Northern California is flush with people who prefer to enjoy the amazing natural beauty of our North State on two wheels rather than four. Even on those blast-furnace days of summer when you might do just about anything to stay near an air conditioner, you see them roaring down the highways with the sun glistening off their tanned hides. You see them rumbling down Hilltop Drive on tricked out Harleys, or in formations of several sleek crotch rockets leaning hard into the curves of Hwy. 299 East like Blue Angels in tight formation. Aside from a few weeks of insane heat in the summertime and some liquid sunshine (precious little lately) during winter, there aren’t too many bad days to be riding a motorcycle around here. A number of NorCal highways are rated as some of the “Best in the West” for motorcycles.
The book “Destination Highways, Northern California” by Brian Bosworth and Michael Sanders lists 334 different “great” rides in NorCal. The website motorcycleroads.com lists 60 rider-contributed “great” rides in California, many of which are in the North. Lonelyplanet.com lists Rt. 1 along the entire California coast among the ten best motorcycle rides in America. So, how do we narrow that down? First, what is “great?”
Generally speaking (very), people who love riding street motorcycles fall into two categories split along lines of age and motorcycle preference. Younger riders tend to love the thrill and exhilaration of powerful sport bikes, which are best suited for carving curvy roads at higher speeds. For them, things like scenery are secondary to the thrill factor of the road. Older riders tend to favor cruisers better suited for straighter roads, a slightly slower pace and more emphasis on scenery.
Now that we’ve managed to anger both groups, here are 10 great NorCal rides for each-
Favorite Sport Bike Rides-
- Hwy. 299 West from Redding to the Pacific coast
- Hwy. 3 from Hwy 36 (South and West from Redding) North through Hayfork to Yreka
- Hwy. 89 through Lassen Volcanic National Park (Warning: Speeding tickets very expensive)
- Hwy. 299 East from Redding to Burney
- Hwy. 20 West from Williams to Fort Bragg
Favorite Cruiser Rides-
- Hwy. 36 from Red Bluff to Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Hwy. 44 from the North entrance to Lassen Park to Hwy. 36 to Susanville
- Hwy. 97 from Weed North to Klamath Falls, Oregon
- Hwy. 89 from the North entrance to Lassen Park North to I-5
- Hwy. 299 East from Fall River Mills to Alturas