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California by Bonneville with Jupiter's Motorcycle Rentals

By James Keen -

Touring & travel

 01 December 2010 11:41

Some bikes are just right for a certain time and place.

The GSX-R600 is bliss around Cadwell on a sunny Sunday track day. My Hornet 600 somehow makes filtering through traffic on a cold winter morning enjoyable. But for cruising the Pacific Coast Highway 2-up on your honeymoon, I believe the ideal machine is a Triumph Bonneville.    

Everyone thinks it has to be a Harley – but when I saw that LA-based bike rental company Jupiter’s Motorcycle Rentals had a Bonneville on their fleet of Triumphs and beemers, I knew it was just what I was after - why be another Limey on another Harley rental when there’s some lovable Brit metal available?

The Bonneville proved to be the perfect way to get around California during our stay – and it wasn’t just me who loved it. People let us out of junctions, made way for us to pass on the coast road and even smiled when they saw us coming. No other bike I’ve ridden has evoked such a positive reaction from the general public.

My wife Maria – who by now is a bit of an expert on pillion seats – said that the Bonneville is the most comfortable bike she’s ever been on the back of. If you’re used to more modern bikes the ride will feel more friendly and relaxing than involving and sharp, but for chugging around downtown LA’s tourist traps and exploring the coast at a steady look-at-the-scenery pace, it was ideal.

In fact the Bonneville is pretty much the anti-GSXR – low revs, high bars, wide seat and wilfully antiquated in the most charming way, kind of like your Grandad. With the GSX-R it’s too easy to get caught up in the must-go-faster frame of mind and forget that it’s supposed to be – above all – fun. On the Bonneville, trying to go fast is pointless and you have nothing to prove (“yeah he passed me, but I’m on a Bonnie!”) so you’re free just to enjoy the ride.

So it’s a good thing we had such nice rides planned, thanks to pre-trip emails from Ish, the West Coast Manager at Jupiter’s Motorcycle Rentals. Ish detailed tucked-away restaurants and great local roads that we never would have found on our own – like the fantastic Palos Verdes Dr. East, which snakes inwards from the coast just north of Long Beach. You only have to look at it the ridiculous squiggly line it traces on a map to see that it’s going to be good.

After that we headed back down to the ocean, because the coast route there boasts amazing views and cliffs that drop into the sea – the area is apparently a favourite for Hollywood and they use it often in TV and movies. Ish called it “rebel without a cause style scenery”, which sums it up nicely.

The weirdest thing about coastal LA is the contrast – one minute you’re in Newport Beach, surrounded by multi-million dollar McMansions and Ferrari dealerships, the next you’re surrounded by break-dancers, skateboarders and burned-out hippies on the crumbling graffiti-tagged Venice Beach boardwalk.

The tastiest thing about coastal LA has to be the food – especially at the sandy Beachcomber Café, which is tucked-away in the Crystal Cove National Park just north of Laguna Beach, where the prohibition-era bandits would dump their barrels of rum and where Clark Gable and old-school Hollywood stars used to summer.

Jupiter’s Motorcycle Rentals had a stack of reassuringly new Rev’it bike kit and HJC helmets, so all I had to remember to bring was my license. They also have a branch in New York and offer cross-country one-way bike hire. That’s my next trip sorted then.

Visit www.jupitersnyc.com for more info.