Touring - Recommendations for a first tour?
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Not new to biking, but new to touring. For a good first experience, would participating in an organized tour be a good idea? That or I could perhaps get my brother who has done some bike touring to go somewhere with me. I currently live in the midwest but am moving back to California in Fall. I'm thinking of a first tour maybe in Fall but more likely in Spring. The wine country sounds kind of interesting but I'd need to get a trailer to carry all of the wine. Any advice? Recommendations for bike tours in California or points North? Or just great tours you have done (suitable for a first timer)? Thanks.
05-15-07, 08:49 AM
There are lots of options for touring around California, but the coast is kind of a no-brainer - there are lots of books and maps for bike touring, so you don't have to do so much research about what roads are good and where to stay. Kirkendall & Spring's Cycling the Pacific Coast is a good place to start.
Pacific Coast SF to LA in the fall is perfect, as long as you are an experienced cyclist. There are some hills and some narrow roads, but after Labor Day the traffic should be mellower, just try not to be riding Big Sur on a weekend. There are camping and hotel options, the scenery is spectacular, there are plenty of campgrounds, it's easy to get to your start/finish lines (car rental, train, air). The weather should be awesome all the way though October. Definitely go North to South (wind direction).
Wine country touring is scary b/c of all the drunk drivers, and it's expensive to stay around there - very resort-y.
Organized tours are very different than self-supported. If you want to learn how to tour self-contained, but need a learning/startup option, consider Adventure Cycling self supported tours, or even their how-to-tour class. Most other supported tours are multi-day bikerides with someone carrying your luggage - it's a fun vacation but isn't going to prepare you to be self-supported touring.
If you can get your brother to go with you, that would be ideal. But go alone if you can't.
05-15-07, 09:29 AM
Tours of wine country are fun, but it's not a good idea to carry wine, especially in hot weather. Wine is ruined by heat. It's a waste to carry high-end wines in sweltering weather. The vibration of riding might not be good for wine, either.
I have biked through wine growing regions in Burgundy, Alsace, Ontario and Quebec, and my "rule" has always been to only buy wine on the last day, and only as much as I can comfortably carry, which is two bottles. I buy wine as a souvenir -- a way to remember the trip weeks or months later.
By the way, there really are wine-growing and -making operations in Quebec: in the Eastern Townships, and around Quebec City. My favourite was a dessert wine made from frozen apples!
You could do an organized tour as your first one, but there's no reason why you would have to. As valygrl says, the California coast is perfect for a first tour. There are plenty of other cyclists doing it, so you won't be alone.
05-15-07, 01:14 PM
Travel light as you can!:D
For a listing of bike tours, go to the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association website.
05-15-07, 03:45 PM
Personally, I'd skip on the organized tour unless you really want to ride with a bunch of people you don't know.
I haven't done it myself yet (planning on it for next year) but Route 1 / PCH is an easy way to go. You can do a couple of days, or a week; plenty of Amtrak stops along the way. Lots of good stuff to see along the way, like Monterey and Big Sur.
Pick up the Adventure Cycling maps, they're pretty good for pointing out elevations, parks, bike shops etc.
Thanks for the input so far. My brother has done Missoula Montana to Fairbanks Alaska as well as Canada to the Mexican boarder down the coast. I'm not looking to do that long a trip on the first time out. SF to LA would probably be nice, not sure how much time to allow. Would want to have a sag with a surfboard (just kidding) sort of. I guess I could rent a surfboard. I'd love to go overseas too but not in the cards for awhile due to lack of funds.
05-15-07, 07:14 PM
The vibration of riding might not be good for wine, either.
My favourite was a dessert wine made from frozen apples!
I know its off topic... but yes the vibrations would not be good.
And yes... Sweet Dessert Appfelwein is a beautiful beautiful thing.
05-15-07, 07:24 PM
SF to LA would probably be nice, not sure how much time to allow....
10 - 14 days, maybe? I'd say it's 500 miles, and you might as well spend a day in Big Sur and a couple in La-La Land. Plus 1 day to get back on the train, that's an 8-10 hour ride right there.
05-15-07, 11:43 PM
If you are short of time SF to Santa Barbara is the best bit of the CA coast in my opinion. Or start a little north of SF if you have extra time - Legget, maybe. Or you could do the Oregon coast - stunning. A little wetter for a spring tour, and the end-points are a little less logistically friendly. But more remote and pristine.
Where in CA are you going to be based out of? You might be able to ride a loop from your doorstep.
05-15-07, 11:45 PM
Oh yeah, SF to SB is 6 days with no breaks, averaging 60 m.p.d. So allow at least 8 for a first tour. 2 more to LA, another 1.5 to SD.
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