CalMoto Industry Tips & Tricks
- Technical Tips
Tire wear... how it looks, how it occurs.
Why is it that your front tire wears more on the left side than the right? It is because most of the roads in America have a significant crown, and when driving straight ahead, you are traversing a side hill, and must constantly correct to the left to keep the bike rolling straight. This affects only the left side of the front tire. A further characteristic of front tire wear is that front tires wear mainly in the area about 1/3 of the way around the profile of the tire. (A worn front tire has a profile like a snowplow, rather than a round arc.) The center of the tire almost never shows much wear. The sides wear because they take all the forces of directional control, and the tread of the tire at the edges of the contact patch also squirms laterally as the tire rolls straight down the road.
The rear tire, on the other hand, almost always shows the greatest wear right in the middle, since the main forces on the rear tire are propulsive, and the tire is always slipping a tiny bit as it accelerates the bike. It is rare to have a lot of wear on the sides of the rear tire, unless you ride on twisty roads exclusively. Seen from in back, the tire will have a wide flat spot in the middle, with a sharp radius up to the sides. The minimum allowable wear as shown by the tread wear indicator, "TWI" on the side of your tire, is not a safe limit in our opinion. According to the factory, 2mm is a safe minimum, and 3 mm is the minimum for doing a track day or for intense sport riding.
The actual depth of the tread or tread wear is only part of the equation. The other part is the profile of the tire. If the tire is the same shape it was when new, only with less tread everywhere, then it can be ridden with handling characteristics similar to what it had when new. But if the tire is worn only on the sides in front, and only in the middle in back, then the profiles will not provide good handling, and the tires should be replaced even if the tread wear indicator still shows that it is OK.
Tire pressure has a huge effect on tire wear. Too little, and the tire overheats and wears much faster than normal, as well as wearing in unusual patterns. Too much, and the contact patch is reduced, leading to premature wear in the center of the rear tire. Average tire pressures are in the range of 36psi front and 38-42 psi rear, but there are many circumstances when a different pressure may work better. At the track, we usually run about 30 and 30, front and rear, for example, and in offroad situations, we may run as low as 20 psi. The basic settings in your owner's book should get you in the right range for normal street riding.
Any time you are in doubt about your tires, you should feel free to come in to the shop and let one of us inspect and critique your tires. We'll show you the wear patterns and let you decide how soon you want to replace them, and also discuss what tires might be best for you. This is usually a service function, but I'll be happy to help you with this if you take the time to track me down.
- Kari Prager
It is a good idea to use a battery charger occasionally, especially with LT's & RT's with radio-stereo systems. Even if you ride your bike often, you will have longer battery life and avoid the chance of being stranded with a low battery. The right method is to use either a battery charger for a limited time (12 hours or so) or use a "battery tender", which is regulated and cannot overcharge the battery, and can be left on indefinitely. Remember that no matter how often you ride, charging your battery will insure long life. And if you ride your LT infrequently, and for short rides, it is absolutely essential that you get a battery tender and use it to keep your battery in a fully charged state, as there is more drain on the battery from radio & alarm that with other bikes.
ABS lights that do not go out
Low battery voltage can cause ABS warning lights to stay on. The first evidence you may have of low battery voltage is an ABS system that will not self-check properly. The ABS computer will not boot up properly if the battery voltage is a little low. If your ABS lights are reluctant to go out, and you need to try several times, then it is time to charge your battery.
Shifting into first gear from a stop?
If you have difficulty shifting into first gear... This note is for new BMW owners. When you have been waiting at a stop with the clutch pulled in, you have disconnected the gearbox from the engine and the gearset is no longer spinning. When you attempt to shift into gear, you may find it difficult to engage first because the engagement dogs are not lining up with the corresponding slots on the gear. Giving the gearset a little spin, either by returning to neutral, letting out the clutch, and then shifting quickly into first, or by letting the clutch out very gradually while pressing down on the gear lever, till the gearset moves a little, will allow you to select your gear easily. This is a characteristic of BMW's single plate dry clutch design, and not a sign of a defective transmission.
Valve stem caps
Valve stem caps are more important than you think. Frequently we see motorcycles come in for service with missing valve stem caps. This is potentially dangerous if you are a fast rider, as at very high speeds you can lose air from the valve stem valve unless you have the valve stem cap in place. You do NOT want to experience a deflation at triple digit speeds because you neglected to replace a missing valve stem cap. (We have seen it happen, this is no laughing matter...)
Cleaning your bike... Everyone with a new bike wants to take good care of it, and properly so. This caution is about the use of pressure washers and water jets from garden hoses. It is tempting to put that nozzle on 'jet' and blast off any oil or dirt, but you may introduce water into the final drive through the breather, into swingarm bearings or wheel bearings or into electrical connectors. High pressure water, with or without detergent, is not a good agency for cleaning your bike. Use a gentle setting for rinsing, and a soft rag with detergent to remove areas of dirt & oil. Good cleaning agents do not require a jet blast to clean the bike with little effort.
Long life for your clutch
Checking clutch adjustment (cable operated clutches) is a task that every owner can do. This adjustment is easy and often overlooked by owners. Although the clutch is adjusted properly at every service, in heavy traffic and city driving the adjustment may need to be done more frequently. The essence of the adjustment is to have sufficient free play at the lever, so that you know the clutch is fully engaged and not slipping. You should be able to move the lever freely 1/4 to 3/8" or so at the end before feeling any engagement. If you have no freeplay, you are probably slipping your clutch, which will drastically shorten its life. Add freeplay per your owner's book, or come in to the Service Department and ask to have this important adjustment explained to you.
- New Rider's Resource
Which Bike Is The Right Bike For Me?
It is a bike that fits you, that looks right and suits the kind of riding you plan to do.Fit
Many new riders make the mistake of choosing a bike that is too big to handle comfortably, especially at low speeds and when parking. It is not necessary to be flat-footed when stopped, but it certainly increases one's confidence at the beginning. We'll help you choose a seat/handlebar/peg relationship that will be most comfortable.Riding Preference
Are you interested in long distance touring, commuting, sport riding, adventure riding, cruising or just generally riding around. Let's talk about this together. If you can tell us what kind of riding you prefer, we can show you which bikes are a good match.
Both BMW and Triumph offer a number of models that range from pure-bred sport bikes, globe-trotting tourers and comfortable cruisers to dual-sports and all-around achievers.Style And Appearance
This is naturally a matter of taste. Most motorcycles look the way they ride. A bike meant to go offroad will look more rugged, with more ground clearance and taller wheels than a touring bike, which will have larger fairings, bigger seats and room for extra luggage. A sport bike will look more like a race bike, with small fairings, low handlebars for a tucked-in riding position, and high footpegs for maximum cornering clearance. Most bikes are fully capable of multiple uses. Generally, the bike you choose makes a statement about the kind of riding you like to do.
How Much Bike Is Enough?
The right bike offers you enough performance without being intimidating or uncomfortable. It should be big enough to carry any combination of passenger & luggage you might require, without being unwieldy. The answer to this question differs for everyone and will depend on your experience and riding interests.
How Do I Get Started?
We recommend that everyone enroll in a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) class, even if you have had some riding experience in the past. The next step is to take the DMV written skills test and obtain your motorcycle learner's permit. Completing the MSF beginner's course will serve in lieu of the DMV riding skills test.
Where Do I Go Riding?
It doesn't get any better than the Bay Area! We have the finest roads and riding terrain: scenic blacktop on Skyline and Highway 1, endless asphalt between the Bay and the Pacific, track days at Laguna Seca and Sears Point, off-road riding at Hollister and Clear Creek, and of course the Sierras are only a few hours away.
With Whom Do I Go Riding?
CAL offers monthly rides, clinics and racetrack days, which are open to all. These shop events offer a great opportunity to meet other like-minded riders and get introduced to the roads mentioned above. There are two local BMW Clubs and national BJMW rallies are held at least twice a year. The Triumph loyalists have their local Riders' Association of Triumph pack with monthly meetings and rides.
What About Gear?
The needs of a touring rider are very different form the needs of a sport rider. Most of our gear is climate-adaptive in several ways: outfit yourself with Gore-Tex of thermal liners, zip pants to jackets to create touring suits, use electric vests for winter days and Kevlar-mesh pants for Death Valley heat. For track days we recommend traditional leather sport suits, Kevlar riding suits or sport/racing leathers.
How Will Service Take Care Of Me?
Our service advisors will schedule loaners for you and explain the various service operations to ensure that you understand the necessary work. A fleet of service loaners stands ready for our customers. You can make appointments by phone or e-mail, and you can drop off early and pick up late, at your convenience.
What Is The Sales Process?
It begins by getting to know you personally and results in you owning the right bike for your riding style. You'll learn about low-cost financing programs, rebates and other customer incentives. We'll inform you about reimbursable expenses, warranty, roadside assistance, extended protection plans, our service loaner program, clinics, workshops and monthly rides. We also offer full insurance agency services for your motorcycling needs. Delivery includes a thorough explanation of the bike's features and an introduction to the Service and Parts Department staff.
Let us share our experience and welcome you to our motorcycling family. Email Us with any questions you might have.
- Which Bike Is The Right Bike For Me?
- Off-Season Suspension Clinic: Basic Principles And Adjustment Techniques
Here's an overview of the material we covered at our last shop suspension clinic. The notes below were written by Eli Ohlhausen. Eli has been tuning and racing motorcycles for many years, and is a graduate of the RaceTech suspension school. Both new street riders and riders setting bikes up for track days can benefit from this basic clinic.
Overheard At The Track...
"I'm getting a little front end chatter exiting turn three on the gas, try taking two clicks of rebound out and upping the pre-load 5mm" Sound like gibberish? It did to me too a few years ago, I remember thinking "wow, this guy must be fast". Although suspension technology has grown increasingly sophisticated over the last decade, the principles involved and terminology used to describe them is fairly straightforward. A better understanding of them can aid in the correct setup of your bike and yield a more comfortable and confidence inspiring ride. At its most basic level, a shock absorber or fork is designed to convert kinetic energy into heat. They do this through the use of spring pressure and oil damping. When a bike hits a bump, the energy generated is stored by the spring as it compresses. As the spring extends, the stored energy is dissipated by oil being forced through machined orifices or past bending/flexing shims.
Basic Shock Adjuster Terminology And Effects
- Pre-Load: This is the amount of pressure applied to the spring with the bike unloaded (hence the "pre" in pre-load). This adjustment is used to compensate for the weight of the rider, passenger and any luggage. When correctly set, it will allow the suspension to operate in the middle of its travel where it is most effective. Preload adjusters can be threaded rings, remote hydraulic units or even simple shims.
- Sag: This is the distance the bike settles when loaded (it is set by adjusting the pre-load on the rear shock, as a rule). As a rule of thumb, a bike should settle approximately 1/4 of it's suspension travel when loaded. Sag is computed by measuring the distance from the axle to a fixed point on the subframe with the bike unladen verses fully loaded. Sag is set by adding or subtracting preload.
- Static Sag: This is the distance the bike settles under its own weight. It is adjusted with spring pre-load as well. Some manufacturers or tuners use it instead of regular sag, although both methods should yield the same or similar results.
- Compression Damping: These adjusters are usually either a slotted dial for a screwdriver, or a knob. They control how much resistance is offered to a force which compresses the suspension. Typically they will be at the bottom of a shock or fork (this is not a hard & fast rule, read the manual). The adjustments are usually expressed as "clicks" or turns,this refers to the number of turns an adjuster makes (or number of "clicks" if it has internal detents) when turned out from all the way in. (note: do not apply undue force to an adjuster when turning it all the way in, it is to be lightly seated only).
- Rebound Damping: These adjusters can have the same appearance as compression adjusters, but they control how much resistance is offered to the suspension extending. Its adjustments are also indicated in clicks or turns and follow the same principles and guidelines as compression damping.
- Spring Rate: This is a measurement of the stiffness of a spring, it is usually expressed as a number which designates kilograms per millimeter (kg/mm) meaning how many kilos required to compress the spring a given distance. Therefore a 5.0 shock spring would not be as stiff as a 5.4.
Basic Suspension Adjustment Process
- Read the owner's manual that came with your bike.
- Read and understand the manual, follow all procedures and warnings regardless of what I am about to tell you.
- Write down the settings your bike has to begin with, this is your baseline which you can return to as a frame of reference or to zero out your changes if you hopelessly screw things up.
- Set your sag (you'll need help with this one).
- Set your compression and rebound to the stock settings given in your owner's manual.
- Find a section of road which has a good combination of bumps and turns and is lightly traveled. Ride back and forth a few times to get a feel of how the bike is working.
- Adjust your compression damping all the way in and ride the same route again. This will no doubt be mis-adjustment and yield a harsh ride. This is an exercise that will allow you to feel what effect the compression adjuster does. When done, return it to stock settings and repeat the process with re-bound damping adjustment.
- Ride the bike with stock settings again and then start adjusting in an attempt to improve the ride. This requires patience as it can be hard to tell if you are going in the correct direction or using the proper adjuster to get the results you want. As a rule of thumb, make one adjustment at a time to avoid confusion, and write it down.
- Offroad Riding Tips: Cal Bmw Dualsport Preparation Outline
How to prep your bike for the rigors of off-road use:
- Remove mirrors or fold out of way.
- Lower the tire pressure & change suspension settings.
- Remove fenders & sprocket covers for mud clearance or to avoid damage.
- Remove footpeg rubber inserts if possible.
- Position bars and controls for standing up.
- Loosen control pinchbolts to reduce likelihood of breakage.
- Remove turnsignals if easy to do.
- How to turn off ABS (and why you should...).
What to carry with you on a dualsport ride:
- Tow strap & space blanket.
- "Slime" - (tube sealant), spare tube, patch kit, pump or CO2 inflator.
- Fire starter & flashlight.
- Power Bars (or Glucose IV Drip).
- Spare parts as required, according to remoteness & degree of difficulty.
- Duct tape, electrical tape, quick-drying epoxy & rags.
- Toilet paper or paper towels (lots).
- First Aid Kit w/Ace bandages.
What to carry with you on a dualsport ride:
- Spray fenders with PAM or Pledge.
- Duct tape boot tops to keep stones out.
- Keeping a clean rag handy.
- What to check for when you stop for breaks.
- Be responsible for making sure the person behind you sees the correct turns.
- When to allow faster riders to pass.
- How to roost your fellow riders...
- How to avoid being roosted by your fellow riders...
- When to tease and when to help...
Basic rules of ballistic dirt biking (riding big bikes in the dirt):
- Look where you want to go.
- Stand up on the pegs when the going gets rough.
- Do not give up until you are no longer on the bike.
- Body position & body steering.
- Keeping your feet out of the way.
- The throttle is your friend.
- You can't turn when you are on the brakes.
- You won't't make the corner if you don't start turning NOW.
- The corner can always be taken faster than you are going. (Article of faith #1)
- Riding in the dirt is the most fun you can have on a bike without breaking the law!
- Rain Riding 101
- Be Smooth. The limited traction available on wet roads demands subtlety whith throttle and brake application, this is most crucial when the bike is leaned over.
- Evaluate Available Traction. Obviously, the amount of traction a road surface will provide changes, as it becomes wet, the amount of degradation will vary from one road surface to another. Be especially careful when transitioning from one type of pavement to another. Additionally, debris on the road (leaves, pine needles, mud, etc.) will have an even more dramatic reduction in grip.
- Rain Riding With Bald Tires Is Like Poking The Reaper With A Pointy Stick. A tire's tread is only there to channel water away, without this you hydroplane. Another point to keep in mind is that temperatures are generally lower during the rainy season in the bay area which will combine with the water to extend the time needed to get your tires up to the correct operating temperature.
- Keep Warm And Dry. Rain riding takes an enormous amount of concentration, try to eliminate any distractions. Not only is it miserable to ride when sopping wet, it's hard to stay focused on the road when the first rivulet of icy water hits your crotch.
- If You Have Abs, Use It! Anti lock brakes allow you to ride harder with less drama in the wet. Many people have ridden their bikes for years without ever engaging the ABS feature. We always stress the importance of periodically using the ABS to familiarize yourself with the unique sensations that accompany its activation. Additionally, you can gradually increase rear brake pressure as you approach a turn and use the point of activation to estimate available traction. With or without ABS, allow for increased stopping distances when initiating your braking.
- Free Standing Water On The Roadway. Don't laugh, we have encountered it on more that one shop ride. The danger here is not so much from a loss of traction, but from drowning the bike. The susceptibility to this varies from model to model. It's best to ascertain the depth of the water and see if it rises above the point where air enters your machine and only make an attempt if it is below this. One caveat here, once you have entered the water, you have reached the point of no return...do not back off the throttle.
- Other Hazards. Some areas/situations to be aware of: Painted lines, manhole covers and buttered Teflon have roughly equal coefficients of friction-look out for them when turning. Avoid the center of the lane at intersections and tollbooths, cars will drop oil there when stopping. Gas stations and the exits of car washes can be treacherous due to oil and soap scum accumulations. Most pundits agree that the first 15-30 min. of rain are the most treacherous because all the oil gets lifted off the road and goes into solution (this may be specious, but it couldn't hurt to be cautious). Finally, many car drivers have difficulty driving in the rain, some drive the way the normally do without regard to the decreased stopping distances. Be ever vigilant to the changing patterns of traffic in the wet.
Further notes on the chalk board:
Tires: Traction = Pressure/temperature/profile/tread depth --- a wet weather tire needs plenty of tread, plenty of sipes, an even, rounded profile.
Suspension: - if you have a choice, set softer than you would set for high speed dry weather riding.
Technique: - Smoothness is everything! Riding in the rain is fun, it does not have to be scary, and it builds skill rapidly.
Rider: - You will be happy in the rain if you are warm, dry and confident!
- Gore-Tex Combi Suits
- Rainsuits over leathers or not waterproof gear
- Trashbags with holes cut for arms and head, plus lots of duct tape.
- Gore-Tex Gloves (Held, Olympia, Triumph, etc.)
- Glove covers - work for short time, but water leaks around cuffs.
- Motocross gloves and electric grips. Hands are wet but water is warm. (Wrinkly fingers but warm hands.)
- Gore-Tex Boots
- Gore-Tex socks inside riding boots (boots get wet; feet stay dry).
- Totes or similar overboots. (Rubber booties for over regular boots.)
- Electric vests & grips are wonderful in wet, cold weather.
- Fog or driving lights make you more visible to other traffic.
- High intensity bulbs or driving lights help you to see better.
"I think riding in the rain is the most fun kind of riding, and I learn the most about riding techniques when I ride in storms and fog."
- Cal Touring Checklist
A clean, well-maintained motorcycle.
Current services all up-to-date, tires with plenty of tread, safety inspection to check condition of tires, cables, lights and brakes.
Recommended hardware & tools:
BMW or aftermarket toolkit, tire gauge (use every day), small vise-grip pliers, Flat repair kit, extra C02 inflators. (If tube-type F 650 et al. then spare rear tube and Small tire irons.) Duct tape & electrical tape. (partially used rolls take up less space) Misc. hose clamps, fuses, silicone seal, assorted nuts and bolts. Bulb kit, or spare headlight, taillight, brake light at a minimum. Spare sparkplugs and fuel filter (optional, depending on mechanical skill). Shop rag and hand cleaner. Cargo straps or extra bungees.
Helmet, heavy, warm gloves & light hot-weather gloves, (at least one should be waterproof), boots, good riding suit (jacket & pants), either waterproof “Gore-Tex” type with waterproof liner, or leathers used with light rainsuit. Waterproof gloves and boots or glove & boot liners. Electric vest (not absolutely necessary but very nice). Small stuffsacks for organizing your gear and clothing. Light reading, tour guides & trrip reports (print them out).
Soft goods and personal items
Cash, credit cards, auto club & roadside assistance cards. Water bottle w/fresh water. First aid kit w/extra ace bandage. Pocket knife. Sunglasses, extra visor, visor cleaner. Sunscreen (for face and neck especially). Aspirin/Ibuprofen, vitamins, antihistamines, insect repellent. Swimsuit, towel, soap and shampoo. Toothbrush, toothpaste, tissues, extra toilet paper. Light shoes or camp shoes to wear when boots are off. At least one set extra socks, underwear, undershirt. Extra turtleneck shirts, thermals, etc. for warmth. Sweater or electric vest for under riding suit.
Miscellaneous handy stuff
Cell phone. Padded bicycle shorts. Tinted visor or visor strips for helmet. Business cards and address organizer. Camera, sketchbook, journal. BMW Motorcycle Owners of America Anonymous book. List of contemporaneous motorcycle rallies and special events. Back-road atlas, the more complete the better, can use alone or with Garmin GPS. Long cable lock for locking jacket and helmet to motorcycle. Bungee anchors for tops of saddlebags (where applicable). Lots of earplugs (a “must” for long rides). Accessory socket on motorcycle. An electric vest. “Neck-up”, scarf or other neck protection. Light weight gloves as well as warm, waterproof gloves. Small binoculars (fun to have in thewide-open spaces).
- 65 Point Inspection - Typical Safety Inspection
Front Tire (1-4)
_______ Tread depth
_______ Tire Pressure
Front Wheel (5-7)
_______ Rim condition
_______ Front wheel bearings
_______ Axle nuts
Front Brakes (8 - 13)
_______ Disc condition
_______ Pad thickness
_______ Lever travel
_______ Evo/ABS/Servo pumps
_______ Caliper bolts
Front Suspension (14-18)
_______ Fork tube alignment & condition
_______ Fork seals & fork boots
_______ Steering bearings or ball joints
_______ Pinchbolts & stem nuts
_______ Front suspension function
Lights and instruments (19 - 24)
_______ Instruments and gauges
_______ Switches and controls
_______ Sidestand switch
_______ Head & Taillights
_______ Brake lights (F&R)
Fuel System (25 - 33)
_______ Fuel lines and hoses
_______ Carburetor leaks
_______ Fuel pump (audible)
_______ Fuel filler cap
_______ Vacuum hoses & vacuum caps
_______ Injectors and injector lines
_______ Condition of fuel tank
_______ Overall condition of fuel system
_______ Controls - adjustment
Rear Tire (34 - 38)
_______ Tread depth
_______ Tire Pressure
Rear Wheel (39 - 41)
_______ Rim condition
_______ Rear wheel bearings if appl.
_______ Lug nuts
Rear Brakes (42 - 47)
_______ Disc condition
_______ Pad thickness
_______ Fluid color/condition
_______ Pedal travel
_______ Evo/ABS/Servo pumps
_______ Caliper bolts
Drivetrain condition (48 - 55)
_______ Chain& sprockets
_______ Chain Guides
_______ Chain adjustment
_______ Driveshaft boot condition
_______ Driveshaft (rotate for roughness)
_______ Paralever bearings
_______ Swingarm bearings or spindle
_______ Drivetrain leaks
Cooling system condition (56 - 57)
_______ Coolant and catchtank level
_______ Hoses & clamps/Leaks
Motor (58 - 59)
_______ Oil level & condition
Transmission (60 -61)
_______ Shift linkage condition
Rider comfort (62 - 65)
_______ Saddlebags, accessories
_______ Windscreen - function & condition
_______ Handlebars & controls - adjustment
_______ Grips - condition
- New Rider Activities
You've taken delivery of your new motorcycle, it has been delivered to your house, and now you have to decide what to do next...
Starting out safely:
The first step is to become familiar with the bike. The sales process should have introduced you to the bike, but now is the time, with no distractions around, to reaquaint yourself with the bike. Check over all the controls, adjust the mirrors, be sure the bars feel like they are at a comfortable angle, and run through the starting drill. If you are sure you have no questions about the controls, you are ready to start riding around your neighborhood. It is best to stay on roads with which you are familiar, and even try to confine your route to right-hand turns (safer, since no cross-traffic to deal with). As a new rider, you will be practicing starting from a stop, smooth shifting, smooth braking, downshifting, and cornering at a moderate speed.
If you have already taken the Motorcycle Safety Foundation introductory class, then you can be practicing the lessons you learned there. If you are a re-entry rider, and you are building on your past experience, it is all the more important that you start out carefully, re-introduce yourself to riding, and build your skills gradually.
Where to practice:
Once you are comfortable with the basic operation of the motorcycle, you can get extra practice in a safe environment by visiting one of the large, empty parking lots that are now so common in this area. We use the parking lots by Sun Microsystems and Shoreline Amphitheatre as convenient practice spots, and you can use these on the weekends or find your own (schools or college) empty lot. The basic exercises to practice are low speed maneuvering, starting and shifting smoothly, stopping at a mark (at successively higher speeds), and perhaps some cone slaloms. The point of the process is to get you so accustomed to the controls that you do not have to think about the brakes, throttle or clutch. These controls should be operated without thought, and the way to that state is through practice!
Local practice roads:
You've done your low speed practicing, and you are ready to take some rides! Fortunately the Bay Area has the best roads in the west for motorcycling, and the best ones start out right here in Mountain View/Palo Alto. If you are tired of your neighborhood surface streets, then you are ready for something more challenging. A nice local loop is to leave Mountain View/Palo Alto west on Charleston, follow this road to Arastradero, and stay on Arastradero all the way to Portola Valley. You can ride around the roads between Portola Valley and Woodside, or if you are confident, you can take Rte. 84 up the Skylonda (4 Corners) and stop for coffee at Alice's Restaurant. This is a favorite motorcyclists' hangout, and you should not be surprised to find 100 or more bikes there on a nice spring Sunday. This road is not difficult to ride, but can be heavily traveled, so watch out for traffic and never cross over the double yellow line!
Route 84 continues west from Skylonda and ends at San Gregorio and the Pacific Ocean. You can park at the San Gregorio State Beach and stretch your legs (the rangers always let bikes in for no fee...) or park at the San Gregorio General Store for coffee, sandwiches and all kinds of strange and useful odds & ends.
Highway 35 runs north and south along the coastal ridge separating us from the Pacific Ocean fogs, and can be accessed from Highway 92 (Half Moon Bay). You can take Canada Road from Woodside north to 92, then west to the 35 turn-off, then south on 35 to Skylonda, and left on 84 back to Woodside and Portola Valley.
Roads to explore:
There are many other small roads that connect the lowlands to Highway 35... Black Mountain Road, Old La Honda, Page Mill Road, Stevens Canyon/Highway 9, Highway 9 from Saratoga. There are others going off west like Tunitas Creek/Lobitos Creek (opposite Black Mountain Road), Old La Honda, Alpine Road (opposite Page Mill). These roads are all tight and slow, and make excellent practice roads to build your skills. Some can be damp and shady, or after storms they may be covered with pine needles and leaves, so use common sense, and don't be embarrassed to turn around and take a different route if it doesn't suit you.
If you live in the East Bay, you have two wonderful practice roads in your backyard... Mount Hamilton Road (Hwy 130) and the Calaveras Reservoir Road that is the extension of Hwy 237. Both of these roads are tight, twisty, full of corners and reward slow, smooth riding style... perfect practice roads, and the views are delightful.
Harry "Doc" Wong and his riding clinics:
Another local resource for newer riders is Dr. Harry "Doc" Wong. Wong's Sunday training rides take place regularly each month, and are group rides with volunteer leaders, aimed at riders who wish to develop their skills. The ride starts with an introductory lecture covering that day's skill, then the riders head out for the morning, broken up according to your level of experience. Doc Wong's ride program can be found at www.docwong.com, or send an e-mail to: email@example.com.
Shop Rides and Clinics
Monthly Shop Rides from CAL:
When you feel ready for a group ride, our shop ride typically leaves at 9:00 on the first Sunday of every month. The ride may be short or long, easy or challenging, you'll know ahead of time if you check the shop website, or ask to be added to the e-mail notification list.
Our shop also cooperates with Doc Wong in hosting introductory dirt-riding clinics at Hollister Hills SVRA and Clear Creek SVRA. These are intended for beginning dirt riders on any brand, and especially to purchasers of BMW R 1150 GS, F 650 GS/Dakar and Triumph Tigers. You'll get a safe and rational introduction to dirt riding, in a controlled environment. This way, you'll feel confident in joining us for long dualsport rides in the Sierra foothills and on the Eastern Slope.
Finally, when your skills are developed and you are ready for the next step in your riding education, join us for a day at the track (Laguna Seca or Sears Point) under the expert tutelage of Reg Pridmore, through his CLASS Rides program, This is a safety-oriented skills building day held at two of the finest racetracks in the US, and you will be thrilled! Also you will become a better rider for sure.
Group Rides with the BMW Club of Northern California and Central Cal BMW Riders:
These two local BMW clubs offer rides of varying degrees of difficulty. Both clubs encourage new riders (potential members) and both clubs host rallies, camp-out/overnight rides and various riding-related activities. Great socializing opportunities and support. For more information go to the respective websites: