Southern California is home to one of the largest groups of motor heads in the world. Fueled by the wide open roads of pre war California, and the fervor of world speed records, it seemed as though there was no choice but to go faster, faster, and still faster. For many, the call of the open road was answered not with four wheels, but two. Fortunately for these brave riders bitten by a desire to catch bugs in their teeth and split lanes in traffic, Southern California is also the home to some incredible motorcycle destinations.
Our road trip started off in Long Beach. Once home of one of the largest custom chopper outfits in the world, West Coast Choppers, it’s also now home to Yellow Devil Gear Exchange. Yellow Devil has staked a claim in the crowded accessories and gear market by providing the unique service of consignment. Riders of all types will find deals on lightly used jackets, pants, boots, helmets and more, with a choice selection of vintage themed gear straight from the manufacturer, aka “new”. Owner Jessica, has even made a suitable exception to stray from strictly offering gear, and displays a vintage Ducati race bike prominently in the front window.
Long Beach is a community full of character ranging from tough streets most would choose to stay away from, to the bright blue skies and waters of the Pacific, although the close proximity to the countries largest commercial port is always in view.
A hop, skip, and two giant bridges away in San Pedro is 78 year old Century Motorcycles. Home to a selection of vintage Triumph, BSA, Vincent and BMW moto’s, this family operated shop also offers a handful of modern Yamaha’s and Harley’s. Memorabilia and nostalgia is littered throughout the storefront and covers the walls, proudly offering their rich history in and passion for the local motorcycle scene.
It’s difficult to turn inland to the punishment that is the 405 freeway, especially when the opportunity to take in the scenic Pacific with views of Catalina Island while riding the twisty cliffside two lane of Palos Verdes exists
Perhaps the crown jewel of the Southern California motorcycle enthusiasts treasure chest is Garage Company. This is what happens when one man is let loose to pursue his passion. This is what happens when his passion outgrows both his home and his first warehouse.
Yoshi’s tastes run the gamut, but you’ll see a preference for anything with a vintage flair. Not just a personal collection, most everything you see is for sale, for the right price of course. The primary warehouse of Garage Company is home to perhaps one of the world’s largest collections of memorabilia and parts, as well as a moto collection that would rival most museum’s. Wade through enough of the aisles and piles, and you’ll find another garage sized room hidden behind shelves of parts. In this room, are even more shelves of parts. One can only imagine Yoshi and his handful of employees know what every bit belongs to, fenders and gas tanks cover the bare rafters of the ceilings, tires neatly stacked on shelves line one wall, girder and springer forks neatly fill the end caps of aisle shelving stacked with engine blocks and heads, while frames silhouette against the lone windows along the top of an exterior wall.
Even deeper in the warehouse you’ll find, a second warehouse, still larger then the first. This is the workshop, filled with motorcycles in various states of disassembly, restoration and customization. Many are completed and functional, models ranging from Harley Davidson dirt bikes, to Triumph bar hoppers, race bred Ducati’s and factory fresh Suzuki tourers. Here you’ll find the crew of Garage Company working feverishly to fill customer orders as well as satisfying the vision of founder Yoshi.
While famed for it’s connection to the hot rod scene of old, NHRA and the SCTA, there’s no denying Southern California’s connection to the vintage motorcycle enthusiast community.