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  1. #1
    My custom user title. kdos's Avatar
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    h Has anyone done California coast, south to north?

    I'm always reading on here that riding up north is a rough ride, because of the winds.

    Has anyone here done it, though? Like LA to San Francisco or even more north?

    If so, what are your thoughts of it? Was it more difficult thatn you anticipated? Was it easier than people have mentioned?

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    I've done Santa Barbra to Big Sur and the winds were really bad. If you were on the road after 11am the winds were just blowing really hard. Everyone I met on that trip was going north to south.

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    I also did Santa Barbara to Monterey, then Santa Cruz to Walnut Creek. May of 2004. Had some strong winds, worse in the afternoon. I got lucky in Big Sur, the wind wasn't too bad.

    I wouldn't specifically avoid that direction if it made more sense for the rest of the trip -- in my case, I was riding home from the LA airport to the Bay area, after an international flight. But if there's no strong reason making you go South to North, North to South is more fun.

    Have fun!
    Anna
    ...

  4. #4
    Go Titans!! sunninho's Avatar
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    That's amazing valygrl! I agree that North to South is fun, although I've never gone the other way and can't imagine it being much fun. You do get crosswinds while going from LA to San Diego, and the headwinds get rough when the road and PCH takes you westward from time to time.
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    Go Titans!! sunninho's Avatar
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    I do think going North in a group ride could be fun.
    One must live the way one thinks or end up thinking the way one has lived.
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  6. #6
    My custom user title. kdos's Avatar
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    Thanks for your responses.

    The reason I was asking is because I kind of don't want to travel up north and then come down. I want to soak up the whole experience and do a round trip, south to north, north back to south, as if my bike would be the only form of transportation that existed. Of course, going north and getting my glutes kicked by the wind may make me reconsider the whole thing and make me slap myself a few times for doing such a thing, but that's what my goal is.

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    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    We rode Monterrey to LA in September.Friends told me winds are better in September. Winds would pick up after about Noon. Not bad in the morning.

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    If you want a roundtrip maybe use an inland route on the northward journey and take hwy 1 south.

    I'm doing something similar in early Oct. Leaving Walnut Creek and starting in Reno, 395 to Susanville, Lassen, Red Bluff, Mendocino Forest, Laytonville, and over to hwy 1 down to SF. About 650 miles.
    Last edited by Rockman; 08-30-05 at 12:42 AM. Reason: speelchek

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    I have ridden the California coast route several times in each direction. Aside from the usual headwinds on a S to N direction what I missed most was the ocean view easily visible when on the opposite side of the road heading South.
    The inland route suggested above makes for a nice loop trip with lots of variety of terrain and climate.
    My last trip was farther North. It followed the Klamath River route Hwy 96 to 299 and over to Arcata on the coast. The highlight section was the Matolle River road from Ferndale to Petrolia to Honeydew and back to Hwy 101.Steep grades but great scenery with few cars. You will enjoy any route but I strongly advise using a mirror to see what vehicles are approaching from behind you.

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    How did you all feel about the traffic?
    I drive from Pacifica down to SLO the day before Memorial Day.
    Seemed for most parts, little narrow, didn't see too much
    sections w/ shoulders. Still... I'd like to do that ride someday.
    Just wanted to ask for your impression, whether you felt safe
    or not, and whatever advice you have.

    Thanks.

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    No, it's not safe, exactly, but it's not suicidal either. I certainly would not do it on a holiday weekend, and I would try really hard not to ride the section from Monterey to Big Sur on any in-season weekend.

    I personally found it to be worth the risk.
    ...

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    Kdos--
    I haven't ridden Highway One up or down the length of the CA coast--but I've lived on it for 37 years. Go north to south, unless you absolutely, positively, love headwinds/crosswinds. They are typically not as ferocious this time of year (sept/oct) as in the Spring/early Summer (a definite noFW), but I would still go North to South (and I'm sorta glutton for punishment). The coast runs in a NW direction, just like the prevailing wind. cyclehike

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    Senior Member biodiesel's Avatar
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    San Francisco to Eugene, Oregon.

    11 days of solid headwinds.
    Mornings when the fog was thick it was nice and cool.
    Around 10-11 there was a little breeze and pleasant riding.
    By noon the gusts would start and i'd be working at 12 mph.
    One o-clock and I was hiding behind the handlebars.
    By two to three i was usually fighting for 10mph through gusts and dust.

    But great fun, great training, and when i'm with a group and we ride into a windy area i'm the guy out front. It's amazing how low and thin you can get.

  14. #14
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    I second the suggestion to take an inland route north and the coast back down. Easy to come out of LA and into Santa Barbara, over San Marcos pass and up 154 past Solvang. For the middle part, there are some gorgeous two lanes used by the AIDS/Lifecycle Ride to get from SF to LA, and a good part of the ride was inland the year I did it, on beautiful roads that mainly seemed to parallel hwy 101. Once you get to Santa Cruz you can take Hwy 9 up to 35, take it north all the way to join the Great Hwy again as you come into SF, stay a few days and ride the coast hwy all the way back down. Lots of good camping along the way. I also second the suggestion to avoid the holiday weekend on the coast hwy - it will be bad.
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    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    The reason we rode Hwy. 1 south of Monterrey into Big Sur in September was that traffic is far less after Labor Day..Plus, ride it like early on a weekday morning..Traffic was light.
    No there are not shoulders and the cliff is 1000 feet to the ocean. And I have a height thing...Got one flat on a down hill south of Lucia..About freaked out..
    But still. Big Sure is awesome..The ride was worth it..Pick a time when traffic is light..September early October will do..I was told the coast is less foggy / damp then too. and early in the AM headwinds are light.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnroads
    I second the suggestion to take an inland route north and the coast back down. Easy to come out of LA and into Santa Barbara, over San Marcos pass and up 154 past Solvang. For the middle part, there are some gorgeous two lanes used by the AIDS/Lifecycle Ride to get from SF to LA, and a good part of the ride was inland the year I did it, on beautiful roads that mainly seemed to parallel hwy 101. Once you get to Santa Cruz you can take Hwy 9 up to 35, take it north all the way to join the Great Hwy again as you come into SF, stay a few days and ride the coast hwy all the way back down. Lots of good camping along the way. I also second the suggestion to avoid the holiday weekend on the coast hwy - it will be bad.
    mtnroads, In a couple of weeks, my wife and I are planning on taking the Amtrak from LA to San Jose, then taking Caltrain to SF to begin our tour down the coast. We were thinking of taking a sidetrip to the Santa Cruz mountain area. You mentioned Hwy 9 and 35...how are these for biking--traffic, shoulders, elevation, campgrounds? I heard that Hwy 17 is a big NO for biking?

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    Hi, I don't have time for a full reply right now...

    17 is a DEFINITE NO. It's legal, but it would be death.
    Highway 9 is marginal. It is a major traffic artery, with some shoulderless areas.
    Highway 35 carries a good amount of recreational traffic, and does not have much shoulder, but is ridden by lots of local cyclists.

    I have LOTS of information about FABULOUS riding in the area from SF all the way through Santa Cruz, that I would love to share with you. There are tiny winding hilly roads throuh redwood forests, with no traffic. I can help with both through-touring routes and great side trips that would be fun to do unloaded.

    PM me if you are interested, and I'll get back to you next week.

    I'm off to go climbing now....

    Anna


    Quote Originally Posted by rnagaoka
    mtnroads, In a couple of weeks, my wife and I are planning on taking the Amtrak from LA to San Jose, then taking Caltrain to SF to begin our tour down the coast. We were thinking of taking a sidetrip to the Santa Cruz mountain area. You mentioned Hwy 9 and 35...how are these for biking--traffic, shoulders, elevation, campgrounds? I heard that Hwy 17 is a big NO for biking?
    ...

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl
    PM me if you are interested, and I'll get back to you next week.

    I'm off to go climbing now....

    Anna
    Thanks Anna! It's good to have a local help plan your route.

  19. #19
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    Hey Guys,

    I'm from Michigan, and now live in New York. While visiting California last year I made the drive, like as in a car, from San Francisco to Los Angeles via Highway 1. It scared the hell out of me. Granted I am not accustomed to driving along cliffs but the shoulders felt small for even my small car.

    Are you talking about riding in the street or along the shoulders?

    I definitely do not want to sway anyone away from such a wonderful trip, but I would be wary to take that route. Most of the time there is nothing seperating you from the side of that cliff. Plus, drivers seem to veer a lot more onto the shoulders with all those blind twists and turns.

    Is it really a safe trip?

    Skeptical but Intrigued,

    ian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cycl-ian-g
    Hey Guys,

    I'm from Michigan, and now live in New York. While visiting California last year I made the drive, like as in a car, from San Francisco to Los Angeles via Highway 1. It scared the hell out of me. Granted I am not accustomed to driving along cliffs but the shoulders felt small for even my small car.

    Are you talking about riding in the street or along the shoulders?

    I definitely do not want to sway anyone away from such a wonderful trip, but I would be wary to take that route. Most of the time there is nothing seperating you from the side of that cliff. Plus, drivers seem to veer a lot more onto the shoulders with all those blind twists and turns.

    Is it really a safe trip?

    Skeptical but Intrigued,

    ian.
    Trust me, it's worth the risk. Riding along a cliff is what makes it exciting

    This route is one of the most popular tours for bicyclists around the world. Word gets around, I guess. It's like an international convoy of cyclists...great for the spirit. One guy I met has done it 20 years in a row! Gotta be special to do that.

    You're right, a lot of the highway is shoulderless, but you just have to "trust" the cagers will do the right thing. Wearing bright clothing helps. Traveling off-season is smart and passing through the Big Sur area on a weekday is even smarter.

    Next time, do it on a bike.

  21. #21
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    Yes, Hwy 17 is not good - it's a major highway, and you will probably want to be west of there as you come down the Peninsula. As Anna mentions, the Santa Cruz mtns have some great small roads through them, and camping at Big Basin or other parks in the redwoods is not to be missed if possible. A lot will depend on how much time you have to spend in the area, and also to be considered in routing is whether you leave SF on a weekend or during the week. On weekends, the scenic routes get more vehicle traffic, especially up on Skyline (Hwy 35) and routes going out to the coast, which can get annoying, especially the sport bikes.

    Assuming two days for this part of your trip (SF to Santa Cruz area), you have two basic choices: ride down the coast on Hwy 1, which is rolling terrain through a mostly agricultural region, with views of the water; or go down the Peninsula, roughly following Hwy 35, which runs along the spine of the coast range, with some very scenic views to both sides.

    The coast route is relatively level with some rolling hills, views of the water, and great places to camp after an easy first day - either Butano S.P., about 45 miles south of SF, or Costanoa Lodge (with tent cabins or lodge) about 60 miles south of SF. Then you can continue on to Santa Cruz the next day. Most people do this. The drawback to this approach is if you want to see Big Basin Redwoods, you will have some serious backtracking from Hwy 1, probably 20 extra miles going back north over Bonny Doon Road and the Empire Grade, which are also quite steep. This is an overall longer way to go, but fine if you have the time.

    A more direct route to Big Basin is to take the route down the Peninsula along Hwy 35, up 92/35, continuing down Hwy 35 along the spine of the coast range to Hwy 9, and descending into Big Basin on Hwy 9 and 236, almost all downhill for the last 10-15 miles. Hwy 9 is a beautiful ride down toward Big Basin - smooth and well banked. Going this way you can make Big Basin in one day if you want, and have some beautiful scenery along the way, especially south of Hwy 92 on Skyline. Have lunch at Alice's Restaurant in Sky Londa, roughly half way. The only disadvantage to this route is that it is a long day - 70 miles and 6500 ft. elev gain, and there is almost no place to camp along the way if you get tired, unless you drop down off the ridge to Memorial Park or Portola Redwoods. I prefer this route because it has more variety, scenic views, and is a straight shot into Big Basin, especially if you can do it in one day.

    A lot depends on your timeframes, as well as preference of what to see. I would be happy to assist you further if you want, just PM me. Valygirl will have better knowledge of the area from Big Basin south toward Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur since she rides there a lot.

    john
    Last edited by mtnroads; 09-01-05 at 02:50 PM.
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  22. #22
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    John, thanks for spending the time to explain your neck of the woods--exactly the info I needed. This really helps me out! Never rode the inland valleys/mountains of Santa Cruz to SF, but it sounds like a worthwhile detour. (BTW--My brother lives in Watsonville, so we'll be visiting him as well)

    (sorry for the thread hijack)

  23. #23
    Senior Member biodiesel's Avatar
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    I'll repeat the opinion that 17 is a no-go.

    you can ride close to 17 by using 9 and 35 which are either slower or have good shoulders. Hwy 9 north of Saratoga is narrower and a bit hilly but if you ride north along Juniperra Serra it's a little flatter and it's a great road.

    Personally i'd stick to the coast and ride up through Half-Moon Bay.
    Have Breakfast in Half Moon (Original Jonnies is good) and ride out to the point to watch mavericks break. The ride north is a bit tricky as you have to pass Devil's Slide but once past there Pacifica turns into some nice flat coastal riding all the way to Golden Gate Park.

  24. #24
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    Rockman makes a good point, take a inland route from south to north then a coastal route coming back.

    Also Valigirl made a good point about weekends. The coastal run down the 1 on a weekend could be a real problem, I would run it on the weekdays to be safe. Also the cliffs are not a big deal as long as you don't go over a cliff! The secret to this cliff thing is to take the lane and not ride the edge especially on fast downhill and curvey sections; because even cars are not going to be able to go much faster then you anyway due to the curves so just take the lane, going up a grade then go to the side because your going slower thus the chances of going off the road are greatly reduced. I knew a lot of people that ran the 1 on bikes and I never heard of anyone going over the cliffs. Also most people realize that California is big on cycling and that hwy1 is a popular cyclist run, so they tend to be somewhat (note I said somewhat) use to the cyclist. I was more scared riding on hwy 46 & 58 which I only did once from Bakersfield to San Luis Obispo and Cambria (later found out that boths routes was known as blood alley...and for a good reason!)

    You will need a bright tail light and some sort of bright neon green or similar jacket though because you can get into some real dense fog along the coast.

    I have run from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo several times but the wind is a bear and it just wears you out a lot worse then climbing the mountains in southern Calif. But I went in the early summer months because that's when I could take a vacation so there could be other times of the year that the wind may not be so bad.

    But I have run many runs from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Malibu, but took the train to San Francisco from my home in Santa Barbara or back from Malibu to Santa Barbara. These runs were credit card runs (means I stayed in motels and ate in resturants) so I didn't even have the hassles of wind against panniers.

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