Aether Urban Adventure Ride and Urban Assualt Course with RawHyde Off-Road Adventures
I'll be the first one to admit that in over one year's time, I have become completely addicted to motorcycles, the culture and the lifestyle. I rode as a kid and a teenager but not like now. I relish every opportunity I have to get out and ride my bike and lucky for me, riding is everyday thing. This weekend was a bit of an adventure as I participated in the Aether Urban Adventure Ride and boy howdy was it a hoot. I spent the day on amazing roads, enjoying beautiful scenery and perfect weather, reveling in a new experience and meeting genuinely good people. I could not think of a better way to spend a Sunday in LA.
The Aether Airstream Perhaps one of the nicest mobile shops I have ever stepped into. Props to you guys on the design and functionality of this trailer.
The day began bright and early at Aether’s HQ on Melrose Ave. If you are not sure what Aether is, check them out here. They make some of the nicest clothes I've seen in a long while. Truly magnificent. Besides that, I left my house around 8am to fill my tank and make my way into Hollywood. Upon arrival, I was greeted to the sight of close to 50+ BMW R1200GS's lined up outside the entrance to the Aether shop. The crowd was a bunch of middle age guys in touring gear with a few girls peppered in here and there. Everyone looked ready to participate in an episode of Long Way Round yet I’m the guy that pulled up on a cruiser with a bag bungeed to my sissy bar. I was a bit out of sorts but regardless, I was in good company. I hopped off my bike and went inside where I recognized a few familiar faces and grabbed a much needed coffee and bagel. After check in, receiving a brief rundown on the route, and obtaining my turn-by-turn directions to a number of “must see sights in LA” and the location of a secret warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles, we were all ready to go. While everyone mounted their steeds and got ready to hit the road, I laid back and took some photos per usual. I would eventually make my way out to the route.
BMW's Lined Up In A Row at the Aether HQ The route and agenda for the day Morning briefing by Jim of RawHyde Adventures
DEPARTURE - LET THE FUN BEGIN!
After getting my stuff together, mounting some GoPros and dialing in my zone focusing and exposure settings on my Fuji's, I pulled up to the line, signed a disclaimer or liability form or whatever and headed off. I found myself in a sea of BMW riders, one rider pulled up next to me to let me know I had a one gallon Arrrowhead bottle hanging off my right tail light, I assured him it was ok and that it was my "gas can". We both shared a laugh and proceeded up and over to Sunset Blvd to Benedict Canyon and then Mulholland Drive.
He's Got that Happy Feeling She's got that happy feeling More Happiness. Before you ride you suit up. Safety is always paramount on a motorcycle. Im a bit jealous of these guys and thier bikes. When I am 40 or 50 I'll have one too.
Around Doheny and Sunset Blvd, I lost the group. I made the choice to go full throttle and do a little drag race in that straight away heading into Beverly Hills. I turned onto Benedict Canyon and pulled off to the side of the road to wait for the group. They never showed up. I did hear the sound of a British bike approaching and low and behold one guy on a sweet 2001 Triumph Bonneville rode up and asked if I was ok and I gave him a thumbs up and he continued on. I thought, "Triumphs ride together," so i followed up with the bonnie and progressed up the canyon. It turns out he was on the Urban Adventure Ride as well and got away from his group too.
I would later find out the "sea if BMW's" I was riding with managed to get themselves lost in the quarter-mile I put between them and I. Funny how 6 guys with GPS units and $20,000 motorcycles managed to get lost in such a short distance on such a basic road. Irony would strike me later but for the better.
BENEDICT CANYON DRIVE TO MULHOLLAND DRIVE - LET THE REAL FUN BEGIN!!!
The ride up Benedict Canyon and Mulholland was nothing short of awesome. Great turns, great views, and perfect weather. There was not a thing to complain about, except for the stupid automobile driver that nearly hit me as he made a left turn. Screw that guy. Note to everyone if you drive a car, put your phone down people and watch the road. IT CAN WAIT!
Back to the twisties, what a great ride and one that never gets old or dull. There are some spots on Mulholland where dirt, sand and rough pavement can cause some trepidation but in all, Mulholland is a mecca for riding for a reason. I think its only second to Angeles Crest Hwy. For me, my biggest problem when riding the canyons on my Triumph Speedmaster is dragging my pegs. My Belle can dip and lean with the best and for a cruiser she is surprisingly agile but when i get carried away, sparks fly. There were a couple times on this ride where this happened so I quickly learned to adapt by angling the heel of my boot a bit lower to serve as a softer feeler than my peg. Something about grinding my foot peg scares the crap out of me. I have this irrational fear that my peg will catch something on the ground, I will be catapulted into the sky and my bike will just burst into flames or something irrationally stupid.
Anyway...the ride was fantastic and we came to meet up with a bunch of riders at the Hollywood Bowl Overlook. It was a beautiful view and I spoke with the guy I was trailing the entire time on the Bonnie. His name was Aakash and we ended up driving much of the route together.
Aakash on his 2001 Triumph Bonneville as we head to our second stop. Aakash at the Hollywood Bowl overlook just off Mulholland Drive. My Belle looking all svelte and sexy at the Hollywood Bowl overlook off Mulholland Drive
OFF TO THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN
Aakash and I headed off to our next stop, a gathering spot under the Hollywood Sign. I grew up in Hollywood so the Hollywood Sign interests me about as much as a wolverine trapped in my pants but I rode on and enjoyed the day. Did I mention anything about the twisties...there were so many twisites. Twisties = Fun. Its an undeniable fact of life.
We pulled up the the gathering spot where I recognized a few more familiar faces. I took a moment to speak with my friend Sarah with Schuberth Helmets and a number of other people on the ride. In traditional photographer fashion, I began taking portraits of everyone.
Sarah!!! Barry Josh
Just after arriving, Aakash fretted that someone stole his hydrapack but I remember him taking it off at the previous stop and suggested he may have left it there, he would jet off to see if it was still retrievable. In traditional Top Gear fashion, I pressed on and headed to the next location. The Griffith Observatory.
Just as we were leaving I have to mention my two favorite guys here, Josh and Barry. Both were totally cool cats and they were the only guys that participated in the ride on a couple of custom cafe bikes, neither of which were comfortable for someone my height but regardless, both bikes looked super sweet. Josh even managed to take his beast down a small off-road line as we left the Hollywood Sign. Props brotha, props. If I did this on my bike I would have totally eaten shit.
Josh taking his Honda CB650 Off-Road.
Road BoundAkash and I met up with these two guys on some honda cafe bikes and toe ass up the mountain to the Hollywood sign
I’ve been to the Griffith Observatory at least a hundred times in my life yet each time is no less awesome. It offers, hands down, the best view of Los Angeles that is accessible to the public. Rolling up the hill to the observatory on a beautiful day is perfect because as you enter the parking lot you are greeted to with the sight of the Observatory surrounded by beautiful blue skies. Today it was made even prettier with 100 or so motorcycles in the foreground.
Observatory Bound Almost to the top
We all parked our bikes as close to the Observatory as the the parking lot allowed and enjoyed the attention from passers by as if we were rock stars arriving at our venue. I left my bike and walked toward the Observatory to take a few photos and in the process ran into Tim Collins and a pretty amazing dog. Unlike the dog, Tim, a Los Angeles native, had never, never in his life, been to the Griffith Observatory. I was shocked but told him today was the perfect day to take it in.
Since the sun was at its highest it mostly made for shitty photos so I don’t have much of the Observatory. I turned to walk back to my bike and ran into Aakash, low and behold he was wearing his backpack, it looks like he found it and no one stole it. As Aakash and I approached our bikes, I found my bike being swarmed and swooned over by a group of tourists. They began taking pictures of me, me and my bike, them on my bike and everything else in between. I felt a bit like a celebrity but at the same time was laid back enough to just go with it. These people were on vacation and I thought it best to show some hospitality. For the most part it was a strange feeling but at the same time it reinforced my desire for riches...not fame.
For a moment I was a rock star...ha! Photo Credit: Aakash Desai
STUPID STEEP HILLS
Moseying on, our next stop was the steepest streets in Los Angeles, Fargo Street and Baxter Street. Here Aakash and I marveled at the grade before us. It looked and felt like rollercoaster. Barrelling up and down both these was a tad scary. Well...going up was awesome, going down was scary. Unlike all the BMW riders, our bikes did not have ABS so it was necessary to have a gentle touch.
Looking over the precipice on Baxter Street Ready to go down? Yeah...that was fun.Aakash looking back at Fargo street.
AN UNEXPECTED DETOUR
So...side route to the super steep roads complete, Aakash led the way to our next and final stop, the secret warehouse! Somehow or another we took the wrong road and ended up at the top of Dodger Stadium. Here’s that moment of irony I mentioned earlier. Needing to get back on track and not wanting to go backwards, I chose to take us through a closed road that passed by the Los Angeles Police Academy. What we came across next was some kind of charity run that was centered around Movember. As we drove through, there were a ton of hipsters, a band rocking out on a full stage and a beer garden...yes a beer garden. Aakash and I made the uniform decision to stop and have a brew. It was a good decision.
Stopped for a BeerWhy not? It was part of the adventure. Drunk Rock and Rolling HipstersAt least it was for a good cause. Aakash changing and preppingAs it gets warmer you have to change it up.
PLAYING CATCH UP AND MAKING WAY TO THE SECRET WAREHOUSE
Running a bit behind we hauled ass into downtown to find the secret warehouse. We rolled in on everyone enjoying lunch. Besides having a hankering for some grub, I had something more important on my mind, I was bent on finding whoever was in charge of relinquishing to me, the keys of a brand new 2014 BMW R1200 GS Water-Boxer demo bike. I love riding all kinds of motorcycles, and this is one I have been eager to ride for a while. I also figured that since everyone here had a BMW, I would be lucky to get a bike to myself for a bit. "A bit" turned into the rest of the day and for the rest of the day, I was in heaven.
Bikes in a RowEvidently its normal to just lay your Beemer on it's side. That was good to know.
Hello my pretty demo bikes. I'll take the red one!
THE BMW R1200GS - A LOVE STORY
For the non-motorcycle people reading this, the BMW R1200 GS is a bad mutha fu**a. This bike was built to traverse the world. It has proven itself in some of the harshest climates and is one of a select class of bike geared toward almost every kind of riding. Where you are a daily commuter, an avid off-road rider, someone looking for a long haul touring machines, or just want to have fun running the canyons on the weekend, the BMW R1200 GS will more than feed your appetite. This bike was used by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman on "Long Way Down" and "Long Way Round" (it's on Netflix, check it out), and It has won tons of awards. It is everything you would expect in performance and quality from BMW and is considered the standard bearer in the adventure touring class. You can read a great review of this bike by Zack Courts of Motorcyclist Magazine, he has an excellent professional review of the bike here. http://m.motorcyclistonline.com/firstrides/122_1305_2013_bmw_r1200gs_first_ride
Being handed the keys to any performance machine is always a great feeling, I don’t care what anyone says. If you don't feel like a 5 year old let off the chain into a Toy's R Us to buy whatever you want, then make an appointment with your doctor because there is something wrong with you. I approached this beautiful steed and hopped on. My first impression was how comfortable the bike was. It fit me. I mention “fit” right off the bat regarding any bike i get on because I am a tall guy (6 foot 5 inches of awesome) and as such, it's something that can make or break a bike for me. It makes me a bit sad because there are so many great bike out there that I will never truly appreciate because of my height. It's a bit of a curse for something I love so much but the Beemer fit like a glove. I was instantly at home on this motorcycle. Beyond being a good looking bike and having a comfortable seating position, everything else felt right. I enjoyed the wide handlebars as they instilled a great amount of confidence in control, the clutch was easy to pull in and let out while allowing for a nice feel for the friction zone, the suspension was a particular treat, super soft but when the brakes are applied they stiffen up and shift the weight to different parts of the bike. It’s quite advanced. Lastly, the amazingly smooth throttle, what can I say other than...POWER!!!! It’s so nice to know you have so much power at your fingertips but at the same time have the ability to dial in only what you need when you need it. I was about to find this all out first hand.
I was beyond ready to go. Ignition on, helmet on, shift to first gear and go! Right off the bat this bike was fantastic, it felt big but didn't feel big, it felt manageable. I chalked it up to being on a new bike and for the moment it was just different. I headed into the cone slalom. I sucked balls. I hit about4 of the 8 cones. I tried turning the bike hard, remembering all of my basic and intermediate training from riders courses, nothing was working. I ended up turning super wide and almost bailed but retained some control over the bike. I lined up at the beginning of the slalom again, again, and again. I was not going to stop until I mastered this course, this is just my personality type, I'll keep trying until I get it, I'll push myself until I cannot push any more and then I'll push some more. I finally figured out the slalom but managed to clip one cone on my 5th or 6th time through but after that I was perfect. I moved onto the “90 degree turn”, got through that easily, and moved on to the "Lolipop", or what I liked to call the "bane of my fucking existence" second only to the "Serpent" section. Take the DMV motorcycle test and make the circle a quarter the size and you have the "Lolipop". Here I dropped the bike once, twice, thrice....a number of times, ok. Thankfully the BMW I was riding had the Sam-Proof engine crash bars attached to...well...protect the engine, duh. While slightly embarrassing, being able to lay this bike down enabled me to learn faster and employ new riding techniques without fear.
A crude drawing of the training courseThere were other cones set up I just chose not to include them. These were the ones that I chose to conquer over all the others.
I didn't mess around with the various drive modes, nor take the ABS or traction control off. I wanted to get a feel for the bike and not pull third gear wheelies (even though I really wanted to). If I did I would have been kicked out the event. This day was not about wheelies, it was about precision control and slow speed maneuverability, and since everyone present owned this bike and were damn good riders, I had a lot to learn in a very short amount of time. There was one guy, Peter McMullan from Pasadena, who gave me some pointers on how to use the brake, clutch, and throttle in conjunction with one another. A bit of an advanced technique I believe he called "dragging the brake" but I am unsure. I can tell you that he handled his bike like a boss and even ran circles around me as you can see in the video below.
In about an hour of straight riding, repetition and voracious determination to make this bike an extension of my body, I felt confident on the BMW. I figured it was now or never to tackle the obstacle course.
Peter McMullan on his R1200GSPeter is here showing me an advanced braking technique which when I tried to employ I kept stalling the bike, over and over again. I will practice this again when I get a day with this bike.
The SlalomI was killing it by the end of the day. Once I got my wits about me, throwing this massive bike becomes as easy as it looks.
THE OBSTACLE COURSE
The obstacle course was housed in the "secret warehouse" and consisted of a "drive over" wooden palate, a teeter totter and a grueling maze where riders were required to zig-zag through hazards needing to avoid barrels, boxes and other obstructions. Riders were penalized for touching objects or putting down a foot. The course was graded out of 100 points and 1 point was deducted for each failure above. It was challenging and at the same time so fun!
The Amazing Two-Up Finalists The second course was a hard one.
I found out after my run, I scored a 98 out of 100 which put me in the top of the pack. There were still a handful of riders that did better than me, there were even two participants that achieved a perfect score. Bastards.
Here is the video of my run from the second tie-breaking course. I asked to have a go at it and Jim obliged.
Regardless of where I placed on the list, I beat out a lot of people that ride this bike on a daily basis. I was pleased with what I achieved. I only wish it was enough to win that sweet ass Aether Canyon Motorcycle Jacket for the upcoming winter riding season. I'll tell you right now, if this competition happens again next year I am going to walk away with something awesome....bet on it.
IN THE END....
As the sun began to set and the winners were announced and prizes were handed out, there was one guy tooling around the practice course long after the cones were removed on a BMW 1200 GS. He wore a huge smile on his face and though he won no prizes or medaled in the competition, he was having the time of his life and walked away a winner.
All Day Baby...All Day!!!!When I was not outwardly wearing a shit eating grin on my face, I was trying to hold back having a shit eating grin on my face. That is what this bike does to you. It is just that perfect. Still going at the training courseBy the end of the day I had mastered the serpent section of the training course. Pinning the handlebars, utilizing counter weight techniques, and looking to where you want to be are critical to achieving these incredibly tight turns. One day I will hang a helmet on this bike as if it were my own, but for now I can only enjoy the day and save for tomorrow.
Many thanks to Aether Apparel, RawHyde Adventures and BMW Motorsports for organizing this event. Please do more of these in the future.
For more information on Aether Apparel visit their website. There you will find beautiful urban inspired clothing for men and women. I am forever a fan.
For more information on RawHyde Adventures check out what they have to offer. If you have bone of adventure in your body or are looking to sharpen your skills on a bike, these guys are the guys to see. Remarkably friendly, infinitely wise, and pleasure to be around. If you don't have a good experience then it's you, not them.
To access the full gallery of photos contact me via email and I will set you up. I shot more than what is featured here and I have some fantastic B+W Photographs to share with all of you. [email protected]
Keywords: Adventures", Aether, Aether Apparel, BMW R1200GS, Los Angeles Events, Off, RawHyde, RawHyde Adventures, Rawhyde, Road, Sam Bendall, Urban Adventure, blog, motorcycle, street photography, travel, travel adventure
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