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Old 04-12-07, 10:05 AM   #1
Shiznaz
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Pacific Coast the Wrong Way

I'm in the middle of planning my long sumemr tour. I have given notice at my job, have most of my gear in order, and I am looking at route possibilities.

The route I am currently looking at would take me into LA by plane from Toronto. I'd then ride up 101 to BC, and head east on the trans canada back to my home, with no scheduling issues so I can take as long as I like.

I picked up the Spring & Kirkendall book, and find it quite interesting, if not a little cheesy. However I did not really think through that the book was written as 'A Complete Route Guide, Canada to Mexico'. Everything is backwards! It took me a while to even find where I was planning to start from.

Anyways aside from that, I have been doing more reading about this route and it seems that 95% of people do it north to south due in part to:

prevailing winds coming from north to south
wider shoulders on west side of roads
more touring cyclists heading south
more convenient for most americans

I'd really prefer to do the route south to north, so are these concerns justified? I don't buy much into prevailing winds, but I don't want to get hammered out there forcing me to do brutally hard but short days. I also am a big fan of shoulders but I can deal with bad traffic if I have to, I just really prefer not to. It would be nice to meet more cyclists heading south, and I'd assume cars heading south would be more aware of cyclists than traffic heading north, but then again, car traffic might be heavier going south as well.

The coast is really what I'm looking forward to most on this trip and I want to be able to really enjoy it. Is it worth rejigging my trip so that I can do the coast heading south? Thanks!
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Old 04-12-07, 10:11 AM   #2
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My wife and I went from Crescent City to San Fran last year (n to s) and loved it, but we saw plenty of people going north up the coast and none of them were complaining either. So, go whichever way you want. Check out the Krebs cycling maps and the adventure cycling map - much more useful (to me) than the book.
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Old 04-12-07, 10:19 AM   #3
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I rode from San Clemente to Seal Beach going North, it was nice, the winds weren't nothing that really wore me out. You can actually see more of the coast on the other side of the road though if you were going south.
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Old 04-12-07, 10:28 AM   #4
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When I cycled the northern California coast, north to south, I met a guy, also cycling north to south, who had previously done the coast south to north. He said that after battling headwinds for a few days, he started getting up at four in the morning, and cycling till noon to avoid the worst of the wind.

There are the same number of cyclists in the hiker/biker sites, whether you're heading north or south. The difference is that if you're going north, you won't keep running into the same people.
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Old 04-12-07, 12:34 PM   #5
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I suppose I should just suck it up and go for it. If I did my trip in reverse I would be likely be fighting headwinds all the way across Canada, and its twice the distance of the pacific coast. Plus I will be travelling with the cooler weather (rolling into California in late july must be HOT!) I just cringe when I think about going up a 2000 foot 11% grade hill with a 40 mile wind hitting me in the face, loaded up to the brim... Thats going to be an awesome day...
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Old 04-12-07, 12:45 PM   #6
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And the old and great standby is crazy guy's site. http://www.crazyguyonabike.com for a multitude of ride journals.
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Old 04-12-07, 01:30 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiznaz
Anyways aside from that, I have been doing more reading about this route and it seems that 95% of people do it north to south due in part to:

prevailing winds coming from north to south
wider shoulders on west side of roads
more touring cyclists heading south
more convenient for most americans
Shiz, if you are traveling S to N, not only are the shoulders going to be narrower...

but in many areas (especially Big Sur) you are going to get wedged between the cliff and the traffic. Also, the traffic will have a hard time seeing you behind these blind corners. Not for the faint of heart.
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Old 04-12-07, 02:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rnagaoka
...in many areas (especially Big Sur) you are going to get wedged between the cliff and the traffic.
I am not sure it would be any better to be wedged between traffic and a precipitous drop to the ocean below!!
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Old 04-12-07, 02:51 PM   #9
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Well I'm pretty much more afraid of heights than walls which is a plus.

Is it ever viable to ride up the wrong shoulder of the road if the eastern shoulder gets narrow?
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Old 04-12-07, 02:58 PM   #10
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The winds are significant along the coast. Certainly either way is a great trip, but both the winds and the views favor a north to south route. You could get lucky and not get the normal winds. I've cycled across Canada East to West and the winds were not always a problem, but my cycling down the West Coast never saw anything but winds pushing me southward.

Wells Horton
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Old 04-12-07, 03:11 PM   #11
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Well considering I can get a flight from LA to Vancouver for a little over $100CAD, it seems sensible to do it the regular way, and then just fly back up to Vancouver before I ride the transcanada home. I'll probably make that money back quickly from saved restaurant meals and motel rooms when I'm feeling sorry for myself after battling a headwind all day.

Thanks guys, your advice was really helpful and tipped my decision. More discussion is of course encouraged and appreciated!

As a bonus I will have the option to fly back to vancouver and do the transcanada, or turn east and do the southern tier route instead, flying back from Florida at the end. I don't really see myself enjoying biking through desert in july and august though... But I'll cross that bridge once I come to it.
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Old 04-12-07, 03:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiznaz
Plus I will be travelling with the cooler weather (rolling into California in late july must be HOT!)
It's never really hot on the California Coast. It doesn't get hot until you start going inland. For example, the average high for Crescent City in July is 65 F, and the average high along the Southern California Coast is about 75 F.
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Old 04-12-07, 03:48 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wellshorton
The winds are significant along the coast. Certainly either way is a great trip, but both the winds and the views favor a north to south route. You could get lucky and not get the normal winds. I've cycled across Canada East to West and the winds were not always a problem, but my cycling down the West Coast never saw anything but winds pushing me southward.

Wells Horton
The winds can be more than significant. On the Grand Tour (double century) somehere near mile160 I flatted and lost the group I was with. I was able to chase at abotu 25MPH because of the wind. Another time I did Los Angeles to Santa Barbary and hit sections where I was doing well to keep in double digits.

The views issue is also significant. I had not thought of that, but very true. Most of the way the shoulders are adequate, you can just stop and look goinf south, going north you might not be able to.

And whereever the road is narrow it will be the northbound lanes that have no shoulder.
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Old 04-12-07, 06:45 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiznaz
Is it ever viable to ride up the wrong shoulder of the road if the eastern shoulder gets narrow?
I once decided to take the "wrong" shoulder in a particularly hilly area of Quebec, on a narrow two-lane highway thick with logging trucks.

It freaked out a lot of drivers, and they let me know by honking, and in one or two cases, yelling at or veering toward me.

I did not feel safe driving on the correct side of the road, so I bent the rules. But after a few encounters with freaked out drivers, I returned to my rightful place in the flow of traffic, and tried to suck back my fear of logging trucks. I ended up pulling off the side of the road every minute or two to allow large trucks or conveys of trucks to lumber past.
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Old 04-12-07, 09:12 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiznaz
[...]it seems that 95% of people do it north to south due in part to:
prevailing winds coming from north to south[...]
There's a good reason for this. Here, take a look....

First, the Washington State International Kite Festival, held on the SW Washington coast. It's in August, but it pretty much sums up what happens in the summer months -- and believe me, those kites are straining to the south. A couple hours out on the beach watching the kites, and you have a permanent northern list.

The real convincer is the Wind Roses available here. (This is a great resource!) Take a sample for July, in North Bend, Oregon, about halfway down the coast:

[IMG]ftp://ftp.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/downloads/climate/windrose/oregon/north_bend/north_bend_jul.gif[/IMG]

Just sayin' that there's a good reason 95% cyclists go N-S..... But some do suck it up into the headwind.

I don't think California, south of the Mendocino coast, has such steady northerly winds. But that's just by memory -- check the wind roses to be sure.

-- Mark

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Old 04-13-07, 02:34 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiznaz
Well considering I can get a flight from LA to Vancouver for a little over $100CAD, it seems sensible to do it the regular way, and then just fly back up to Vancouver before I ride the transcanada home. I'll probably make that money back quickly from saved restaurant meals and motel rooms when I'm feeling sorry for myself after battling a headwind all day.
I think that is a smart choice. I haven't ridden there, but having visited and driven the roads... If the winds I saw were typical they are a VERY significant factor. The visibility both for seeing the scenery and for being seen by traffic are much better with a north to south ride too. I guess I am not adding anything that hasn't been said, but I think it is worth repeating.
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Old 04-13-07, 07:52 PM   #17
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Pacific Coast

I agree with most posters. I rode the route from Seattle to Santa Cruz. The only time it was hot was when 101 headed inland - around Garberville. When I went over to the coast to Highway 1 it was cool again. I live on the coast by San Luis Obispo - halfway between LA and SF. The summer is our cold season, due to the ever-present marine layer. (Actually, the sun often does come out in the afternoons, but it seldom gets over 80 degrees - rarely much above 70.)

I went North to South and I remember glorious days when the wind was pushing me along. I remember chatting with people going South to North and hearing their stories of misery fighting the wind.

I liked the fact that most people were going that way and staying in the hiker/biker sites. I met a bunch of great people and became good friends with many of them, both on that tour and a subsequent trip down the Oregon coast. Virtually everyone was carrying the Kirkendall/Spring book, and many were following the route stop by stop. You really did see the same people every evening (and often a few times during the day.) Of course, if you take a rest day, you'll meet a whole different crew (following one day behind your previous crew.) It was great fun!
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Old 04-16-07, 01:03 PM   #18
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All of the advice given so far is good, the only thing I would add is to plan your days around the bad traffic times and days, like holidays. I cycled from Seattle to San Francisco which was some of the greatest and some of the scariest cycling I have ever done. Washington and Oregon were great, but the traffic and dangerously narrow roads start in southern Oregon, and Northern Cal. through the Redwoods area. I had some near death experiences in the Northern Cal. stretch down to SanFran. Travel early and avoid holiday weekends, take those days off and enjoy the park you happen to be in on those days.
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Old 04-16-07, 05:10 PM   #19
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Check out James and Rebecca's Pacific Coast Bike Trip (http://www.gps.caltech.edu/~rebeccaw...CoastBike.html) They went all the way to Mexico.

I used aerobars in New Zealand (http://www.aye1.com/NZ2006/NZ2006.html) and they performed very well cycling into the wind.

Cycling on the "wrong" shoulder puts cyclists coming towards you at risk. I am not a big fan of i***ts that ride that way.
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Old 04-16-07, 05:32 PM   #20
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We toured from Aberdeen, WA to the Golden Gate last Sept. It was so much fun we are repeating it this Sept. We only met two groups traveling the other way, and it didn't look like much fun. On both occasions a significant wind was right in their face. I also agree that the view from the ocean side of the road was spectacular.
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Old 05-03-07, 07:25 PM   #21
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Headwinds are like a neverending incline...

The winds are real...and the wider shoulders on the southbound lanes make it easier for logging trucks to pass you without a nudge. Also, riding north to south means that the view of the ocean is not punctuated by swooshing cars, trucks, and RVs. Finally, everyone knows that it is all downhill from north to south.

I suggest that you fly to Vancouver BC, ride south (be sure to spend some time in the San Juans and Victoria) to SF and take the train north to resume your east to west crossing. Make your way to Astoria, OR and head south...

I plan to ride from Vancouver to SF in September and I'm looking for other riders for that time period.
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