Looking Back at the San Diego Moto Scene

by Chuck Surprise

When I arrived in San Diego (more precisely, Chula Vista) in the winter of 1972, I was certain I had found the promised land. I rolled my Yamaha DT360, 350 Aermacchi and 350 Ducati Sebring out of the U-Haul and, almost immediately, set off on the DT to explore the trails and hills of the wide open and beckoning Otay Mesa area. From there, at that time, riders could hook up with the Otay Mountain Truck Trail and head east into the “real mountains”, ending the trip at Barrett Junction.

The law of the land in San Diego County in 1972 was that off-road activity was allowed if the land involved was neither fenced nor posted. That meant that much of the area surrounding the city could be ridden on a street legal machine like the DT, or on a dirt-only bike trailered or trucked in. After years of being constrained by the relative lack of available riding areas in Indiana, Florida, and California’s Central Coast I was amazed by the amount of open space available here for two-wheeled recreation. A county official told me, off the record; “That ground is just waiting for housing development. The dozers will tear it up a lot worse than kids on motorcycles.”

But trouble had been lurking for awhile, and even though the total population of San Diego County was only 1.3 million, there was significant and building friction between off roaders and residents in nearby housing. Various environmental groups were engaged in the discussion as well, and their arguments, no matter how bogus we viewed them, carried considerable political weight.

Never shy about going into battle lightly armed, Bikesville hurled its meager resources into the fray. Our entry into the fight for land was seriously flawed by the assumption that the people and groups clamoring for closures were reasonable folks who sought reasonable compromise. WRONG. If you’re interested in learning the history of this struggle, or were, perhaps, involved in it back in the day, you’ll find voluminous documentation in the Bikesville archives.

Now, of course, with the County’s residents numbering 3.3 million, many of those old riding areas are buried under new housing. And legal off roading has been moved into Corral Canyon, Ocotillo Wells, and a handful of semi-secret spots with very limited access. Now, even the Ocotillo Wells OHV area is under pressure to restrict use. You can follow the struggle in the pages of Steve and Sherri Kukla’s S&S Off Road Magazine. 

 Meanwhile, as Bikesville’s credibility increased with manufacturers and dealers, we were able to gain access to the creme de la creme of two-wheel hardware, and run that hardware on the County’s most interesting roads…and off road. And we rode with some of the most interesting bikers in the area.

Reader Comments, Contributions Invited…

But enough about us, for now! We’d like to hear from you. We’ll post your tales, comments, photos and experiences from “back in the day“. And if, as we hope, you still ride, send us news about what you’re doing now. Submit stories, photos, videos about your motorcycling activities. On-road, off road, we want to hear from and about you.

The Original Bikesville Crew

Hazel Surprise – advertising sales professional, very attractive (and reasonably priced) photo model, helped with production, and made some journalistic contributions. Hazel was never a rider, due to serious vertigo issues, but was an enthusiastic passenger who logged thousands of miles of backseat driving on street and dirt. Hazel is divorced and lives in Florida.

Geri Blair – (aka Penelope Pitstop) was an excellent rider who contributed on a number of levels. Her Penelope column was enjoyed by both genders, she did most of the typesetting for the publication, and gave valuable input on a variety of issues. Her husband Bob, a master mechanic who ran a shop on North Island, helped with Bikesville events, and allowed other riders to admire his heavily modified early Honda CB750-four. Geri is widowed, lives on her miniature horse ranch in Arkansas, and scoots around the country roads on her Suzuki quad.

Rich Long – is a lifelong biker who is fast and smooth on pavement and in the dirt. Rich is also a talented and creative mechanic with a long list of projects, both finished and unfinished. Wife Jackie became an excellent rider off-road, and has logged countless thousands of miles as a passenger on the family’s BMW and V-Strom. The Longs divide their time between Arizona and San Diego, and Rich still rides regularly. In his Bikesville days, he sold some advertising, rode test bikes and contributed to the information pool, and was always along on rides and camping trips.

Steve Cole – was a superb street rider, as quick as anyone around in that day, as well as an ace mechanic and tuner. He was a regular contributor to Bikesville news and features, and participated in all of out street bike testing and reoprting. Steve was the most well known of the Bikesville regulars, racking up a record number of wins at the Carlsbad Drag Strip. Steve was unbeatable in bracket racing. He also had success at Bonneville; at one time holding a class record, when he coaxed 108 mph out of  his street legal Yamaha RD350. We’ve lost track of Steve, but believe he now lives in Florida.

Doug Dibbern – the junior member of the Bikesville team, Doug was an excellent photographer, who also did some interviews and reporting for the publication.

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