Welcome to Rainy California

It figures that my short time in the LA area coincides perfectly with an extremely rare rainstorm. To them, this is as bad as a blizzard back east. And naturally, the sky opened up at the top of San Gabriel Canyon Road. But let me back up.

Looking at the forecast, I didn’t have enough time to head up Angeles Crest like I’d hoped to before the rain arrived. But I could head out to Azusa — quickly, since I now have a highway-capable motorcycle — and scoot up San Gabriel Canyon Road, a.k.a. Route 39. I rode this last year on the KLR, and one reason I’m here is to experience all that great riding again on the V-Strom, so this ride still fulfilled that purpose. I rode out to Azusa and soon entered the twisties.

It was amazing. The V-Strom was everything I’d hoped it would be in these conditions — quicker than the KLR (that doesn’t take much), and more capable in the turns than Carolyn’s low-slung Harley Sportster. Yet it’s also not too big, heavy, or powerful to enjoy, either. I named it Vader, but I could just as easily have named it Goldilocks. It’s just right. It’s also great for city riding. It’s light and maneuverable enough to get through traffic, powerful enough to squirt through the occasional gap, and narrow enough to split lanes easily, which is legal here.

The temperature dropped as I ascended, which is to be expected. I did get stuck in a slow conga line near the very top, but most of the run had clear traffic or the occasional slower car that kindly pulled over at their first opportunity. California’s not my favorite place, but I absolutely love their attitude toward motorcycles.

Then the rain started. I didn’t spend much time at the top, and didn’t take many pictures on this trip. I was actually glad I’d left the GoPro behind, or it would’ve drowned. At least if I’m moving, the windshield, in the fully raised position, blocks most of the rain, whereas if I’m stopped it just falls on me. So now I had a technical descent down a potentially slippery road that rarely gets wet on a bike I’d never ridden in the rain. Interesting.

I took it slowly and carefully. At one point I was getting cold enough that I pulled over to put on my Kemimoto heated gloves. It was here that I dropped the bike. It wasn’t a crash, but a dumb parking mistake. I was only stopping for a few seconds, so I left the bike running in neutral. The hill was steep enough that the bike rolled forward, off the kickstand, and fell on its left side. I wasn’t even on the bike at the time.

Picking up the V-Strom is easier than the KLR. The weight is lower on the frame, and there are perfect places to grab the bike and walk it up behind me. My problem was that since the bike was in neutral, it wanted to keep rolling, and I couldn’t put it into gear because the shift lever was under the bike. I remembered a tip from Bret Tkacs, and used a short bungee cord I found in my trunk to cinch down the front brake lever. This turned it into a parking brake and let me pick up the bike pretty easily.

Because it was raining pretty hard by now, I didn’t take the obligatory “I dropped my bike” picture. This is also the first time I’ve dropped the V-Strom, which would’ve made it even more significant. The rest of the trip was relatively slow but uneventful, and I got back to Carolyn’s just fine. It was barely raining there.

I’m sad to have scratched up my shiny new bike. But the crash bar did its job, preventing any damage to the bike itself, except for the bar end weight which also got scratched. I left all my sandpaper with Yellow Wolf in Quartzsite so she could work on her cabinets, so when I get back I’ll have to sand down and paint these areas. It’s not a big deal, but still a bit sad. The worst part is it isn’t even a good story, just a dumb mistake. The good part is that the damage isn’t worse, and I’m perfectly okay.

The best part is this isn’t going to put an end to my riding. The sun is coming out as I write this, and Reuben is going to take me (and hopefully Carolyn, if she’s feeling up to it) for a ride later. I don’t think I’ll forget to leave the bike in gear when I park it anytime soon.

I just realized I hadn’t mentioned the van’s electrical issue. As I suspected, it was super easy to find and fix as soon as I had daylight. A wire had popped out of the charge controller’s inferior clamp design that holds them in, likely because of the wheel vibration on the way here. I reattached the wire and everything works fine. I’m going to try and figure out some kind of strain relief solution so this won’t happen again. I need to move the van and trailer to the other side of the road for alleged street sweeping this afternoon, but once I can detach the trailer I’ll see about balancing and rotating the tires in the next couple of days so I have a smooth ride back to Arizona.

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