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Old 12-12-2012, 07:22 PM   #1
kiffernathan OP
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Coming to Californ-I-A

Hi to all,

Well, it looks like there's a good chance I'm headed to San Fran for work in February. Coming from Saskatchewan, Canada it'll be a real treat weather-wise: it is about 0 F here now and about 2 feet of snow, and February is typically colder than December! We normally can't ride at all between November and late March, except for a few crazies who put spikes on their tires and rip around on the frozen ponds/lakes. But since it is usually below 0 F here at that time of year even ice riding is pretty cold.

That said, I figured I might try to take an extra 3 days, rent an F800GS (I want to test ride one of these anyway), and head out for a few days of backroad exploring. I was thinking of doing a loop east into Nevada and back to SF. I like backroads riding - gravel and dirt. Trails are great, but by myself on an F800 I'd prefer to stick to roads that will keep the risk of falling low.

I am a very seasoned backroads rider, but as I have no experience riding in California my questions for locals and people familiar with winter riding in CA are:
- Are there any passes or routes through from San Francisco to Nevada that won't be snow-covered in February?
- Are there any particular backroads that I should try to make sure to take? Spectacular scenery and great twisties are most welcome!
- Can one get to the Giant Redwoods within a day from San Fran? Would this be a better ride than heading east (I love the desert)? Any chance of snow if I head to the giant redwoods instead?
- Any other suggestions for routes or general directions to go?

All advice welcome! Thanks in advance.

Some info for you to check out - if you're looking for adventure:
2009 F800GS

kiffernathan screwed with this post 12-12-2012 at 07:52 PM
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Old 12-12-2012, 09:20 PM   #2
Mr B
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Riding the passes in Feb. can be good one day and not happening the next or even the next hour!!

Once you get pretty much past the central valley and start climbing you will hit snow, usually around the 5 to 6,000 foot area, but it all depends on the winter.

Once on the East side and this far north, it can still be a bit chilly, not Canada chilly but cold none the less. You could head south to Palmdale and Death Valley and be ok and of course the farther south the warmer,

As far as Redwoods, there is a nice area in Northern CA on the coast, but cannot speak to the weather that time of year, it tends to be the rainy season here....
Good luck
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Old 12-12-2012, 09:49 PM   #3
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go to death valley or stay near the coast bring your rain gear, it will seem warm to you. Most of the mtn pass's will have snow... you could go down highway 1 along the coast
I wanted one last view for the day... A place where I could see the water
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Old 12-12-2012, 10:43 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Windrat View Post
go to death valley or stay near the coast bring your rain gear, it will seem warm to you. Most of the mtn pass's will have snow... you could go down highway 1 along the coast

What the other guy said about east of Central Valley too. Nevada is good but not that time of year, southern NV excepted. Average elevation is over 5,000 feet in Nevada. California Valley, Central Valley (boring), Central Coast, Death Valley and if you have time you can go further south, inland from LA to Mohave Desert.
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Old 12-19-2012, 11:08 PM   #5
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How much time will you have? If only 3 days, then maybe just pick good scenic roads in the SF Bay area. Death Valley is 500 miles one way (and you want to stay there longer than a day!).
You could go east to Yosemite if there is not snow in the valley. Ride CA 49 (the gold country road). Or go south down the coast highway CA 1 to Santa Cruz, Monterrey, Big Sur, to Cambria, cross over to Paso Robles and get on CA 25 (runs along the San Andreas fault) north to Hollister. Or you could ride over Mt. Hamilton, down the back side and either out to I5 or up Mines Road to Livermore. (there is a large state run off road park out there).
Whatever you do, you are sure to have fun.
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Old 12-20-2012, 02:12 AM   #6
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As others have said, Death Valley or the coastal mountains roads. We have a lot of very fun mountain roads here with little traffic.

There is a thread here, 500 miles of Nor Cal Twisties

Many of the fun roads are named in it but not nearly all. We have a lot of fun riding here and San Francisco is right in the middle of it.

BTW we can have beautiful weather in February
I've got to be cool
Take a long long ride on my motor bike
Untill I'm ready
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Old 12-20-2012, 10:20 AM   #7
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With only 3 days and back roads. No real reason to go far from SF. We have world class twisties and lots to see do and ride. I would personally stay away from the Sierras in Feb.

Mendocino National Forest is about a 2-2 1/2 hr. hywy. ride from SF. Lots of fire roads and trails.

Also I'm near-ish to SF, could give you a locals tour too if timing works..

Feel free to PM me.
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Old 12-20-2012, 11:18 AM   #8
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I'd also advise against riding in the Sierras that time of year, but there is great riding north of SF and you could see quite a bit in 3 days...also could get back to SF quickly on Interstate 5 if needed. Some of the biggest redwoods are near Ukiah at Montgomery Woods
The Lost Coast is great riding and a unique landscape
also Hwy 36 is one of the best MC roads in the state

and many excellent microbreweries in various towns if you like beer....
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Old 12-20-2012, 11:36 AM   #9
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I would also suggest staying away from the mountain passes. There are so many other great rides that don't involve snow.

Take Highway 1 south to Cambria, then either ride it back on the same route or pick one of the inland roads. That makes one wonderful long day-ride.

Head up Highway 1 north to Leggett, then continue north on Highway 101 to Redwoods National Park. Spend some time among the largest trees in the world. That's probably two days worth of riding right there. Say overnight in Arcata.

If you want wonderful roads, pretty much all roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains between San Francisco and Santa Cruz are great. Or try some East Bay roads. Take Mines Road out of Livermore and ride up to the top of Mount Hamilton. Ride to the top of Mount Diablo (doing both in one day is a pretty good one-day ride).

There are many more good routes you can enjoy, without having to deal with the snow at higher elevations.
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Old 12-20-2012, 03:21 PM   #10
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I agree that 3 days aren't enough time to get too far away from the Bay Area. You could make it to the giant redwoods near Eureka or the desert of Death Valley, but the round trips to both will burn 2 days either way (although a 2 day round trip up the north coast would be fun). There are some redwoods much closer, but they aren't the very largest examples. Check out this website:

I would suggest spending a long day checking out the Big Sur Area south of Monterey, and the other two exploring the wine country to the north...(or vice versa). The roads connecting Sonoma and Napa valleys are real twisty, without a whole lot of traffic. Petaluma is home to my favorite brewery: Lagunitas.

If you really want to see Nevada, you could. The weather would be the wild card, though, as it can close Hwy 80 and 50 with very little notice. They plow those passes to maintain access to the ski areas, but the roads can be icy anyway. If you just want to see some wide open spaces, you could make the Big Sur part of a loop into the Central Valley via Naciamento Road (nice and twisty). That will put you into some flat farmland on Hwy 101, and a good place to test cruise control. As long as you're down there, Firestone Brewery in Paso Robles makes a good lunch stop.
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Old 12-21-2012, 09:08 AM   #11
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What most others have said, with some additional opinion and quantification. In February snow level can be down to 3000 feet or less, sometimes 1000 feet even close to the coast, and there's always snow above 5500 feet even if there's been a thaw. That said, you could ride from SF up to Tahoe on dry roads, with the sun shining and 50F highs even at 7000 feet. Or there could be a white-out with snow falling at the rate of 36" a day.

Closer to the coast ... Big Sur, Redwoods etc, it it could be raining A LOT , or warm (I remember Februaries with mid-70's Fahrenheit highs) and sunny. Even with clear weather (in fact more likely with clear weather) you can find ice that lasts for days on shady stretches even near sea level. That said, you can safely have fun all winter long here on two wheels. I'd suggest plan a coast and inland valleys (Marin, Sonoma, Monterey, San Benito counties all have awesome routes) ride but if the weather is good and roads are clear, you could hit the Sierras.

BTW, I assume a rental BMW has a power outlet so if you have a heated vest or jacket liner it would be useful. Mornings are often high 20's to low 30's F until the sun is fully up and out even on the nicest days.

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Old 12-21-2012, 09:28 AM   #12
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36F this morning.

had to turn my electric jacket and gloves full blast. wish I have a big windscreen.
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