we noticed is that both bikes were white! I wondered if they would throw in a spray bottle of cleaner and a buffing cloth for every time we stopped. Personally, I would never have picked white for a bike colour, but it actually looked quite good, especially the Streetfighter. I had been curious about the SF ever since it came out. Hated it originally, seeing pictures on the Internet, but after seeing one up close, it's a pretty cool looking motorcycle in person.

Me, flogging the Streetfighter on one of many Cali canyon roads

First things first though, we had to mount a GPS on the bike to help us navigate through the LA grid. I think I'm really quite spoiled when it comes to motorcycle amenities and this trip actually proved that I didn't really need all the touring gadgets and doodads that we've become accustomed to the last few years. When you tour on a couple of sportbikes, there really isn't a lot of stuff you can carry in your backpack without starting to get weighed down. What fit: raingear, 2 pairs of underwear and shirts, toothbrush and toothpaste. Unlike our other trips, we had to forego jeans, shoes, sandals, laptop (AHHHH!), bathing suits, etc. But landing in a new city and itching to hit some good roads without getting lost, I felt I really needed that GPS.

Streetfighter comes with its own periscope. Or GPS. Whatever...

The GPS looks kinda funny on a naked bike, it sticks out like a badly placed, third mirror. And battery-only power meant that I had to continually switch it on or off when needed. 12 miles till the next turn? Turn the GPS off. Stopped for lunch? Find a power outlet and recharge the GPS.

Getting a better view. Everything I need for the next few days is in that backpack!

We spent most of Wed morning in the Santa Monica mountains. About 10-15 minutes west of LA just off the Pacific Coast Highway, it's amazing that such twisty roads exist so close to the city. Home to such well-known roads like Mulholland Drive, the roads wind their way through the canyons of the mountains overlooking Malibu and the Pacific coast. The weather was perfect for riding, a very mild mid-60s morning. With the sun on our face(shields), atop two hot Italian sportbikes, we felt we were living the California dream!

Neda on her 848

From there, the plan was to avoid the traffic and the urban density of Los Angeles and skirt our way north to the Angeles National Forest. There's an amazing stretch of pavement which I'd been longing to ride ever since I heard about it called the Angeles Crest Highway. To motorcyclists, it's a destination road as famous as Deals Gap, Stelvio Pass and the Sea-To-Sky Hwy. However, due to a huge forest fire at the end of the summer (which burned for almost two months!) the road was closed to traffic with heavy construction. The Angeles Crest Hwy would have to wait for another trip, so for now, we skirted along some of the other roads in the western end of the forest and some canyon runs through the Castaic Lake Recreation Areas. There is still a bit of traffic on these roads due to its proximity to the city, but thankfully, due to it being a weekday, we only had to blast by a few cars while getting our curvey-road fix. A lot of law enforcement as well! Thanks to passing motorists who warned us with a flash of their high-beams.

Taking in the scenery of the San Bernardino Forest. That haze isn't fog, it's smog. Seriously...

Stopped for lunch in Palmdale where I had to recharge the GPS and steel ourselves for a mini-slab run across the north of the Angeles National Forest, our destination being the San Bernardino National Forest.

Neda slabbin' it on the 848. Her backpack is actually a tankbag, and if you look closely, a map of California
is actually in the window of the tankbag. If we get lost, I can always tailgate her to find our way back... :)

By around 3PM, the sun was starting to hang low in the sky, which reminded us that we had to be off the unlit canyon roads before sundown. Limping in the dark on a motorcyle through twisty roads is no fun! By this time, the temperature had begun to drop from the temperate high-teens to low single digits as we climbed the mountains of San Bernardino Forest. We had to stop to don our rainsuits, not because of any precipitation, but because for the wind protection and warmth it provided. We really missed our heated grips at that point.

Seating position is a bit forward on the SF, but I found it a lot more comfortable than a 1098 because the pegs are lower.
Also, lack of a windshield didn't seem to bother me too much, as the air flow is pretty clean.

This brings up the eternal conundrum about finding the right motorcycle for the right purpose. I don't think we would have had as much fun on these tight twisty roads on 600-lb BMWs loaded with luggage and a bolt-upright seating position. But the minute there is any straight stretch of road and the climate takes a turn for the worse, sportbikes with their torture rack seating, minimal weather protection and no luggage or any conveniences for comfort can make two-wheeling less than fun.

However, a bad day on a motorcycle is always better than a good day in the office!

A bike. A canyon road. A smile underneath the helmet.

Heading into San Bernardino National Forest

SF tank is about a litre larger than the 848, which meant Neda's reserve light came on
well before mine, despite the SF having 250cc more displacement.

We spent that afternoon on a stretch of road called the Rim of the World Scenic By-way. And the road lives up to its namesake with breathtaking views of forest vistas as you climb almost 9000 ft above sea-level. The road has everything from high-speed sweepers to a whole bunch of first gear, 20-mph switchbacks. Very satisfying. Around 4:30PM the sunlight was quickly disappearing, and we had to call it quits for fear of having to navigate a twisty, mountain road in the dark. The perils of tripping in November! Not that we were complaining! We headed back down the mountain to San Bernardino for the night. The rest of the Rim of the World would have to wait till Thursday morning.

Neda admiring her 848, she loved the way it handled in the twisties
and she was surprised at how comfortable it was for her.

Posing in front of our Italian stallions.

The GPS helped find us a divey motel on the outskirts of San Bernardino. There should be a rating system on those things! We were still on east coast time, so despite it being pitch black at 5PM, we were pretty much fast asleep by 9PM.

Watching the sun set over the San Bernardino mouintains

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