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Looking for advice on a long tour from the Central Valley to San Diego

Old 05-06-15, 06:14 PM
  #1  
Dranix
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Looking for advice on a long tour from the Central Valley to San Diego

I recently decided that I am going to do something crazy. After not being on a bike for more than 5 minutes in over 13 years, I have decided I want to train to ride a bike from the Central Valley to San Diego. I have a lot of questions and I am hoping some of you can help me with the logistics of it all.
First of all, I will not be doing this for about a year as I need to train my mind and my body to take on this challenge. I already have someone who is willing to train and go with me. Right now I am in the preliminary planning stages since that is all I can do until I actually get a bike (which will be happening very soon). I will be leaving from Fresno more than likely and I was thinking of taking the route via CA-43 S and CA-138 E since the other routes seem to have restricted access roads involved.
I was first wondering if anyone on here has ridden this route or parts of it and if they have any pointers for me. Second, does anyone have any good places that are around the Madera or Merced areas where I can do some training that has a similar incline to any of the harder points along the route? Also does anyone have any idea what the grades are for that area? Thank you so much for your help!
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Old 05-06-15, 10:00 PM
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I am not familiar with Central Valley routes, but the 138 E part is not a very good idea, there is quite a bit of traffic (you'll even end up riding on the freeway shoulder) and the overall route is a lot harder than it has to be (lots and lots of climbing). Not to mention serious weather challenges (if you do it in summer, it'll likely be highs in the 100's and that's NOT fun if you're on the bike.)

For me the most natural route starting from Fresno is to take 41 to San Louis Obispo (possibly with some detours to avoid bad parts of the route) and then to take CA-1 / PCH to San Diego. Haven't been on the 41, but 1 is pretty decent most of the way (I think I've personally ridden about half the mileage between SLO and San Diego, at one time or another.)

One easy tool that you can use to plan the trip is Google Street View. Look at the width of the shoulder. 43 S has long stretches where the shoulder is almost non existent and you don't want to go there. 41 seems to be generally OK but I haven't looked at it very closely.

Also look at Strava heatmap. https://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#10/-...5961/gray/bike (You might need a Strava account to see the map) It shows you where people actually go, which is a good indication of good & bad routes. E.g. you can see all the major bike routes into the Sierras from Fresno.

Last edited by hamster; 05-06-15 at 10:14 PM.
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Old 05-07-15, 09:37 AM
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Are you going to do a supported tour (ie a friend will drive a car with all your supplies), a credit card tour (buy what you need each night) or a loaded tour? I think that will make an enormous difference in the route you choose, because getting over the San Bernardino Mountains into the LA basin will be a climbing challenge.

I like hamster's recommendation to go to SLO first - that's certainly going to be the most scenic (and probably coolest temperature) route you could choose, and flattest. Should have a tail wind most of the way too.

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Fres...d32.715738!3e1

You can turn on the google maps bike path layer to see where the theoretical bike paths are. Create an account at ridewithgps.com to actually map out your route, and when you get closer to leaving make sure you ask for input on specifics - people local to whatever area you're riding through should have good pointers on what to hit / avoid.

Good luck!
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Old 05-07-15, 10:19 AM
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Go west young man, IMO.
Head straight to the coast and then ride the coast down. I did it a few years ago (click), and it was beautiful and fun.
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Old 05-07-15, 12:40 PM
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Interestingly, if you ask Google for a route via CA-138 (Palmdale-Riverside-Temecula), it turns out not to be that much climbier. 11850' along the coast vs. 14500' via CA-138. Though weather is still going to be a problem (too hot in summer, too cold in winter). Two thirds of all climbing along the Fresno-SLO-San Diego route are before Santa Barbara.
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Old 05-08-15, 09:39 AM
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I have to admit I haven't looked at the maps, but generally speaking, I'd ride the coast any day before any Palmdale-Riverside-Temecula route. Let's see, beach, or desert? I'll take beach!

Good luck on your ride. Train lots. I can't help about your hill training other than you have lots of mountains to the east of you. Go explore them - on the bike!
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Old 05-08-15, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by hamster View Post
I am not familiar with Central Valley routes, but the 138 E part is not a very good idea, there is quite a bit of traffic (you'll even end up riding on the freeway shoulder) and the overall route is a lot harder than it has to be (lots and lots of climbing). Not to mention serious weather challenges (if you do it in summer, it'll likely be highs in the 100's and that's NOT fun if you're on the bike.)

For me the most natural route starting from Fresno is to take 41 to San Louis Obispo (possibly with some detours to avoid bad parts of the route) and then to take CA-1 / PCH to San Diego. Haven't been on the 41, but 1 is pretty decent most of the way (I think I've personally ridden about half the mileage between SLO and San Diego, at one time or another.)

One easy tool that you can use to plan the trip is Google Street View. Look at the width of the shoulder. 43 S has long stretches where the shoulder is almost non existent and you don't want to go there. 41 seems to be generally OK but I haven't looked at it very closely.

Also look at Strava heatmap. https://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#10/-...5961/gray/bike (You might need a Strava account to see the map) It shows you where people actually go, which is a good indication of good & bad routes. E.g. you can see all the major bike routes into the Sierras from Fresno.
That sounds like a good idea. I did use google to look at the route and most of what I saw looked good. There are some parts of the 1 that concern me as far as the bike lane goes. How fast do cars drive on the 1? There were some parts along the route (I can't remember if they were on the 1 or another part) that do not have a bike lane at all and have trucks on the route. Any pointers for those areas if I can't find an alternate road?
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Old 05-08-15, 03:36 PM
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I will likely be doing a supported tour, mainly because my husband is worried that I'll get run over. It is really hard to find alternate roads and bike paths in certain parts of that route. Some of the areas have no shoulder at all. It looks like the climb will definitely be easier because, while the elevation is only a few thousand less feet, it is over a much longer distance than over the San Bernardino Mts.
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Old 05-08-15, 03:40 PM
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Awesome! I definitely have a lot of training to do before I go. My husband looked at me like I was crazy when I told him I wanted to do this. I am pretty overweight and I haven't ridden a bike long distance since 5th grade. We rode from the Arizona border to Carlsbad. I just told him this is something I have to do. Not sure why, but I do.
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Old 05-08-15, 03:42 PM
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Thanks! I definitely have a long road ahead of me as far as training goes. I'm hoping the training will help me lose a lot of weight so I will have an easier time getting over those mountains!
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Old 05-08-15, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Dranix View Post
How fast do cars drive on the 1?
You live in California, how fast do you think?

Originally Posted by Dranix View Post
Any pointers for those areas if I can't find an alternate road?
I'd suggest starting to develop a route on rwgps or something similar and then post it here for people to provide input. If you really feel motivated, you can drive portions of it to see, or use google street view too. Can you talk your husband into riding it with you? Riding with others is usually more fun when you're in a touring type situation (IMHO)
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Old 05-08-15, 07:39 PM
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You rode from Arizona border to Carlsbad in 5th grade???

Between SLO and Lompoc/Goleta, 1 is a typical highway, fast traffic, mostly farming and semi's, but not all that much of it. I think there's only one section between Guadalupe and Orcutt that does not have a shoulder, the only time I was there, it was a 15 mph tailwind and almost zero traffic so I was out of there in an instant. There is an alternate route from SLO to Solvang east of 101, see the "Bike trip from SLO to Santa Barbara" thread.

I'm not familiar with the section between Goleta and Oxnard.

Between Oxnard and LA, it's a very popular cycling route, light traffic, good shoulder.
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Old 05-09-15, 02:31 AM
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Originally Posted by hamster View Post
You rode from Arizona border to Carlsbad in 5th grade???
My 5th grade teacher did it every year for years with the 5th grade class. We trained all year and made the trip over Spring Break. Our longest day was 60 miles. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. The hardest part was getting up the hill to Julian.
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Old 05-09-15, 07:25 PM
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I agree ocean is much better.

If you want to do desert, find your way to Bakersfield, take the back roads (edison/bena/woodford) up to Tehachapi, then down Willow Springs Rd and into Palmdale. From there, take Soledad Canyon into Santa Clarita and Los Angeles. Work your way to Long Beach via LA River trail, then follow PCH into San Diego. Cut through Pendleton after San Onofre to avoid the 5 (bring ID)
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Old 05-09-15, 09:19 PM
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Depending on the threat level at the time, there would be a chance I couldn't go through Pendleton since I nolonger have a military ID. Right now the threat level is higher than normal. I think we will be taking the 1.
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Old 05-09-15, 10:03 PM
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Ride Across California Alumni! Nice I have done it 9 times including this year Deer Canyon? Dennis and Mike rode this year

The wind can come up on the 138 and kick your butt once to the 15 there are few good options. The shoulder is not that bad and cars can see you from way off. I would not take that route The best route looks like the 41. I have never been on it but have ridden the 46 the opposite way which has little traffic. There will be some climbing to get to the coast but well worth it. In my opinion getting to the coast as quickly and safely as possible is the way to go
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Old 05-10-15, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Gallo View Post
Ride Across California Alumni! Nice I have done it 9 times including this year Deer Canyon? Dennis and Mike rode this year
Yea I did it back in 1997. I only did it the one time because I failed to finish the essay on time that was required for me to go in 6th grade. Dennis was the best teacher I ever had. People to this day think I'm lying when I tell them I rode across California in 5th grade lol.
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Old 05-10-15, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Dranix View Post
Yea I did it back in 1997. I only did it the one time because I failed to finish the essay on time that was required for me to go in 6th grade. Dennis was the best teacher I ever had. People to this day think I'm lying when I tell them I rode across California in 5th grade lol.
My guess is the ride is much different now than it was then. It has gone beyond Deer Canyon and is now run by the YMCA. Our first ride with my oldest daughter was in 2006 which was Dennis's last year as director. We were not from Deer Canyon but Penasquitos none the less at Canyon View. My two girls went first as riders and then alumni and eventually volunteers that load and unload the truck and other duties. There were never any essays due. I have had the privilege of seeing so many different years of 5th graders take on the challenge and succeed. You should be proud of the legacy that you and other 5th grade kids built in the early years and is still alive today and the story continues to be written. The route is I am certain the same. This year was the 25th year
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Old 05-10-15, 10:21 PM
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I'm pretty sure that was the first time that an essay was required. They must have stopped it sometime between 1998 and 2006. I'm hoping once my kids learn to ride and are old enough that I can take them on a long tour.
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Old 05-10-15, 10:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Dranix View Post
Depending on the threat level at the time, there would be a chance I couldn't go through Pendleton since I nolonger have a military ID. Right now the threat level is higher than normal. I think we will be taking the 1.
Your only options are Pendleton or I-5, which is nobody's idea of fun. As long as it's daylight and you have a driver's license, you can ride through Pendleton, although they expect you to stay on the direct road through. no lollygagging in that area!
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Old 05-11-15, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
Your only options are Pendleton or I-5, which is nobody's idea of fun. As long as it's daylight and you have a driver's license, you can ride through Pendleton, although they expect you to stay on the direct road through. no lollygagging in that area!
Without hesitation I would take Pendleton there is no 1 there and the Marines for decades have been gracious host to cyclists. Follow their simple and common sense rules and enjoy. Had to to take the 5 once due to construction on the base and it was horrible.
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Old 05-18-15, 09:55 AM
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Taking the 5 south isn't as terrible IMO. At least you're on the ocean side, so you're upwind of the auto exhaust. It's still loud as hell, but the shoulder is wide and very smooth. Just look out for all the semitruck tire treads and other debris. Recently had to take the 5 instead of Pendleton to get home before sunset, and it sucks compared to riding Pendleton, but it's a good way to haul-the-freight if you're running out of daylight.
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Old 05-21-15, 12:24 PM
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If you have a few more days available, go West out of Fresno to Monterey and catch PCH at that point. Starting in Monterey you will get to experience Big Sur on bike which is an amazing ride. You can find cycling maps for the coast route at Pacific Coast Route | Adventure Cycling Association
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