When you think of a major city like Los Angeles, you might not think it has a lot of options when it comes to open roads and scenic motorcycle rides. But what you might not know is that away from the hustle and bustle of city life there are paved roads tucked away on coastlines, national forests, and even rolling through mountains right in the heart of the city!
If you’re like me and you have a motorcycle, one of the first things you’ll do is start to look for some great smooth roads to ride on. Even with lane splitting, the best kind of ride is when you can wander out to some open spaces. With L.A.'s awesome weather you can roll out almost any time of year. Get your knees in the breeze, your Sunday crew together and hit up the top 10 rides in Los Angeles, starting with my favorite!
A quintessential California ride! A pinch of city, a ride through the Sunset Strip, and past iconic landmarks like the Beverly Hills Hotel, and then to a purely magical destination of reaching Pacific Coast Highway to experience some of that dreamy ocean breeze. You can start this ride anywhere on Sunset Boulevard and it’ll take you all the way to the coast. I usually start at Highland and Sunset before getting the best of those wide Beverly Hills roads that lead past the 405 Freeway to more windy curves that’ll take you right to the ocean. You can ride PCH along the coast to the Santa Monica Pier and catch the sunset by the Ferris Wheel.
Ok, this isn’t much different than the last ride along PCH but it’s a lot further out. Neptune’s Net is a destination spot any biker must know about. It’s along Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu near the border of Ventura County. This restaurant has mini-spots out front for parking bikes. Build it and they will come! The fish and chips baskets are pretty darn tasty too. The main point about this ride is that it is mostly traffic free in my experience, and the road really opens up for an uninterrupted coastal ride.
Ride Mulholland Drive in the hills, right through the heart of the city! You’ll roll through some winding mountains and have an amazing view of Hollywood as well as the Valley. If you start at Mulholland and Cahuenga, it’ll take you all the way past the 405 into the hills above Encino. Snap some pictures on a scenic overlook and then take any of the canyon roads like Laurel Canyon, Coldwater Canyon or Beverly Glen to cruise past some monumental L.A. neighborhoods and find your way back into city life.
This is by far one of the most popular rides in L.A. and the ﬁrst motorcycle ride I ever heard about. It’s an incredibly popular, tight and windy section of Mulholland Highway in Malibu that leads up to the world famous motorcycle bar hangout, the Rock Store. Just after purchasing my motorcycle I headed up with a friend and the road was so tight I could barely stay in my lane! I’d say this route is not for the novice rider. I was so stressed out from riding I passed up the cool restaurant as well. But from what I hear, this is a must at some point and really fun for experienced riders. The Rock Store is legendary and Jay Leno is a regular.
It’s worth mentioning that this road through Mulholland Highway is a bit different than the previously mentioned Mulholland Drive. On a map it shows that Mullholland connects all the way through from the last ride, but it doesn’t - it breaks off into a dirt road. So besides not being fond of “the Snake” the rest of this ride is an easy scenic route from the Valley to the beach. Take the 101 South and exit Topanga Canyon South, then right onto Mulholland Drive and then left on Mulholland Highway. If you follow the road correctly it’ll take you all the way to the beach… just beware of THE SNAKE!
Another beautiful ride! Just 20 minutes north of Downtown L.A. you’ll find the entrance to Highway 2, which will take you all the way to Angeles Crest Highway. Wide, winding roads that take you into a national forest are great for beginners and pros alike. That’s right, we have a beautiful forest just north of the city! A great stop along the way is Newcomb’s Ranch. You’ll see all the motorcycles on your left as you wind up about 40 minutes in. This restaurant is such a biker hang that I often hear people refer to this ride as “going up to Newcomb’s Ranch.”
This is a easy mini-ride through an amazing mountain right in the middle of the city! Isn't it so thoughtful for L.A. to have a huge paved park for a peaceful day getaway? If you start on the north side, take Griffith Park Drive through a green woodsy setting and past the old abandoned zoo area, then take a right shot up Crystal Springs Drive towards Los Feliz Boulevard east and back into the park on Hillhurst Boulevard. That turns into North Vermont Road and you can follow it all the way up to the Griffith Observatory. Stop to take in the view right next to the James Dean statue. Then loop back down to civilization on Western Canyon Road. (Mount Hollywood Drive used to be open and made a loop that connected within the park. It looks like a glorious ride on a map, but it’s currently closed.)
After passing the Rock Store and throwing myself through the tight corners of the Snake, a friend and I accidentally got on this canyon as a way of getting back to PCH to take us home. It was hellish! I know other people may disagree, but Decker Canyon was a very tight and windy road. Even the cars were going 10 miles an hour - the only time I was grateful for L.A. traffic slowing me down! It was challenging ride for me, but I’m sure more experienced riders would appreciate the tight corners and adventure. I saw more than a few Ducatis passing me and grinding some pegs on those turns.
There are a lot of canyons from Pacific Coast Highway over the Malibu mountains to the Valley that are really fun to ride. Malibu Canyon is one of the easiest and most chill. You get the ocean views and the green canyon landscape with intermittent tunnels as you head back up to the 101 towards that Valley life. California is dreamy isn't it?
Sometimes referred as Azusa Canyon, CA 39 is another road through the Angeles National Forest. It used to connect at the northernmost section but is no longer accessible to vehicles. This is a well paved road that leads up to the Crystal Lake Recreation Area. It's a great alternative to a biker bar if you feel like packing up your bike for a camping trip! Stop off at Crystal Lake Cafe for a snack and get lost in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Another one of my favorites! This is a great Sunday ride into the mountains above Pasadena. Avoid the traffic on the 101 and get onto Glendora Mountain Road toward a beautiful, twisty ride into nature. Then take Mount Baldy Road for a straight ride back down. This route will take you up to a quaint mountain town with a few woodsy, moose-head-on-the-wall type restaurants. Grab a quick bite before heading back to the city. Fresh air and open roads FTW!
And for extra credit...
This last one is a pinch outside of L.A. But it’s among the most talked about and accessible rides. Take the 101 towards Highway 33 and shoot off towards Ojai. It’s absolutely beautiful agriculture, open landscape and most importantly, open roads! There's little traffic up towards Ojai and lots of fresh air. The actual town has tons of restaurants and cafes to stop off and if you can find Ojai Deer Lodge you’ll be in good company as it’s a great biker hang. On the way back try CA 150 to 126 East back to the 101 South and ride that home to La La Land!
Follow the author's motorcycle adventures at @la_vavroom.