Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Favorite Roads: California S22

If it’s true what they say—you know, that it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters—then the roads that we travel are pretty important to us bike-riding fools. And let’s be honest, if you ride a lot, then chances are that you have your favorite stretches of road that make any journey really enjoyable, no matter the destination. I know that I have my favorite stretches of macadam, but if I had to pick one road above all the others, what would it be?

I posed that question to myself, and only after imbibing 16 ounces of my favorite ale could I narrow the candidates to a few. Another frosty mug, please, so I can come up with a finalist.

Much better, and the winner was—S22, a stretch of twisty road that leads from Highway 79 near Warner Springs, California, into the Anza-Borrego Desert, a hot piece of real estate east of San Diego. And for about 10 miles S22 presents some entertaining curves before the ride ends in Borrego Springs (like I said, it’s not the destination that matters…).

It’s a downhill run to Borrego Springs, and you’ll experience more than a handful of smooth, sweeping turns along the way. Downhill speed can challenge a bike’s front tire grip, so if that bothers you, save your hard charge for the return ride that takes you uphill from the low desert’s hot floor. The ascent from Borrego Springs to Highway 79 requires less braking because gravity helps slow the bike when you roll off the throttle before entering a turn, so your bike’s suspension won’t be disrupted as on the downhill run.

Regardless of the direction, S22 twists and turns over nearly 10 miles of smooth asphalt. Figure on using the mid-gears for most of the ride, so speeds aren’t OMG fast. You won’t encounter much traffic, either. This is a connective road, not a major thoroughfare, and many of S22’s travelers use it for weekend forays into the desert, not daily commuting. There are no driveways or crossroads along the downhill/uphill stretches, either, so cross traffic isn’t an issue there. If you ride S22 during the middle of the week chances are that you might not see another vehicle the entire stretch, which lasts less than 20 miles. The desert-like terrain means you have a clear view of the road ahead while cornering, too.

I’ve ridden S22 on a number of bikes, but one of my favorite runs was aboard a Harley-Davidson XR1200. The XR offers adequate braking, cornering and acceleration out of the turns to make the run fun, but not scary. No doubt, I’ve been on other roads that are more challenging than S22, that’s for sure, but for some reason this Southern California backroad is compelling enough to keep me entertained in a relaxed manner, if that makes sense.

Having said that, I’m always receptive to chasing new adventures, so if you’ve got a favorite road, let me know. Maybe one day I can spend an afternoon riding it, too. After all, it is the journey that makes any destination worthwhile.

If you want to share your favorite road, we’d love to hear from you. In no more than 200 words, give us the highlights of what to expect on the road, including basic speeds, the skill level for the turns, and road and traffic conditions usually found on the road. We also need to know the road’s location; reference points on a map help others find it. Also, give the official number designation as it appears on a road map. Finally, include a picture of you and your bike on the road. —Dain Gingerelli

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