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  1. #1
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    San Francisco to San Diego

    I have done a few bike rides, but nothing as to what i have planned. At work about 2 months ago I had an epiphany to ride my bike from San Francisco to San Diego. I have been doing some research and trying to plot my course. If anybody has any tips about what i should be doing by trying or equipment please let me know. Also, if anybody has done this before any advice will be greatly appreciated. Right now i am training on an old Specialized mountain bike; however, i am saving up to by a Specialized Crossover. Any help is truly appreciated. I am planning to start this ride in the Summer of 2009. The training has begun and so has the planning!!!!

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    San Francisco to San Diego is a great ride. I particularly enjoy the ride along the coast to Pismo Bay. After that is a bit more urban. Two quick ideas if you haven't already found them:

    There is a book, "Bicycling the Pacific Coast: A complete route guide" by Kirkendall and Spring that may help you in route ideas.

    When I lived in the San Francisco Bay area, one of my favorite "mini-tours" was to take three days to bicycle from San Jose to San Luis Obisbo. I would stay near Monterey the first night and near Cambria the second night. On the third day, we would cycle into San Luis Obisbo and catch an ~3:30pm Amtrak train to the Bay Area. This does the start of the route to San Diego and also provides a nice tour training ride for a mini-tour.

  3. #3
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    I have done this ride several times. I do about 50-60 miles/day and it takes me about 9 days. It is a great ride!

    If you want to see what it is like, you can check my journal of the first ride I did on this route at http://www.biketouringtips.com/bike....rip/index.html. It includes lots of pictures so you see the terrain and the views.

    The book mev mentions gives good routing information but may be a bit out of date. The Adventure Cycling Association (http://www.adventurecycling.org/) has route maps for this ride as part of the Pacific Coast route (SF to Santa Barbara is one map segment, SB to San Diego is another one). These are excellent maps and information sources and I'd highly recommend you buy them ($10/segment for non-members).

    Another resource you might check out is this page from www.biketouringtips.com which has 35 links to bike touring information about California. Many of the links refer to the SF to LA ride.

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  4. #4
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mev View Post
    There is a book, "Bicycling the Pacific Coast: A complete route guide" by Kirkendall and Spring that may help you in route ideas.
    +1 This is "the bible" for riding the coast.

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    Senior Member graybeard's Avatar
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    Go for it. the ride south is awesome, take the AMTRAK back to Paso Robles. Get off and take Indian Valley road back up to Holister,Ca. / Gilroy , Ca. Ask for directions in San Miquel.. Indian Valley road changes to old highway25 part way up. this is probably one of the coolest bike rides we have ever done. Take food and water, as there are few services. you can camp anywhere, ...you might pass three vehicles every hour or so.... awesome road.

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    Senior Member graybeard's Avatar
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    Like others have said, past Pismo Beach is very urban. My suggestion would be to turn around and head back north via an inland route..

  7. #7
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    To suggest that someone break off a trip down the California Coast at Pismo Beach because it "is very urban" is a bit misleading. You aren't in Pismo Beach very long and shortly after it you are in rolling agricultural fields that are at least as nice as going north from Paso Robles. What's more, if you are unlucky and get hit by the headwind whipping down the Salinas Valley, you will be in for some very long days.

    I would (and do) take the route that goes down the coast (through Big Sur, San Simeon, and Cayucos) to Morro Bay and then heads inland through hilly pasture lands to a main road (with a good shoulder) that takes you to the outskirts of San Luis Obispo (17 miles). From SLO, you follow a frontage road next to 101 into Pismo Beach. You quickly pass Pismo's downtown and within a few miles are in the town of Oceano, who's state park used to have a hiker/biker (described in the Kirkendall book). That hiker/biker site is no longer available but you can reserve a regular campsite for (around) $40/night, though you must do it in advance.

    From Oceano, you climb a short, steep hill and go along a quickly developing Highway 1 eventually finding your way onto the main street of Guadalupe (10 miles), a town surrounded by agriculture fields. It seems every other store in Guadalupe is a mexican restaurant and I've had some great food there. After that, you head out into more remote agricultural fields and a golf course, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Eventually, Highways 1 and 135 meet up and you follow 135 to Harris Grade Road, a 7-mile uphill and then a 4 mile coast into Lompoc (28 miles Guadalupe to Lompoc).

    Out of Lompoc, I take highway 1 up a very pleasant, deserted, but gentle 18-mile climb followed by a straight bomb down to Highway 101. Thirty-five miles later, you are in downtown Santa Barbara. From there down, it gets quite urban and you have to ride on Highway 101 right next to semis and SUVs doing freeway speeds. Getting through LA is done using a nicely done beach bike path. From Carson to Newport Beach is a bit grim but after Laguna Beach the ride to San Diego is quite nice.

    If you don't want to go all the way down to San Diego, I'd terminate at Santa Barbara and take the train back to SF or fly out of Santa Barbara back home.

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

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    Thanks for your tips on different routes and books i should check out, I am definetley going to go out and buy them. During the ride what did you carry in your packs, i want to travel as light as possible and would love to know what you all brought along for your expeditions.

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    Here is the packing list of my first trip down the coast.

    Since I've done this trip several more times, I've changed a few things. First, I now carry a very light MP3 player instead of audio tapes. I also took a hard look at my toiletries and reduced a lot of weight by bringing only what I need and taking it would of any heavier bottles. I not longer take a heavy U lock, but use a lighter cable lock instead. I also now take a stove and cooking gear. I also now take rainpants.

    I hope this helps,

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by backdraftx7 View Post
    I have done a few bike rides, but nothing as to what i have planned. At work about 2 months ago I had an epiphany to ride my bike from San Francisco to San Diego. I have been doing some research and trying to plot my course. If anybody has any tips about what i should be doing by trying or equipment please let me know. Also, if anybody has done this before any advice will be greatly appreciated. Right now i am training on an old Specialized mountain bike; however, i am saving up to by a Specialized Crossover. Any help is truly appreciated. I am planning to start this ride in the Summer of 2009. The training has begun and so has the planning!!!!
    i did a trip two year ago from Canada to Mexico and i have to say this area that you are going to be doing is definately my favorite part of california. There is one area that i highly suggest that you stay at it is a small campground called Refugio St Beach.. The Hiker/Biker section is the best site in the campground and is right on the beach and when i say on the beach i mean literally twenty feet from the ocean... it has a bunch of palm trees and it was a place where there was no need for a tent. It is right after this town called Gaviota.. It might not be a very convienient place to stop but the beach is well worth it.

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    Hey Amigo,

    I, too, did the Canada to Mexico close to the ocean and found everything south of Santa Barbra disappointing. Not that you shouldn't do it, but you might have more fun exploring the much-less-traveled roads inland from the coast (especially if you're into wine!). If you do make it though, it was fun for me to spend a day in Tijuana, but I left before nightfall.

    An old specialized mountain bike might be a really great bike to ride, so long as it has solid components that you can trust not to break down, and even then, you'll never be far from help. I would be very tempted to just ride that, or even upgrade some things, instead of pouring a whole bunch of money into a new bike. Besides, if you try this out then decide that you'll want to do a coast-to-coast or north-to-south or alaska-to-argentina you'll want different things... My partner just built up an old Rockhopper for our LA-to-San Jose ride.

    As for the gear you'll wanna carry, how much camping do you plan to do? Are you planning to just stay in hotels? Will you want to do your own cooking? What kind of food do you like to eat?

    When I did that ride, I was using only a back rack with two panniers and my tent strapped to the top of the rack. I'd suggest bringing a small two-person tent, freestanding or not, weight being the primary consideration. Sierra Designs, Mountain Hardwear, MSR are VERY trusted names. A sleeping pad is key, the level of comfort that you'll want is up to you. A simple foam pad is cheep and light, but not very supportive. If you're really concerned about any back, hip, shoulder, or neck problems, you might want to just focus your money on motels instead. Using a small, light inflatable (Therm-A-Rest prolite3 or similar) on top of a closed-cell foam (Therm-a-Rest Ridgerest or similar, wraps nicely around your packed tent to strap on the back of the rack!) is very comfortable, and that's my setup whenever I can afford the weight and space. Just be sure that your inflatable packs down no bigger than a football or you'll find it very cumbersome. Don't strap it to the outside of anything, it will puncture for sure.

    A stove is always tricky to travel with. MSR Whisperlite international will burn unleaded gasoline- available everywhere- but can be big and messy. I use an MSR Pocketrocket, cheep, easy, light, very adjustable, I love it. Just make sure you know FOR SURE that you'll be flying somewhere close to a store where you can buy fuel canisters. Once you have them, though, those canisters last a lot longer than you'd think. I once ran into a couple on tour who were using a pinecone-burning tin can stove that weighed like 4 ounces. I just wouldn't trust that if you want a warm meal on a rainy day. Alcohol cat-food-can stoves are popular with hikers, but fuel can, again, be hard to get in small quantities.

    Sleeping bag? I used one that was rated down to 40F and have only been let down in the coldest of nights on the Oregon coast. Anything inland and I would carry a 20degree bag unless I'm absolutely sure I won't be cold. Shivering for 4 hours waiting for the sunrise ssssuuuuuccckkksss (chattering teeth).

    I wore a rain jacket, but no rain pants. Sure, my legs got a little cold on some rainy mornings, but that's the part of your body doing the most work to stay warm. Just make sure to have dry clothes and a dry sleeping bag to get into, no exceptions. If you can afford a pair or nice rain pants (Marmot, Patagonia) then they're luxurious (hah!) but I wouldn't bother with those 1970's hunter green mildew-scented sticky gross ones in the basement.

    Waterproof panniers are friggin' great, I would never use anything less for a long trip. You can, however, get away with ziplock bags and garbage bags, but they're not worth too much of your trust. I think it's safe to say that Ortlieb is the favorite among the majority of tourists. I love my Bike Packers more than my Front Rollers.

    And of course a multi tool with all the Allen keys and 8mm & 10mm, chain breaker, etc. Tire levers, patch kit, one or two spare tubes, and a pump. Maybe front spokes and non-drive side spokes. I've heard VERY good things about fiber-fix spokes, but they cost $12. If you've never had problems with breaking spokes, you might not need to bring any (let the bickering commence!)

    Spend up to $30 getting a headlamp that you like, blue/white LEDs, and variable light levels. Petzl, BlackDiamond make great ones. I use mine for commuting, and it is invaluable around camp and while reading before bed. Use the lowest setting to save batteries (except when used for safety). You will likely be disappointed with a hand-held flashlight. A blinky red light is very important too, and shouldn't be much more than $10. I've talked to drivers on that part of coastline who like when riders even use those during the day, as the sun is bright and a shaded shoulder can be hard to see a cyclist on, underneath all those beautiful Monterrey Cypress trees.

    Make sure you have the smallest chainring your triple will accept up front. Anything bigger than 28 and you'll likely be pushing some of those hills (you might anyway!). I run a 24front/32back and have never had any problems with it. Most one-piece mountain triples are even smaller - 22T.

    And always, Have Fun!!! The more specifics you post, the better we'll all be able to advise. Why not ride it in 2008?

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    Oh, and also think about getting some superb tires, Kevlar lining, thick tread, Slime tubes, etc. I've used Bontranger Special-K (3.5K miles) and Specialized Nimbus (500 and counting) with great results. 1.5" diameter is a happy medium, able to ride smooth on the pavement, soak up some bumps, and drop some pressure to take on dirt roads with no complaints.

  13. #13
    Stand For Something mntbikedude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raybo View Post
    To suggest that someone break off a trip down the California Coast at Pismo Beach because it "is very urban" is a bit misleading. You aren't in Pismo Beach very long and shortly after it you are in rolling agricultural fields that are at least as nice as going north from Paso Robles. What's more, if you are unlucky and get hit by the headwind whipping down the Salinas Valley, you will be in for some very long days.

    I would (and do) take the route that goes down the coast (through Big Sur, San Simeon, and Cayucos) to Morro Bay and then heads inland through hilly pasture lands to a main road (with a good shoulder) that takes you to the outskirts of San Luis Obispo (17 miles). From SLO, you follow a frontage road next to 101 into Pismo Beach. You quickly pass Pismo's downtown and within a few miles are in the town of Oceano, who's state park used to have a hiker/biker (described in the Kirkendall book). That hiker/biker site is no longer available but you can reserve a regular campsite for (around) $40/night, though you must do it in advance.

    From Oceano, you climb a short, steep hill and go along a quickly developing Highway 1 eventually finding your way onto the main street of Guadalupe (10 miles), a town surrounded by agriculture fields. It seems every other store in Guadalupe is a mexican restaurant and I've had some great food there. After that, you head out into more remote agricultural fields and a golf course, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Eventually, Highways 1 and 135 meet up and you follow 135 to Harris Grade Road, a 7-mile uphill and then a 4 mile coast into Lompoc (28 miles Guadalupe to Lompoc).

    Out of Lompoc, I take highway 1 up a very pleasant, deserted, but gentle 18-mile climb followed by a straight bomb down to Highway 101. Thirty-five miles later, you are in downtown Santa Barbara. From there down, it gets quite urban and you have to ride on Highway 101 right next to semis and SUVs doing freeway speeds. Getting through LA is done using a nicely done beach bike path. From Carson to Newport Beach is a bit grim but after Laguna Beach the ride to San Diego is quite nice.

    If you don't want to go all the way down to San Diego, I'd terminate at Santa Barbara and take the train back to SF or fly out of Santa Barbara back home.

    Ray
    I agree with that route, I would add that Refugio Campground is absolutely amazing and the hiker/biker site is right on the beach nestled under palm trees. I was just in LA last week and we drove up to there. It was just as magical as I remembered it from the bike trip. It is about 30 miles south from Lompoc.

    I also loved the section from Santa Barbara to Tijuana. It is alot more urban but you get this whole southern California vibe that we loved. The only problem is it gets exspensive.

  14. #14
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    I plan to do the ride in the summer of 2009 instead of this upcoming summer because i still need time to plan out my routes and train. I don't feel as if i would be ready by this summer. However, in 2009 i was planning on riding in the end of July; however, if there is a better month to go in weather wise and such lwt me know.

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by backdraftx7 View Post
    I plan to do the ride in the summer of 2009 instead of this upcoming summer because i still need time to plan out my routes and train. I don't feel as if i would be ready by this summer. However, in 2009 i was planning on riding in the end of July; however, if there is a better month to go in weather wise and such lwt me know.
    FWIW I say "go this year." The trip will be a challenge, but not so much that you need 18 months of training.

    The "route planning" bit is not only simple, it's already done:

    http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/pacificcoast.cfm

    There ya go, full map of the route, including campsites, hotels, food and so forth. At the "hiker-biker sites" (indicated on the AC maps), which are $5 or less a night, you don't even need reservations.

    For the camping portion: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pack towel, bug repellent. For the kitchen, a basic stove, a pot, some utensils. And some basic repair tools.

    So now, all you have to do is train. 8-10 weeks of basic interval training will pretty much do the job.

    I went last September (just to San Luis Obispo) and it worked out very well. Not super-crowded. SF to SD will probably take 15 days, including 2 rest days. This will give you plenty of time not only to train, but to do a short weekend tour as a "shakedown cruise" for your bike & camping setup.

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    I was also planning on buying a new bike that i wanted to break in before i took a long ride such as that. It was going to be the Specialized crossover. I am saving up to buy that. However i might consider doing it on the bike i have now, i'm not entirely sure. What kind of interval training and other training did you do for your ride??? thanks for the site with the route. Was September a good month to ride in?

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    For training I would recommend riding your bike at every opportunity. Grocery shopping, commute to work (if possible), for fun, weekends, etc. The important part for me was finding out what would make me sore/hurt, and how to avoid that. Good posture and a healthy mental attitude will help you go a very long way! Making sure to get enough protein after a hard ride (or a hard, hilly day on tour) will get your muscles recovered and ready for the next. I'm a vegetarian, so protein bars are key for me.

    Also, coming from Michigan I would train in the gym on the eliptical machine or cycling trainer for about 45 minutes to an hour as often as possible. I liked doing calf lifts, too, and make sure to work the core well. Leg lifts/presses are hard on your knees, and you won't ever need to press that hard on your bike anyway (if you do, it's best to get off the bike and walk up the hill. I met several riders who had to bow out of a tour early due to attacking the hills with a bad gear ratio)

    September should be a great time to ride. I did it in October and the weather was great, and the traffic was reasonable. Just remember that the AARP crowd with HUGE RVs (gas holes) are waiting until after memorial day to travel, too. They're usually considerate, but sometimes it's clear that they don't realize exactly how wide their vehicle is.

    Good luck and keep us updated!

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    September is an excellent time to do this trip. Weather is good, Rt 1 is not as busy as during the summer, a decent # of cyclists still out there.

    You don't have to get crazygonuts with the training. Interval training basically means that you do one day per week at high intensity. You will build endurance faster this way than just gradually increasing the miles.

    Also, make sure to do lots of hill climbing. First, you're going to do quite a bit on the trip, so get used to it. Second, you need to be sure your bike has low enough gears.

    What's the Crossover? Not seeing it on their site.

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    Its the specializes Crosstrail, it crosses over trail and road.
    http://www.specialized.com/bc/SBCBkM...Crosstrail#top
    thats the link with the bike i want to get...i'm not sure yet if i want the pro, expert, or limited, i still have some research to do.

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