Reader Ride: California–The Road to Mono Lake

Text: Jonathan Mummolo • Photography: Joshua Jackson

When exploring a new road, there is no good time to lose the light. We’re riding west through northern California toward Yosemite National Park, and highway has given way to a sidewinder, cliffside stretch of Route 120. As we negotiate the twisted ascent, each new turn is a mystery, full of promise and peril, and the challenge of unlocking its secrets grows more onerous as the distant mountain skyline prunes the reach of our nearest star’s dying glow. 

We’re approaching a cabin lodge where we will stop for the night in Groveland, CA, a small town of roughly 600 people on the western edge of the park. Having ridden on mostly urban roads for just four years, I’m the newbie in our group, still unable, or at least unwilling, to lean my 2004 Triumph Bonneville T100 full-on into the blind apexes of the unguarded mountain pass. I struggle to keep pace with my older brother Steve and our friend Josh. They’re piloting another T100 and a Ducati Multistrada, respectively, and are far more experienced. I watch them slingshot in and out of view around sheer rock walls, their laughing voices intermittently emanating from my intercom speakers. 

There’s no ill will as they pull ahead. I’m riding my ride. Our June trip to Yosemite is the latest in a spate of weekend getaways that I’ve taken with these two in the past three years to road test products for our moto accessories company, Blood Brothers Inc. Each trip has reinforced an important lesson: there is no one way to motorcycle, no one bike or approach that lays unique claims to the heightened experiences this pastime can bring. The grizzled Harley veteran cruising slow, the sportbike warrior carving canyons, the muddied tracker blazing a new trail—if you journey, we don’t judge. Ride your ride. 

Our chosen routes have grown out of this inclusive philosophy. As much as possible, we try not to let our riding resumes or our bike specs dictate our itineraries. Our Bonnevilles are not designed with extremes of any kind in mind. Off the factory floor, they’re Goldilocks machines—not too fast, but not too slow. Not too weak, but not too tough either. Still, when we heard about Yosemite Creek Campground, the most secluded camp site in the park, accessible only by a steep, five-mile dirt-and-rock 
artery, we exploited the iconic British twin’s other strength: it’s a chameleon. I installed 80/20 Metzeler Tourance tires, Progressive rear shocks, a custom skid plate, and heavy duty Buchanan spokes, and my Bonnie was Scrambled. Steve made similar mods on his Triumph, and what Josh lacked in hardware (he refused to swap out his Duc’s slick street tires for knobbies) he knew he could make up for in riding skill. 

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the July/August 2016 back issue.