Ride: Angeles Crest Highway

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One of Southern California’s most legendary motorcycle roads, Angeles Crest Highway has been closed due to fire damage since last January. Today at 10:00am, it will reopen.

The front side of Angeles Crest Highway is an amazing road and easily one of my all-time favorites. I have fond memories going back as far as ’89 or so of riding in my dad’s Mercury Capri canyon car, feeling G-forces and tires scrabbling for traction, listening to the 5.0 V8 and ogling motorcycles at Newcomb’s Ranch.

I remember staring at the 3-spoked rear wheel of a motorcycle, hanging in space on a single-sided swing-arm under the tail section and pipes of a red bike, it’s owner claiming that it would do 130 mph wheelies. The year was 1994 and though he was almost certainly lying about his 916′s power and speed, it was the first bike I ever lusted after. I was probably one of the only first-graders who day-dreamed about what it might be like to control a machine with enough power to loft the front wheel at speed. Hell, my legs were pretty strong and I had a hard enough time at 8 mph on my bicycle.

Back in those days, my dad was racing sail planes out of Crystalaire and California City. The 61.5 mile journey from our house in San Gabriel was a 57-minute affair (yes, he timed it) and incorporated the front side of Angeles Crest Highway, Angeles Forest Highway and Mt. Emma road, usually with Boston’s first album playing over the then hi-tech CD player. It could be something as simple as familiarity, but I’m not sure there’s another road that is so easy and smooth, yet technical and challenging at the same time.

Red highlights the detour riders have been using for the past year and a half. Yellow denotes the portion of Angeles Crest Highway set to reopen. I don’t have anything bad to say about 9-mile or Angeles Forest Highway, but ACH is much more fun and easy to ride at a relaxed pace. Usually, if I were describing a road, I’d go through corner by corner and point out all the really good stuff, the dangerous stuff and the bad stuff. ACH is different though. All you need to do is be careful of the handful of turn-outs where police are likely to be hiding and the intersections where you’ll likely find confused German tourists in RVs and minivans packed full of families making U-turns.

The new road surface will likely need some time to get fully broken in and it hasn’t been confirmed that the road is even open yet, but it should be just as amazing as it always was in a few weeks. Like the other popular roads, beware on weekends. There will be a lot of people, many of them in way over their heads and plenty of others oblivious to everything but their A/C and radio controls. There are police, just like anywhere else, too. Check out the gallery for full-sized maps with tips.

  • Restless Lip Syndrome


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

    New tires being mounted as I type. But I have lady-friend in town from NYC visiting this weekend. So next week, ACH for sure. I’ll even bring some of the Wolf-Pak out.

    • Sean Smith

      I’m waiting a few days for everyone else to scrub that road in. It’s gonna be covered in tar and oil.

      • Janak

        Truly wise, someone should ride the Ninja up there …

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Monday maybe? We can shoot the R1s up there instead of doing the snake this weekend.

  • Kirill

    I am staying away until at least mid/late July to let the OMG IT JUST REOPENED rush die down/crash out.

    • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

      hahaha. seriously. it’s been SOO nice the past couple years having so few people up there. I’m hoping they’ll finish repaving 9 mile soon, I really like that road. Got popped on the front section of the crest once, and have pretty much avoided it ever since. the surrounding roads are all kinds of awesome.

  • Zach

    great news!

  • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

    +1 for fineness of print in legal disclaimer. I may not be paid attention to by my wife, boss, co-workers, children, or detainees in my sex dungeon, but, at least HFL actually listens to me.

    • Jonas


  • robotribe

    About. Goddamn. Time.

  • T Diver

    Is the road leading up to the restaurant not considered the Crest?

    • Sean Smith

      The crest actually continues all the way over to highway 138 and it’s a killer ride. This story is only about the part that was closed though. I’ll probably end up writing about the rest of the good roads up there at some point, there’s a lot to talk about.

  • http://www.desmoworks.com desmoworks

    Bob and I are riding Tuesday when we get in town. I haven’t street ridden in several years so this will be interesting. He said it is a great ride that I have to do once though.

  • Nate

    Ooo. Maybe I’ll see you, Desmo. Gonna go have a looksie tomorrow I think.

  • luxlamf

    Today the Girl and I jumped on my VROD (to the dismay of many here I imagine) and rode the whole Crest to Wrightwood, been too long. Saw 3 Coppers, One on the way up sitting near the Sign saying everything is open, than 2 on the way down, guy on a new Triumph Scrambler got caught and I saw a Motorbike Copper going Up the road as I came down. Road is Excellent, Feels brand spanking new, the scenery? Depressing as all Hell, all the Points I knew that told me where I was now gone etc.. very sad, Everything is covered in Newly Oiled Black Asphalt but I found no problem sticking to the surface with my new Avons, Pulled over for a group of Duc Riders to pass and they where having a time. Few People on the road, bike or Car but everyone on 2 wheels was Happy, didn’t matter what you where riding everyone was waving and just be glad to be back. If you do go be Aware of a Temp Traffic light that is in place about 3/4 the way to Newcombs, the road goes to 1 lane so traffic cannot flow both ways at the same time. I had to sit through the whole light as I arrived as it turned red, Was very uncomfortable waiting there with a blind curve right behind me, kept my eyes on my mirrors every second in case someone came speeding around the corner behind me. I did forget just how terrible a place Newcombs is, I understand “Country Pace” but the service is really awful (and it wasn’t busy at all) and food not much better, Glad I can just stop there for a rest etc.. and continue on to Wrightwood for everything else. Also a LOT of new Business/Restaurants at the base of the mountain that where not there 2 years ago, rather stop there and eat etc.. than deal with Newcombs ever again. Just so Happy its open again, it takes me about 15 minutes to get there from my door and every time I would go to Pro Italia these last 2 years I would still ride up as far as allowed “Just In Case” it had opened again.

    • T Diver

      OH GOD A VROD!!!! Kidding. sounds like a good time. It’s nice to hear something positive about motorcycling. It’ s great place to ride.

  • Miles Prower

    Photos of your Dad’s Capri canyon-carver please.

    • Sean Smith

      I know he has some in a box somewhere, but I couldn’t find them. That car was Bad Ass. All black with flares, louvers on the back window, terrible woodgrain dash trim, sticky-icky tires and the exhaust note of a trans-am racer. He eventually sold it to one of his racing buddies, who then used it for exactly the same thing; hauling ass over the crest to the glider ports. If I could find that car now, I’d likely buy it. Even today it’d be considered a pretty fast car.

      • Miles Prower

        Aftermarket flares, rear louvers, vinyl woodgrain — so underappreciated these days! The only time I was “into” cars was in the 70s and 80s. Thanks for the story!

  • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

    I want to steal that disclaimer for my site. but I guess I could write my own.

    the pavement’s fine, I was just up there last weekend. ACH was open from AFH to Wrightwood, with fresh sticky deliciousness all over. I hadn’t ridden that stretch of AFH & ACH in so long they were all brand new to me. Still, I wish they’d finish repaving 9 mile, that’s my fave route.