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California West Coast

Best Motorcycle Cruise in California

by Drew Hardin   |  April 10th, 2017 0

Southern California is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the U.S.

Not only does it boast world-famous attractions—Hollywood! Disneyland!—the area is also blessed with warm, sunny weather nearly year-round and geography that encompasses alpine forests, dramatic desert vistas, lush foothills and miles of gorgeous shoreline.

Those same traits make So-Cal a perfect place for a motorcycle cruise. In just a few short hours you can go from the hustle of Hollywood Boulevard to the serenity of a winding two-lane highway, riding for miles with no one else in sight.

Geico-motorcycle

This three-day adventure takes motorcyclists from the heart of Hollywood to the beaches of Santa Barbara with some awesome cruising in between.
Photo courtesy Dunlop Motorcycle Tires

We have laid out a three-day Southern California tour that, over a total of about 400 miles, combines must-see attractions with some of the best riding roads you’ll find anywhere. Each day’s route keeps the mileage relatively low, as there are plenty of opportunities to park the bike and stretch your legs.

Among those opportunities are ocean and mountain lake fishing. Space is tight when packing a motorcycle, but you’ll want to bring fishing gear. (Check out our Gear Guide for ideas about compact, travel-rod-and-reel kits and other essentials that fit in a bike’s saddlebags.)

Know before you go: After years of drought, California has experienced a winter of epic rainfall, which has caused mud- and rockslides on some of the roads and highways, especially in the mountains. Check with Caltrans for news of road closures and repairs along the route before you head out.

Also, be sure your GEICO motorcycle insurance is up to date before you hit the road. You don’t want any worries while carving through canyons and soaking up the California sun.

Day 1:

Hollywood to Santa Barbara/Solvang (Approx. 150 miles)

This tour starts and ends at the epicenter of So-Cal tourism, Hollywood. While there is much to see and do here, our plan is to leave town and then take in the Hollywood sights at the end of the ride.

Start by heading west on Sunset Boulevard. Traffic will be heavy at almost any time of day, but it’s a star-studded trip, passing through the Sunset Strip (home to the Comedy Store, Laugh Factory, and rock-and-roll clubs like the Whisky A Go Go and the Roxy) on the way to Beverly Hills. Sunset goes by the pink-and-green Beverly Hills Hotel, where movie deals are still made in the famous Polo Lounge.

Sunset Boulevard winds through two other tony Los Angeles enclaves, Bel Air and Brentwood, with UCLA between them, before terminating at the Pacific Coast Highway (CA Highway 1, known to locals as “PCH”). Across the intersection is Gladstones, one of many popular seafood restaurants that dot this stretch of PCH from the Pacific Palisades to Malibu.

Just south of Sunset is Will Rogers State Beach, where you can cast into the surf for corbina and yellowfin croaker. Jack mackerel, jacksmelt and queenfish can be taken from the Malibu Pier a few miles north. Visit socaloceanfishing.com for more info on what’s biting and where, and also check with the California Dept. of Fish & Game for information on limits, minimum sizes, and area closures.

Malibu

Riding north on PCH through Malibu is beautiful, as the highway often runs right along the shore, and you can feel the salt tang in the air. But from the road you can’t see the palatial beachfront homes the area is famous for. For that you’ll need to walk along the strand. A great place to do that is Paradise Cove, a historic beachfront restaurant about 14 miles north of where Sunset meets PCH. Paradise Cove is motorcycle friendly, with a section of its parking lot reserved for bikes.

About four miles south of Paradise Cove, turn north onto Malibu Canyon Road (that’s Pepperdine University on the corner) and head into the Santa Monica Mountains. Malibu Canyon is fun and curvy, and a good warmup for even twistier roads to come. Malibu Creek State Park (just before Mulholland Highway) offers excellent hiking trails, including one that goes to the site where the TV show M*A*S*H was filmed.

Head west on Mulholland, a two-lane highway known for the twisting route it takes through the Santa Monicas. Tight turns and abrupt elevation changes make for a lively ride. A word of caution: Stay wide of the center line, as occasional traffic will be headed the other direction. Also watch for rocks and other debris in the road, as slides big and small are a common occurrence up here.

The beauty of Southern California touring: Miles of nearly empty two-lane roads are just minutes from the urban hustle and bustle.  Photo courtesy Dunlop Motorcycle Tires

The beauty of Southern California touring: Miles of nearly empty two-lane roads are just minutes from the urban hustle and bustle.
Photo courtesy Dunlop Motorcycle Tires

Some six miles after turning onto Mulholland you’ll come to the Rock Store, a legendary hangout for So-Cal motorcyclists. On weekends it will be packed with all kinds of interesting bikes, and you just might see a celebrity. (Jay Leno is among the regulars.)

This part of Mulholland corkscrews on for another 16-odd miles before a steep downhill stretch ends at PCH. Turn north (right) and head toward the Ventura County line, relaxing a bit and letting your brakes cool along this undulating stretch of highway.

The highway turns into a 65-mph freeway at Point Mugu, which is home to a Naval Air Station and Point Mugu State Park, which offers surf fishing along the beach.

The rural roads between Point Mugu and US 101 travel through Oxnard, one of the area’s busiest agricultural centers and California’s main source of strawberries. Peak harvest season is between April and June, and there will be plenty of pop-up roadside stands selling baskets of fresh fruit.

Take 101 north for five miles to the Ventura Harbor, where you’ll find a number of excellent restaurants. One of our favorites is the Rhumb Line (open for lunch and dinner) offering a mix of fresh seafood, pasta, burgers and steak. Or, if a basket of strawberries has taken the edge off your appetite, stay northbound on 101 and ride 30 more miles into Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara

This popular getaway destination for Angelenos (just a two-hour drive northwest of LA) has a small, college-town atmosphere (there’s a University of California campus here, Santa Barbara City College, and several private colleges) and an abundance of restaurants, many of them clustered around State Street in the city’s picturesque downtown area. Accommodations range from reasonable to downright pricey; there are also campgrounds up and down the coast, from Carpinteria State Beach, just south, to Gaviota State Beach 33 miles west of town.

Want some more riding time? Pick up Highway 154, the San Marcos Pass Road, west of Santa Barbara, which runs through the southwestern edge of the Los Padres National Forest on another winding mountain road. Watch your speed; CHP cruisers (some painted all white, harder to spot at a distance) are plentiful up here.

Highway 154 straightens out, leaves the forest, and passes the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area. The lake is stocked with trout every year, and there’s largemouth and smallmouth bass to be caught, plus crappie, bluegill, and catfish.

The winter rain has brought much-needed water to California’s lakes. But there is also more debris flowing into the water, which is having a dampening effect on fishing. Visit socalfishreports.com for up-to-date information on what’s biting and which bait or lures are working.


10 Things to Pack for Your Motorcycle Adventure

Space is at a premium on a motorcycle, so it’s a given that what you bring is essential. In addition to your riding gear—suit, boots, gloves and helmet—and your off-bike clothing, here are 10 things to pack that will make the trip safer and more enjoyable. A tip: When packing saddlebags, put what you’ll need on the road in the right-hand bag, so it’s easy to open when the bike is on its sidestand and you won’t be standing in traffic when getting into the bag.

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