We’ve all had some cold rides. But a recent street ride to film one of our “On Two Wheels” video episodes on the Motor Trend YouTube channel to document our middleweight naked bike comparison in this issue reminded me of how riding during the winter can turn from beautiful to treacherous in the span of a day.
An unusually cold storm had just passed through the southern California area, and even though the rain was beginning to let up as I prepared for my office commute, the thought of even slightly getting wet convinced a last minute switch to waterproof gear. Plus I’d just received some electric heated gear to test; my hasty grab of a heated jacket liner along with the waterproof gear would soon turn out to be a Godsend.
Our plan was a 250-mile ride up to Morro Bay from our offices in southern California with the Triumph Street Triple (in both standard and R model) and the Ducati Streetfighter 848…these three bikes are of the “naked”, no fairings variety. We started by filming on nearby Dockweiler Beach, the sand and palm trees framing our shot with an ambience of beautiful conditions (even though temps were in the low 50s). Even though it was a little chilly, we weren’t concerned as we began a highway stint up towards the infamous Grapevine, a section of Interstate 5 that twists its way through the 4000-foot-elevation Tejon Pass.
As the Tejon Pass area came into view at a distance, I could see curtains of moisture coming down from clouds that had gathered there. Unlike rain that usually has a dark color though, these curtains had a distinct lighter color to them. “Could that be snow?” I thought to myself; regardless, there were no weather forecasts of major snow in the area, so I figured they wouldn’t be more than minor flurries that we could easily ride through. I’d checked the forecasts along our route and saw nothing that would indicate inclement weather.
Wet snowflakes began collecting on my helmet’s faceshield as we got within five miles of the Tejon Pass. Initially they weren’t a concern, until I noticed after a while that I had to wipe them off every five seconds or so in order to see, and that overall visibility was steadily decreasing the closer we got to the summit. Eventually the visibility and conditions became poor enough that we decided to pull off at the next exit and hope that the storm would blow over quickly. Sitting in a gas station lot, all of us (and the bikes) were covered in ice that had formed from the accumulated wet snow freezing from the windchill of riding (never mind the near-hypothermia we were experiencing). I had the heated jacket liner running at its highest setting, but it was barely making a dent in warding off the chill; I could only imagine how cold Bradley and guest tester Eric Nugent were.
Luckily, the snowstorm eased off a short time later, so we quickly got back on the road before it got dark and the possibility of getting snowed in by another storm confronted us (turns out we were right; news reports afterward said another snowstorm closed down the highway an hour after we left). After shooting some video in the snow, we high-tailed it the next 50 miles out to the oil town of Taft, California, for more video shots. The sun had broken through the clouds, and it appeared for a while that we were in the clear…until I noticed that the sky was looking ominously dark over Taft itself. Sure enough, as we stopped in Taft to do some video shots, it began to snow on us again.
As we hurried out of Taft to the curvy pavement of Highway 58, the snowfall was basically slush, making the conditions even more miserable. This negated any enjoyment of the twisty sections, and the snow stayed with us until we began to near the coast. By the time we reached the hotel, we were cold, wet, and tired.
Naturally, the next day was nice, crisp, and clear (but still a bit chilly), and we finished off the video filming without any drama. As we were riding home, all we could do was laugh about the previous day; but I couldn’t help thinking that waterproof and electric heated gear will be a staple of any winter trip I take from now on.
And that Trevitt can now get rid of that voodoo doll of me he has for making him take that trip to the Jason Pridmore Star School in Pahrump, Nevada when he first started at SR (see “Stop Watch,” April 2013).