A little less than a month ago Editor in Chief Marc Cook rode a Triumph Explorer north to Healdsberg, CA, for the Ninja 300 intro, choosing to ride instead of fly.
When I was assigned the ZX-6R press launch in Chico, a bit farther north in the state, I knew my plane ticket would go unused. It’s not that I felt I had to impress the boss, it’s that we here at Motorcyclist like nothing more than riding motorcycles, and the intro provided the perfect opportunity to log some serious miles on some of California’s best back roads.
My steed for the trip was a Triumph Speed Triple R. Not quite Cook’s Exporer, but with a Ventura pack mounted to the tail and my roadrace leathers lashed to the seat behind me I was ready to rock. I let the Speed’s lack of wind protection motivate me to find the twistiest route possible, Googling up a 650-mile tour that would take me across the Central Valley and along the Sierra foothills.
Enjoying all those miles and making the 7 p.m. technical presentation meant an early departure the same day. I slid the key into the Triumph’s ignition a minute before 5, and made it to Ojai and headed up Route 33 into the Los Padres National Forest well before the sun had begun to brighten the sky. I stopped for fuel in Taft—premium unleaded for the Triumph and scrambled eggs for me—before setting off across California’s agricultural epicenter, the Central Valley.
I was in Fresno early enough to catch the tail end of rush hour, but with the Sierra Nevada mountains already in sight it didn’t bother me. At about 11 a.m. I turned north on Route 49 and enjoyed the miles of un-trafficked twisties that connect Sierra foothill gold rush-era towns. I passed through Coursegold, Bear Valley, Angel’s Camp, and Sonora. We don’t have much in the way of seasons in Los Angeles, but my route was treating me to beautiful hues of yellow, brown, and gold; farm fields filled with hay waiting to be bailed; orchards hung with ripening fruit.
I took lunch late in the day Grass Valley, then swung left on Route 20 before joining up with Highway 99, the first four-lane I’d traveled in 250 miles. I arrived at the hotel in Chico road-weary but satisfied, with time to spare before being introduced to Kawasaki’s new 636cc ZX-6R.