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Old 07-29-2020, 11:32 PM   #1
Mithril_Maiden
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How dangerous is Highway 17 to a very new rider?

I passed my basic skills course and got a bike right before the lockdown hit, then my dad died, and I ended up with a huge gap in riding. I'm back on the road now after some one on one training at the safety school, but I'm overall just pretty inexperienced. I have to go to Santa Cruz in three weeks, and I live in San Jose. I'm wondering if it would be stupid to take my bike. The bike is a Kawisaki Vulcan S 650 with ABS. The thing is, I've never owned a car, so I've never driven on Highway 17. So, I don't know that road. My mom says it can be pretty twisty, but I don't know to what degree, and my mom isn't a biker and hasn't driven that road in over a decade. Meaning I have no idea how difficult and dangerous a ride we're talking about, here. Thus, I submit this to you experienced local riders who know that road. I can take the bus to Santa Cruz if I need to, so be honest about whether this is something a new rider should be attempting. While I'd love to take the bike and get some riding experience in, I also don't want to do something way above my skill level and wipe out in a corner.
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Old 07-30-2020, 04:57 AM   #2
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you can do it

If you ride regularly in San Jose for three weeks, riding highway 17 shouldn't be a problem provided that it's not raining, you stay to the right, ride at your speed, and do not let the crazy speeding drivers push you to go faster than your comfort level. There are a few sweeps (big curves) near Skyline (summit) road but they are no big deal if you are not speeding. And gear up for every ride.
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Old 07-30-2020, 05:44 AM   #3
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If you can, do the highway a couple times when traffic is light. Not sure when that would be. 17 is pretty twisty and there is a bit of carnage due to the very bad drivers we have here. The worst thing you who is go too slow. Good chance to get ass-packed

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Old 07-30-2020, 05:51 AM   #4
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Even for a new rider it's not the twisty-ness of Hwy 17 but the other users of the road that are the biggest hazard.

As mentioned pick a less busy time to ride it.
On a weekday morning going to Santa Cruz is a reverse commute direction so generally the traffic is lighter. (at least pre/C-19)

Friday afternoons and most anytime after 9:00 to 10:00 am on Saturday or Sunday will get messy on that Hwy.

Again... this was how I saw it pre/C-19.
When I commuted to Scotts Valley from Cupertino.
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Old 07-30-2020, 06:13 AM   #5
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Traffic

Oh, yea! the two previous posts are right about traffic, not just speeder traffic, but also the stop n go traffic. Hwy 17 lanes are narrow which make it difficult to split lanes. It is also and maybe even more dangerous not to split lanes on 17 in stop n go traffic.

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Old 07-30-2020, 06:56 AM   #6
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I think it is very dangerous. There are many accidents there.

The road itself is easy. By themselves, a prudent new rider would naturally slow down to a comfortable place. However, the road is filled with impatient commuters who know it well and want to drive 70mph.

The problem for the new rider are:

1. You can't choose your own pace
2. The presence of cars makes it hard to see corners
3. It is scary

This is the perfect recipe for panic and crashing.
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Old 07-30-2020, 08:55 AM   #7
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Terrible drivers from Santa Cruz and also no shoulder.

I live off 17 and take it all the time, but yeah, it's probably one of the most if not the most dangerous highway in the Bay Area. Accidents all the time, even during the SIP.

That said, you can just hang out in the right lane behind a slow truck or semi and I think you'll be fine. It's your call in the end.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:34 AM   #8
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Riding requires both physical and mental readiness. If you're worried about it, consider taking highway 9 to Santa Cruz instead of 17.

I was very scared of Hwy 17 as a new rider. It's the combination of high speed, no shoulder to bail, twistiness, steepness, concrete divider, and the reputation of bad/aggressive drivers. I had driven it many times, but rode it for the first time about 8 months after I started riding. I tried to stay in the right lane and stay slow. On a tight downhill right curve I came upon a slower moving semi, slowly closed the gap and I was afraid to touch the brakes. (I could have used the brakes in that situation, but I didn't have the experience or skills to trust it back then.) Fortunately, the road straightened out and the semi picked up speed before I knew what to do. It took several years of riding all the twisty backroads spiritedly before I overcame that mental block of riding 17, which isn't difficult now.
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Old 07-30-2020, 10:41 AM   #9
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17 is and always has been the suck! I'd consider a mellow ride over 9 versus 17. Lots of places to pull over if you need too, a lot slower pace, way less stress for a new rider, plus it's a lot more scenic.
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Old 07-30-2020, 12:14 PM   #10
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I don't know what y'all are talking about. Hwy 17 is great. The pavement is perfect, it has been continually widened and now has a solid concrete center divider. It's a beautiful and fun road to ride on.

It is FAR sketchier riding on 880 or 680 or the numerous busy expressways in San Jose.

Just go your own pace, keep your head on a swivel, and enjoy it.
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Old 07-30-2020, 12:29 PM   #11
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As a new rider with minimal experience driving a car, and no experience on 17, I'd advise against it for all of the reasons some have already listed and...

One of the hardest things for new riders to do is to not look at the ground, and turn your head in the direction of the turn. 17 is very unforgiving to both of these errors.

Also consider the possible need to quickly stop in a banked uphill or downhill curve. This is another thing that newer riders find challenging. Then there is getting moving again while facing uphill.

How well did you do in class? Were you frequently reminded to not look at the ground, and to turn your head? These are clues to your ability.

Is it possible for a new rider to do this? Yes, of course. Is it worth the risk given your skill level? Only you can decide.

If I was you, I'd be honestly considering my current skill, and asking myself how my mother would feel if I crashed given the family's recent loss of your father / her partner.
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Old 07-30-2020, 12:46 PM   #12
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I was very scared of Hwy 17 as a new rider.
Outside of simply "riding on the freeway", I've never been scared of a road.

The road is as fast as you take it.

I've not been on 17, I don't live up in the bay area.

I appreciate perhaps the notoriety of accidents, and bad behavior, but those should not be germane to a novice rider, they should concern everyone.

Arguably, to me, the "worst" road down here in So Cal is the road up to Palomar. It can be steep, and has so very tight switchbacks. Those turns are steep and tight, especially up hill.

But, IMHO, they're not difficult. Just slow down, pick your line, and motor up them.

Glendora Mountain Road is probably second. It's twisty and steep as well.

If you can handle bad roads (pot holes, bad surface, bumps, on local roads, even on ramps), then everything else is pretty much the same.

Speed makes the roads challenging. Don't do that. The speed limits are design for large Cadillacs, SUVs, and box vans. Well, well within the performance envelope of a motorcycle. If the sign on a turn suggests 25, go 25.

Just keep steady and slow down.
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Old 07-30-2020, 12:49 PM   #13
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Another alternative would be Soquel San Jose Rd and add a few miles to your trip.
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Old 07-30-2020, 01:21 PM   #14
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Outside of simply "riding on the freeway", I've never been scared of a road.

The road is as fast as you take it.

I've not been on 17, I don't live up in the bay area.

I appreciate perhaps the notoriety of accidents, and bad behavior, but those should not be germane to a novice rider, they should concern everyone.

Arguably, to me, the "worst" road down here in So Cal is the road up to Palomar. It can be steep, and has so very tight switchbacks. Those turns are steep and tight, especially up hill.

But, IMHO, they're not difficult. Just slow down, pick your line, and motor up them.

Glendora Mountain Road is probably second. It's twisty and steep as well.

If you can handle bad roads (pot holes, bad surface, bumps, on local roads, even on ramps), then everything else is pretty much the same.

Speed makes the roads challenging. Don't do that. The speed limits are design for large Cadillacs, SUVs, and box vans. Well, well within the performance envelope of a motorcycle. If the sign on a turn suggests 25, go 25.

Just keep steady and slow down.
There is a huge difference betweeng twisty, goaty roads and a road filled with crazed drivers trying to outrun each other and treating the road like it's a road course. That is Hwy 17. If you try and go slow, you're in danger of getting run down.
I would not recommend Hwy 17 for a new rider. Get some miles under your belt first.
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Old 07-30-2020, 01:28 PM   #15
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17 is and always has been the suck! I'd consider a mellow ride over 9 versus 17. Lots of places to pull over if you need too, a lot slower pace, way less stress for a new rider, plus it's a lot more scenic.
I live off of 9. It's a sh** show. Between the squids, the aggressive drivers, the tourists / campers, the turkeys and deer it's not any easier than 17 IMO. During covid rich techies use it as their personal race track. It's two lane, so there is nowhere to go. I'd suggest taking 17 and do what others said, ride in the right lane, put yourself behind a semi or slow driver and enjoy the drive until you're ready to pick up speed. Again, IMO
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