Saturday, March 12, 2011

Road Trip: 200 miles in Southern California with a GSX-R 750

The Gixxers extremely functional dash
On New Year's Eve and New Years Day, I had the pleasure of riding all over LA county on a 2008 Suzuki GSX-R 750. Being in Southern California meant that the weather was pleasant, if a tad on the cool side, and sunny. The bike, came courtesy of Dan at Racy Rentals, one of the last remaining places in the LA area where a visiting rider can rent a sporting motorcycle to enjoy the fantastic mountain and coastal passes that are scattered all throughout Southern California. Located on the north side of LA, close to Hollywood, Racy Rentals has a great selection of sport bikes available for rent, including a beautiful white Ducati 848.

I opted for the mid-size GSX-R because I had read that is struck a good balance between the willing chassis dynamics of a 600cc and the power of a full-on liter bike. And since I would have limited time, I wanted to ride a bike that I could get comfortable with quickly, still enjoy the power and handling of, but maintain a somewhat more relaxed pace, allowing me to enjoy the ride through some of the areas best roads for motorcyclists.

GSX-R 750 with my brother's S2000 in the background
After picking up the sleek jet-black Gixxer, my brother, driving his S2000, and I hopped on the freeway to blast out to Glendora Mountain Road. GMR, located in the mountains just north of the city of Glendora, was an old haunt of mine, having been one of my favorite driving roads when I still lived close enough to visit it regularly. A twisting, winding, mountain path that provides tons of switchbacks, sweeping corners, on and off camber corners, and nearly 35 miles of unadulterated fun, it is easily one of the most challenging but most entertaining roads to hit on a good handling bike. Plus, it's somewhat isolated location makes it one of the lesser known and thus lesser traveled roads, leaving the asphalt to stay silky smooth allowing one to comfortably explore the limits of the vehicle that they have brought.

The view from GMR
The Gixxer, feeling nimble and capable, tackled the corners with aplomb despite the regular appearance of hazardous gravel, rocks, and dust on many of the corners. As we climbed up into the mountains, the temperature dropped about 10 degrees and the chill started to counteract the warm California sun. Taking a break at the point where GMR meets Glendora Ridge Road, which leads to Mt. Baldy village, I came across another rider who had stopped to meditate over the amazing scenery. It was quite the pristine moment standing at the top of the ridge looking over the side, breathing in the chilly mountain air.

Hopping back on the bike, I proceeded down the back side of the mountain and took San Gabriel Canyon road, putting on a fair amount more speed, and cruising back down to Glendora where I stopped to defrost before riding into the setting sun to head home for the night before it got too cold for my mesh jacket.

View down the road on the PV Peninsula
The next day, I woke up early and headed out to the Palos Verdes Peninsula where I took the beautifully scenic Palos Verdes Drive East, passing several fellow riders on the way up. Stopping just past Marymount College to enjoy the view, I proceeded down a series of switchbacks to Palos Verdes Drive South and picked up the pace a bit after passing the slightly dangerous Portuguese Bend area with its unpredictable dips.

Relishing my last moments with the bike, I cruised back up to LA to meet Dan and return the bike, having enjoyed a fantastic 24 hours of riding. The Gixxer was surprisingly easy to ride over 100 miles in a single day and I reckon that I could have easily done another 100 or more. Sure it was not the most comfortable for long rides and I applaud those riders who regularly sport-tour on these supersport bikes, but to enjoy it for a day, it was the most fun I have had since I drove the Corvette through Santa Barbara wine country.

Thanks again to Dan at Racy Rentals. Looking forward to doing that again the next time I am in LA.

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