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  1. #1
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    Cycling the Pacific Coast (Vancouver-San Diego)

    I know a lot has been posted on this message board about this route, but I'm looking for some more specific answers, and am a little lazy about searching through message boards.

    Anyways, I'm planning a tour down the west coast (probably following primarily the Adventure Cycling maps) from late May to late June, this year. It will be fully self-supported, with primarily (if not all) camping. I'm 22 and in realtively good shape (planning on using the next few months to get in better shape), and am going with a friend who is about the same. Neither of us have any experience with touring.

    Now to the questions - feel free to answer as many as you'd like!
    -How much money should we be looking to spend a day, including food costs, camping costs, other incidentals

    -We feel confident in our riding abilities (even though we haven't ridden a ton in our lifetimes), and are planning to average between 75 and 100 miles a day, with maybe a day off a week...this may sound a little high for "beginniners", but we feel we could manage this for just the few weeks. From your experiences, based on your tours, the terrain, etc., is this reasonable?

    -The Adventure Cycling route takes you on the PCH for a lot of the ride, and from my experiences on it and from what I've heard, this does not sound like the most "conducive" place to cycle, especially on the right side of the road! What are your thoughts on this, and possible alternatives?

    -As beginners, looking to do this quick tour, what other things should we be considering and planning for now?

    Thanks a ton for whatever help you can give!!!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinSherm
    I know a lot has been posted on this message board about this route, but I'm looking for some more specific answers, and am a little lazy about searching through message boards.

    Anyways, I'm planning a tour down the west coast (probably following primarily the Adventure Cycling maps) from late May to late June, this year. It will be fully self-supported, with primarily (if not all) camping. I'm 22 and in realtively good shape (planning on using the next few months to get in better shape), and am going with a friend who is about the same. Neither of us have any experience with touring.

    Now to the questions - feel free to answer as many as you'd like!
    -How much money should we be looking to spend a day, including food costs, camping costs, other incidentals

    -We feel confident in our riding abilities (even though we haven't ridden a ton in our lifetimes), and are planning to average between 75 and 100 miles a day, with maybe a day off a week...this may sound a little high for "beginniners", but we feel we could manage this for just the few weeks. From your experiences, based on your tours, the terrain, etc., is this reasonable?

    -The Adventure Cycling route takes you on the PCH for a lot of the ride, and from my experiences on it and from what I've heard, this does not sound like the most "conducive" place to cycle, especially on the right side of the road! What are your thoughts on this, and possible alternatives?

    -As beginners, looking to do this quick tour, what other things should we be considering and planning for now?

    Thanks a ton for whatever help you can give!!!
    I have done the route from SF to SD, so I may be of assistance.
    First: I't seems like a month might be a bit short to complete the distance. I met some very experienced German guys who were covering it in 6 weeks, and at least one of them was very unhappy that they didn't give themselves more time. They were putting in close to 100 miles every day, and not stopping to "smell the roses" as there was no time.

    -Figure $20-$40 a day. The $40 would be the high mark, like, if you wanted to do a motel or something once a week (highly recommended). $20 is eating well and paying the $2-$3 hiker/biker camping fee.

    -Your pace probably won't be realized in the first week or two. One week for the hellish acclimation period, and the other to get you up to optimal pace.

    -I found PCH south of SF to be very rideable, with the exception of Devil's Pass and a very scary but short bridge around Pismo Beach. At that time of year, you can also pretty much count on tailwinds the whole way. Watch for RV's in Big Sur. Otherwise, no problems, and damn scenic.

    -You should be getting your bike and gear in shape and fool-proof over the coming weeks. This means understanding how to fix minor problems in a flash, making sure your panniers (or BOB) are well-fitted for your bike, and most important if you want to have a decent start- training! Load your bike and ride, so you and your bike have an idea what to expect.

    This is a great route for beginners, so enjoy. My last suggestion, again, is to give yourself more time to enjoy yourself, or keep your eye on the train routes in case you have to abort tour and head for SD.
    Have fun!
    Go big.

  3. #3
    Senior Member jnoble123's Avatar
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    Hi!

    I haven't ridden this route myself, yet, but Stephen Lord has and he wrote about it on the Bicycle Touring 101 web site.

    http://www.bicycletouring101.com/PlacesWestCoastUSA.htm

    His route starts in Alaska and ends in Mexico. He does interupt his cycling with a ferry ride so he does miss a bit of your route.

    I hope this helps and that you have fun!

    ~Jamie N
    www.bicycletouring101.com

  4. #4
    Senior Member denisegoldberg's Avatar
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    There are a number of journals on crazyguyonabike from folks who traveled down the Pacific Coast. You should be able to find answers to many of your questions there.

    Click here for the list of Pacific Coast journals.

  5. #5
    Sore saddle cyclist Shifty's Avatar
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    I'd start and end your tour with this book "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" by Tom Kirkendall and Vicky Spring. This book is all you need. It has day by day maps with profile charts built in, and best of all, they show you the little side roads that are alternatives to the busy stretches of PCH. The text format is narative with a mileage log.
    It will be the best $15 bucks you spend on the tour, an investment that will pay a handsome ROI. Get it at Amazon.com, or REI.com. It's a nice sized book and will fit in you handlebar bag for quick reference.

    One other tip: The Otis Cafe in Otis Oregon. Between Neskowin and Lincoln City (about one mile off PCH). If you're not hungry when you go by, sit down and wait until you are, it's that good!

    Happy Trails to you!!
    Those voices in your head aren't real, but they have some great ideas

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    The entire coast u plan on riding shouldn't be done at a rate of 75-100 MPD.. Far to much to see and enjoy. One day rest a week and you aren't experiencing the beauty of it at all. Slo down and enjoy the Oregon coast, the redwoods in NORCAL, the Lost Coast,Muir Woods, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterey, U have to stop regularly along the Big Sur coast, to hustle thru without seeing it u may as well travel 101 instead of PCH.
    The above book mentioned still is the bible for PCH travel

    Slow down, enjoy the journey

  7. #7
    Stand For Something mntbikedude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shifty
    I'd start and end your tour with this book "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" by Tom Kirkendall and Vicky Spring. This book is all you need. It has day by day maps with profile charts built in, and best of all, they show you the little side roads that are alternatives to the busy stretches of PCH. The text format is narative with a mileage log.
    It will be the best $15 bucks you spend on the tour, an investment that will pay a handsome ROI. Get it at Amazon.com, or REI.com. It's a nice sized book and will fit in you handlebar bag for quick reference.

    One other tip: The Otis Cafe in Otis Oregon. Between Neskowin and Lincoln City (about one mile off PCH). If you're not hungry when you go by, sit down and wait until you are, it's that good!

    Happy Trails to you!!
    Yes I totally agree with this. I have done the route from Victoria BC to Calif. Last year and the oregon coast in 2002. We figured it like this 4 bucks a night camping 15.00 for breakfast 12. for lunch and dinner. Thats because we usually ate out for breakfast just because it seemed that we couldn't prepare enough at camp to keep us fueled. Lunch and dinner we usually prepared ourselves hence the much reduced cost. When you look over the route feel free to as specific questions about certain questions you would have.

  8. #8
    Stand For Something mntbikedude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Travelinguyrt
    The entire coast u plan on riding shouldn't be done at a rate of 75-100 MPD.. Far to much to see and enjoy. One day rest a week and you aren't experiencing the beauty of it at all. Slo down and enjoy the Oregon coast, the redwoods in NORCAL, the Lost Coast,Muir Woods, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterey, U have to stop regularly along the Big Sur coast, to hustle thru without seeing it u may as well travel 101 instead of PCH.
    The above book mentioned still is the bible for PCH travel

    Slow down, enjoy the journey
    Thats exactly how I feel about that rate on this route. I rode this with my son and another father and son. The first time we did it we had some 70 mile days to get to our destination. I decided that this time we would not have a deadline to meet. We still ave 50 mile days and there were times that I still thought we should slow down. I would not try and set up rest days. Rather I would figure in extra time if you get to a spot that you know you should just hang out at. This year we should have spent the day at Cannon Beach the weather was perfection and I swear the water was warm. But we rode on. The day we actualy stopped was raining and we just hunkered down bored for the afternoon. We should have kept riding that day.

    MBD

  9. #9
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    In Santa Cruz make sure u ride the big wood roller coaster
    In Monterey, the aquarium
    In Carmel, walk a round, to kitchy cute for me but worth a few hours, there is a great restaurant nr the post office, a womans name I think, that serves GREAT breakfast
    The rest of the coast south is a true mind blower
    Have your pic taken a bit farther south with the Bixby Bridge in the back ground
    Hearst Castle at San Simeon worth half a day, see what all those 2 penny newspapers paid for a 100 years ago
    San Francisco? need pages for that place
    But try to ride to the top of the overlook just north of THE BRIDGE, ride down the back side, AND watch the hawks soar, I watched one last visit for at least 10 minutes and he never moved his wings
    Wish I lived out there so I could do that ride more often

  10. #10
    Quietly Desperate Kodama's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shifty
    I'd start and end your tour with this book "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" by Tom Kirkendall and Vicky Spring. This book is all you need. It has day by day maps with profile charts built in, and best of all, they show you the little side roads that are alternatives to the busy stretches of PCH. The text format is narative with a mileage log.
    This is the canonical guide and is also good read for those of us whose PC tours are in the future. One thing I thought I'd mention is that the (needed) fourth edition has just come out. So far I have only seen it at the online Mountaineers Books shop. Worth ordering it from them until it appears at the other shops. Beware of places ditching the old versions.

    on edit:
    Actually looks like this is now at Amazon (wasn't as of last week)
    "The true traveller is without goal, it is the absence of goals which creates the ultimate traveller."
    - Gao Xingjian 'Soul Mountain'

  11. #11
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    Many books written on the subject, but I would stick to reading maps and allow yourself . I did this ride from Vancouver to San Fran in 2002 and had a blast. Best ride ever. Managed to get by on $20 a day plus incidentals but then again I'm kind of cheap; camping, buying groceries for 1-2 meals a day, etc.
    I was in pretty good shape and I had a fast bike, packed VERY sparingly but still, my best day was about 90 miles. averaging about 70 for the others. Part of that is from stopping so often to swim or explore, or just to lay on the beach or hang out with the locals. The trip as you planned it, an all-out burn, is possible for a strong cyclist but I'd recommend taking it easy.
    PCH is the best road, no doubt. there's a wide shoulder on the southbound side for virtually the whole thing and with the exception of a few sidetrips, I wouldn't get off it at all, (especially since there's usually no other option) The terrain is not too difficult - I don't think there's a climb over 1000 feet the whole way and most of it is rolling/gentle hills until you get right down to the ocean in which case, steep climbs are pretty much unavoidable.
    Here's a tip - To mix up the scenery a little and get off the beaten cycle path, follow the central valley in Washington State and cross the Columbia river at Kelso/Longview. Follow Hwy 30 to Clatskanie, Oregon and then take the road over the pass to Mist, and follow the Nehalem river road all the way to Cannon Beach and the Pacific Ocean. It's shorter than going to the coast in Washington and by the time you get to San Diego, you'll have seen enough of the coast.
    I've got lots of tips, just IM me.

  12. #12
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    Thanks to everyone for your great advice so far! From what it sounds like to me, 75-100 miles a day may be doable (sounds like probably closer to the 75 would be more doable), but doing so wouldn't allow us to spend the time to actually enjoy the places we're visiting.

    Based on everyone's advice, we are still planning on doing the trip in 4 weeks, but are ok with the idea of finding alternate transportation to San Diego if we do not make it all the way. With this in mind, is there any place on the route that we have to see, whether by bike or by car? Or is there a part of the route that we should aim to at least make it to on our bikes? We're probably going to be starting our trip in Seattle now (because of time and cost issues), so from there, what parts shouldn't we miss?

    Thanks for all your help so far, and continue to give whatever additional help you can! I love hearing about all your experiences!

  13. #13
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    I did this ride last September and it was fantastic. I have written a detailed account on my website if you are interested. I covered an average of 95 miles a day although my longest was 143 miles between LA and San Diego.

  14. #14
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    What's your hurry? 75-100 miles a day is far too much for an experienced tourer (at least one that want to see something) let alone a beginner. And don't under estimate the PCH. It can be a difficult road with lots of climbs.

    Believe me, you are going to find that you will want to stop every 100 yards.

    IMHO there is zero reason to pass San Luis Opisbo other than to get from one place to the other. All the fun pretty much ends in SLO.

    Food not to miss:

    Turkey sandwich at Arguello Supermarket in SFO near the Golden Gate Park.

    Breakfast at the Halfmoon Bay airport.

    Burrito lunch at La Haut Enchilada in Moss Landing.
    Last edited by spinnaker; 09-26-10 at 02:12 PM.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

    Albert Einstein

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    I didn't find the route particularly hard. There are some long hills but there is nothing that is excessively steep so you are able to just select a low gear and spin your way up. There are constant hills between Monterey and Cambria and I found this stretch hard but other than that I would describe the terrain as flat to rolling. Once you are past Santa Barbara then it is almost pancake flat all the way to San Diego.

    You will hopefully also be able to take advantage of the prevailing wind, which blows from north to south and this makes riding a lot easier.

    You will be spending a lot of hours in the saddle riding 75-100 miles a day I personally enjoyed the long days on the bike.

  16. #16
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    Hi tridantri, welcome to the touring forum. Please in the future do not revive a 5 year old thread! Go ahead and start a new one.
    ...

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