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Aether LA Motorcycle Ride

An urban adventure with the city's favorite outdoor apparel brand

by Greg Stefano in Travel on 30 January 2014

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The inaugural AETHERmoto ride in Los Angeles—hosted by Aether Apparel—was an experiment in urban exploration. Both Aether founders, Jonah Smith and Palmer West, are avid riders and have gone on numerous excursions with RawHyde Adventures into the wilderness on the West Coast but neither had experienced any organized programs in a city. The duo teamed up with Jim Rawhyde and created a custom route to capitalize on some of LA's natural beauty, guiding riders through little-known canyon roads while passing by some of the city's most well-recognized landmarks but via semi-secret routes. The end point of the day was a program—also hosted by the RawHyde folks—designed to hone urban riding skills and complete with a full on obstacle course inside an abandoned warehouse. The first ride was a resounding success and now a toned down version without the training will be held on the second Sunday of every month—the next ride in LA taking place on 9 February. We caught up with the Aether team to get their take the hidden value of riding in the city and the wealth of terrain in LA.

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Why did Aether decide to do a ride through LA?

Our clothes are designed to look good in the city, but are constructed to hold up in the field. So we could think of no better way to showcase the versatility of our products than to hold an adventure motorcycle ride in the city. Los Angeles is a sprawling urban jungle and offers a huge variety of riding conditions. From cruising down wide boulevards to taking tight turns in the canyons to off-roading over some of the city's abundant crumbling infrastructure, there is more than enough terrain for every type of rider.

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What is your personal experience with riding?

We ride BMW GSs and have a particular affinity for adventure-touring, however that doesn't hold us back from getting out for as many day rides as possible. We've been up and down the West coast on multiple occasions and have done some touring through the Rockies as well. But in all honesty, the threshold to get us on our bikes can often be as low as running down the block to get an afternoon cup of coffee. 

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How did you choose the route?

With LA's close proximity to such iconic riding roads (PCH, Malibu Canyons, Angeles Crest) it is easy to overlook the adventure right in your own backyard. More often than not, the city you live in is the one you appreciate the least. So we decided to create a tour that would show the city in a new and fresh perspective. The route was created to showcase the "best of" Los Angeles and consisted of iconic landmarks, hidden gems, and a diverse range of urban terrain. Riders who have lived in the city all their lives got to explore places they would not have otherwise. 

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How did you end up partnering with RawHyde?

Rawhyde is the only official BMW off-road training camp on the West Coast. We took one of their training courses a few years ago and, under the guidance of their experienced instructors, became much better riders—not just on dirt, but on the road as well. When it comes to bike handling, slow speed maneuverability and obstacle avoidance, urban riding requires just as much technical skill as riding in the backcountry. So we wanted to give riders in the city a chance to brush up on their riding techniques and find out the benefits of taking an advanced riding course like Rawhyde. 

The training was set up in the parking lot of an abandoned warehouse and consisted of a police-style cone course with instruction from the motorcycle training officer for the City of Burbank. Riders were challenged, putting their riding skills to the test with a variety of slow speed bike control exercises. We then sent them into a specially designed obstacle inside the warehouse called The Debris Field that was built out of tires, boxes, crates, etc. Riders were scored on how efficiently they navigated around obstacles without putting their foot down.

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Who came? Diverse crowd?

We had well over 100 people participates in the event, with a diverse range of riders showing up from across southern California. There were a lot who showed up on fully equipped adventure bikes, but also a fair share of riders on vintage scramblers and classic cruisers. 

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What's planned for future rides?

We're planning on holding two of these events a year, and we're currently looking to bring it to the East Coast. For those living in Southern California, we also hold monthly rides on the second Sunday of every month. These rides are designed to bring urban motorcycle enthusiasts together and explore new routes in the greater Los Angeles area.

Photos by Greg Stefano

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