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  1. #1
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    Route Questions - San Jose to Big Sur

    I am planning a bike tour in a few weeks from San Jose (Campbell, CA actually) down the coast to Orange County along the coast and I am trying to solicit some advice from people here who have done this trip before. The challenge I have is to cover with a touring bike about 100 miles each day, so that I can cover the 500 mile distance in about 5 days. Because of the distance, even small efficiencies and and short-cuts are important, hence, my questions here. I have several questions and I'll begin by posting my first question in this thread.

    My first question is what people's experiences have been finding the best route from San Jose to Big Sur, if you have done this route before. I'm entertaining two different options:

    1. From San Jose, follow the bike route till the Lexington Reservoir lake south of Los Gatos and from there using the Old Santa Cruz Hwy and Summit Rd (over the mtns), Soquel San Jose Rd, Soquel Dr, San Andreas Rd, and Cabrillo Hwy which will lead to Big Sur.

    2. Avoid the mtns altogether, by roughly following the 101 till about Gilroy, break west on Chittenden Rd/Riverside Rd to Watsonville till I meet with Cabrillo Hwy there. There's a stretch though between Gilroy and Chittenden Rd where there are no surface street (only the 101 fwy) unless I make a big circle around, like using Bolsa and San Juan Hwy.

    The first option seems to have less traffic, but some 1000 ft climbs, while the second option has no climbs, but more traffic and it's probably more hot. I am leaning towards option 1, but I'd appreciate some advice and thoughts to see what worked for you bike tourers out there. Or, if you have any other ideas of routes that I can take that I haven't thought about it before, I'd really appreciate your insights!

    Thanks so much in advance!

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    I used to live in Santa Cruz, and your option 1 is what I would do. I've done it in the other direction, it's a lovely little steep mountain road with minimal traffic.

    Haven't done the other option. Sounds like a LOT of traffic to me.

    You could see if the Hwy 17 commuter bus could help out too, if you really need to get outta dodge asap.
    ...

  3. #3
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    +1 option 1....also another option, instead of old san jose rd you could take summit to highland>eureka cnyn>corralitos>into watsonville and hook up w/the 1 there.

    i think, there really isn't an option on bolsa you can access from the southern end of gilroy, you have to do some funky criss-crossing to hollister/san juan bautista to get back over to riverside/129. the 129 is pretty narrow, lacks a large shoulder going west from 101. if you end up goin that way, take anzar rd into aromas and make your way back over to the coast. not a bad ride either, there's a really nice bike/mut (coyote creek trail) that runs from s.san jose to morgan hill that you can probably hook up from other mut's in campbell.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cieous View Post
    I am planning a bike tour in a few weeks from San Jose (Campbell, CA actually) down the coast to Orange County along the coast and I am trying to solicit some advice from people here who have done this trip before. The challenge I have is to cover with a touring bike about 100 miles each day, so that I can cover the 500 mile distance in about 5 days. Because of the distance, even small efficiencies and and short-cuts are important, hence, my questions here.
    I hope you're planning to travel light and ride fast! Days are quickly getting shorter and 100 miles is a lot of ground to cover each day. If you average 10mph, which is pretty common on a loaded bike, you'll be pedaling for 10 hours each day. With around 12 hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset, you don't have much time to rest, take pictures, or deal with any difficulties that might arise. I'm thinking about riding from the Bay Area to Los Angeles next week, but I'm planning to take six days to do it. On the days with lots of climbing, I'm shooting for around 70-75 miles of travel. Only one long (~100mi) day at the end and it's relatively flat...

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    Option 1 is by far the better route to take. Here's a shortcut to help you out if you take that route:

    When you get to the top of Lexington Dam (after riding up the gravel trail) hang a right on Alma Bridge road. Just before it looks like you'll have to get on the highway, cut across the street onto a wide single track trail (zoom in close enough in Google maps to see the dashed line for the trail) that skirts the reservoir and spits you out on Old Santa Cruz highway. That'll save you some time going over a ton of rollers around the reservoir.

    I'd also recommend descending Soquel San Jose Road instead of Eureka Canyon road. While Eureka Canyon is beautiful, the road is really rough and windy. Soquel San Jose has more traffic but the road is smooth and fast.

    Enjoy your trip.

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    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    I realize this wasn't your question but I'd think twice about doing 500 touring miles in five days unless you can answer yes to at least two of the following:

    1. I have lots of touring experience
    2. I'm packing ultra-light
    3. I'm under 25 years old
    4. I'm a very fit cyclist
    5. I'm a masochist
    Last edited by BigAura; 09-16-11 at 09:26 AM.

  7. #7
    The Left Coast, USA FrenchFit's Avatar
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    In terms of duration/attitude I'll chime in that I found riding the coast roads very unpleasant. I don't mind sharing the road with cars and trucks, but you are riding next to traffic doing 50+ in some areas..and then there are the farm trucks. Add in crosswinds and not the world's most skilled drivers...I can't say there were many relaxing or easy miles. Hope your ride will be different.

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    Quote Originally Posted by niknak View Post
    Option 1 is by far the better route to take. Here's a shortcut to help you out if you take that route:

    When you get to the top of Lexington Dam (after riding up the gravel trail) hang a right on Alma Bridge road. Just before it looks like you'll have to get on the highway, cut across the street onto a wide single track trail (zoom in close enough in Google maps to see the dashed line for the trail) that skirts the reservoir and spits you out on Old Santa Cruz highway. That'll save you some time going over a ton of rollers around the reservoir.

    I'd also recommend descending Soquel San Jose Road instead of Eureka Canyon road. While Eureka Canyon is beautiful, the road is really rough and windy. Soquel San Jose has more traffic but the road is smooth and fast.

    Enjoy your trip.

    Niknak,

    Thank you for your very helpful comment. You answered two critical questions I had about that trip. I was wondering how the road was around the Lexington reservoir. But I can see from the map that Alma Bridge road is -- albeit longer -- more flat, saving precious energy for the climb up Old Santa Cruz.

    I was also wondering what to take Eureka Canyon Rd or Soquel San Jose. It seems the latter is recommended since the road is smoother, although it has more traffic.

    Due to scheduling conflicts and logistical challenges, my trip got postpone to spring next year, but this insight will help me a great deal to plan the trip better.

    Thanks again.

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    Valeygrl,

    I think you are definitely right, option 1 sounds far more appealing to me as well. It appears to me that going north-south has a steeper climb but is relatively short, compared to the other way around, south-north, which you seemed to have taken in the past. Going south-north seems less steep, but the climb seems much longer.

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    Sstorkel,

    Good luck with your trip! Hope everything will work out for you. Due to scheduling and logistical problems, I was forced to postpone my trip to next year. So I will be going spring next year instead. I look forward to seeing pictures and perhaps get a first hand account from you about the conditions you have encountered. Where are you planning to post your travel report? Would love to read your trip report.

    I usually do only 100+ mile rides/tours, and yes, I ride usually light (no panniers) and about 10-15 mph and take only few breaks. A riding day for me typically takes about 12 hours, with 10 hours riding time and 2 hours break time spread across the day. I also don't take a big lunch breaks, but instead, spread out my food and my breaks throughout the day -- by eating essentially a bit at a time throughout the entire day and stopping for only about 15 mins every 20 miles. I noticed that this keeps sugar and energy level constant, and hence allows me to perform more consistently throughout the day. So I noticed that riding centuries is very different than riding, say, 70-75 miles and how you manage your energy level early on, makes a world of difference being able to cover the last 20 miles, which is obviously always the hardest. On top of that, I am equipped riding in pitch darkness have front bicycle 3 lights, should I get delayed and have to arrive late at night.

  11. #11
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    Big Aura,

    I have done many century rides before. Indeed, most rides I completed in the past are 100 miles or more. For example, last year I rode from LA to Las Vegas through the Mojave desert (366 miles) in 3 days on a bicycle far less equipped than the one I am riding today - through vast regions with absolutely nothing, not even cell-phone reception. The way I see, riding along the coast, I am encountering at least fellow bikers and civilizations. When I rode through the desert -- I didn't encounter a single bicyclist.

    So, I think I'm able to answer YES to at least 4 questions that you asked. I'll leave it up to you for you to figure out which ones I answered "No" to.

    Good luck with your current ride!

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    Frenchfit,

    Yes, I am keenly aware of the conditions at the coast, although I have much more to learn and continue to learn from others who have made the trip. At least in my experience, I think preparation makes a world of difference and even more important if you have more miles to cover in a day. What time of the year did you make the trip? What distance did you cover during your trip? Do you have a blog or site where I can read about your trip?

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    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cieous View Post
    So, I think I'm able to answer YES to at least 4 questions that you asked.
    You're good then. Best of luck.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FrenchFit View Post
    In terms of duration/attitude I'll chime in that I found riding the coast roads very unpleasant. I don't mind sharing the road with cars and trucks, but you are riding next to traffic doing 50+ in some areas..and then there are the farm trucks. Add in crosswinds and not the world's most skilled drivers...I can't say there were many relaxing or easy miles. Hope your ride will be different.
    I would have to disagree with this assessment. I rode from SF to LA post-Labor Day a couple of years ago. Traffic on the majority of the coast was relatively light. Riding along Highway 101 from Gaviota State Park to Santa Barbara was annoying, but mostly due to the noise and exhaust fumes; the shoulder is very large so you're never very close to the cars. PCH through the eastern part of Malibu was a little scary; very little room to squeeze between all of the parked cars and traffic whizzing by at 55+mph! Luckily, that section doesn't last for too long...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    I would have to disagree with this assessment. I rode from SF to LA post-Labor Day a couple of years ago. Traffic on the majority of the coast was relatively light. Riding along Highway 101 from Gaviota State Park to Santa Barbara was annoying, but mostly due to the noise and exhaust fumes; the shoulder is very large so you're never very close to the cars. PCH through the eastern part of Malibu was a little scary; very little room to squeeze between all of the parked cars and traffic whizzing by at 55+mph! Luckily, that section doesn't last for too long...

    I was wondering about that section, by the way, btw Gaviota State Park to Santa Barbara. It seems there's a wide shoulder, which is good, except some bridges, which seem to have no shoulder at all. Is that what you encountered as well (no shoulder on bridges)?

    I also had a concern about riding along the PCH and I rode a piece of that just few weeks before labor day. I'm thinking of riding through the valley to avoid all the traffic.

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    The valley? You mean, like, oh my god, gag me with a spoon, *the valley*, I'm so sure!!! j/k

    If you are looking at San Marcos Pass, get some local info about that first, i heard it's pretty hairball, haven't ridden it.

    I've ridden the 101 north of SB in both directions, and never felt wigged about it - the tunnel was a bit gripping, but it's like 200 feet long - you can just time it between semi's and sprint - and it's only on the northbound side, so you won't even ride through it.

    Gaviota SP to SB is a non-issue. There is some bike path, some highway (with decent shoulder) and some city/suburban surface street as you get closer in. No big deal.
    ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cieous View Post
    I was wondering about that section, by the way, btw Gaviota State Park to Santa Barbara. It seems there's a wide shoulder, which is good, except some bridges, which seem to have no shoulder at all. Is that what you encountered as well (no shoulder on bridges)?
    Honestly, I don't remember any bridges... Looking at Google Street View, I only see one short bridge that might be an issue. Looks like you can use Arroyo Quemada Ln. to ride around it, if necessary. By the time you've ridden through Big Sur, you probably won't be phased by it, however.

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