Finding The Perfect Road

April 28, 2024 | By Mike Seate

Fresh back from our annual fortnight journey to So Cal to test new streetbikes, there’s always a flood of memories competing for brain-space when we return. In the brief timespan we have in the Agoura Hills area, we’re constantly on the search for challenging and interesting roads to test the latest naked performance bikes upon, while taking care to log plenty of miles on the proven streteches of asphalt we’re come to know and appreciate. After all, it’s been 15 years riding these sun-bathed, deserttwisties and mountain passes, and the need to locate new tarmac isn’t really a necessity at this point, but the infinite canyons in these parts makes discovery part of the fun.

Some of our crew, like amateur roadracer and custom bike builder Jay LaRossa, favors Mulholland Highway for its undulating surfaces, many blind crests and corners and the remoteness of this two-lane ribbon. Other CRM testers, including comedian and avid rider Alonzo Bodden, prefer the lofty apexes of Angeles Crest, though that jaunt through the San Gabriel Mountains tends to be a bit too far a ride for our busy days.

My personal choice of So Cal test circuits is strangely absent or motorcycle traffic, even on weekends when it seems tens of thousands of two-wheelers road along these roads. Encinal Canyon Road is but one of many smooth, curvy backroads dotting the hills just above the beaches of Malibu, winding its way down several thousand feet from the junction with Mulholland to the Pacific Coast Highway. What few houses line this road tend to be of the multimillion dollar variety, so their numbers (and driveways) are mercifully few. In fact, after years of riding Encinal, I can only once recall sharing it with more than a car or two, making the long, uphill sweeping bends heaven-like for testing motorcycles. The longest of these beauties is an uphill right-hand bend that’s easily 1/2 mile in length, providing ample space to run through a particular machine’s gearbox while exploring everything a bike has to offer. Well, nearly everything: Some of those powerful, 1,000cc nakeds we’ve tested here have proven so fast, it’s usually only third or fourth gear that’s engaged as we downshift to the next series of switchbacks. However, on middleweight sportsters like Ducati’s 2019 Monster 821 and more recently, Aprilia’s Tuono 660, Encinal seems made for their particular capabilities, making the rich midrange acceleration something to remember.

While nearby roads tend to get overcrowded on weekends by would-be racers (and supercars and tourists…) who often exhibit more aggression than actual skill, Encinal Canyon Road- and I hope I’m not ruining a best-kept secret- remains So Cal’s hidden gem. If you know of or ride any similar backroad gems, please share them with us via See you in the fast bits!