Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz on a new-generation Triumph Bonneville

2007 Bonneville T100

Lookin' good on the road from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz, Calif.

Andrew Perkins

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Only in Northern California can you experience some of the best riding weather and some of the worst – within just a few miles! It is kind of like riding from the Arctic to the equator in one afternoon. Nevertheless, you’ll be hard pressed to find better riding roads and destinations in North America, which is no big secret.

My wife, Laura (who, among other accomplishments, coordinates Shop Talk, the weekly Motorcycle Classics e-newsletter) joined me for our second outing to Legend of the Motorcycle, held May 3 at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Calif. Since the show’s inception in 2006, the annual Concours d’ Elegance and auction founded by San Franciscans Jared Zaugg and Brooke Roner has become the world champ of vintage bike shows.

We extended our visit this year by one day for an opportunity to explore some of the legendary inland roads between Half Moon Bay and Monterey Bay. My good buddy Wolfgang Taft, owner of Dubbelju Motorcycle Rentals in San Francisco, set us up with a retro-classic 2007 Triumph Bonneville T100. The impeccably tuned bike was a recent acquisition for Wolfgang and a welcome addition to his uniquely diverse lineup of rental models. Despite no wind protection, the newer, 865cc Bonneville was the perfect machine for a short, two-up adventure, combining a favorable classic look and style with modern power and reliability.

On Sunday morning, after a carb-packed breakfast at our hotel, we headed south on Hwy. 1 en route to Santa Cruz. Following Wolfgang’s sage advice, we turned inland at San Gregorio on La Honda Road (Route 84), and began a leisurely wind up to the ridge of the inland mountains. It was a brisk morning, the sky was starting to spit and I had just flipped our fuel switch to reserve, so we were a little anxious on the climb. It’s about 15 miles to the Skyline Boulevard intersection (Route 35), home of legendary Bay-area biker destination Alice’s Restaurant. When we discovered that the restaurant operates a couple of gas pumps we were quite relieved, even at a premium $4-plus per gallon (sold!).

Arriving just after the breakfast rush, which included the annual Tour of Legends ride featuring entries from Legend of the Motorcycle, we found the area still bustling. After mingling with 75 or so fellow motorcyclists lingering around the intersection’s various parking enclaves, we topped off the Bonneville and headed South along Skyline Boulevard.

This was our first trip along the potentially scenic route – a narrow ridge-top highway that cuts through the back country of Silicon Valley. We were looking forward to the oft-lauded view, which, at some point, includes simultaneous panoramic glimpses of the San Francisco Bay to the East and the great Pacific to the West. Unfortunately, we had been swallowed by a giant cumulus nimbus, apparently, with only a stone’s throw of visibility.

With heavy drops of water on our visors that felt conspicuously like ice, we tightened our jaws and grips for the next 16 miles. Thankfully, as we made the turn West on Big Basin Way (Route 236), the clouds dissipated for a gloriously sunny descent through Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Despite a narrow lane, this was undoubtedly our highlight as we let the relaxed, wavy road take control and marveled at the majestic timber.

We rolled into Santa Cruz around 4 p.m. and parked near the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The sun warmed our bones as we strolled along the Municipal Wharf and observed beach life at its finest. With amusement park rides, beach volleyball games, calamari sandwiches, napping sea lines and droves of surfers, it’s hard to believe we were shivering at 3,000 feet just a few hours earlier. Only in California!

We split around 6:30 p.m., as we noticed storm clouds moving in from the West. Fighting a stiff, chilly wind as we chiseled our way back North along the coast on Highway 1, we couldn’t help wonder if we had really seen sunbathers less than an hour ago! Nevertheless, the desolate landscape and crashing surf provided some spectacular views, especially when the weather gods allowed just enough of a break to glimpse the burning, crimson sun setting on the horizon.

The inland mountain roads of Northern California are some of the best motorcycling roads in North America in our opinion. With narrow winding routes and limited visibility they require competent riding skills. Not surprisingly, the area is popular to bike buffs of all ilks. We encountered everything from big, gliding cruisers to hard-charging sport bikes, all in their own world of joy. Much those riders, I suspect, the thought that kept coming to mind during the sublime experience was obvious: When can I come back?! 

Andrew Perkins is the merchandise, licensing and events manager for Motorcycle Classics. When he isn't travelling to exotic locales he likes to get out on his Honda cruiser as often as possible. 

2007 Triumph Bonneville T100 Specifications : 

Type: Air-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin
Size: 865cc / 360° firing interval
Bore / Stroke: 90 x 68mm
Compression Ratio: 9.2:1
Horsepower: 66hp at 7,200rpm
Maximum Torque: 52ft.lbf at 6,000rpm
Fuel: Twin carburetors with throttle position sensor and electric carburetor heaters
Ignition: Digital–inductive type
Transmission: 5-speed, multi-plate clutch, X-ring chain final drive
Frame: Tubular steel cradle
Swingarm: Twin-sided, tubular steel
Front Wheel: 36-spoke 19 x 2.5in
Rear Wheel: 40-spoke 17 x 3.5in
Front Tire: 100/90 19
Rear Tire: 130/80 17
Front Suspension: 41mm telescopic forks
Rear Suspension: Twin shocks with adjustable preload
Front Brakes: Single 310mm (12.2in) disc, 2-piston caliper
Rear Brakes: Single 255mm (10in) disc, 2-piston caliper
Length: 2,230mm (87.8in)
Width (Handlebars): 840mm (33.1in)
Height: 1,100mm (43.3in)
Seat Height: 775mm (30.5in)
Wheelbase: 1,500mm (59.1in)
Rake / Trail: 28°/110mm
Weight (Dry): 205kg (451lbs)
Fuel Tank Capacity: 16.6 liters (4.4 gal US)
MPG: 45-55