Sunday Morning Ride: More Than a Ride and Less Than a Race

The Sunday Morning Ride in San Francisco's Bay Area has become an integral part of the northern California motorcycling scene.


| November/December 2015



'70s Sunday ride

Dave Neal (Norton P11) leads Rick Taaffe (Suzuki GT750) on a Sunday Morning Ride in the mid-’70s.

Photos by Mush Emmons and Clint Graves

Just about every motorcyclist with a passion for riding can relate to the phrase “Sunday Morning Ride.” Who hasn’t, at one time or another, laid plans to join other bike-crazy friends for a Sunday morning ride? I know I have countless times during my 50 years in the sport.

For a contingent of die-hard riders in San Francisco’s Bay Area, the words “Sunday Morning Ride” are especially significant, because every Sunday morning at about 7 a.m. — without invite or public fanfare — they gather at an ARCO gas station on Shoreline Highway in Marin County’s Tamalpais Valley for a weekly ride dating back several decades. Anywhere from a dozen to a couple hundred bikes gather, and what eventually became known as the Sunday Morning Ride has become an integral part of the Northern California motorcycling scene. Anyone can join the Ride: Just know that the regulars are intolerant of unskilled, unpredictable or showy riders.

Through the years, the Ride has followed essentially the same route, snaking northward along Shoreline Highway on California’s fabled Route 1 before reaching a final destination for breakfast. Originally, riders regrouped at a café near the small community of Inverness, just west of Route 1 on the other side of Tomales Bay. Today, the ride is just a few miles shorter, terminating 39 miles after leaving the ARCO station, stopping at the Station House Cafe in Point Reyes Station for food and plenty of bench racing.

It’s those 39 miles of twisty two-lane blacktop that really make the Ride so special. It’s more than a leisurely putt, too, and many a seasoned veteran of the Ride is more familiar with the coastal route’s countless turns than they are the few walking steps from their house to the garage. As you might guess, many of the more skilled riders take those turns at relatively high rates of speed. It’s not a race, but neither is their pace for the faint of heart, prompting some riders to follow along at a more leisurely tempo. And even though modern-era sport bikes rule the roost, the Ride is fully accommodating to older bikes, or to retro-vintage models such as the two bikes that my brother Alan and I rode last spring.

Retro ride

We went on the Ride to celebrate an adventure we experienced back in 1967 when, fresh out of high school, I rode my brand-new Honda Super Hawk from Southern California to the Bay Area to visit our friends Scott, Jim and Bob Keys, who were regulars on the Ride. Alan’s bike was in the shop that week, so he drove our 1958 Chevy Biscayne to San Francisco so he could ride on the back of Scott’s Honda CB450, a bike we nicknamed Earthquake due to its “massive” size compared to the 305cc and 250cc bikes the rest of us rode.

For this year’s ride, Alan straddled a new Royal Enfield Continental GT while I sampled Yamaha’s new SR400, and we were joined by my good friend Brad Von Grote who rode his “old” 2000 BMW K1200RS because his hot rod 1975 Honda Gold Wing was suffering ignition problems. Admittedly, our two retro-vintage thumpers were slow — yet oh-so-fun for this venture. Think in terms of mixing 1960s design with modern technology, then pointing the combination onto a road that’s remained pretty much the same since it was originally laid out back when radio waves, not microwaves, filled the air.

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