Ride: Highway 39, Glendora Mountain Road and Glendora Ridge Road

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Southern California is a motorcycle paradise, but as a result, many of the best roads get clogged up with Harleys and cops. Sometimes even cops on Harleys. You think you’re doing well, then a squid on an R6 lowsides into your lane, spreading blood and oil across the pavement. But get away from The Snake and Angeles Crest and there’s still some amazing riding to be had, free from all the hassle. Hop on the 210, get off at 39 and there’s a sign proudly proclaiming, “Welcome to Azusa, The Canyon City!”

Besides being home to Shinya Kimura and Chabbot Engineering, they also have Highway 39, Glendora Mountain Road and Glendora Ridge Road. I’ve been going up to GMR since I was 16 when I got my first sportscar. Back then, you could head up to the parking lot around midnight on a Wednesday night and there would be anywhere from 5 to 40 cars, most of them rolling on sticky tires and coil-over suspension.

Since I’ve been into motorcycles, the front-side of the road has re-opened and just a few weeks ago, 39 opened back up to Crystal Lake. The remaining 4.5 miles between crystal lake and Angeles Crest Highway has been closed since 1978. There are plans to have it re-open in 2015, but this is CalTrans we’re talking about, so I’m not getting my hopes up.

There are five roads up there, four of which are really good. San Gabriel East Fork has some pretty sketchy pavement and there’s often people around so it’s not real great idea to haul-ass on that one. The other four are amazing though.

What you’re looking at here is 39 and the front-side of GMR. 39 can be a lot of fun if you’re into high speeds. If you don’t feel like taking risks, just cruise and use it as a highway to get to the good parts. My usual route is up 39 to Crystal Lake, back down to the bridge, take things easy down East Fork and then ride the back side of GMR. I stop at the top and take a break for a bit at that point. Afterward, it’s up the ridge road, back down the ridge road finish off by going down the front-side of GMR.

This is where 39 starts to get good. Pass the bridge, go slow past the ranger station and then enjoy the esses. There’s great pavement and better corners. If you’re looking for a place to drag a knee on a heavy touring bike, this is it. Also on this map is part of East Fork. There’s a parking lot across the bridge and it’s a great place to meet if you don’t wanna have a big group of riders all hanging out at the gas station down by the freeway. Pay attention to the big sweeping U-turn — the pavement is crumbling and there’s usually dirt.

Ever wanted to ride a really cool dead end road where you’re unlikely to run into the highway patrol? Here you go. This is the northern section of 39. It starts out very fast then slows way down. The pavement changes too. Luckily, the good stuff is in the fast sections. In red you can see part of the closed section that leads to Angeles Crest Highway. Imagine how awesome it would be if there was a short-cut to the really amazing part of ACH. It’s real, but it’s been closed since ’78. When you get to the Crystal Lake turn-off, make sure to slow down and make the right turn. There’s only a few corners past it and they’re not that great unless you need a place to take a photo of a Moto Guzzi. Instead, stop by the snack bar. There’s a cat that’ll do anything for a bite of your tuna sandwich.

After you’ve come back down from 39, hang a left at the bridge, putt down East Fork and be careful not to go down Shoemaker road. It’s a dead end. Take it super slow through the river village (there are signs) and don’t miss the U-turn to get onto GMR. Once you’re headed up the hill, be careful not to go railing into corners you’ve never seen before. There are usually a few surprises like new oil stains or sand in one or two corners. After a few runs, you’ll be hooked on GMR for life. It’s that good. Go slow pulling into the parking lot at the end; I’ve actually seen people come flying in there way too fast, freak out and crash either into the dirt or head-on into another rider. Don’t be that guy.

The Ridge road gets its name because it’s a road on a ridge. Fancy huh? If you crash here, it’s a long fall to the bottom, but the views are spectacular. Watch for ice here if it’s under 90º out. Also watch for black and white Crown Victorias trying to hide in the turn-outs. If you’re up here on a weekend, odds are so are they.

Once you get to the end of the ridge road, you can either head down to the 210 or turn around to ride the front-side of GMR. There’s a cafe on Baldy road, but it’s usually full of Harleys and the food isn’t half as good as what you can buy at the snack bar. The front-side of GMR is an amazing road. It’s starts out pretty quick and flows really well. The pavement is good through 90% of it too. That said, there are a few corners that can catch you out if you’re overly eager. Study the map and memorize where those scary hard corners are hiding. After you’ve reached the bottom, hang a right at Sierra Madre and a left at Grand. It’ll drop you back by the 210.

Take a look at the gallery to see the maps in full-size, when you look at them small, esses tend to get straightened out and down-hill decreasing radius U-turns look just like everything else. Use your own judgment when it comes to speed. If you take my warnings seriously, you should have a relatively safe (as safe as dragging your knees on a motorcycle can be) and ticket-free ride through some of the best roads Southern California has to offer.

  • Steve

    Jealous? Who me? No way! There is a nice road with two gentle bends about one mile from my house. And just one county over is a road with 6 turns in only 10 miles! But yeah, most of the rest is grid. And yeah, I really am jealous of you CA residents right about now.

    • NickP

      ha, you live in metro Detroit too?

  • Myles

    I’d be mega pissed if I lived in California and was already riding these routes.

    “Why you blowin’ up my spot, Bro!”

    • Austin Milbarge


    • Randall

      I used to ride through here daily. It helps to live less than 2 miles away.

      Why you blowin’ up my spot bro!

    • T Diver

      They can write all they want about these spots. They still don’t seem to filled up. Although during the week the Crest is a wash because everybody is driving theirs cars through from Palmdale.

    • Sean Smith

      Man, everyone knows about 39.

      The real story here is that the upper portion is open to Crystal Lake again. It’s great riding and it adds a destination. The food is at least twice as good as anything you can buy at Newcombs or the Rock Store too.

      Like most SoCal roads, if you go on a weekday you’ll be lucky to see 2 other people.

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

        When are you going to do the ortega HWY / idyllwild / Palomar write up?

      • T Diver

        Damn!! If only I didn’t have this 9-5. I never get out during the week. Keep up the write-ups. More Wheelie photos please.

  • Tucker

    I live in California, but was unaware of this road. Now I am excited to try it out!

    If it were only legal, I would marry HFL.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      That’s a little scary.

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

      Might be legal in MA, but the Mormons shut down in CA. Wait, what are we talking about again?!?

  • Roman

    No more east coast love from HFL. Sad face.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Grant’s still there. For a couple months. Screw the east coast.

      • Richard


  • Beale

    Aww, too late. The roads have all been closed. No more riding on GMR. [whistles, kicks dirt]


  • Beale

    There’s no centerline on the ridge road section, it’s quite narrow and is often covered with a fine layer of marbles. It may look like a track. It’s not. Mind your line going through it.

    He’s not kidding about taking the backside a few times to suss it out. It’s got some very technical, tight corners. Supermotos OWN this section. The Frontside has some of my favorite carousel type corners.

    Watch out for random packs of longboarders coming down the frontside.

    • Sean Smith

      AWD sportscars own the backside. I once did a timed run from the gate to the parking lot in 4:55 in a WRX with only coil-overs, sticky tires and a turbo-back pipe.

      • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub sean (the roommate)

        cool story, bro.

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

          lolz to my facebone.
          That’s the kind of rude that’s only acceptable if you actually know the person.

          • Sean Smith

            It’s good to have friends.

            • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub sean (the roommate)

              you gotta stop calling me that.

      • Beale

        Didja have a Cobb short throw shifter, too?

        • Sean Smith

          Ha, who knows. It was a borrowed car at the end of a long night. We did a few runs and the car felt good, so we decided to time it.

  • Rob

    Also watch out for bicyclist, especially on GMR and Azusa Canyon. There are lots of people out loving these roads on both motor powered and pedal powered two wheeled machines, including myself, so just keep an eye out.

    Also, the back side of GMR is heavily shaded. Ice in the winter is a guarantee (in addition to Ridge Road as mentioned) and there is nearly always rock falls scattered on the pavement on the back section.

    On and on a holiday weekend – like this weekend – forget E Fork or Azusa Canyon above E Fork on a motorcycle. The place is packed with families out picnicking.

    • Kirill

      +1 on the family thing. Found that out the fun way.

    • Sean Smith

      Yep. Just take it really easy on east fork and you’ll be just fine.

  • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

    +1 for the pseudo-legal disclaimer. Next time, I recommend a smaller font size to make it just a little less pseudo and a little more legal-appearing. It’s amazing, really, how a small type size tends to dissuade people from reading things.

    • T Diver

      Plus they made “jackassery” a word. Awesome.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Fixed. Sorry, needed some special code. :)

    • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

      It was all good until I read that – because up until then I was very sure that I was the next Rossi. *sigh*

  • JaySD

    Roads like this are all over also. I’ve done a killer loop out N of LA coming back around Lake Hodges, I’ve done little tujunga across the santa clarita divide to ACH the dirty way also. There’s also a couple killer little dead end roads over by the coast

    • Sean Smith

      I’ve ridden all those roads too :) It’s only a matter of time before I catalog and analyze every good road in SoCal.

      • Denzel

        Sean’s pieces on HFL are, mos def, value added…

  • robotribe

    Great. First you out this to the greater community with the earlier Shinya Kimura piece, now you share a map.

    Selfish self is sad.

  • casey

    ha, I was just asking about a GMR post on the mulholland article. I love this canyon just wish it wasn’t a 30 minute ride away.

    • Sean Smith

      Ha, don’t be a pussy. GMR is 45 from my place and the crest and malibu are a solid 30. If clip-ons hurt your wrists and back, chop a little bit off your upper and take your top clamp to see a machinist for bar mounts. Bingo: Comfy sportsbike with wide and tall handlebars. Plenty of people do it.

      • casey

        oh no Im super comfy on my bike, its just a time thing. I work entertainment hours (930-830) mon – fri + occasional saturday. Crest and mullholand are just so much easier/local. I do REALLY enjoy my days out at GMR, though.

        Clipons aren’t a problem, I have a FZ6R (naked’ified) with 3″ apexi riser clipons. Can’t really complain about the ratio of comfort to performance on that bike.

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

      @ Casey – What is about that distance that’s keeping you from getting there? If it’s traffic or a general time shortage then I hear you. If it’s that your bike is uncomfortable then you need to get that bitch fitted, because 30 mins isn’t much.

      • casey

        just time shortage in general.

    • Kirill

      Dude, I ride to Ojai/the 33 just to avoid the crowd. That’s almost two hours away from Long Beach. HTFU and make the drive.

      • Sean Smith

        HEY! Quiet about that place. Quit blowin up my spot bro.

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

    Any camping spots around there? Or decent clean cheap motels?Taking a day in August just for fun riding, and wouldn’t mind somewhere to take all my bags off the bike.

    • Sean Smith

      On east fork there’s a few camp sites. I’m not sure what the rules are, but in summer time they’re usually full of mexican families barbecuing and hanging out by the river. You may wanna book in advance or just make a friend in the area and drop your stuff at their place.

  • jason

    “You think you’re doing well, then a squid on an R6 lowsides into your lane, spreading blood and oil across the pavement.”

    Didn’t one of the writers here pull a move like that a week or so ago? Pot? Meet Kettle.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Not that I’m aware of.

    • Sean Smith

      That was me dropping the FJR1300. I dropped it at 0 mph after a failed stoppie had the bike ever-so-slightly leaned over. Turns out touring bikes are kinda heavy.

      I don’t think anyone writing here has ever left a trail of oil and blood after crashing their sportsbike in nothing but a t-shirt and jeans though.

      Said R6 squid actually almost ran into me on Mulholland Highway. I heard a strange noise from the other side of the corner and slowed way down. I’m glad I did too, because he was sliding pretty fast.

  • jason

    I thought one of the guys dumped an R1 during a photoshoot or something. On a public road. Up in Malibu maybe? Anyway, I’m just being sarcastic. Great roads are great roads.

    • Sean Smith

      Nope. Musta been someone else.

  • Ben

    When the front side of GMR was closed we used to skate down it every day. Punk ass 80s downhill was literally born on that road.

    Years later I came back to CA and GMR with my first Fireblade and had the time of my life! Pooched a set of Pilot Powers in a day! Anyone within a 2000 mile radius owes it too them selves to ride it!

  • Tommy

    I dont have the luxury of being able to do weekday rides with my current job, but even on the weekends these roads are fairly empty. I once went on a sunday and saw 4 bikes and two cars. It was almost creepy. I think it was in december, traffic will pick up in the summer, but its a great ride.

  • marshallhaas

    You guys have the best disclaimers

  • stabmaster

    this is one of my brothers spots to drift at night. they stop at the bottom of gmr and block the roads in at the parking lot and take turns drifting. then they send someone up to sweep the roads with a broom. don’t go at night.

    i’ve been hit buy a squid near the rockstore head on my first week of riding last year. he was from some stupid squid bike crew. i did sue him tho. lol

    • Sean Smith

      I’ve edited your comment so as to not call-out a whole bunch of sportbike riding thugs.

      • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

        Good thing I subscribe to the comments RSS feed.

  • PCPaul

    Nice, but I have my roads and I ain’t talkin’ :-)

  • contender

    I live in L.A. and this just made me a subscriber for life. Now if only my supermoto tires would get here.

    • Sean Smith

      Put the SMR in the truck, drive to the parking lot of up, unload, gear up, have a blast railing up and down the back-side of GMR.

      • Restless Lip Syndrome

        I JUST did this exact thing this weekend. Took the truck to LA with two supermotos in the back and spent 3 days riding this area. It was nothing short of epic and if you feel comfortable going off-road with your supermoto, the possibilities are endless.

        • Bronson

          FCUK YEAH! How much to ship my SMR from Philly to LA for a weekend of motarded fun?

      • Restless Lip Syndrome

        Also, Sean I have a question. If I were to slip past the closed down section of the road with my bike, what are the consequences? Is there a serious police presence up there?

  • Scott

    I go here weakly! Live just down the road in Diamond Bar. This road took my chicken-strip virginity. I’m a real man now….

  • Kirill

    Went up there earlier, place was deserted. The pavement on the last part of the 39 is sketch as hell (first time up there since its been open that far). First time I took the Ridge Road too (normally I just do GMR to east fork to 39 or vice versa) – one thing that should be mentioned is that there’s no centerline, so I bet on Sunday mornings its full of guys that think they’re Rossi/Schumacher and use the entire road.