Riding the Aprilia RSV4 on The Snake

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We’re out in Los Angeles for the month on the pretense of having meetings and doing features, but really we’re here to escape winter and ride some freakin’ bikes. We normally go further afield, to less populated areas to ride fast bikes fast, but figured when in Rome…The Snake, a 2.2-mile section of Mulholland Highway uphill from The Rock Store in Malibu is the most infamously good road in Southern California. Every weekend, thousands of motorcycles descend on it, some quite literally. The scene caused even attracts photographers, videographers and cars full of spectators all hoping to catch a crash, but mostly just mocking squids. Yesterday, we took the Aprilia RSV4 there.

Photos: Grant Ray

We’ve written about and ridden the RSV4 a bunch, but mostly on track. New York area roads just aren’t really fun places to ride stiffly-sprung, extremely loud, ass up, head down superbikes.

How’s the RSV4 perform on the road? Well, about like how it does on the track. If you ride it like a girl it rewards your lack of effort with reluctance and vagueness. Brake early and turn in slowly and it’s hard to hold a constant line as it wanders around failing to deliver feedback. A bit nerve wracking when you have an audience. But nut up and throw the thing in hard on the brakes and it’s rock solid and full of feel. The V4 fuels faultlessly once you start giving it some throttle and kicks in hard from 5,000rpm on up. It’s an extremely compact package, meaning steering is extremely fast, but somehow it manages to be very stable too. It’s not easy to ride, requiring immense faith that some feedback will be there when you enter a corner very fast, but once you do so there’s enough feel to wear the front tire to the edges. It’s a level of challenge, involvement and, as a result, reward which is absent from most other modern liter bikes.

We had our friend Adey ride for these pictures and photos. You can normally find him tearing up The Snake on his all-black R1. Figured he’d make better visual material than us trying to scrub off about 5 months of rust. It was 80 degrees in Malibu yesterday but we haven’t seen above-freezing temps back home since October. And boy does our riding show it. Adey discovered the pox that plagues bike journalists — riding different bikes all the time is hard! But, after a few laps up and down he’d found his confidence and looks pretty strong captured here. Check out Adey’s YouTube channel.

We’ll be bringing you more tales from Southern California’s endless summer soon.

  • seanslides

    Coolest tattoos ever.

  • BMW11GS

    you guys revealed my spot! now every wanker is going to be riding there. Just kidding, actually I am fortunate enough to be able to ride this during the week when it is essentially empty. The corner featured is tricky one, but feels great when you get it right.

    • robotribe

      +1. Being out of towers, your options are probably limited by visit time, but weekdays at The Snake are the preferred conditions. Any Jay Leno sightings?

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        Ha, we saw him there on Sunday and went by his garage this afternoon.

        • robotribe

          Figures. Okay. Weekends are good for that.

          • http://overshadowed.com/ overunder

            You can get a decent Sunday ride in on The Snake if you are willing to head up there early before lunch time.

            • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

              actually, I find the opposite to be true. Had to meet someone at the Rock Store by noon on a Sunday and Mulholland was hell. Of course all the good roads were nice n’ empty, but there’s still that last stretch you need to suffer to get to the RS. I normally never get there before 2.

  • Kirill

    That’s a great bit of road. Couple years ago, saw a guy almost wheelie into an oncoming Ferrari right past that turnout.

  • Roman

    Rode this stretch and Route 33 out of Ojai last year. Makes you pretty much hate your life as an East Coast rider. Right outside of LA, all year long…ridiculous!

  • stabmaster

    haa. i was here yesterday and saw that rsv4. there was a guy who’s always there on a desmosedici rr and it wouldn’t start either after he stopped.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/Adeysworld adeysworld

      He restarted the bike and it fired up no prob.

      • stabmaster

        damn i missed it. i was hoping to hear that thing!!! there was also a mission r electric superbike at the rockstore.

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/Adeysworld adeysworld

          You’ll see him again!
          Yeh we saw the Mission R at the Rockstore as well. Pretty much just a pretty shell. I don’t think it’s turned a wheel yet…anywhere! Did you see the fresh slicks on it? Might as well have 3 inch chicken strips on street tire.

          • stabmaster

            it looked like a mini bike. that thing was tiny… i was wondering why they were just displaying it on a stand?? funny things go on on mulholland near the rock store. haha when i stopped at the top of the snake some guy was trying sell me a back protector. he had a clothing rack filled with gear selling things. btw adey, your videos are sick!! i actually see you there everytime i go up mulholland.

            • http://www.youtube.com/user/Adeysworld adeysworld

              Thanks for viewing man! Give a shout next time you’re up there.

  • http://www.ninja250blog.com R.Sallee

    “Start/finish”? These guys don’t need more reason to treat The Snake like a racetrack.

    • stabmaster

      exactly. its crazy there every weekend. the worst are the sportbike squid biker boyz ruff ryderz motorcycle club dudes who look like mexican taggers and gangbangers who ride in cutoff dickies with icon shin kneeguards and back portectors.

  • 2ndderivative

    I’ve seen more crash videos on that stretch of road than all others combined. Looks like fun, makes it worth the risk of living in a place that’s going to fall into the Pacific any day now.

  • Skank NYCF

    Lookin’ good homie.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/Adeysworld adeysworld

      Thanks bud! Waiting for you and OneArm to visit next.

      • Skank NYCF

        Maybe 2012. Lots on my plate this year but Im sure you already know this.

  • Thomas

    …the snake is my favourite road when I’m in California – but never on a weekend – too many Hoggies round and too many crashes! When you’re riding it monday to thursday it’s your road – less traffic and much more fun!

  • Dan

    After riding this road, watching the crash videos quickly becomes a guilty pleasure (along with checking out the rockstorephotos.com site for updates). Check out the “rnicky mouse” youtube channel if youre not already familiar – it also has a great video of a skateboarding dog, if you’re in that kind of mood.

    Its true that mulholland can be a bit crowded on the weekend, but you can get good riding without waiting till Monday if you are willing to do without having your picture taken. I’ve never seen a hog or a t-shirt + back protector + giant radio taped to the helmet + gixxer combo on Latigo. Maybe unfair to lump those groups together, but neither are really known for cornering.. Plus at the start of Latigo you get a sweet “twisty roads next 10 miles” sign that ought be on the cover to some riding book.

    @adeysworld – kudos on the videos. A month ago I came on your channel while looking for a video of good run up and back on the snake. The 3 of you are nuts, but it makes for great watching at work.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      Mention Latigo again and you’re banned.

      • robotribe

        Hah! Locals only!

        • gregorbean

          Some of those other lesser frequented canyon roads are awesome! Love Latigo, but my buddy dumped his 900 SS trailing me the very first time we cruised that road. Luckily the guardrail caught his bike.

      • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

        seriously. anyone who names roads that shall remain nameless should be banned for life. or at least forced to get out there with a broom and sweep up all the winter crud for us.

  • James

    There’s nothing homoerotic about those tatts.

  • markbvt

    Nice road, granted… but if you think The Snake in California is good, you really owe it to yourselves to check out The Snake in Tennessee.

    • Michael

      Deal’s Gap, Devil’s Tail, Blue Ridge – awesome riding, and for miles upon miles.

  • Brad

    Did you really ‘number’ the turns on a public road? Good lord. It’s bad enough we have to deal with the Icon-wearing morons with open pipes and sneakers. Now you’ve got an aerial shot of the road with turns numbered like a race track. No wonder the non-riding world hates us.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      People numbered the turns and started treating this section of road like a track long before we came along. I think the general consensus is that people would prefer this kind of riding be concentrated here than spread all over the area.

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

    California Dreaming…Remind me why I don’t live there again? Oh well, making the trip in August. If I’m in LA on a weekday afternoon, I’ll have to make the pilgrimage. And try not to fly off a cliff.

  • moby grape

    Do people spend the whole day riding up and down the same 2.2 miles of road? There has to be a shitload of good riding in those mountains.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Indeed they do. The cops operate a zero-tolerance policy outside this road, but allow any approximation of safe riding on it, hence the concentration.

      • moby grape

        That sucks. Come up to the Asheville area some time. The police are relatively laid back, and the roads are excellent with high speed limits and light traffic if you stay off the Parkway.

        • markbvt

          Agreed. You can ride awesome twisties all day long in WV, TN, and NC without ever riding the same road twice.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          My family’s originally from that area (Mt. Airy and, surprise, Siler City), so I know the roads. They’re awesome. Can’t beat SoCal’s year-round riding season though. And there’s plenty of deserted roads just an hour or so outside the city.

        • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

          hahaha! not when the R1 convention is rollin’ through the Gap! But it’s the same as anywhere- one famous road overrun with cops (and Wes, who told you they let people play on the Snake? A cop?) and a million lesser known roads nearby that ROCK!

      • Brad

        Wes, I’m not sure where you got your facts on this. But, I can actually see Mulholland from my office, and have been on these roads for a decade. The reason there is a concentration on this road is because of the Rock Store, and because photographers stake out the corners. That the cops allow different standards on Mulholland than say, Latigo, Stunt, Piuma…I don’t think that’s correct.

        Many riders have all but given up on riding the in Santa Monica Mountains because of constant run-ins with boy-racers, and the Po-Po.

        Incidentally, when the homeowners get together with their City Council members to urge banning motorcycles from their roads, your map with numbered turns is precisely the kind of ammunition they’ll use. If you don’t think that happens, read this:

        http://blogs.insideline.com/straightline/2011/02/la-county-to-install-center-line-rumble-strips-on-our-favorite-roads—-good-or-bad.html

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/Adeysworld adeysworld

          Rumble strips are a good thing, I prefer that than the stupid large yellow reflectors on top of the double yellow lines on the Snake. Can’t tell you how many times I hit those when I first starting riding up there.

          If you can’t negotiate your route without crossing the double yellow, then I pray for you. This new action on public roads doesn’t interfere with my riding at all. It’s for the idiots in cars that can’t hold a line in a turn and the squids on bikes doing the same. Give me some tools, I’ll start adding rumble strips to the Snake now!

          • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

            you said it! especially on Sundays, there’s no point in riding out there if you can’t stay to the right.

  • Restless Lip Syndrome

    Oh please come to San Diego!

  • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

    I’ve left plenty of teen skin and RZ parts scattered throughout those canyons. Don’t miss Latigo, Old Topanga and Stunt Road. Also a trip up Angeles Crest is worth it if the roads are clear.

    Also try to get a dirt bike ride in while you’re out here! Gorman (Hungry Valley SVRA) is a spiritual enduro journey.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      We’ve done all those! Dual sport riding this Friday and next Friday, can’t wait.

      Here was our take on Hungry Valley:
      http://hellforleathermagazine.com/2008/03/yamaha-raptor-700r-vs-hungry-valley-svra/

      • T Diver

        The problem with Angeles Crest in the winter is that the roads are to dirty. Be careful. (or wear gear)

        And on a side note… People should not judge clubs so much. I am in a club and we ride all over there on the weekends. I ride with my club, with other clubs, and even with people without any club. It does not matter remotely what type of bike you are on. Sure there are a bunch of Icon clad urban bikers but who cares. Your brand of gear does not mean anything. Futherermore, there is no “locals only” crap. These are public roads. Everyone is welcome. If I see you down. I am stopping to help. No matter what. If someone is riding like a DB then everyone should recognize that. (We tell people in our club when they ride like DBs or are being unsafe. ie wheelies in the left lane only). And there you have it. I hope to see you all out there riding. T Diver (Ruthless Ryderz.) :)

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

          Nobody ever said any of the roads were for locals only. East coasters just have a very dry sense of humor. I saw your crew that day on the end of Sunset at the gas station while we were refueling. Looked like you guys were about 30 deep.

      • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

        Awesome, have a blast! I’m going to be down in Death Valley (Saline Valley) with 5 other KTM riders, camping from Saturday – Monday. Hit me up if you want to ride out, it’s not too far from LA.

    • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

      looks like Sasha wants broom duty as well. please kids, if people want to look at a map and figure shit out for themselves, great. but I am not about to have my favorite roads overrun with tourists and cops because some people don’t seem to grasp the power of the internet.

  • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

    You guys went to the Snake on Sunday, but there was a track day in Fontana at Auto Club Speedway. I saw Yates (sp) doing testing on his electric beast of a bike.

    They were even having a KTM factory demo day there for dealers so those guys were riding the RC8 R around the track. Surely you could have used your press skills and cadged an invitation for free food and track time on your current “top pick of the superbike crop”?

    No doubt the snake was cool but you should have been at the track!

    (edit to correct quote about the RC8 R)

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      We were at Fontana on Saturday with Yates.

      • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

        Gah bummer I missed you guys. Fanboy pics would have been sweet!

  • RT Moto

    Hey HFL crew! Saw you at the track (Auto Club Speedway) this past Saturday. I had to do a double take when I saw Wes walking into the pits (I think it was the hair). Next time you come out to So Cal you should come down to San Diego. Our prized jewel is Palomar Mountain and I would have to say that it gives the snake a run for its money in the fun and excitement category. Let me know if you decide to ride out here so we can give you the grand tour.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Next time say hi!