Gear Trails, Vol III: Motorcycling the Angeles Crest Highway
The guys behind AETHER take us through the hills of L.A.
The biggest problem with getting outside in the City of Angels? Being spoiled for choice. We’re distilling that process by getting the goods straight from the experts with a recurring series called Gear Trails.
Palmer West — one half of local activewear company AETHER — suffers from what he calls “Twisty Road” Syndrome, aka “a constant desire to be on a twisty road somewhere.”
If you also suffer from this condition, he can help.
Because in addition to making superb threads, West and his partner Jonah Smith host a frequent motorcycle ride that departs from their shop on La Brea, where you can grab one of their new ski jackets and enter the sub-zero walk-in freezer to test it out.
These guys are great at making high-tech gear look sleek and modern. And while it’s expensive stuff, you can expect to own it for a long time, because the cuts and colors are timeless, and the materials apocalypse-strength.
Today, though, they’re here to share some tips on their favorite motorcycling routes in Los Angeles (pro tip: they’ll play friendly with a car or bicycle, too).
Warning: twisty roads ahead.
InsideHook: What’s your favorite place to ride in Southern California?
Palmer West: My favorite outdoor area that most people don’t know about is the forest in Angeles Mountains, also known as Angeles Crest. You take the 2 North past Glendale, and you’re in the mountains in 10 minutes and on a 65-mile road that ends in Wrightwood. This area has some of the best driving roads in the country, which helps with my self-diagnosed “twisty-road syndrome” (my constant desire to be on a twisty road somewhere). After the Station Fire and years of no rain, the whole area is a little more barren.
IH: What is it about twisty roads that you find so enchanting?
PW: I am sure it is different for everyone, but the unknown around each corner keeps the mind sharp and the adrenaline flowing. It’s like backcountry tree skiing: you have to continually adjust and react to what’s right in front of you. The mind stays focused, no wandering thoughts like on the straight highway. I find it much safer, as everyone is more tuned in. You can’t text and drive on a twisty mountain road. For one there is no reception, and secondly, everyone has to respect the demands of all the turns.
IH: What views do you look forward to seeing?
Jonah Smith: Two of my favorite views in Los Angeles are the view of Downtown in the early AM from the top of Angeles Crest, and Mount Wilson Observatory. Looking across the valley at Downtown as the sun is rising makes Los Angeles seem small and quiet. On hot days, the best view is of the ocean. As soon as you can see the Pacific, you can feel the air temperature drop 15 degrees due to the cold waters. It’s a view you can feel.
IH: Do you like to stop anywhere along the way?
PW: When you’re on the 2, about 40 miles north of LA, there is this great dive restaurant called Newcombs Ranch. It’s a great spot for coffee and a snack before heading back home.
IH: What type of bikes do you own?
JS and PW: A BMW R1200GS, a Moto Guzzi V7 Racer and a Gasser Customs Honda 750.
IH: What gear do you bring with you?
JS: It’s a toss-up between our newest prototype, which needs feedback, and our oldest jacket in the collection, the Skyline. I enjoy the process of critiquing our prototypes, as the feedback for our designers is invaluable, but it’s also nice to slip on an old jacket that fits like a glove and has broken in just right.
IH: What’s your favorite time of year and day to go?
PW: Early in the morning, all winter long. The air tends to be cleaner, the weather more agreeable and road trips across the Southwest are there for the taking.
This article was featured in the InsideHook LA newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Southland.
Suggested for you