OK, time for a follow-up report. I ended up renting a 2019 Yamaha Tracer 900 through a service called Riders Share (www.riders-share.com
). I had originally thought about renting through Eagle Rider but Riders Share offered more choice, the price was right, and renting directly from an owner made for more flexible pickup and drop-off times. I will definitely use Riders Share in the future. I picked up the bike at 6:00 on Friday (Oct 16) and rode it back to my hotel, about 30 minutes away.
Saturday – Rockstore and the Pacific Coast
I had wheels rolling at just after 9:00 AM and headed for the Rock Store, a famous (I believe) spot for motorcyclists of all sorts to hang out and grab a bite. The owner of the Tracer installed a nice phone holder and I picked up a lighter-adapter USB charger for my phone so I could use Google maps to navigate. I’ve been using a Garmin Zumo (first a 550 and now a 390) for 12 or so years and it’s great for creating routes but I have to say that Google Maps is a pretty close competitor. If my current Zumo ever craps out, I may just use my phone on my bike. Anyway, I decided to avoid the expressway which added about an hour to my ride and in hindsight I should have just slabbed the first 45 minutes because it was a lot of stop-n-go through residential areas for that first hour or so. I finally made it to the Mulholland Highway and stopped at the Rock Store to check things out. I decided to stay for a “Biker Burger” before carrying on. It seemed as though most of the Mulholland Highway was closed down so I just decided to “freestyle” it and take whichever road looks promising. I ended up on the Yerba Buena Road and wow, what a road it was! I now understand what they mean by canyon carving. Lots of tight hairpins and the scenery was spectacular. I stopped at one point to take a picture and couldn’t believe how dry everything was – no wonder they have all these fires in California. It really felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, not even close to civilization – 20 minutes later and I popped out at the Pacific Coast! I rode up the PC Highway to Oxnard to top up the bike and then headed back south until I got back to that most wondrous road and tacked my way back toward Thousand Oaks, or so I believe because I was still in freestyle mode. I stopped under a tree somewhere to take a snack break and just relax and then headed back to my hotel which was still about an hour away. This time around I took Highway 101 back to 134 and the 210 and made it to my hotel in Arcadia by about 5:30 PM. It was superb day of riding, one which could not be topped, or so I thought…
Sunday – Crestline and Big Bear Lake
Before heading out for the day I still wasn’t sure where I was going to go. There are some mountains just north of where I’m staying but based on Cal Fire website (yes, the California Fires have their own website!) it looked as though most of the roads up that way were closed due to the fires. The safer bet would be to head over to Big Bear Lake, of which I knew nothing. I just picked the area because Google Maps indicated the elevation to be around 7,000 feet so I figured that must also mean there are great roads and scenery - oh, and no fires nearby! I’ve been to just about every state in the US, except a couple of the small New England States which I may have passed through and didn’t even know it. I’ve ridden in Alaska and Hawaii and driven to the Grand Canyon. The views riding up toward Big Bear Lake are most definitely up there – both figuratively and literally. I really had no idea that something so spectacular was within about an hour from Los Angeles. The nice thing about riding solo is that I could stop whenever I wanted to take a quick picture or two and then carry on. When I got to Big Bear Lake it turned out to be pretty busy but then being a Sunday that probably made sense. I rode around the lake and then decided to head toward Lake Arrowhead. This is when I hit some serious stop-n-go traffic. I made a detour to Green Valley Lake hoping I could stop there for lunch. A very quaint little town/village up in the mountains but the restaurant was closed. I talked to an English woman named Jules who ran a little shop next to the restaurant and she told me that I should head back to hwy 18 and shortly thereafter I would see a restaurant on the left called Blondies. I did just that and filled up on fish and chips while the bumper-to-bumper traffic passed by. Once I was done lunch traffic lightened up and I continued on to Lake Arrowhead. I didn’t stay there too long as it was pretty busy as well and seemed like a bit of a tourist trap. I headed back down the mountain and what a difference in temperature by the time I got to the bottom. It was a nice 70F (21C) at the top of the mountain and at least 90F (32C) at the bottom. I slabbed it back to the hotel and rolled in at about 3:30 PM. After vegging out for a bit in my hotel room I hopped back on the bike to return it to the owner. Before doing so, I decided to stop somewhere where I could take a picture of the bike with the Hollywood sign in the background. Turns out that was only 10 minutes from the owner’s house. I snapped my pics and then just as I was about to roll away a local authority who looked like a State Park warden or something asked if I had a permit to park where I was. I told him I was just leaving. I don’t think I was supposed to be on that road - maybe that's what those pylons were for 500 yards earlier. No matter, I got the picture. I topped up the bike with gas and delivered it back to the owner just before 6:00 PM. It was actually the owner’s friend who was there when I picked up and dropped off the bike – we recorded the odometer reading, took a few pics to upload to Riders Share and then I jumped back in my rental car and headed back to the hotel.
I really enjoyed the Tracer 900. It’s a great all-round motorcycle that handles very well and has lots of power on tap. I felt almost immediately at home on the bike. Wind protection is decent, and you can really tell that it’s about 100 lbs lighter than the FJR1300 – it feels very nimble. Two things I would change on that bike are the ever-so anemic horn (pathetic, really) and the seat. Wow, that seat sucks. Of course, I’m comparing it to the Seth Laam seat on my FJR so maybe it’s not a fair comparison. Screw that, the seat is horrible. Love the 900-triple engine. It really makes power at about 6,500 rpm but doesn’t feel or sound like it’s revving all that high, ever. Ergonomics are great too, except for the seat – did I mention the seat?
It was a great two days of riding that is comparable to the best riding I’ve ever done. I rode 434 miles (~700 km) in 2 days which was a decent amount of riding and under the 250 mile/day limit before they charge you $0.50 per extra mile. When I knew I was going to be in the LA area for a couple weeks for work I had initially considered bringing my golf clubs. I decided to pack my riding gear instead. Glad I came to my senses!
I made a little video / slideshow of my weekend ride and hope you enjoy it:https://youtu.be/VIivAMQwbvc