For decades, the Rock Store, a restaurant and souvenir shop in the mountains above Malibu, has been a weekend gathering place for biking enthusiasts, and as with most motorcycle venues, an invisible demarcation line bisects its parking lot: cruisers on one side, sportbikes on the other, and never the twain shall meet. Well, almost never.
On this particular day, two leather-clad Harley riders cross that line for the first time in my recollection. They abandon their Hogs, saunter over to the other side, and approach the silver 2002 Aprilia RSV Mille that I have just parked alongside the sportbikes. They stroke their graying beards as they admire the Italian machine, noting the bike’s shapely body and the 1,000cc engine. Our camps might not share the same tastes, but based on their reactions to the Mille, we all appreciate superior craftsmanship.
Aprilia, which started as a bicycle production factory in Noale, Italy, built its first motorcycle in 1968, and has since evolved into a small but renowned builder of performance-oriented machines. The Mille fills the gap between laid-back cruisers and hunched-forward sportbike riders, and, for me at least, it bridges the divide between the present and the past. For years, I’ve ridden motorcycles on Mulholland Highway. But for all the riding this middle-aged biker has done, the 60-degree V-twin’s power and the Mille’s smooth suspension make me feel as though I am navigating these roads for the first time.
Magically, the roads I’ve ridden since my teens—the roads I’ve ridden to the point of familiarity—open up with a newfound exhilaration astride the Mille. They stretch before me like an undiscovered frontier across the jagged terrain of the Santa Monica Mountains, and it is as if I am 15 years old again.
After my pit stop, I head onto Mulholland Highway and let the V-twin take a healthy breath of fresh air, catapulting me up “The Snake,” perhaps the best 2.5 miles of twists and turns anywhere. The surge of power happily reawakens the sensations that sold me on riding in the first place—pure, unadulterated freedom. Pure, unmitigated joy.
I complete a good, fast run through 17 miles of winding mountain road, and Mulholland Highway delivers me back to the gentle blue expanse of the Pacific at Leo Carrillo State Beach. I stop to wipe clean my face shield, stretch my legs, and relish the respite from the chaos of Los Angeles, a mere 35 miles to the south. I consider the coast highway and the 15-minute ride back home that it promises, weighing this against the rays of remaining sun.
You can’t get enough of a good thing, so I point the Mille back toward the Santa Monica Mountains. As daylight gradually fades, and the Mille’s headlight beam brightens on the rushing pavement beneath, I’m reunited with another childhood sensation: regret that there isn’t enough time in the day for play.