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  1. #1
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    Help needed, first tour in California. LA-SF-Yosemite-LA

    Hi everyone. I just came across this great site, but unfortunately I thinks it is hard to get hold of all the information and tips and tricks. Therefore i post this, to seek your guidance and help.
    I live in the country of bicycles, Denmark, and I really love cycling. Furthermore I do alot of triathlon and are in good shape, both on and off the bike.
    Im going on exchange in Madison, Wisconsin for half a year, but first I plan on going on a tour around California. I have a budget of around 2000, and I hope that will be suffecient for buying a bike, supplies and food. I will do around 75-100 miles a day, and will spend a few days in SF, Yosemite and LA when I get there.
    I plan on renting/buying a bike when I get there, on craigslist or something like that. A fast, light roadbike, instead of a heavy more stable mtb or hybrid. I plan on camping along the way with a small tent and a sleeping bag. And my first couple of questions is:
    1: If im packing very light, which alternative is there to the panniers? They seem too heavy and uncomfortable.
    2: Would you recommend Hike or bike campsites, regular campsites or just finding a good spot? (Or just to find a cheap motel?)
    3: Can it be done on a light roadbike, or will i get to many flat tires etc?

    I've now come across ALOT of routes between SF and LA, but not exactly the one I need, from LA to Sf, and from SF to Yosemite, aaand from Yosemite back to LA. Any suggestions?

    In general I need a lot of tips and tricks on how to get the smoothest ride and finding the right route.
    Any help will be grealy appreciated. Also links to other threads.

    Thank you very much.
    Anders.

  2. #2
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    The first suggestion I have is to do the loop in the opposite direction - i.e. use the coast route (with pretty consistent north-south winds) from SF to LA and go north inland (LA to Yosemite and Yosemite to SF) where the winds are less consistent. In addition, the views along the coast are much better when going north to south. The problem for cyclists using regular campsites is that they are frequently sold out long in advance and it's hard to plan your trip so precisely to make reservations so far ahead of time since weather, physical issues, etc. can change your planned daily mileage. Sometimes you can roll through a campground and see if there's someone who will be willing to share their site with you, but otherwise the Hike&Bike sites are preferred. They also usually charge $5/person as opposed to around $30 for a regular site. I've done a few rides from the East Bay outside SF to Yosemite and could send you a route sheet from that ride if you wish.

    In response to your other questions, you can pack your things in light stuffsacks and mount them in various places - on handlebars, within the bike frame triangle, behind the seat, etc. Personally I don't see the advantage relative to fairly light panniers and the panniers come off/on the bike in seconds when I want to take them into my tent or with me into a store. And it's certainly fine to use a light road bike although the tire width may change your best options for the roads to use. The Hwy. 1 coast route is fine with narrow tires, but some potential routes inland might be better with somewhat wider ones.
    Last edited by prathmann; 07-13-14 at 09:34 AM.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndersRingstrom View Post
    I plan on renting/buying a bike when I get there, on craigslist or something like that. A fast, light roadbike, instead of a heavy more stable mtb or hybrid. I plan on camping along the way with a small tent and a sleeping bag.
    Finding a suitable bike on Craig's List might take time. Rentals will be expensive and may have restrictions (example: you can't attach racks or trailers to the bike). When I rode from San Francisco to Los Angeles back in 2009, I ran into a Dane who'd flown over to ride the Pacific Coast Route. He told me that he'd ordered a bike from Bikes Direct and had it shipped to the hotel where he spent the first few days. He carried all of his gear on a trailer. I think he told me he bought the trailer at REI. They're a chain of stores that sells equipment for outdoor sports like camping, backpacking, hiking, bicycling, skiing, etc.

    And my first couple of questions is:
    1: If im packing very light, which alternative is there to the panniers? They seem too heavy and uncomfortable.
    Panniers are only heavy if you pack a lot of stuff! Alternatives would include pulling a trailer, wearing a backpack, or using a saddlebag (example: Carradice). Which method you choose probably depends on how much gear you plan to carry.

    2: Would you recommend Hike or bike campsites, regular campsites or just finding a good spot? (Or just to find a cheap motel?)
    If you're the type who likes to camp, then I would suggest using the Hiker Biker campsites. If you haven't camped (or toured) before or just don't like the hassle of camping then plan to stay in motels. The coast is quite popular, so you may need to make motel reservations in advance depending on when you plan to travel. On the coast route, accommodations in the Big Sur area will be expensive, unfortunately. Elsewhere on the coast you can usually find something for a reasonable (US$40-60/night) rate. Accommodations near Yosemite will likely be similarly expensive.

    3: Can it be done on a light roadbike, or will i get to many flat tires etc?
    If you can figure out a way to carry all of your gear, there's no reason the trip can't be done on a road bike. If you're worried about flat tires, bring or buy a set of flat-resistant tires (example: Continental Gatorskin, Specialized Armadillo, Bontrager Hard-Case).

    I've now come across ALOT of routes between SF and LA, but not exactly the one I need, from LA to Sf, and from SF to Yosemite, aaand from Yosemite back to LA. Any suggestions?
    As prathman has already mentioned, the route between San Francisco and Los Angeles is much more pleasant if ridden from north to south. I think the best route would be Los Angeles to Yosemite to San Francisco to Los Angeles. Or alternatively, do SF to Yosemite to SF and then SF to LA. The cheapest way to move yourself and a bicycle long distances is the Amtrak train system. Tickets are relatively inexpensive (LA to SF was $60 in 2009) and bringing a bicycle used to cost $15 (= $5 for the bicycle plus $10 for a cardboard bicycle box).

    As far as routes go, I'd suggest taking a look at the Adventure Cycling Association's routes. Their Sierra Cascades route will get you from near Los Angeles to Yosemite and the Pacific Coast Route connects San Francisco and L.A. You can find suggestions for linking SF and Yosemite on BikeForums. Here's a route to the Yosemite high country or if you want to end up in Yosemite Valley use one of jamawani's routes.

  4. #4
    40 yrs bike touring
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    When will you be touring and how much time do you have for the tour? The time of year is important for recommending equipment and routes.

  5. #5
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    People tour on road bikes **, if you buy tires with puncture resistant features they will flat less but weigh more .

    bring spending money to replace parts that are not up to the job .. good luck .

    ** BoB trailers solve the rack fit problems , you wont need any.

  6. #6
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    I did a version of this tour many years ago. As others have suggested, we went a reversed route. We started in LA and went North up the coast to San Luis Obispo, then headed inland across the central valley to Fresno and then up Hwy. 41 into Yosemite. After a few days in yosemite, headed out along the Merced river and back across the valley and into SF. From SF, South along the coast back to LA. We did the trip in Summer so we wanted to maximize our time on the cooler coast and yosemite. The central valley is hot and pretty uninteresting cycling. An option might be to take the Amtrak from LA to San Luis Obispo, start there and eliminate the duplicate southern coast route.

  7. #7
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    If you are going this year I can give you a place to hang out a couple of days and clean up. However, after the beginning of spring next year I'll be doing the same thing as you (touring). Let me know. I live in Oakdale, along Highway 120 west of Yosemite.
    Last edited by Louis Le Tour; 07-15-14 at 08:10 PM.

  8. #8
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    Thanks everyone. I will go the other way around, and will just bring a bagpack and a little saddlebag. hope it will fit.
    thanks for the tip with the bikes, that site looks great.
    I will be taking off mid August, and will be spending 3 weeks on the road.

  9. #9
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    You may want to look into taking Amtrak train from LA to Merced, then the Amtrak Bus to Yosemite Valley. This will avoid much flat, hot, boring riding up to Yosemite. You can stay one night in the Backpacker's camp at North Pines in the valley for a few dollars, though many people unofficially extend the stay. From Yosemite, head over Tioga Pass (if it's too much, there's a bus that will take you and your bike over it) and head up toward Lake Tahoe along the east side of the Sierra. There's quite a few hike and bike sites in the Tahoe region. From there, depending on how much time you have left, you can head toward SF or explore northwards in the mountains before turning back west.

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