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550 bike tour (SanFran to LA) suggestions/tips

Old 09-14-23, 09:11 PM
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550 mile bike tour (SanFran to LA) suggestions/tips

Hi!

I'm looking to ride from San Fran to LA in early Oct. 2023. I know most people do it in 6/7 days, I'm shooting for 7 to 9 days. This all depends on the sites (if any) I want to see. I've been riding on average about 120/130 miles a week so far and will hopefully get to 140/150 a week before I leave. Anywhere from 30 to 40 miles in a one day period is what I'm doing now. I've been doing pretty high inclines on some. I live in LA so sometimes my ride consist of very high inclines like riding up The Griffith Park mountains to the LA Observatory. Usually my rides last about 2 1/2 hours, depending on the climb. I'm looking to do about 60/70 miles a day when I start my ride from San Fran. I'll be doing this myself and more than likely camping most of the days.

Any training tips?
Who out there has done this as well and what should I look out for?
What about bike protection? What do you do with your bike at a campsite? Lock it up? Break it down? Has there been records of theft on this route?

I'm in my early 50's, good shape. My last trek was walking 2600 miles on The Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexico boarder to Canada in 2021 which took me about 5 months to do. I feel if I can do that, I should be able to do this as well knowing very well that it's a bike ride, not walk, and there will be different challenges to this.

Would love to know any tips in training or other challenges I'll have doing this.

Thanks everyone. Looking forward to it!
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Old 09-15-23, 12:39 AM
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I had my white 92 Trek 759 Multitrack bicycle and shoes stolen 2 months ago at the hike and bike at Emma Wood State Park outside Ventura, Ca.
The place is crawling with homeless.
Be aware and lock everything up.
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Old 09-15-23, 07:08 AM
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I wrote a guide to biking from SF to LA that might interest you. It doesn't talk about training, but does provide an overview of the route and places to stay.

As for training, it depends on how many miles you are planning to ride in a day. Keep in mind that you will be dealing with hills and likely have, at least, one sustained climb each day. The first time I rode this route, I did 70 miles a day and it was too much for me. I was 52 at the time. After that, I did 50 a day, which was tiring but much more comfortable.

Have you ridden with all your gear on the bike? If not, I'd suggest you begin training carrying all the weight you plan to have on the bike. You'll be surprised at the difference in how the bike handles and the effort it takes to push it all up the hills. For me, I aim to do two rides carrying all my gear at the distance I plan to ride in a row. When I can do that, I feel ready. I often take the week before I leave off to let my body rest and to get everything arranged.

A common suggestion is to do an overnight carrying all your gear as a shakedown ride. I'd recommend that, as well.
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Old 09-15-23, 10:56 AM
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Much will depend on what you have been doing since through-hiking, but generally speaking I believe that if you can do the PCT, you can do a bike tour. For training, build up to riding to at least 30 miles and do hills!
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Old 09-16-23, 07:28 AM
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Many campgrounds along that route have been targeted time and time again by touring bike thieves; they are organized with bolt cutters and pickups and will sneak in late at night. Half Moon Bay south of SF has had many such thefts. Maybe talk to a ranger as you check in to see if they will reveal how bad it is there.

You should also not leave your loaded bike locked yet unwatched outside a supermarket, the same type of scum drive around looking for easy scores. If you can't find a security guard outside the store, see if you can walk and lock it inside: otherwise you'll have to find another store or take the risk. Remember that the guard is not paid to prevent your property getting stolen; you're relying on their goodwill. If you can scrape up $20 for a motion-activated bike alarm, and also tie your locked bike with some fishing line to one of your tent poles when asleep at night, I think you will sleep easier at night.

Instead of an alarm on a bike tour, I have met some that bring a small yappy dog along with them.

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Old 09-16-23, 07:57 AM
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Go easy the first half of the day. Under 75% effort. Do not sit for too long. Don’t let hands get numb. Wear a bright safety vest , bright red triangle or similar high viz jacket. Don’t leave bike unattended at camp site, ever. Ride in a straight line. Get off road if lack of shoulder and traffic disturbs you.
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Old 09-16-23, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by stevepusser
Many campgrounds along that route have been targeted time and time again by touring bike thieves; they are organized with bolt cutters and pickups and will sneak in late at night. Half Moon Bay south of SF has had many such thefts. Maybe talk to a ranger as you check in to see if they will reveal how bad it is there.

You should also not leave your loaded bike locked yet unwatched outside a supermarket, the same type of scum drive around looking for easy scores. If you can't find a security guard outside the store, see if you can walk and lock it inside: otherwise you'll have to find another store or take the risk. Remember that the guard is not paid to prevent your property getting stolen; you're relying on their goodwill. If you can scrape up $20 for a motion-activated bike alarm, and also tie your locked bike with some fishing line to one of your tent poles, I think you will sleep easier at night.
Thanks for this! I was thinking bringing my 2 person tent instead of my single and possibly putting my bike the tent with me. Hoping it will fit.
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Old 09-16-23, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by HelpSingularity
I had my white 92 Trek 759 Multitrack bicycle and shoes stolen 2 months ago at the hike and bike at Emma Wood State Park outside Ventura, Ca.
The place is crawling with homeless.
Be aware and lock everything up.
Thanks for this! I was thinking bringing my 2 person tent instead of my single and possibly putting my bike the tent with me. Hoping it will fit. Someone mention tying fishing line on your bike to your tent-pole as well.
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Old 09-16-23, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by dennispcreate
Thanks for this! I was thinking bringing my 2 person tent instead of my single and possibly putting my bike the tent with me. Hoping it will fit. Someone mention tying fishing line on your bike to your tent-pole as well.
Just watch out for Mongolian horsemen

https://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2004/08...7691092753245/
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Old 09-16-23, 04:03 PM
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Typically my days have been as follows
Day 1 - SF - New Brighton State Park - just south of Santa Cruz
Day 2 - NBSP to campground at the top of the hill in Monterey, next to 17 mile dr.
Day 3 - Monterey to Plaskett Creek 4 miles north of Gorda
Day 4 - Plaskett Creek to Morro Bay Campground
Day 5 - Morro Bay to Refugio (sp) (20 north of Santa Barbara
Day 6 -Refugio to Sycamore Canyon (LA county line)
Day 7 - RIde on into LA

Now, things have chenged. Highway 1 is closed, so tts the Salinas Valley instead of Big Sur. Google Maps seems to have a good route for bikes, King City has a campground and so does Lake Nacimiento./ RUmor has it that there is a campground in Templeton, but I can't find it
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Old 09-19-23, 05:40 PM
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Just a heads up. Leo Carrillo State Park was listed on my map as having hiker biker sites. But no more. Staff rented me a tent site for $10 anyway this week. This may depend on availability and who is on duty at the time.

Carpinteria state park had a sign up warning cable clocks were not good enough. Also suggested removing quick release skewers. Though that won't be foolproof unless everyone does it. Seems to suggest that location has people cutting locks and riding the bikes away. I chained mine to the rack. Took all my panniers inside my tent and pitched it with the door facing my bike. With the good weather I've been sleeping with the door open anyway.

Road conditions. Malibu was worst. Heavy traffic and shoulder often blocked.
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Old 09-19-23, 06:21 PM
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I did a trip from SF to Pismo last year and this was my campground list - all have a hiker-biker site and showers (except one):

1. Half Moon Bay State Beach. Easy day just to get lined-up for the rest of the trip, campground-wise.
2. New Brighton State Beach near Capitola. This is the longest day of the trip at around 60 miles from HMB, but the terrain is not overly hard - lots of rollers. Exit Hwy 1 just north of Santa Cruz and ride W Cliff and E Cliff to Capitola - very scenic. Capitola village is about 3 miles prior to camp.
3. Monterey Veteran's Memorial Park. Up a steep hill so be sure to get everything you need in Monterey before heading to camp. I recommend taking Elkhorn Rd/Castroville Blvd bike path rather than riding the 4 miles on Hwy 1 at Moss Landing. About 45 miles from New Brighton.
4. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Probably the nicest hiker-biker site on the coast. About 3 miles past the General Store in Big Sur, which has a good deli in back for sandwiches and burritos. About 45 miles from Vet's if you take the round-about way around the Monterey Peninsula via the bike path, Asilomar, and 17-Mile Drive to Carmel (you should!).
5. Plaskett Creek. No shower, but a nice, grassy hiker-biker site. Across the street is Sand Dollar beach, a short walk for viewing sunset over the Pacific. About 35 miles from Pfeiffer.
6. San Simeon Creek. The hiker-biker site is right up next to the road, but traffic ceased and it was a good, quiet spot. Walk under the bridge to the great beach. Watch out for racoons and possums - maybe use the food locker here. Just past the little town of San Simeon, which has a small store. About 35 miles from Plaskett - yeah, a short day!!
6a: You can also combine some of this and ride from Plaskett to Morro Bay State Park just south of Morro Bay. About 60 miles.
7. Coastal Dunes RV Park just south of Pismo Beach in Oceano. There is a small hiker-biker site here for a little more $ than usual, but the noise from the road and RR tracks is bad, so bring ear plugs. On the up side, there is an untimed shower here! Sadly, the wonderful hiker-biker site at Pismo State Beach is no more. Take Los Osos Valley after Morro Bay to SLO. About 50 miles from San Simeon Creek.

8. Years ago I did a trip that stopped at Refugio State Beach after Pismo - that is a pretty long day. I think Gaviota is less miles but was not as nice as Refugio.
9. Follow the others' advice for what to do after Santa Barbara - I have not done that part.

Anyway, you will have all day to get there, so don't worry so much about daily miles - just ride at a comfortable pace, especially on the hills. Slow down and see more - it's not a race. Make lots of stops if you start to get tired, and eat and drink a lot. Your base training will serve you well, but as others mentioned, you should start riding your bike loaded from now until the trip.

I don't know if Hwy 1 will be open this year at all, so after #3 above may not be feasible, unless you plan to traverse the construction zone after dark, as others may be doing. There is an ACA alternate route thru the Salinas Valley to Paso Robles, as mentioned, but you can also skip the closure and alternate totally and take the Amtrak bus from Salinas to SLO and pick-up the coast route from there. But, that will miss all the great riding thru the Big Sur coast. So, have a great trip no matter what you decide!

Last edited by PCHthx; 09-19-23 at 06:44 PM.
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Old 09-27-23, 05:07 PM
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A short flat detour a few miles up the Ventura river bike path from the beach leads up to Foster County park, which is still closed due to winter flood damage, but listed $5.00 H&B campsites, and a nice river to swim in. Maybe next year?

https://www.ventura.org/parks-depart...-park-ventura/
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Old 11-27-23, 12:14 AM
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Originally Posted by dennispcreate
Hi!

I'm looking to ride from San Fran to LA in early Oct. 2023. I know most people do it in 6/7 days, I'm shooting for 7 to 9 days. This all depends on the sites (if any) I want to see. my. I'll be doing this myself and more than likely camping most of the days.

Thanks everyone. Looking forward to it!
So, how did it go? I am interested in doing the same route, but in reverse in September of 2024.
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Old 12-14-23, 01:44 PM
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Doing ride in 2024

Originally Posted by teachndad
So, how did it go? I am interested in doing the same route, but in reverse in September of 2024.
Hi! The message got in spam so sorry for late reply. It was wonderful, two day were kinds rough. VERY hot at that time of year. I took a slight detour and did most of the PCH but turn in Monterey and went the wine country route for a bit, then rode into Santa Barbara where it took me right back on The PCH again. Going NORTH might be a bit challenging since I feel there are more inclines. I know once I got to Santa Barbara, it was pretty easy. The last day I did 90 miles and I'm not a heavy duty rider, it was just that the roads were pretty much downhill and pretty even.

You'll have a blast! Plenty of places to camp or cheap hotels if you need a real bed for a night.

Hope that helps!
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Old 12-21-23, 07:44 PM
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You might consider planning each day's route like a kid applying to college, a realistic goal, a safety goal, and a reach. Realistic is based on what you can do, safety is for when you have a stomach bug, or two flats, or get really lost, reach is when you feel great, have a tailwind, and channel your inner TDF rider. Sounds like fun, in addition to the advice to do hills, practice with your load, or equivalent, to get the feel of the bike, and your legs with a load.
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Old 12-26-23, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by teachndad
So, how did it go? I am interested in doing the same route, but in reverse in September of 2024.
I'm surprised no one had brought up the headwind factor yet. Going north along the Pac Coast in warmer seasons will very likely have you fighting nasty headwinds. At least with hills, you will get a downhill to match the climbs, but headwinds never reward your effort like that.
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Old 12-26-23, 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by stevepusser
I'm surprised no one had brought up the headwind factor yet. Going north along the Pac Coast in warmer seasons will very likely have you fighting nasty headwinds. At least with hills, you will get a downhill to match the climbs, but headwinds never reward your effort like that.
One time in my youth I did the coast, in the summer, south to north, SD to SFO.
The wind was freakin' intense starting 10 to 11ish in the am.
So my solution was to get up at 2am, on the road by 3am and ride up highway 101/1.
There were several benefits to this schedule:
  • Zero wind until sometime after 10am.
  • Zero to very light traffic for several hours each morning.​​​​​​
  • Everything was very quiet.
  • Being on the road as the sun came up each morning was a magical experience, the colors of everything emerging in the morning light was truly sublime.
  • If you ran across a donut shop, those things were fresh, and probably still warm.
It was a little tough getting out of my cozy sleeping bag at 2am and packing my stuff in the cold dark.
But it was worth it.
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Old 12-31-23, 01:34 PM
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I live in the San Diego area, too (Santee). All things considered, if I was forced to do that ride, I'd take transportation to the Bay area and ride home.

Besides the headwinds, others have pointed out that N-S puts you on the ocean view side of the highway, with the shoulders often being wider there, compared to the narrower inland side often being cut out of a mountain and subject to storm debris and rocks falling out of the roadcuts.
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Old 01-08-24, 11:44 PM
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I am the guy who mentioned trying this from south to north in post #14. Additional advice after my post have been met with excellent advice to make this a more traditional north south route. I still have relatives on the peninsula south of San Francisco, so there are a few ways I can get up there and then head south.

Thank you.

Rod
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