The CHP on The Snake

Dailies -



You’ve seen the pictures, watched the videos and heard the stories. There’s a road north of LA where motorcyclists go balls out and where the police just sit and watch it happen. So long as you’re doing it between two informally agreed points, you’re very unlikely to get a ticket. Why is that? We went to the California Highway Patrol and asked. What we got wasn’t so much an answer as a steamrolling, but an illuminating one nonetheless. You’ll be surprised who they’re targeting for enforcement. Hint: it’s completely the opposite of riders like Adey.

Speaking of Adey, we actually approached Officer Zimmer initially. He can usually be found perched atop The Snake, more often than not in the process of impounding Adey’s R1. But, these are cops we’re talking about and talking to and he wouldn’t talk to us. Instead we got Leland Tang, Public Information Officer for the West Valley CHP area. He’s got first hand knowledge of enforcement on and around Mulholland and, more importantly, is tasked with working with motorcyclists to educate them about the hazards to be found there.

What’s the official CHP policy about motorcycle enforcement on The Snake?
“The area in question is on Mulholland from Seminole to the lookout and it’s a very popular area for several different groups. Obviously, you have your Harley riders, what we call our ‘leisure riders.’ They love the ride because it’s a beautiful scenic area. And then we also have our sportbikers or, as some would call them, ‘cafe racers.’ That particular segment likes to go fast and likes to push the limits and Mulholland’s just a fantastic area to do that, the roadway is beautiful. We also have a series of bicyclists that also like to use that same exact area.”
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“Now, mind you, the road is not that wide. It’s very twisty and curvy and you don’t have many shoulders there. And we have these three groups vying for the same piece of real estate. So, one of the challenges we have is to get those groups to share the road, to share that area respectfully of each other and also to be safe.”

Why do riders crash there?
“We have a lot of incidents right now especially with motorcyclists going over the double yellow line. We actually had a motorcyclist go head on with a fire engine because he lost control and went over the double yellows. It’s either inexperienced riding or people pushing beyond their skill set that’s going to get a bunch of individuals hurt.”

“That’s really why we’re out there. It’s not to be the bad guy and say, ‘let’s ruin everyone’s great time.’ We want people to enjoy the Santa Monica Mountains, we just want to to do that in a safe, responsible manner. Safety is the most important thing that we want. If I was a motorcyclist, I would be gravitating toward that area too, just because it’s so beautiful. We want riders to know their limitations, to ride within their skill level and to be responsible and be mindful of the other individuals using that same roadway.”

Are CHP officers trained to identify the difference between experienced an inexperienced riders?
“We don’t have training where we can say a person is an experienced or inexperienced rider. But, I can identify an inexperienced rider even on the freeway, just by the way they’re using the road. Are they driving in the middle of the lane where all the oil is? Or, are they in the left track or right track? You know what I’m talking about. That’s one usual sign that would indicate this person is not a rider all the time. One of the things we tell people is, ‘Just ride within your own skill level. If you’re a beginner, then just stay in the confines of that until you learn better or go to our motorcycle safety program.’”

How do you decide who to ticket?
“Another thing you’re about to start hearing, that we’re unveiling right now and that a lot of local departments are enforcing already, is this novelty helmet thing. The helmets that a layperson would call a brain bucket. The Highway Patrol, right now, we’ve not gotten a directive from Sacramento to start enforcing that, so we are still in the education phase.”

“Use a DOT helmet that meets all those standards, that has a foam core that’s at least an inch and a half in thickness, that has good penetration protection, that has good shell protection, that has solid D-rings, all that stuff. That’s the single most important thing that a rider can do to save his or her life, wear appropriate headgear.”

“The Highway Patrol is not enforcing that right now, but, our counterparts in the police and sheriff’s departments are and they have been writing tickets. Courts are enforcing those tickets as well.”

“We call it, ‘The 700 G.’ When a person’s head sustains a 700 G force, that’s fatal. Typically, injury is around 500 and a DOT helmet is below 200. At 700 G, a novelty helmet offers no protection whatsoever. So, we’ve been going out like crazy and preaching that. Our mindset is that we educate first and then we follow it up with enforcement.”

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“You know as well as I do that you can buy DOT stickers on the Internet. So, one of the things we’re doing is educating officers on how a DOT helmet sits on the head versus a novelty helmet. A novelty helmet fits closely to the skull, a DOT helmet has that one to two inch buffer all around.”

Are you less likely to get a ticket if you’re wearing full gear?
“We want to encourage riders to get additional training, to ride within their skill sets — we want them to enjoy the roads — and then to practice good safety by wearing good equipment like helmets and jackets and stuff of that nature.”

What types of tickets are you writing?
“We get exhibition of speed, which would be, if you go up to the lookout and you’ll see all the tire marks there. That, they’re doing. They try to explain it to us, the cafe racers all say, ‘Well, I’m trying to get my tires warm so I get better grip.’ Whatever. We have to explain to them that sharing the road means being a good neighbor. There are other people that live in that area.”

“Right at Seminole and Muholland, you have a new development. You’ve got a motorhome park. On the other side of The Rock Store, you have a new development too. So, we have people moving into an area that was once rural. They complain about noise and the inability just to get out of their driveway. Can you imagine the frustration level if you’re going somewhere and can’t get out of your own driveway just because of the motorcycle traffic? In a rural area? Yeah, that would be frustrating for anybody.”

“Speeding tickets are not the issue that we’re getting out there. If you know that area, you know you can’t really speed. The geographics, the roadway design, they limit your speed. The problem is when they lose control and go over the double yellow lines and go head-on with a car. We’ve seen that. So that would be where speed would come into play, but we’re not talking astronomical figures here. What we’re talking about is riders who are just not riding safely.”

  • dux

    Safety, safety, safety. I’m glad the government tax farmers are so concerned about their cattle.

    • Wereweazle

      You mean the police, whose job it is to protect people, trying to protect innocent residents from speed junkies? I sure as hell don’t feel like getting hit or killed by someone who just needs a rush when I’m doing nothing more than my morning commute.

      • Sean Smith

        The police don’t actually do much protecting. They write citations, arrest people who may or may not have hurt someone (after the fact) and on rare occasion, make hilarious statements like “And then we also have our sportbikers or, as some would call them, ‘cafe racers.’”

        If you see a police officer driving around in a marked car, it’s more likely that he’ll harm you than he will protect you.

        • Greg

          Sean, your assessment of what police do is utterly ridiculous. Police don’t protect much? Try living in a society without any.

          • Wes Siler

            Oh, real police, the kind that catch bad people, do plenty. We have something of a surfeit of cops in this country whose only job is to raise money off law-abiding citizens. Try living in a society without that and you’ll understand.

            • dux

              Sean, Wes, you guys “get it”. Cops are out there to make money off us cattle and keep us safe from ourselves.

            • Greg

              I whole heartedly agree that certain cities/jurisdictions place undue pressure on cops to write tickets as a means of revenue generating – that is truly unfortunate. The cops that buy into that philosophy are nothing but sheep and have violated their oath of office. Sean did not adequately explain his thoughts if it was his intention to reference that type of cop. Sean’s post lambasts all law enforcement quite succinctly.

              As a side note; California has seen several recent lawsuits filed by cops against their employers for setting “ticket quotas” and providing negative performance appraisals against those officers if they did not achieve the “proper goals”. Most notably ten officers from LAPD are currently suing the city for such action. I believe that’s a step in the right direction.

              • jpenney

                Missouri enacted a law that prohibits cities from raising more than 45% of their revenue from speeding tickets. One city was pulling in 85% of their revenue from tickets on highway that passed through the town.

                A town near me constantly tries to annex small swaths of land that encompass high traffic highways so they can run more speed traps.

                In my experience it’s money. Not safety. If it really were safety they’d pull over tailgaters, people not using their turn signals, and distracted drivers.

              • Sean Smith

                They sued and won. Those guys are heros.

                I’ve had more than my fair share of bad experiences with law enforcement. The local police in San Gabriel where I grew up were a corrupt good ‘ol boys club and made my life hell from 16 to 20 when I moved to the Westside. For those four years though, not a week passed where I didn’t get stopped, harassed and often ticketed by the local PD.

                The story is a lot longer than that, but suffice it to say that my views on government, police and law have been shaped by that terrible experience.

                That said, there are good cops out there doing meaningful work. I’m even friends with a few of them. They don’t drive around in black and white crown vics or wear much in the way of a police uniform though. These guys catch violent thugs and get them off the street. Still, there’s not much going on in the way of protecting. You’ll never see a guy jump out of the bushes to save you from getting mugged.

                • jason McCrash

                  The difference in PD cultures between the east and west coasts is amazing. The CA cops have always been a much more para-military oriented style and the Northeast/Great Lakes is much more of the smack you in the head and tell you you’re an idiot but let you go type. PD’s in CA get a LOT of recruits straight out of the military and it definitely shows. Here if you don’t have a 4 year degree in criminal justice you might as well not even apply. And that’s to work in a crime riddled shithole city of 200,000 with more murders than Boston, making $35000 to start.
                  Even the fire service out there shows it. It is very rank oriented and uniform based where as back east it is much more “we go to fires, I ain’t wearing a fucking metal badge on my shirt INTO a fire”. (I mean building fires, you can have brush fires, convict work man). Untucked Tshirts and baseball hats here, crisp ironed uniforms there.
                  I have taken friends out west to ride and have to explain what how PD’s are before we drive or ride. It is common knowledge for locals that if you get pulled over out there in a car you stop, drop both of the front windows, turn the car off and sit there with both hands on the wheel waiting to be told what to do. Here people sit there with the car running, talking on the phone, listening to the radio, etc. and the cop usually goes about his business not bothering with the other stuff.
                  The main factor in me deciding to go into the fire service after the Marines and not the police was that every…. and I mean EVERY…… asshole I knew joined the LAPD as soon as their enlistment ended.
                  My high school football coach who works for the same department as I do now said it best back in 1987. “You wanna be a cop? When is the last time a fucking cop HELPED you?”

        • Toby

          To Greg’s point: I moved from the US to a country where police don’t pull people over for violations (Thailand). If you encounter traffic police at all here, it’s at a fixed checkpoint. Result? People drive like maniacs and carry helmets on their bikes to wear as they approach a checkpoint. Unlicensed and uninsured drivers are the norm.

          Abuse of authority is a problem, no doubt. But a blanket condemnation (“the police don’t actually do much protecting”) is nonsense. Traffic stops are a deterrent. Not to everyone all the time, but to many people a lot of the time. And that makes roads safer.

          • Wes Siler

            We live in the first world. Police could choose to enforce actual safety like good riding, tailgating, lane discipline, etc. Do they? Nope. Despite countless studies showing that distraction/lack of skill/bad driving cause more accidents than speed, they just raise money rather than save lives. Fuck ‘em.


              Accidents occurring at high speeds cause the most damage. It is actually possible for a cop to assess your speed, but they have to guess your overall skill level or attentiveness. Do you really want to see tailgating tickets on the 101? How do you propose they enforce that? Stop people from driving drunk, texting, or any of the other egregiously dangerous acts and I’ll be happy.
              I am down with the fact that power protects power most of all, but motoring freedom (as opposed to safety) is a minor issue compared to real abuses by police departments. Save the heroics for the track, where you won’t encounter anyone who hasn’t accepted the same amount of risk as you.

            • Will

              +1….kinda. I don’t know how much I want a cop who’s never ridden a bike in his life telling me the safest way to ride. Good riding technique can be sort of dynamic at times and maybe not easily explained to a cop. Because even if they would enforce the things that actually promote safety, they would still be assholes.

      • dux

        Are you so sure their job is to protect us?


      @dux: Fewer people getting hurt means fewer people burdening the health system, and that turns into an insurance cost savings for you. But you’re probably too “live free or die” to carry insurance. Regardless, the CHP has a very light touch in this case. Don’t be an idiot.

      • Jesse

        Agreeing with most everything you just put out there f*61 , but it is “Live Free And Die.”

        Not dying isn’t an option, as of yet. I haven’t the heart to tell New Hampshire.


          Maybe I should have said “Don’t Tread on Me”? More and more people have stopped trying to improve government and now just want to utterly destroy it. A speeding ticket given for when you’ve knowingly disobeyed a speed limit is your own damn fault, and it is a risk you have to accept. Whether or not that limit should exist is a separate, more debatable issue.

          • Jesse

            I refer to them as Performance Awards from the state.

            Agreed – Be part of a great solution. Burning the house to the ground doesn’t address the leaky roof.

    • Myles


  • Denzel

    I suppose part of their thinking is to keep the activity controlled in a somewhat limited area. Not a bad thing…

  • Joey

    Dress for the crash not the weather!

    • Sentinel

      +1 brutha!

  • Kirill

    i wish they’d also enforce the noise regulations.

    I’m curious as to why he’s lumping cafe racer hipsters with sportbike riders though.

    • Zach

      I would suspect it is the “original” use of the word, where the owners were modifying their street bikes to be closer to the race bikes of the time, hence clubmans and aero tails etc. You could argue that the modern equivalent would be a sportbike (maybe with some go-fast parts) ridden by an amateur wearing one-piece leathers, as you will see on the Snake.

      I may be pulling all of this out of my ass, though.

    • Von Scotch

      I don’t think it was a deliberate slight. I’m sure he’s got a lot more on his plate than the vagaries of motorcycle fads. With the recent rise and rise of the “cafe-racer”, I don’t think it’s too much of a long shot to say that he thinks thats just what fast bikers call themselves nowadays. I wouldn’t take it personally.

    • aristurtle

      Maybe he’s an old-timer. Cafe racers of the ’60s were the squids of their day, basically.

      • Sean Smith

        He’s just making stuff up. I’ve met the guy, not the sharpest tool in the shed.

        • HammSammich

          He does sound like a tool though. I’ve actually seen a few sportbike riders locally that have donned the mantle of “cafe racer,” incorporating the phrase in decals on their bikes and also sporting “Ton-Up” stuff (which doesn’t seem to be a particularly harrowing feat on a modern sport bike). Perhaps in their quest for cool, these squids have created some confusion for lay people in their understanding of normally well-defined motorcycle cliques.


      Probably the same reason most on this site lump ALL cops into the same category as well.

  • jason McCrash

    I would KILL to have State Troopers take that POV here in NY. It is almost the opposite here; HD riders and guys in beanies get away with whatever and the young kids on fast bikes get targeted. But then most Troopers that ride own blinged out HD’s. Speed is usually the concern on good roads because it is easy money for the state.
    I love the line about riding down the middle of the lane being a sign of a novice. I have had arguments with co-workers (HD riders) about that all of the time. They are of the “set the cruise and glide” mindset and see the middle of the lane as the ‘safest’ place to ride cause it ‘has room to move left and right’. They also ride side by side and do 99% of the other crap that I bet subscribers here would cringe at.
    I’m counting the days (months and years too sadly) until I can move back to SoCal and for the guys that are from there and have never traveled the US on a bike, you really don’t know how good drivers of all vehicles in CA have it from a drivers vs police POV (and tractor rigs….. ugh. God I wish the right lane/55mph law was nationwide).

    • Toby

      ++1. I’ve lived in several states and CA police are (for the most part) exceptionally reasonable.

      With one notable exception I’ve come away from all 7 or so traffic stops feeling like I got a good deal ;)

    • pplassm


      But I’m not moving to California.

  • adeysworld

    Aye Wes, Zimmer didn’t refuse to talk to us. He simply stated to me that he had to wait for Officer Tang to get back in office from vacation.

    Speaking of “exhibition of speed” ticket, I saw Zimmer give one to a guy on Aprilia SVX 5.5. He was behind me as we were ripping uphill. Once we slowed down for traffic, the Aprilia rider popped a few wheelies in the process of us picking the pace up again. Zimmer pulled both of us over in heated fashion. I was convinced I was getting the 3rd impound. But since Zimmer warned the Aprilia guy earlier, he radioed his sergeant for permission to issue a “exhibition of speed” ticket. End result was 30-day impound. I got off with a evil

    Moral of the story, don’t showboat on the road. If it looks like you’re speeding uphill, you will be stopped and issued a warning. Hopefully your paperwork is up to par so you can ride the rest of the day..elsewhere(until they leave).

    • Wes Siler

      Eh, in emails it was made clear that we couldn’t speak to Zimmer for an official communication.

    • pinkyracer

      how can you afford all these impounds? amazing. how much $ is that in track days?

  • Dennis
  • Justus

    There’s another group to watch out for on Mulholland and some of the surrounding roads: All my downhill skateboarding pals. Most have the good sense to go out during low traffic times, but like motorcyclists, there are always a few idiots who take the double yellows as a guideline and generally act like fools.

  • Sean Smith

    “We call it, ‘The 700 G.’ … At 700 G, a novelty helmet offers no protection whatsoever.”

    700 you say? Sounds like someone smoked that funny stuff in the evidence locker before his interview. Way to make the CHP look good man.

    • Wes Siler

      Check out the video. Sounded funny to me too, but I think they’re just measuring it in a different way.

      • Sean Smith

        I think they’re measuring it in a fake way. He added a zero to previously guestimated numbers. At 70g, you’re dead. Nothing you can do on a bike will ever add up to 700g.

        • Steven

          They’re talking about brain impacts. The DOT standard limits impact transfered to the brain to 400g, with ECE22.5 limiting it to 275.

    • 85gripen

      Was he referring to weight, as in “grams”? 700g is just over 1-1/2 pounds. Maybe 700 grams is the minimum amount of foam padding required to adequately protect a head?

    • dux

      Momentary g-forces (microseconds or less) are what they are measuring. In other words “the bounce”. These can reach ludicrous numbers (i.e. 100′s of G’s worth of acceleration), but the numbers are real.

      • jason McCrash

        Damn straight, ever seen a jumper? As in off a building? They bounce and splat at the same time. Exactly what happens to the brain inside the skull. The brain can move within the skull with no external damage to the skull. That is what a concussion is, a bruising of the actual brain. When we go to car wrecks we often see head trauma to the person on the opposite side of the impact that is much worse than the person directly impacted. It’s from the “bounce” into the door/window.

        • dux

          Eww. Thankfully, I haven’t seen a jumper. Thanks for the good info!

  • pinkyracer

    no speeding tickets? yeah right. I’ve seen plenty of speeding tickets around there. Maybe not on the Snake, but nearby. I’ll stay in hibernation till squid season’s over, thanks.

  • Sebastian Battaglia II
  • Sam

    What fucking fantasy land does that guy live in? Book me a one way ticket. What is there free tires and MR-9 at the top and blowjobs at the bottom? Granted I’m in Oregon, and have never been to the Snake, nor dealt with CHP, but every officer I’ve ever dealt with on a bike (couple dozen) has been a complete douche nozzle save one.

    Protect and serve. Fuck you. Portland cops have killed more citizens than I care to count in a Google search.

    • Sam

      Hrm. Little angrier at 3am than 10:30 am. I dare someone to touch that comment with a ten foot pole.

      • Steven


      • pinkyracer

        because you’re right. we’re all sitting here in silent agreement. I bet the cost of operating the CHP is more than the revenue they bring in for the state, if they don’t meet a certain quota. I say we abolish the CHP and leave crime fighting to real police officers. After all, they’re the only ones trained and qualified to actually fight real crime.

        • HammSammich

          You’re like the Grinch who stole CHiP’s! Next thing, you’re gonna tell me that two CHiP’s troopers on Kawasaki’s can’t have a casual conversation when they’re riding side by side on the freeway!?

          Why is everybody picking on John and Ponch… ;)

        • Greg

          The CHP does receive any revenue generated from tickets. The money collected from CHP tickets is distributed mostly to the city or county where the ticket was issued. A small portion does return to the state to fund educational programs, etc., but none directly to the CHP.

          The CHP is funded primarily through the California Motor Vehicle Account (a portion of every dollar collected in vehicle registration and licensing fees is used to fund the CHP). Federal programs fund the rest of the CHP’s budget.

          This information is readily available on the internet.

      • Sam

        Haha, cheers guys.

    • dux


      There. I touched it.

  • the_doctor

    Meh. Cops being cops. “Here to serve and protect.” Right. I will just avoid areas where they are known to lurk, and ride within my limits.

    • Adrian

      I agrre, for what it’s worth. Best attitude one can take.

      There is an unfortunate schism between “them” and “us”, and I doubt it will ever be different.


    So many people here bitching and whining about someone we pay to uphold the law. If you morons decide to BREAK the LAW on public roads, it stands to reason a ticket could be written. If you don’t like the odds, stay the fuck off the road or just obey traffic laws. How hard is that to figure out?

    Granted some cops can be dicks, but if I had to deal with half the morons they come in contact with on a daily basis, I would start to lose a bit of charm as well.

    • desmoworks

      I agree Derrick. As I side note I’d hate to see you after you’ve lost a bit of charm!

    • Steven


      So many people heare bitchething and whinething about someone to whom we owe grayne and labour upholdething yon law.
      If ye wish not to be struck with yon whip, mayhap should thee not attempteth to run away into the citie to escapeth the privations of the lord, whom God hath given the right to rule over us and forceth us to worketh his fields and give unto him half our harvests.

      • Jesse


        • Zach

          This is why paywalls are awesome.

      • dux

        Pay heed!

    • Sean Smith

      Who is the collective ‘we’ that you’re referring to? I pay taxes and show up to court only because I know that if I don’t, some of the most violent and well armed people in the world will show up to my place and drag me to prison. There’s no signing up or opting in, or even an option to opt out.

      • dux

        Yup. No social contract=unjust society.
        Have you watched any of TheAntiTerrorist’s videos on Youtube? Enlightening, to put it simply.

      • DERRICK

        You can opt out by moving somewhere else that you find more appealing. Pretty simple really.

        I’m not saying the world out there is perfect, but crying fowl about known laws when enforced is just plain retarded. Rude or not, the CHP gets paid to enforce those laws. Try working on the law enforcement side of the world for a few days and see how much shit you deal with on a daily basis.

        The majority of riders on this site hate it when all motorcyclists are lumped into the same category, but the second cops are mentioned they do the exact same thing. Absurd much?

  • jason McCrash

    Another thing the CHP used to tell us way back when was to ride “aggressively defensive”. Constantly moving, in the lane and on the freeway between lanes until we had clear space around the bike. Another line I never will forget and I have actually told a cop that a couple of times when I was pulled over. Both times after I explained what I was doing and why I was let off. Wheelies on freeways and lane splitting at 25mph above the flow of traffic doesn’t equate to that though.