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How to get from San Francisco to LA

Old 06-17-16, 04:07 PM
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laymanstefan
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How to get from San Francisco to LA

Hey guys,

this is my first post, wahoo! I am a German 24 year old (male) and I have been riding bikes pretty much my whole life - about a year ago, I bought a roadbike (Bulls Desert Falcon) and so far, I have never done any tours longer than a few hours, let alone more than one consecutive days... The maximum was around 170 km (105 miles) in one day and 85 km (53 miles) the next day. I wasn't super exhausted and if I had had time, I am sure I could have gone on many more days, especially if I had not gone a 25 km/h (15.6 miles/h) average...
So this year in September, I am visiting a friend in LA and I thought this might be a great chance to ride along the Pacific coast and I have a ton of questions, but I'll try to keep this well-arranged and number the questions...

The plan (not really a plan yet, more like an idea) is to fly to Los Angeles (much cheaper than flying to SF), spend a night close to the Amtrak station, then take the train to San Francisco and spend a night there.

First two questions
1) transportation of the bike on the plane: Some people say that an expensive case like this one is the only real solution, especially if you have a layover (e. g. in Chicago, Houston or Atlanta) and may have to carry your luggage (not sure why that would be the case), others say that even if baggage handlers may throw your stuff around, your bike will be sufficiently protected in the cardboard box in which it was delivered to the store. What do you guys think?
2) Once in LA, I could dispose of a cardboard box and try to find a new one for the flight back (I will fly out of LA, see below), a hard shell case would have to be stored somewhere. Do any of you guys know if it is possible to leave/lock it somewhere at LA airport?

It is an option to go to San Jose for a day or two to visit a friend, then I will have about 7 days remaining to get back to LA.
I found a tour report (San Francisco To LA Bike Ride: The Ultimate Guide Klauskomenda.com) proposing a pretty ambitious schedule...



3) too ambitious for me? I am pretty confident, especially if I go for a 20km/h (12.5 miles/h) average. On the other hand, 7 days would be fine too, if
4) you guys know of any schedule that fits that timeframe?

After staying with a friend in LA for 2-3 days, there is still an option to go to San Diego (preferably by train) for two nights and ride back up to LA, which will probably take me two days, where my return flight will depart from.

Other than that, just a few mini questions:

5) I plan to carry about 15 pounds in a backpack. Yes, this will be sweaty, but I have tried it before and I feel much safer that way than riding with bags hanging next to the rear wheel. Does anyone object?
6) My dad has one of these (https://cdn.hibike.com/image/product/...A-SV-AV-il.jpg) - is it possible to fill your tubes (we call them hose, so I hope that tube is the right word - whatever is inside the wheel that holds the air)at any gas station for free? Don't really feel like bringing a pump other than a little one giving me enough pressure to make it to the next gas station...
7) I plan to get a pair of these tires (https://www.specialized.com/us/en/co...o-elite/105836), so I don't think that any replacement parts other than 2 extra tubes will be necessary, or am I forgetting about something?
8) Are there any regulations as for bike equipment / behavior in traffic? I have been to the US many times, yet I have never ridden a bike in serious traffic...
9) Anything you would like to add? I am sure there are many things I haven't thought of...

Thank you everybody in advance!

Stefan
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Last edited by laymanstefan; 08-04-16 at 09:25 AM.
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Old 06-17-16, 04:25 PM
  #2  
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Sorry, I'm confused. Are you riding or flying to LA?
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Old 06-17-16, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by roadfix View Post
Sorry, I'm confused. Are you riding or flying to LA?
Originally Posted by laymanstefan View Post

The plan (not really a plan yet, more like an idea) is to fly to Los Angeles (much cheaper than flying to SF)


Sorry for the confusion. I live in Germany. I am going to fly to LA, take the train to SF, ride my bike back to LA (then possibly go to San Diego for 2 days and back to LA) and fly back to Germany.

Last edited by laymanstefan; 06-17-16 at 05:22 PM. Reason: More concise quotation
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Old 06-17-16, 09:04 PM
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Look into shipping your bike rather than checking it as luggage... somebody can surely provide specifics. Or take the train both ways!

Gas stations don't give you anything for free, but for 25 cents you can air your tires up to 50- psi... not exactly adequate, and they're not presta, so you'll need an adapter. Get a small frame pump and live the dream. The Lezyne Road Morph G is a great little pump that's actually easy to use.

If you go to San Diego, ride down, and train back up. The prevailing winds are northish to southish for all of California.

Riding south from SF to LA is a great idea - loads of people do it and it's gorgeous. Enjoy!
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Old 06-17-16, 09:45 PM
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You might be under the assumption that train travel is as efficient as it is in Germany. It is not. Amtrak is slow, rarely runs, and often delayed. I believe there is only one train in each direction per day. It is not cheap and they charge extra for bikes. Look into going by bus, such as MegaBus, but I am unsure about bikes. There is a new sleeper bus service between the two cities that allow you to bring your bike. I forget the name, but it should be easy to search for since it is new.
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Old 06-18-16, 11:11 PM
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Bike on the plane - Depends on the airline, some charge a lot, some don't charge. European airlines tend to charge less. Check your airline's rates. A lot of people use cardboard boxes, but you do risk damage.

Train - Amtrak works, but it can be slow. Plan on 8-12 hours for the trip. $25 to take a bike, and they provide the box.

Schedule - A little ambitious. The coast through Big Sur is VERY hilly, so be prepared for some climbing. I would plan to stop around San Simeon or Cambria rather than going all the way to Morro Bay. Make up the distance further south, where it is flatter. Are you planning to stay in hotels or camp? If you're doing hotels, then book early, particularly around Big Sur.

Backpack - Usually not a good idea, it is more weight for your body to carry and the added effort will fatigue you quickly. Put the bags on the bike using racks/panniers or bikepacking bags that strap directly to the bike

Pump - Buy a good pump and bring it along. You may need it. There will be places on the route where there will be no gas stations for 20 or more miles.
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Old 06-20-16, 06:45 AM
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I am sorry I haven't gotten back to you sooner, I was under the impression I had already replied... :/
Thank you everyone for the responses, you guys are really helping me!

Originally Posted by Tycho Brahe View Post
There is a new sleeper bus service between the two cities that allow you to bring your bike. I forget the name, but it should be easy to search for since it is new.
This is awesome, thank you!!! It is actually called Sleepbus (sleepbus-home, also another article here: A new lie-flat seat on busy California corridor - TravelSkills) and it sounds much better than Amtrak because the ride is from 11 PM to 6 AM, so you can sleep on the bus and get going the next morning! Amtrak is a 12 hour journey from around 10 AM to 10 PM, so that is an entire day wasted on the train...
However, I haven't found any further information on making reservtions or on whether or not it is necessary to bring a bike box - I sent a message to their Facebook account, so maybe I will be wiser soon. If a box is necessary, maybe I will go looking for a cardboard box in LA or choose Amtrak, yet I don't know how spontaneously I can book Amtrak in case I don't find a box?

Originally Posted by tinrobot View Post
Schedule - A little ambitious. The coast through Big Sur is VERY hilly, so be prepared for some climbing. I would plan to stop around San Simeon or Cambria rather than going all the way to Morro Bay. Make up the distance further south, where it is flatter. Are you planning to stay in hotels or camp? If you're doing hotels, then book early, particularly around Big Sur.
I do like climbs more than flat roads going on forever, so I don't see a big problem there.
I am planning to stay in hotels/motels and I thought there mightnot be a problem to find a room given I am all by myself and I don't mind going inland a few miles if I don't find anything by the coast. How critical is this?

Originally Posted by tinrobot View Post
Backpack - Usually not a good idea, it is more weight for your body to carry and the added effort will fatigue you quickly. Put the bags on the bike using racks/panniers or bikepacking bags that strap directly to the bike
To be honest, I am a little afraid of attaching something to the back of my bike because it certainly doesn't improve handling. I will try to do a few testruns with a light backpack. I am considering bringing my laptop (12 inches, about as large as a letter sized paper) and I haven't found bikepacking bags large enough to hold it.

Originally Posted by tinrobot View Post
Pump - Buy a good pump and bring it along. You may need it. There will be places on the route where there will be no gas stations for 20 or more miles.
I have an SKS Injex Lite maybe not the high-end high-pressure pump you have in mind, but should be okay, right?
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Old 06-22-16, 09:40 AM
  #8  
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I have done all of this ride a couple of times and sections of it many many times. I live along the route and it seems like some pretty long days. PM me if you want specific details or in September I might be talked into riding some or all of the way.
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Old 06-22-16, 10:57 AM
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It all looks pretty good to me except the part where you have to go to farm country to get around Vandenberg Air Force Base. I agree it looks like long days. Look past the mileage. There's a lot of up-and-down along the coast highway, and that makes the days more uneven than they look on your mileage table.

Google Maps estimates
Day, climbing ft, riding time
1 4692 8:35
2 4065 8:51
3 5574 10:37
4 2355 6:22
5 2983 8:18
6 1463 6:29
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Old 06-23-16, 06:26 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by SimplySycles1 View Post
I have done all of this ride a couple of times and sections of it many many times. I live along the route and it seems like some pretty long days. PM me if you want specific details or in September I might be talked into riding some or all of the way.
This sounds like a very intriguing offer. I will most likely send you a PM within the next week!

Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
It all looks pretty good to me except the part where you have to go to farm country to get around Vandenberg Air Force Base. I agree it looks like long days. Look past the mileage. There's a lot of up-and-down along the coast highway, and that makes the days more uneven than they look on your mileage table.

Google Maps estimates
Day, climbing ft, riding time
1 4692 8:35
2 4065 8:51
3 5574 10:37
4 2355 6:22
5 2983 8:18
6 1463 6:29
Thank you very much, I've never looked at it like this. Dfinitely helpful!!!

As for traveling from LA to SF: I contacted Sleepbus via Facebook because at the moment, it is not possible to make reservations because it seems they don't know for sure what capacities they will have in September. I asked them if there would be buses driving in September, they responded "We hope so" and "if your plans are serious we suggest you make other arrangements and use us next time!"... So I will wait until July or August and see if anything has changed - if not, I will look for alternatives. I looked into Amtrak as well, but I only found connections LA-SF where at some point I'd have to go by bus, like the connection I have attached. The thing is that next to "Thruway bus", it always says "no checked baggage", so probably no bikes. I have not found a train going to San Francisco, yet I can hardly imagine that there is no way to bring one's bike to SF, so I sent the Amtrak service an e-mail, still waiting for their response but I think I must have overlooked something really obvious...
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Old 06-23-16, 08:44 AM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by laymanstefan View Post
I looked into Amtrak as well, but I only found connections LA-SF where at some point I'd have to go by bus, like the connection I have attached. The thing is that next to "Thruway bus", it always says "no checked baggage", so probably no bikes. I have not found a train going to San Francisco, yet I can hardly imagine that there is no way to bring one's bike to SF, so I sent the Amtrak service an e-mail, still waiting for their response but I think I must have overlooked something really obvious...
If taking Amtrak I would use the Coast Starlight train which goes from LA (8:46am) to Oakland (9:24pm) (and then on to Seattle). From Oakland you can use BART (our local subway) to get into San Francisco. On BART you just wheel your bike on and there are some rails along the side to lean it against.

BTW, I agree that your Big Sur to Morro Bay leg is a pretty long day with lots of hills. I usually go from Big Sur to the San Simeon State Park campground instead.

Last edited by prathmann; 06-23-16 at 08:51 AM.
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Old 06-27-16, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by tinrobot View Post
Schedule - A little ambitious. The coast through Big Sur is VERY hilly, so be prepared for some climbing. I would plan to stop around San Simeon or Cambria rather than going all the way to Morro Bay. Make up the distance further south, where it is flatter.
Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Google Maps estimates
Day, climbing ft, riding time
1 4692 8:35
2 4065 8:51
3 5574 10:37
4 2355 6:22
5 2983 8:18
6 1463 6:29
Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
BTW, I agree that your Big Sur to Morro Bay leg is a pretty long day with lots of hills. I usually go from Big Sur to the San Simeon State Park campground instead.
So, do you guys suggest going from Big Sur to San Simeon on day 3 and from San Simeon to Lompoc on day 4?
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Old 06-27-16, 02:12 PM
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You might want to consider flying in to San Francisco from Germany, then returning from Los Angeles (LAX). Maybe ship extra luggage to your friend in LA? Pack the bike in a box from Germany, discard at SF; get second bike box in LA.
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Old 06-28-16, 05:12 AM
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Originally Posted by grampa.sjb View Post
You might want to consider flying in to San Francisco from Germany, then returning from Los Angeles (LAX)
I did. And for several reasons, this does not work out. Wouldn't make sense to discuss them here now anyway because I already got the flight ti8ckets.
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Old 07-04-16, 04:41 AM
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Some more small questions, guys:
1) I will need to store my bike box in LA, at least for some days. There is the possibility to store it directly at LAX for 15 dollars (LAX Luggage Storage.com - For your baggage storage lockers at the LAX airport), this seems like an emergency solution but obviously I'd prefer not to spend 15 bucks per day. Any ideas what else I could do?
2) How would I get from LAX into downtown LA or the other way round? Are there shuttles where I could also bring my bike box? Or maybe the bike out of the box?
3) Where is a bike usually stored in a hotel/motel? I can imagine that I can just take it in the room in Motels (because nobody sees you going in or out), but in a hotel I imagine they would want me to put it in the basement or something. So it seems necessary to bring a lock, right? And do ou also consider it a necessity to replace the quick clamps, at least on the rear wheel, with something requiring an Allen key to remove the wheel so it won't be as tempting to steal it?

Thank you everybody for your help!!!
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Old 07-05-16, 09:41 PM
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Honestly, I would rethink the whole biking thing in general. How much time will you be spending visiting friends? It sounds like you will spreading yourself too thin at each place. I would take things slower and spending more time in fewer places. Especially considering you have friends that can show you the local places.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, there are other bus companies. Too bad that sleeper bus did not work out. I have considered it as well to visit friends in SF. It appears that Mega Bus does not allow bicycles, but Bolt Bus does: https://www.boltbus.com/ There is an overall luggage limitation, so you would need to look more into it. I have taken both Bolt and Mega bus on the east coast, and they are very good companies.

There is a bus that leaves LAX for various locations, including DTLA which is called FlyAway: LAWA - FlyAway Do not know their bike policy, but since they serve the airport, I would assume they are more lenient.

Most motels/hotels will allow you to bring in a bike. Just make sure it is not dirty. Take a look into AirBnb, or couchsurfing.org especially since you are young.

If you need any help, I can offer my help. I live in Los Feliz, which is in between DTLA and Hollywood, serviced by the metro red line. I should not help you since you are German and I am Italian and I still cannot get over the game just three days ago. EDIT: actually, I should be in Italy during September, so it depends on when you come.
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Old 07-11-16, 07:30 AM
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Does anyone know a motel (or affordable hotel - the one mentioned in the blog is about 150 per night, so kind of out of my league) near Big Sur? Doesn't matter if it's a few miles farther south, but all I can find is either all the way up in Monterey or far from the coast...
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Old 07-11-16, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by laymanstefan View Post
3) Where is a bike usually stored in a hotel/motel? I can imagine that I can just take it in the room in Motels (because nobody sees you going in or out), but in a hotel I imagine they would want me to put it in the basement or something.
My wife and I have taken our bikes to a number of hotels and rolled them right to the room. Now, we usually look for a side entrance, but we've rolled right through the lobby when necessary. Never had a problem.
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Old 07-11-16, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by laymanstefan View Post
Does anyone know a motel (or affordable hotel - the one mentioned in the blog is about 150 per night, so kind of out of my league) near Big Sur? Doesn't matter if it's a few miles farther south, but all I can find is either all the way up in Monterey or far from the coast...
You will find nothing cheap in Big Sur. The only cheap options are camping. There is really nothing in the area. You have the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other.

Big Sur is one of the most overrated places ever IMHO. The drive there is beautiful, but the rest is boring. The hikes are merely OK.
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Old 07-14-16, 04:45 AM
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Originally Posted by tinrobot View Post
Schedule - A little ambitious. The coast through Big Sur is VERY hilly, so be prepared for some climbing. I would plan to stop around San Simeon or Cambria rather than going all the way to Morro Bay. Make up the distance further south, where it is flatter.
Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Look past the mileage. There's a lot of up-and-down along the coast highway, and that makes the days more uneven than they look on your mileage table.

Google Maps estimates
Day, climbing ft, riding time
1 4692 8:35
2 4065 8:51
3 5574 10:37
4 2355 6:22
5 2983 8:18
6 1463 6:29
So the concerns about the trip from Big Sur to Morro Bay have been raised repeatedly, so I am thinking about a very different alternative which involves a day of about the same mileage, but maybe (?) less altitude?
Instead of going from Santa Cruz to Big Sur on day 2, I could only go to Monterey and spend a night there. It is not a super long drive, so I would not be exhausted because day 3 will be long. On day 3, I could ride all the way through the Big Sur region to San Simeon and go on from there.

Originally Posted by Tycho Brahe View Post
You will find nothing cheap in Big Sur. The only cheap options are camping. There is really nothing in the area. You have the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other.

Big Sur is one of the most overrated places ever IMHO. The drive there is beautiful, but the rest is boring. The hikes are merely OK.
This way I might also be able to dodge the super expensive Big Sur prices.

What do you guys think?
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Old 07-14-16, 11:37 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by laymanstefan View Post
Does anyone know a motel (or affordable hotel - the one mentioned in the blog is about 150 per night, so kind of out of my league) near Big Sur? Doesn't matter if it's a few miles farther south, but all I can find is either all the way up in Monterey or far from the coast...
We used to stay at the Big Sur Lodge or camp at Pfeiffer State Park. Both are beautiful. Both used to be good value.
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Old 07-15-16, 09:32 PM
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I used to live in Monterey and I have ridden to/from Santa Cruz a few times. Pretty flat as far as California goes. Here is one ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/120981766 So that days ride would be easy.

I have a friend from Germany that still lives in Monterey if you need help. Hated living there, but it is a nice place to visit. Go to the Crown & Anchor and tell the bartenders I said hello.

I never have ridden to Morro Bay, so I cannot comment much on your revised plan, but it sounds good. Central coastal California has an indian summer, which means September is hotter than July/August. Leave early to beat the heat and the traffic. The PCH at that point is narrow with barely any shoulder. Throw in clueless tourists, especially those with camper vans, makes it not as fun at times. But that stretch of road is the most beautiful. You will feel obligated to pull over for pictures almost immediately. Don't worry, plenty of more spots down the road.
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Old 07-15-16, 10:04 PM
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If you're trying to save money then overnight camping is the way to go. Lots of campgrounds on this route have 'Hike&Bike' sites with no need to make reservations and which charge about $5 - 7/person-night. Most are quite nice with hot showers, picnic tables, and shaded sites. The ones I usually stay at are New Brighton in Capitola (S. of Santa Cruz), Veterans Park (Monterey), Big Sur State park or Kirk Creek a little farther south (Plaskett Creek is still farther south), San Simeon or Morro Bay, Oceano, Refugio, Carpenteria. You could probably get by with just a small sleeping bag strapped to the handlebars or bike frame if you don't want to carry a tent.
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Old 07-18-16, 10:25 AM
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Tycho Brahe 
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
If you're trying to save money then overnight camping is the way to go. Lots of campgrounds on this route have 'Hike&Bike' sites with no need to make reservations and which charge about $5 - 7/person-night. Most are quite nice with hot showers, picnic tables, and shaded sites. The ones I usually stay at are New Brighton in Capitola (S. of Santa Cruz), Veterans Park (Monterey), Big Sur State park or Kirk Creek a little farther south (Plaskett Creek is still farther south), San Simeon or Morro Bay, Oceano, Refugio, Carpenteria. You could probably get by with just a small sleeping bag strapped to the handlebars or bike frame if you don't want to carry a tent.
Considering he wants to do the ride with a backpack and no panniers, I doubt he has room for camping equipment.

OP, I seriously hope you still are not thinking of using a backpack.
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Old 07-22-16, 04:09 PM
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Hey guys, thank you for all the responses!!!
I did a "test run" to try some different things and it was also supposed to show how well I do on long distances.
I am aware that this may be a piece of cake for some people, but for me this is absolutely outrageous: At first I rode 115 km (around 71.5 miles, not sure how familiar you guys are with the metric system?) on rather flat terrain, then I went 35-40 km (21.8-24.9 miles) going 288 m (945 feet) up and 165 m (541 feet) down, so not that much difference in altitude. Then I went about the same way back, which put me at a total of 306 km (190.2 miles), all at an average speed of about 25.4 km/h (15.8 miles/h), so I am super happy with that.
Some things I tried/learned:

1) Drinking: I only drank 800 ml (27 fluid ounces) on the first 110 km (68.4 miles) stretch - plus a 33 ml (11 fluid ounces) energy drink before I left, no breakfast though, so really not that much. However, at times I did feel like there was too much water in my belly. I think I might have to try more frequent, smaller sips. By the time I arrived at the farthest point, I had drunk about twice that and I was DYING to drink something sweet - that cool 1.5 l (50 fluid ounces) of Lipton ice tea was probably the best thing in my day. I need to remember to bring some sweet drinks - what do you suggest, Gatorade?

2) Eating: I took a break at my parents house about 220 km (137 miles) into the ride, until then I had only eaten 2 Nutella toasts (not toasted) and one toast with cheese slices and BBQ sauce (mx gfriends make fun of my eating habits all the time, I know it sounds weird. I am vegetarian, we will see how long that will remain the case once I am making miles in California)... Any ideas there?

3)Shoes: I do not use those snap-on pedals (mainly because I am not forced to wear the snap-on shoes whenever I wanna go for a ride and I do ride through cities a lot with quite a few stop and gos, so normal pedals seem more practical), which turned out to be a huge advantage today: 68.4 miles in, I took off my shoes and put on sandles (best feeling ever!!!), which I kept on for the rest of the ride. Should be fine, right?

Originally Posted by Tycho Brahe View Post
Considering he wants to do the ride with a backpack and no panniers, I doubt he has room for camping equipment.

OP, I seriously hope you still are not thinking of using a backpack.
Sorry, please don't kill me I did wear a backpack today (it's a little one called Deuter Race X, really light and all) and it worked out perfectly well and this was a distance much longer than those I will be going in California. To be fair, it might be a lot hotter in California (it was 88 here today), but I don't mind the extra sweat.
Maybe I should add that at 5'11.5'' andabout 175 lbs, I am not your typical skinny cyclist, so I don't mind a little weight

Last edited by laymanstefan; 07-23-16 at 03:22 AM.
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