It was a cool fall morning in Los Angeles. The sun was just starting the rise. The streets were still empty. The city had yet to awake. However, all over the greater Los Angeles area motorcycles were pulling out of driveways, heading out onto the desolate freeways, and making their way to AETHERla.
It was the start of the Urban Adventure, hosted by Aether and Rawhyde, a day-long event featuring some of the best urban riding the city has to offer. When signing up, participants were told they’d be setting off on a scenic tour of Los Angeles en route to a secret warehouse downtown, where their riding skills would be put to the test.
As riders began to trickle in Aether’s main offices, we quickly realized that it was going to be a tight fit. After stacking the entire parking lot, bikes started lining up down the street. Inside the office, breakfast and coffee were served, route sheets were distributed, and riders were invited to check out the space.
At the appointed time, Jim Hyde, founder of Rawhyde, rose from the crowd to bid everyone a warm welcome and deliver a briefing that outlined the day’s events. Riders would depart in waves of 10 and help each other find their way along meandering 40 mile route. “Normally we think off-road when we think of adventure riding, but we believe we can have an adventure here in the city too,” he said.
With GPS track loaded and turn slips taped to our tanks, we began to line up for the start of what would be a full day exploring the city’s urban terrain.
The route started off along the shopping strip of Melrose Ave, turned up onto the famed Sunset Strip, and then passed down into Beverly Hills. Many of us have traveled these roads a thousand times before, but in the early morning hours they seemed entirely transformed. Gone were the congested streets and chaotic intersections, replaced by wide-open, empty stretches of pavement. This was the first time many of us could actual enjoyed riding the streets of LA.
Banking right into the hills, we followed Benedict Canyon up past manicured lawns and mega-mansions. As we reached the top of the hill, we hung a right onto the best riding road within the city limits, the one and only Mulholland Drive.
After coming out of some satisfying twistys, a pit stop was made at the Hollywood Bowl Overlook, where we could look out at the sprawling asphalt jungle.
A little further along the route, we came to the base of the Hollywood Sign. No amount of city signage can hold back a group of BMW GS riders once they get a whiff of some dirt. So when we pulled up, a few riders couldn’t help themselves from circling up for a “less-than-legal” photo op.
We then continued on through Griffith Park, the backside of Dodger Stadium, and downtown LA, before finally arriving at the warehouse location underneath the 6th Street bridge. Lunch was served, coffee by Handsome Coffee was distributed, and riders got a chance to check out the AETHERstream trailer mobile shop.
After a hearty lunch of brats and potato salad, we were all invited to test our skills on a cones course, specially designed by a motor police training officer for the city of Glendale.
Maneuvering a big bike like a BMW GS through slow-speed turns is a skill that needs to be continually honed. With a cadre of Rawhyde instructors standing by, we received valuable tips as we wove in and out of closely placed cones. Whether it was improving our clutch control or adjusting our head position, everyone who participated came out a much better rider (even though we might have felt more inept than ever.)
All of these exercises led up to day’s final challenge: The Debris Field. Inside the warehouse an elaborate course had been constructed by Rawhyde to put riders’ skills to the test. Wood pallets, tires, boxes, and ribbons were strewn about in a nearly impossible maze.
The goal for riders was to navigate through the course without touching any of the debris or “dabbing” their foot on the ground. The slowest time, with the least deductions, would win. And best of all, riders couldn’t see the course before entering it. No planning, no foresight – just like in the real world.
As the sun began to hang low in the sky, it was clear everyone was reluctant to leave. Many riders returned to the cones courses for “one more try”, while others grouped together to watch the last contestants go through the debris field. It was only after we started picking up the cones and breaking down the obstacles, did it set in for everyone that the day was finally over.
Many riders came to this event as individuals, but left with a hundred friends. The overwhelming feeling of camaraderie at this event was something rarely experienced in the largely solitary activity of motorcycle riding. But for this day we were all in it together, and it was a good feeling.
On behalf of Aether and Rawhyde, we would like to sincerely thank everyone who came out for this event. We had an absolute blast putting it on and we can’t wait to go riding with you all again soon.
Check out our Facebook page for more images of the event.
All images courtesy of Megan McDuffie