When the email arrived announcing that RawHyde, best known for adventure bike training and tours, was conducting a fun ride with some challenges in the middle of urban Los Angeles, it got my attention. In its capacity as the official West Coast BMW Off Road Riding School, RawHyde is a well-oiled organization that does everything in a first class manner. This event proved to be no different.
A second added twist to the event was the inclusion of an unlikely partner, Aether Apparel. While best known for upscale urban clothing, the founders of the company are ardent motorcycle enthusiasts; their apparel line includes an urban jacket made with armor and high-tech fabric—but looking like it stepped off a fashion runway. The concept for the ride was the result of a meeting this past May at the Overland Expo between Jim Hyde, the main guy at RawHyde, and the founders of Aether. “Let’s do something together that’s urban,” was how Jim explained the challenge from Aether.
On November 17, a herd of 110 riders descended on the Aether headquarters on storied Melrose Avenue. The street ride created an opportunity for owners of non-adventure bikes to join the fun. The lineup along the street included every model GS ever made, plus sportbikes, naked bikes, cruisers and café racers. It was a wide cross section of the riders in Los Angeles.
With our GPS tracks downloaded, we were safely funneled out into the urban jungle on a convoluted path headed towards iconic sights and our ultimate destination: an empty warehouse in downtown L.A. with some skill challenges.
The path quickly found its way to Sunset Boulevard. Luckily, it was still early on Sunday morning and few tourists had ventured from their hotels. The glitz of the Sunset Strip, with endless restaurants and clubs, abruptly switched to precisely manicured perfection as the ribbon of road crossed the border into tawny Beverly Hills. Endless rows of mega-mansions leaves one wondering how many of the occupants have to choose which motorcycle they would be riding today. Or maybe the Lambo.
Cutting north we arrive at legendary Mulholland Drive. This has to be one of the epic urban rides, anywhere. In sections, you can look to the right and see from downtown to the ocean; look left and the San Fernando Valley unfolds. We stop for a break and some photo-ops. Then, on to the Hollywood sign and the hordes of tourists—which left us little place to park. From there, we followed a serpentine route through Griffith Park, to the Griffith Observatory, past Angel Stadium, a trek up and down the steepest street in Los Angeles (which will make most in San Francisco look tame) and then on to downtown. We entered Chinatown, but no stops for egg rolls were built into the schedule. A quick turn and we drove past one of the newest icons, the Walt Disney Concert Hall—a truly magnificent edifice by Frank Gehry.
A few blocks later, we passed a bevy of closed diamond and jewelry stores. Continuing, the streetscape morphed into seedy markets and convenience stores, followed by a spectrum of new and old warehouses. Finally, we arrived at 590 S. Santa Fe Avenue, a long abandoned manufacturing building that has been the site of many movies. The parking lot is filled with short orange cones, a large bar-b-que, a tent and Aether’s oversize Airstream mobile showroom. We wait for all participants to arrive and then inhale our lunches. Now for the fun part!
Jim Hyde calls a huddle for all assembled. Along with the trainer for the Glendale motor cops, we walked around the site and the seven different obstacle courses. The trainer demonstrates and makes the tortuous paths look easy. He chides us to stay in our seats and not use the brakes. We can run the courses as many times as we like in preparation for the “surprise” contest. Jim later explains to us that we will enter the warehouse without any prior viewing of the course and navigate through a “debris field” that was diabolically designed to be nearly impossible to ride without dabbing or hitting one of the obstacles. We are to envision ourselves a motor cop arriving at the scene of an accident.
The remainder of the day was spent riding between the cones, participating in the contest and then watching other contestants. Finally, contest and raffle prizes were distributed along with souvenir T-shirts. All agreed the day was a success. We had an exciting route, the challenges were fun and the camaraderie among everyone there was top notch. This was not your typical Sunday ride. But I wouldn’t mind if it was.