3 Days on A Race Bike – Enough?

3 days with a Ducati Panigale 1199 - Angeles crest Highway, CA

3 days with a Ducati Panigale 1199 – Angeles crest Highway, CA

I just spent the better part of 3 days with a Ducati Panigale 1199 in California. It was kind of a bucket list thing, I wanted the experience. Would I buy one? Only if I win the lottery.

The good, bad, and beautiful –

Wayne The Rock Store, Mulholland Highway, CA

Wayne at The Rock Store, Mulholland Highway, CA

It was loud, even with earplugs, but in a way the best rock-and-roll should be loud to be done right. The Ducati sound is so sweet, so iconic, it just seemed the way it’s supposed to be – like the potato-potato of a Harley, it is a musical experience that reaches deep into your soul and makes you feel like Superman. All I could think about was “The cops are gonna hear me coming”.

Wayne - Mulholland Highway, CA

Wayne – Mulholland Highway, CA

It was more comfortable than I expected, but stiffer than previous race bikes I’ve been on. The body position is not so extreme it puts too much pressure on your hands, legs are a bit cramped, but overall it did not tire me out, I can ride it for days. The suspension was designed for speeds never attained on the street, ideal for the triple digits, but brutal on a normal road. I once missed a freeway exit as I was chattering so harshly on a rough section I couldn’t read the signs. You must ride like a jockey to see where you’re going if the road gets rough.

Andy and Jackie on Gibraltar Road, east of Santa Barbara - View of the Pacific fog.

Andy and Jackie on Gibraltar Road, east of Santa Barbara – View of the Pacific fog.

It’s hot as hell if you’re not clipping along at 70 mph+. The heat coming off that highly tuned engine cooks your thighs, butt and all the sensitive spots, especially at low speeds. Combined with a thin hard seat I swear I’m bruised down below. Freeway traffic demands lane-splitting just to keep moving and tolerate the burn.

East Camino Cielo Road - A stop to savor the views

East Camino Cielo Road – A stop to savor the views

It’s not the best canyon carver. This bike is made for the velvet-smooth high speed sweeping turns of a race track. It doesn’t fall into tight turns, you don’t flick it about. It can cut through the tight stuff but you’ve got set up properly and be smooth as glass as it will easily run away from you if you’re not focused. You can get in trouble in a blink on this thing.

Jackie on E. Camino Cielo Rd - sea fog to the left of the crest, the hot inland to the right.

Jackie on E. Camino Cielo Rd – sea fog to the left of the crest, the hot inland to the right.

Which brings us to the best part – the power seems infinite. It’s always there. More than you need. I never got confident enough to really let it rip – it was ripping at mid range. Hitting the upper revs was insane. With a quick-shifter, keeping the front wheel on the ground in the first 3 gears required gentle use of the throttle even in “Sport Mode”. I never switched to “Race Mode”. Enough was enough. I was suitably impressed.

Wayne and Jackie at Cold Springs Tavern

Wayne and Jackie at Cold Springs Tavern

Would I rent one again from RentADucati.com? Maybe. I barely missed getting tickets this time. Coming down off the Angeles Crest Highway (Route 2) at twice the speed limit I made a snap decision to pull off and get a photo just before a trooper rounded the curve ahead of me. I would have been nailed. Coming up behind a car on the Maricopa Highway (Route 33) east of Ojia saved me a second time. My luck and license wouldn’t last with a bike like this. But on rare occasions, maybe I’ll do it one more time!

Wayne and Jackie in Santa Barbara

Wayne and Jackie in Santa Barbara

Special thanks to Andy, our companion, photographer, and a great rider! He made this trip come together.

I can't thank Andy enough for making this trip so outstanding!

I can’t thank Andy enough for making this trip so outstanding!

For more info see –  http://www.rentaducati.com

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed, comprehensive, up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Central California vs. Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rides

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Santa Barbara - coast & mountains

Earlier this year some magazine came out with a list of top 10 motorcycle rides. The Blue Ridge Parkway made the list. The Dragon at Deals Gap made the list. Others had me wondering what criteria they used to judge them.

I’ve been all across the US and I’m convinced the best motorcycle riding is in the Blue Ridge / Smoky Mountains, but I’m trying to keep an open mind. When the opportunity came to visit Santa Barbara on the California coast,  I made arrangements to insure I’d explore central California by motorcycle to see how west coast mountain riding compared to home sweet home.

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Nice section of CA 150 near Ojai

I’ve previously been on sections of the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s fabulously scenic, but there’s not a whole lot about it that drives me to want to carve through it on a motorcycle to get the most out of the ride. I remember too much time plodding along behind duffers with lines of cars behind them, not rolling on the throttle to course through the curves and drop a knee towards the pavement. I did ride the Ventura Highway several times, and that Eagle’s song jumps into your mind as soon as you see the sign.

My explorations this trip would be through central California, leaving the congestion of the coastal roads behind for the more challenging mountain passes. Unfortunately, this required time-wasting commutes on the expressway to reach them.

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You can see the Channel Islands from atop CA 33

The highlight of all that highway riding was experiencing lane sharing when traffic backed up, which it frequently did. Not for the meek, the skinny Ducati sport bike I was on was perfectly suited for darting between the lines of slower cars, flitting into every hole that opened, and filtering through the traffic.  Surprisingly, the cars and trucks made room for you to pass. I guess it beats having a speeding bike scrape along your car. It was fun and I felt like I was given a free pass to cheat at the game.  I think we need more lane sharing in the US.

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CA 58 a long, lonely ride to reach the twisties

I was a little disappointed to find the rides out to reach the mountain passes long and quite tame. While there was less traffic, it’s still far busier then you’ll find secondary roads in my Blue Ridge Mountains back home.

I first went south from Santa Barabara to Carpenteria, then headed inland to Ojai. Most of the towns are pretty cool, they look like great places to visit, but not what I’d come to do.

Leaving Ojai, my first run across the mountains on CA 33 had me feeling more at home. CA 33 is a good long run with curves that reminded me more of the Cherohala Skyway then the Dragon– a little more open and sweeping in comparison to the tight and technical curves I so enjoy back home.

The Ducati 848 made enjoying the canyon rides at a spirited pace easy. While the suspension was set up way to stiff for my liking, it always provided as much traction as I asked for, the bike ran the curves like it was on a rial. It was a challenge to keep from hitting triple digits when the road opened up, a challenge I failed many times.

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A long twisty section makes CA 58 so great

Once over the mountains I came down into the oil fields and farmlands near Maricopa. I then headed north through the desert where temps were just shy of 100 degrees to pick up the next great ride near McKittrick, CA 58. Fortunately, I’d topped up the tank as the “No services next 70 miles” signs appeared. CA 58 was another outstanding ride through high open mountain passes, great curves, and  a whole of of fun. Lot’s of bikes on this ride, it’s a great one so long as you’re up in the mountains. Once you come down, things straighten out again. I was reminded of the midwest where you ride a road that runs like an arrow to the horizon for miles and miles until you come to a 20 mph right angle turn to do it all over again and again.

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Cruising through wine country on Foxen Canyon and Santa Rosa Rds

I got bored on these long straight runs and after a while the speed crept up and up until I was playing a game to see if I could launch the bike off the hilltops as a the Ducati stretched it’s legs out and sang at the top of it’s booming baritone voice. I looped back through Santa Margarita then limped into San Luis Obispo with the reserve light crying out for a drink of fresh petrol. I wasted a bit of time looking for gas as every station was flagged off with yellow tape. They were all getting some kind of service done and I was running on fumes when I finally found one that had one bank of pumps in operation. I waited my turn in the long lines that had formed, then headed south on the freeway to return home.

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The coastal fog travels well inland and persists till after noon - Foxen Canyon Rd

The next day I headed north this time, taking CA 154 through the dense morning fog that rolls in off the ocean. My destination was Foxen Canyon Rd, a decent ride, but not as challenging as those I’d previously been on. Most of this day was in wine country and it was more scenic then I’d seen on the east side of the mountains. I worked my way from Santa Maria to Lompoc, then found a nice ride on Santa Rosa Rd. Passing through Solvang, I returned to Santa Barbara on CA 154, then got on the freeway and went back south to Carpenteria to make a few more runs on CA 33.

So how do the California motorcycle rides I was on compare to the Blue Ridge & Smoky Mountain motorcycle rides I know so well?

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The Ducati 848 - a precision guided missile - too much for all but the best riders

While the California rides were longer, so were the distances between them – they stood in isolation. Here in the Smokies, you finish one great road to continue your motorcycle ride on the next. You spend far more time in the nice sections and finding a long straight stretch of road means you made a wrong turn and left the mountains. I missed the green trees, the rushing mountain streams, the little waterfalls around the bends. The California countryside is dry, if not desert, close to it. Towns are much further apart, and you’ve got to pay attention to gas stations – when in doubt, top it out. You may have a long ride before you find another.

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Sometimes there are more oil derricks than trees

Many of the California roads were rough and bumpy – a patchwork of asphalt and concrete layer upon layer. I thought we had some rough rods, but I’m beginning to think we don’t have it so bad after all.

In the same amount of area I covered to reach just a few great motorcycle rides in California, there would have been a hundred or so in the Smokies and never  a 4 lane road or highway needed. I continue to believe there are more great motorcycle rides in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains than any other area of the country.

To quote the now ex-governator, “I’ll be back”. Admittedly, I’ve barely touched the huge state of California. It’s a nice contrast to the motorcycle rides we have back home in the Smoky Mountains and makes me appreciate how great we’ve got it back east.

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Wayne Busch
Wayne Busch – Cartographer
– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com 
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