SoCal 4: Desperately Scrambling Down to Los Angeles on a Bad Bike

I am loath to disparage other motorcyclists.  Riding is a small community, and yet there are certain transgressions that are unforgivable, and this happened today when Mo at EagleRider San Francisco put me on an unsafe bike that nearly killed me due to his neglect.

I picked up a Ducati Scrambler last night with my friend Patty, who happens to run Desmo Silicon Valley, a Ducati Owner's Club in the Bay Area. Similar to NYC, the riding scene in San Francisco / San Jose seems fairly well-connected, and Patty knew Mo from various bike events.  Last year, I had a great experience with a Ducati Hyperstrada, but when Patty dropped me off to pick up the Scrambler, I nervously noticed that not only did the bike have over 27,000 miles on it, the Desmo service light was on.

Ducati motorcycles require valves to be checked regularly, I asked Mo about the light (with Patty as a witness), and he laughed it off, saying he just serviced the bike, but didn't have the software to flash the ECU (and thus reset the maintenance light).  Now I know a number of riders who check their own valves, and Mo owns multiple Ducs, so I trusted him as his word.  Unfortunately, this would turn out to be a huge mistake.

This morning I was up by 5am, and suited up to head south.  Patty and Eric had convinced me to skip Yosemite, and stick to some canyon carving in Southern California.
Initially, I had planned on doing the PCH, but there had been several landslides knocking out bridges and Route 1, so I resigned myself to slab much of the route to get down there, but possibly take the coastal route back.
I was on the road by 6am, and took a scenic detour on Route 25,  from Hollister through San Benito to Lonoak, California.

There was nearly no-one on the road, and it was probably in the mid forties, with a dense fog clinging to the tops of the hills, obscuring your view and chilling you to the bone riding through it.

But as the sun came out, the scenery was dazzling and other-worldly.
After stopping briefly to warm up my fingers, I continued on back on the 101 South all the way to San Luis Obisbo and Pismo Beach, where the palm trees beckoned the seeming beginning of Southern California.

I then got off the highway, and headed towards some amazing roads along Route 166 going into Los Padres National Forest. 
 I was a bit grumpy over an earlier fight I had had with my girlfriend,
 but stopping to pee I started to appreciate this alien landscape (at least for an East Coaster).
Looking down in during my rest-stop, I noticed a dead coyote or wolf in the canyon, and realized I was somewhere totally different.  

The canyons and roads of Los Padres are phenomenal, but unfortunately approaching Ojala is was when my bike started to malfunction.  
Completely leaned over in a turn, the throttle of the machine started to jerk.
  At first, stood the bike up, and shrugged it off thinking this was a new machine (to me), and that every rider doubts a bike once in a while, when going over a steel-grate bridge for example, or changing from asphalt to a concrete surface.
 
So maybe it was just me... But then I started to lean the bike over around turns again, and the throttle cut out again.

I found myself having to rev extra, and the throttle-response would suddenly lurch, which is incredibly unsafe when trying to power out of a canyon corner.

Here I was in some of the most spectacular country I'd ever seen, on one of the best roads I'd ever ridden, on a bike that I didn't trust.
I then began to wonder if there was something wrong with the throttle, 
or if the chain was too tight (I had a similar issue when getting a tire changed on my ST3. 
 I didn't think this bike came with DTC, but perhaps there was something wrong with the traction control going around corners.
The issue seemed to settle when I didn't push the bike, so I began to doubt the issue again. 

I ended up picking up the 101 in Ventura, California, and decided to shoot for Ducati Westlake, a large dealer Patty had told me about the day before. 

I was back in traffic, and realized that I could split (legally), and suddenly the engine started to surge again, this time quite violently, making me feel like my life was in danger for the second time today.  Changing gears at about 4200rpms and the engine would sputter and either surge or cut out, and bobbed and weaved and eventually made it down to the Ducati shop by about 3pm.
© 2017 Tigh Loughhead

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