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  1. #1
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    Advice for Los Angeles to San Francisco

    Hi,

    I am new to these forums and I've looking to get some advice on a ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I've never attempted something this intense on my bike before, but it sounds too fun to pass up. My plan is to go in the last week of January and get a car ride back to LA. I want opinions of routes, places to stay, length of ride, clothing, what to bring. Any advice would be most appreciated as I'm finding it difficult to get any information online. Thank you very much and I look forward to hear your guys stories.

  2. #2
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    take Amtrak to SF and ride to LA
    the route down the coast is designed for southbound bicycle traffic

  3. #3
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Definitely ride this route from SF to LA - you have a better chance of having tail winds (instead of headwinds). Also you will be on the Ocean side of the highway, not the inland side.

    You can buy a guide/map to this route at the website of the Adventure Cycling Association.
    There is a book about the Pacific Coast route called something like Cycling the Pacific Coast Route, which you can find used on Amazon, which will tell you where to stop.
    You can read many, many journals from other cyclists who have done this route at www.crazyguyonabike.com.

  4. #4
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    from a to zzz, it's unanimous, go north to south.

  5. #5
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    North to south also means you have the ocean on your right rather than being between cars and the cliffs

  6. #6
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    Yeah, what they said....

    Take the train, or get a ride to SF, and ride back home to LA

  7. #7
    Senior Member travelmama's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    Definitely ride this route from SF to LA - you have a better chance of having tail winds (instead of headwinds). Also you will be on the Ocean side of the highway, not the inland side.
    Agreed
    Two Wheels One Love

  8. #8
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    I ride from SF (where I live) to LA (where I grew up) annually to visit family and friends. I usually travel in mid-April to try and catch the wildflowers. I've written 2 journals of this trip, my first one and my most recent.

    I usually ride to Laguna Beach and then rent a car for a one-way rental back to SF.

    Some things to keep in mind.

    The wind usually blows from the northwest. But, when a storm is coming in, the wind comes from the south. For much of the ride, there will be limited shelter so if it begins to rain hard, you may have no choice but to keep riding. I once had to ride through a hail storm on the coast north of SF in November for just this reason. This ride would be unpleasant to do in the rain.

    You need to decide how you will deal with Big Sur. It is 30 miles from Carmel to Pfeiffer Big Sur, where you can find food and accommodations (motel/campground) for the night. From there, it is 70 miles to San Simeon with only a couple campgrounds and expensive inns in between. So either you ride 70 miles on January's short days, sleep in an expensive bed, or you camp (rain or shine). On my April rides, I start my day in Carmel (I get a friend to drive me there) and ride to Kirk Creek campground, about 50 miles away where there is a hiker/biker site but no showers.

    While you will pass stores and restaurants every day, they won't always be where you might want them. As a result, you have to decide if you will carry cooking gear. Especially, since it will be cold, you will greatly appreciate a warm meal/beverage before you start and after you end your bike ride for the day.

    In all honesty, if you haven't done any kind of bike touring before, I would suggest you postpone this trip until, at least, mid-April. It will be much more enjoyable as the weather is more predictable, it will be warmer, the days longer, and you won't have to take a extra layer of warm clothes.

    Also, you said "I'm finding it difficult to get any information online". I don't know how you've been conducting your search, but you need to try a bit harder.

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

  9. #9
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    Raybo is right - in winter the weather is iffy - often with a south wind.

    The coast is, most definitely, lovely - but quite raw in the winter.
    You might consider an inland route - at least part of the way.
    The chaparral hills are burnt brown most of the year - but green in winter.

    One possibility is to go via Carrizo National Monument.
    http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/baker...s/carrizo.html
    There's a 20-mile dirt stretch - remote and beautiful.

    If you cut north via Creston to Paso Robles -
    You could visit Mission San Antonio de Padua -
    And still catch the Big Sur coast.

    Most years, the state parks along the coast are closed in winter.
    This year - I'm almost certain they will all be shut down.
    You will have to use BLM & National Forest campsites - or random.

    Best - J

    PS - So, you can actually so south to north in the winter -
    Just be REALLY aware of the weather before you leave.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by joshua.marx View Post
    Hi,

    I am new to these forums and I've looking to get some advice on a ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I've never attempted something this intense on my bike before, but it sounds too fun to pass up. My plan is to go in the last week of January and get a car ride back to LA. I want opinions of routes, places to stay, length of ride, clothing, what to bring. Any advice would be most appreciated as I'm finding it difficult to get any information online. Thank you very much and I look forward to hear your guys stories.
    Here are some ideas on what you might want to take,

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...=packing+lists

    Do you have some compelling reason or reasons for wanting to ride it south-north rather than north-south?

    South-north would be harder during the summer because of the strong afternoon headwinds that would be likely.

    End of January could be very different, though.

    You could watch the weather forecasts at weather.com and elsewhere. Weather in late January is hard to predict this far out; but as it gets closer, you can get a better idea.

    Fenders would probably be good to have if you will be riding in much rain.

    Good rain gear to keep you reasonably dry and warm.

    A non-leaking tent, if you will be camping.

    A way to keep your sleeping bag and some of the other gear dry while on the bike in the rain.

    Some warm gloves if you will be riding on cold mornings. Some way of keeping them dry if you will be riding in rain.

    If you are ready for it, rain doesn't have to be a miserable experience at all. Just be good and ready, and you can enjoy whatever comes along.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Like everybody else, Amtrak to SF and bike back. Try to pick a week in Jan with the best weather prediction. Keep up your food and water supply for the more desolate sections described. Be ready for a couple of long days if you don't want to wild camp. A plus for the coast route in January is there should be much less traffic.

    As for clothing, layers rule. Several in AM, shed as needed. Check out Frogg Togg rain gear. Waterproof, soft, inexpensive, tough. On cold days, couple of med weight layers and Frogg Toggs are probably all you'll need to stay warm. Rain booties to keep your feet dry. Gordini makes good waterproof glooves. For the legs, jeans will keep them warm down to about 40. Or running pants over cycling tights/thermals. Another option I've come to like is my nylon shelled, light weight, fleece lined jacket with a neck guard. Ventilate as needed by just unzipping.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  12. #12
    40 yrs bike touring
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    One caution on the inland route described earlier: The Soda Lake Road that accesses the Carrizo Plain Reserve is a fine clay that is truly impassible in wet weather such as in normal January weather along the Santa Barbara Country \San Luis Obispo County area of the Reserve.
    It is a lovely route as long as the weather and ground are dry.

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    Well thanks. This is way more information than I expected.

    The reason I chose south to north was 1) I am in LA and 2) I have obtained a ride back to LA from SF. But now you guys have me questioning that, especially when I can have the coast directly on my right side. My plan is 7 days at around 60-80miles a day and I kinda have to do it now since I will be moving to New York in March/April and I would love to do this ride before the chance is gone.

    I have a few questions about gear. One of my biggest concerns is packing TOO much gear. I feel like it would be better to pack light and then pick stuff up if I end up needing anything. I won't be that far away from humanity that I can't find a bikeshop, right?! I figure I'll get a rack and two panniers. I was hoping not to use a backpack, but I'd like to get your guys opinion on that. I also imagine that bike shoes are a must. I've never owned a pair and haven't had a problem thus far, but I've also never ridden to San Francisco so perhaps they become imperative?

    Also sleeping. I would like to stay away from campsites even if it sounds like the most fun time. I figure I can cut down on weight (tent/sleeping bag) and I also get to sleep on something that's not the ground in possible rain. It's just going to be more expensive and also someone mentioned that parks might be closed at that time. What you think?

    I really appreciate you guys answering my questions. Thanks a lot.

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    I JUST rode through there last week. Most all campgrounds are open, even through big Sur. $5 hike/bike. DO bring warm clothes because it will get chilly in the evening. Rain was barely a factor. An go N to S

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    Quote Originally Posted by joshua.marx View Post

    I have a few questions about gear. One of my biggest concerns is packing TOO much gear. I feel like it would be better to pack light and then pick stuff up if I end up needing anything. I won't be that far away from humanity that I can't find a bikeshop, right?! I figure I'll get a rack and two panniers. I was hoping not to use a backpack, but I'd like to get your guys opinion on that. I also imagine that bike shoes are a must. I've never owned a pair and haven't had a problem thus far, but I've also never ridden to San Francisco so perhaps they become imperative?
    Depends on where you are when you decide you're missing something. Once you leave Carmel it'll be over 100 miles to the next bike shop in Cambria and pretty long stretches without any services at all. So I'd recommend that you be pretty sure you have everything you need. The same caution applies to finding places to stay along the way. There are some areas without many accommodations so make sure you have your stopping places lined up ahead of time, especially if you're doing this without carrying camping gear. (A big plus for camping gear is that it would allow you to stop almost anywhere in an emergency if you get stuck in a bad storm or have a mechanical problem.)

    I don't like carrying a backpack on long rides at all and find a rack and panniers to be far superior - but some people do find a pack to be ok. The rack/panniers also give you much more flexibility in what you take along and any extras you might want to get. Bike-specific shoes are a little more efficient and comfortable, but I wouldn't consider them essential. I'd suggest getting as much of your gear as possible early so you can do some trial rides carrying and wearing everything you'll have on the trip - not good to have a nasty surprise when you're on the coast and miles from anywhere.

    Be sure to keep an eye on the extended weather forecasts and try to time your trip between storms. Rain in the winter along the coast can be very cold, unpleasant, and dangerous if you're not well-equipped. Also check the CalTrans site before you leave if there's any chance of a road closure on Hwy. 1. Rock slides that close the road aren't uncommon during the rainy season.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    What you are suggesting is what we call a credit card tour. KISS and just ride. All you gotta worry about is staying warm, dry and where's the next food/motel. Nothing wrong with that. Makes for easier miles for sure. A back pack would work, but a couple of small panniers would take a load off your shoulders.

    I don't tour in cycling regalia, so can't help you with stuff you'd find in a local bike shop. I sure would hate to get caught out on the road in a cold rain wondering where the lbs was and hoping they had warm cycling clothes in my size. Best be prepared before you leave.

    Clipless shoes are nice for on the bike. Little more efficient, but a tour is not a race. They are no fun to walk in, and you're off the bike much more than you're on it. Good pair of low quarter hiking shoes work just fine, or running shoes with a solid insert for additional padding.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by joshua.marx View Post
    The reason I chose south to north was 1) I am in LA and 2) I have obtained a ride back to LA from SF. But now you guys have me questioning that, especially when I can have the coast directly on my right side. My plan is 7 days at around 60-80miles a day and I kinda have to do it now since I will be moving to New York in March/April and I would love to do this ride before the chance is gone.
    Riding from SF to LA is a treat in Spring, Summer, or Fall. Winter... perhaps not so much. I did this ride around the middle of September this year. I spent seven days pedaling, took a day off to visit Hearst Castle in San Simeon, and spent a day on the train getting back to the SF Bay Area.

    Despite the generally nice weather, I had a couple of days that were so foggy I rarely saw the sun. Mornings temps were often in the low 50s and stayed that way if the sun didn't manage to burn through the fog. The scenery along the California coast is spectacular... but you may miss large portions of it if the weather doesn't cooperate! In January, I would be prepared to handle temps into the 40s along with rain.

    I divided the trip up as follows:

    Day 1: Home to Santa Cruz, CA. (76mi)
    Day 2: Santa Cruz, CA to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (74mi)
    Day 3: Big Sur to San Simeon, CA. (68mi)
    Day 4: San Simeon to Pismo Beach, CA (55mi)
    Day 5: Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara, CA (90mi)
    Day 6: Santa Barbara to Oxnard, CA (52mi)
    Day 7: Oxnard to Los Angeles, CA (66mi)

    I found that the 75-mile days were just about right for me. I was interested in riding more that sightseeing, so the 50-mile days were a bit too short. The 90-mile day from Pismo to Santa Barbara was a killer! Unseasonably high temps and a long, long stretch of riding without any shade weren't much fun. If I had to do it over again, I'd probably plan on 6 days of riding and I'd try to break up the ride from Pismo Beach to Santa Barabara. I might ride from, say, San Simeon to Lompoc and then from Lompoc to Carpinteria or Ventura.

    I won't be that far away from humanity that I can't find a bikeshop, right?!
    In the middle of Big Sur, you'll be a good 40-50 miles from the closest bike shop.

    I figure I'll get a rack and two panniers. I was hoping not to use a backpack, but I'd like to get your guys opinion on that. I also imagine that bike shoes are a must. I've never owned a pair and haven't had a problem thus far, but I've also never ridden to San Francisco so perhaps they become imperative?
    Sounds to me like you haven't done any touring, correct? I spent 6-8 weeks riding with the bike and gear I planned to take on my tour. How much training time are you planning? For me, there was a big difference between riding around on my normal 17-pound road bike and riding on a 50-pound touring bike. During my training time, I discovered that the gearing I'd originally planned to use (52/39/30 road triple + 12-27 cassette) made the climbs I would encounter pretty difficult. I ended up installing a trekking crank (48/38/26) and am very glad that I did! That's the stuff you want to figure out before you're faced with a day that involves 75 miles of riding and 5000ft of elevation gain...

    Also sleeping. I would like to stay away from campsites even if it sounds like the most fun time. I figure I can cut down on weight (tent/sleeping bag) and I also get to sleep on something that's not the ground in possible rain. It's just going to be more expensive and also someone mentioned that parks might be closed at that time. What you think?
    I stayed in motels and ate at restaurants on my trip in order to be able to carry less gear. Still, I ended up with 22lbs of stuff and a bike that weighed around 52lbs (26lb bike, 22lbs gear, 4.5lbs/68oz water). A decent fraction of the weight I carried (4-5lbs?) was tools and spares that I didn't end up needing. Given the remoteness of certain locations, I couldn't convince myself to leave them behind, however.

    Be aware that staying near the coast can be expensive! Between Monterey/Carmel and San Simeon there aren't many options, and they're all a bit pricey. Try to avoid needing to stay in Gorda or Lucia. I didn't stay in either place, but the accommodations didn't look great. The area around Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is probably your best bet. Ragged Point looked like it might be OK, but if you've made it that far you might as well push on to San Simeon or (preferably) Cambira.

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    This is true that I've never toured before, but I'm most excited about trying this one for my first time. I am looking at changing up my gearing because right now I'm using the stock 52/39 + 12-17. I was hoping I could add a 26 for the triple and be done with it, but I feel like a 52/39/26 is a little ridiculous especially seeing how the 48/28/26 was a happy addition for you sstorkel (a lot of people have similar setups too).

    I think you guys convinced me to go north to south, which means I get to push my trip into February. More rain. I'm definitely getting the ACA maps and buying Bicycling the Pacific Coast. Your route sounds perfect for me sstorkel. I will probably end up using some modified version of that. Thanks

    Training has begun now. And it consists of 30-50miles a day and then I'm going to try to ramp it up to 60 and throw in some hills. Once I get my new equipment Ill add the weight and probably have to re-learn how to bike

    Im getting more and more excited with all this talk.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by joshua.marx View Post
    This is true that I've never toured before, but I'm most excited about trying this one for my first time. I am looking at changing up my gearing because right now I'm using the stock 52/39 + 12-17. I was hoping I could add a 26 for the triple and be done with it, but I feel like a 52/39/26 is a little ridiculous especially seeing how the 48/28/26 was a happy addition for you sstorkel (a lot of people have similar setups too).
    Keep in mind that triple front derailleurs are usually limited to a maximum difference of 22 teeth between the smallest chainring and the largest chainring. So if you need a 26-tooth small ring, you're limited to a 48-tooth large ring. If your bike is currently setup with a double chainring, you'll need a new front derailleur and shifter if you want to install a triple chainring.

    Training has begun now. And it consists of 30-50miles a day and then I'm going to try to ramp it up to 60 and throw in some hills. Once I get my new equipment Ill add the weight and probably have to re-learn how to bike
    If you're going in February, you don't have a whole lot of time to train! If you can ride 30-50 miles without major effort, I'd say it's time to start climbing some hills and adding weight to the bike. Most of my training rides were in the 30-50 mile range. By the time I was ready to leave, I was riding my fully-loaded bike for back-to-back days of 40-50 miles and 4000ft of climbing without feeling exhausted afterward. Once I was fit enough to do that, I knew I could accomplish the distances and climbing I'd planned just by staying on the bike a bit longer.

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    Training: it sounds like you're ready if you can ride 50 miles already. the first day of my first tour was the longest day I'd ever spent in the saddle. Training leading up to that consisted of riding a lot arond town on my fixed gear. The real training occurred on the trip. Six weeks after leaving Seattle I ended up in SF. Did a couple of back to back centuries along the way, but that was all back in 94 when I was younger (sigh).

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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    Keep in mind that triple front derailleurs are usually limited to a maximum difference of 22 teeth between the smallest chainring and the largest chainring. So if you need a 26-tooth small ring, you're limited to a 48-tooth large ring. If your bike is currently setup with a double chainring, you'll need a new front derailleur and shifter if you want to install a triple chainring.
    I didn't know about that 22 max teeth on a triple derailleur. That's upsetting as I was planning on a simple upgrade. Hopefully it won't be too bad. I was going to pick up an Ultegra 6603 on ebay for around $40 and I'm pretty sure that my 105 shifters are double/triple compatible so that shouldn't be a huge problem.

    Silly question: How possible would it be to ride if I kept my double crankset?

  22. #22
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    I wouldn't worry too much about the 22 max teeth difference. I put a 26 granny gear on my standard triple 52-42-26 Tiagra and it shifts perfectly. I have a mountain cassette to 34 on the rear. Plenty of gear inches for every condition.
    Hockey

  23. #23
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joshua.marx View Post
    Silly question: How possible would it be to ride if I kept my double crankset?
    Credit card tour, young, strong, good lungs? Go for it. Ppl tour cross country on single speeds. Should be no problem.

    I(old, poor lungs)covered Big Sur area with 75 lbs, bike and gear, with no trouble other than 40 mph winds. Did have a 26/32 combo.
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    Quote Originally Posted by joshua.marx View Post
    I didn't know about that 22 max teeth on a triple derailleur. That's upsetting as I was planning on a simple upgrade. Hopefully it won't be too bad. I was going to pick up an Ultegra 6603 on ebay for around $40 and I'm pretty sure that my 105 shifters are double/triple compatible so that shouldn't be a huge problem.
    If your bike has a double chainring setup at the moment, I can pretty much guarantee that your shift levers won't work with a triple chainring/derailleur setup. Shimano, as far as I know, doesn't produce any levers that work with both double- and triple-chainring setups; their levers are either one or the other.

    Silly question: How possible would it be to ride if I kept my double crankset?
    This is a question that only you can answer. How strong are you? How much gear will you carry?

    Most likely, you'll find that it's possible but perhaps not exactly pleasant. You can, for example, always push the bike up hills if your gearing won't allow you to pedal to the top. For myself, I found that 53/39/30 + 12-27 cassette worked but I was pfretty tired at the end of most training rides. Switching to 48/38/26 + 12-27 cassette made things just enough easier that I could enjoy the trip rather than merely survive it.

    My advice is to buy whatever racks/panniers/saddlebags you think you'll use, load them with 15-20lbs of stuff, do some hilly rides, and see how you feel. You should know pretty quickly whether the double chainring setup will work for you...

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    Quote Originally Posted by joshua.marx View Post
    Silly question: How possible would it be to ride if I kept my double crankset?
    Your current double should work fine if you got a wider range cluster in the back. One of the bikes I've used for camping tours down the coast has 52/39 in the front, but I went to a 13-30 cluster in the back to get some lower gearing. That's also likely to require you to change out your current rear derailleur with one designed for the wider range as well as putting on a longer chain.

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