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San Fran to LA, help!

Old 03-10-15, 05:31 AM
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samh537
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San Fran to LA, help!

Hi gang,

So I am flying out to LAX soon (then to San Fran because I read that you get tailwinds coming North to South).

Anway, sadly my Giant Defy was stolen here in Germany some times ago.

So I am going naked. Bike-wise. I intend to rock up in SF without a bike.

People who live locally, or experience of this part of the USA.

1. Do you think it is plausible to go to SF and buy a second hand bike (max $250) and try to sell it in LA when I am done?

2. The 7-9 day itinerary from SF to LA online that people have done looks quite hard. I am 27 and have cycled up to 65 miles a day, but some legs look up to 97 miles in one day! Is there an online resource that shows it broken up a bit more (maybe into 45-50 miles).?

3. I intent to take a daysack and cycle without panniers. I know this is not ideal, but it saved a lot of hassle taking my panniers over, and everything I need will fit into it. Reasonable idea?

4. I am thinking of going without a tent and making for hotels/hostels along the route so I don't need to camp (and haul sleeping back, mat and tent). Is California just too big? Will I come unstuck somewhere wild?

What do people think of my plans?

Thanks everyone.

S
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Old 03-10-15, 07:10 AM
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Seriously?
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Old 03-10-15, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by samh537 View Post
Hi gang,

So I am flying out to LAX soon (then to San Fran because I read that you get tailwinds coming North to South).

Anway, sadly my Giant Defy was stolen here in Germany some times ago.

So I am going naked. Bike-wise. I intend to rock up in SF without a bike.

People who live locally, or experience of this part of the USA.

1. Do you think it is plausible to go to SF and buy a second hand bike (max $250) and try to sell it in LA when I am done?
No, that's not enough money and you will take too long finding a bike and you will not be able to sell it fast enough. Bring your own bike or increase your budget and add several days at each end of the trip, and be willing to just walk away from the bike instead of selling it. Plus, chances are you will end up on a bike that doesn't fit and be uncomfortable the whole time, if not actually injured. If you have someone to help you buy/sell at the end points, that would make this plan possible.

Originally Posted by samh537 View Post
2. The 7-9 day itinerary from SF to LA online that people have done looks quite hard. I am 27 and have cycled up to 65 miles a day, but some legs look up to 97 miles in one day! Is there an online resource that shows it broken up a bit more (maybe into 45-50 miles).?
Adventure Cycling sells maps and there's a book Bicycling the Pacific Coast, either is a good resource. You definitely don't have to do any 97 mile days. I think I did 7 days from South San Francisco to Santa Barbara and that was fine, but I ride a lot more than you do.

Originally Posted by samh537 View Post
3. I intent to take a daysack and cycle without panniers. I know this is not ideal, but it saved a lot of hassle taking my panniers over, and everything I need will fit into it. Reasonable idea?
That sounds horrible, having weight on your back. But people do it.

Originally Posted by samh537 View Post
4. I am thinking of going without a tent and making for hotels/hostels along the route so I don't need to camp (and haul sleeping back, mat and tent). Is California just too big? Will I come unstuck somewhere wild?
Totally possible, but there are few hostels so you will be mostly in hotels. Expect to pay $80-200/night, the bigger the city, the more expensive, and Big Sur is very expensive, and if you don't want to stay there you will have to do a very long ride. Hotels reduce the flexibility of your ride lengths. Also, in summer hotels may be full, so it would be good to book in advance, which also leads to less flexibility.

Originally Posted by samh537 View Post
What do people think of my plans?
I think you could make it work, if you are set on it, but you will have a better experience if you bring your own bike, and use panniers/racks.

Figure out a way to do it, though, the Pacific Coast is awesome and you will love it.
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Old 03-10-15, 08:15 AM
  #4  
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I wrote a guide for biking from SF to LA that you might find informative.

If you don't camp in Big Sur, you will have to have reservations at the few, expensive places available for the night.

You likely can find a bike in SF for whatever price you want, but all the caveats that valygrl mentioned will apply and I agree with her recommendations. Forget trying to sell it in LA. Assuming you are from Germany, imagine your reaction if I said I was going to fly into Munich, buy a 200 Euro bike, ride to Berlin (wearing a day sack), and then sell the bike when I got there.

A far more reasonable tour, given your limitations might be to renting a bike in SF, taking a bus to Fort Bragg/Mendicino and to ride down to, say, Santa Cruz, and then return to SF, turn in the bike, and fly home.

Here is an article about riding south from Fort Bragg.
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Old 03-10-15, 08:31 AM
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The backpack idea can work, but the more you carry the less pleasant it will be. I definitely would not advise carrying much weight on your back. If you go really minimal (like 10 pounds or less) it might be fairly comfortable. I have found that when I go really light I find putting some weight in a bar roll or handlebar bag, some lashed under the seat or on a rear rack, and some in a small backpack can be pretty pleasant. I was carrying 3-4 pounds of gear in each of the three places and managed to camp and cook with what I carried.

Relying on finding a used bike might be iffy. I met a guy from Japan who bought a bike and some low quality camping gear from walmart. It was all really poor quality stuff, but he seemed to be having a good trip anyway. He spoke very little English and I only know a couple words of Japanese, but I think he said he planned to give or throw it all away at the end of the trip.

Motels are expensive and not very conveniently spaced on some of the coast. Also you would miss out on hanging out with other cyclists at the hiker biker camp sites, which to me is one of the nicer things about the coast route.
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Old 03-10-15, 08:48 AM
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Just one bit of info to share. I am from the SF area, and pretty familiar with the craigslist offerings. There are a lot of bikes for sale in this area, but the asking prices are steep, and often they are ridiculous. You might want to browse around and see what the market is like.

craigslist sf - bicycles
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Old 03-10-15, 09:00 AM
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Thanks for all your help guys.

This is actually very stressful.

I am not allowed to take my own bike over because I booked my flights with lastminute.com and they say no sports equipment (flying with Air France and Delta), which sucks.
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Old 03-10-15, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Brennan View Post
Just one bit of info to share. I am from the SF area, and pretty familiar with the craigslist offerings. There are a lot of bikes for sale in this area, but the asking prices are steep, and often they are ridiculous. You might want to browse around and see what the market is like.

craigslist sf - bicycles
Thanks for the suggestion, would a $200 bike carefully checked see me for 500 miles?

e.g. 50cm Univega Safari Ten 10 speed road bike
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Old 03-10-15, 09:08 AM
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Better to just bike a little on vacation maybe? You could just take the train up and rent a bike in SF and "bike the bay." They also rent bikes around Santa Monica pier.

If you must do the tour... your best chance to make this work is to find a 90's MTB on (Craigslist?) and seal the deal before arriving. Bring a large seat and handlebar bag with you, or buy a mid level rack and saddlebags. I would also go with thinner tires, which can be had at performance bike for less than $30/pair.

I found this one on SFB Craigslist that looks to be in great shape: "PRICE REDUCED! Original-Vintage Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo - $199 (san rafael)" PRICE REDUCED! Original-Vintage Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo The seller may think you are a scammer, so make sure you indicate that you will give the guy cash in hand when arriving, and offer to send him a deposit.

After the tour, there are several used bike shops in LA. Coordinate with them BEFORE arriving to consign the bike and sell it for you. Then you can make a clean getaway.

In case you need it, there are trains that run up and down the coast. Take a look at the Amtrak schedules to know where they stop.
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Old 03-10-15, 09:14 AM
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There are some shops in SF that sell used bikes. Columbus Cyclery and Pedal Revolution come to mind. There are others. You might be able to pick up a used mountain bike in your price range from one of those shops. At least then it will be tuned up and probably able to handle the tour. Every sub-$250 bike I've picked up from private sellers off craigslist have needed a lot of work. (I'm just thinking about your time constraints and probable lack of tools while traveling, otherwise I am all for buying used and restoring/fixing up.)

Last edited by Brennan; 03-10-15 at 09:28 AM.
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Old 03-10-15, 10:57 AM
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I did the coast in mid 80's . a mix of Hostels and Camping.. to bring a tent on a long trip without panniers consider a Bike trailer for your Gear .


wearing a back pack weighing what a back country hiker, camping, would carry for a week of full days , is nothing I would Consider..
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Old 03-10-15, 11:48 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Motels are expensive and not very conveniently spaced on some of the coast. Also you would miss out on hanging out with other cyclists at the hiker biker camp sites, which to me is one of the nicer things about the coast route.

Yes the distance between lodging might dictate the miles you do in a day because of the poor spacing/

As said above Big Sur is probably the probably the most expensive. Deetjens is one on the few. And unless you bring dinner up with you or want to ride down the hill and back up, you are pretty much stuck with their food too, There is a place that has yurts in Big Sur that might me a little cheaper.


There are a few hostels north. Monterrey has one but probably booked by now. South there is one in Santa Barbara but I checked out of there

Don't forget Warmshowers. When I rode that route there were warmshowers hosts in Santa Cruz and San Luis Opisbo
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Old 03-10-15, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by samh537 View Post

...

1. Do you think it is plausible to go to SF and buy a second hand bike (max $250) and try to sell it in LA when I am done?

2. The 7-9 day itinerary from SF to LA online that people have done looks quite hard. I am 27 and have cycled up to 65 miles a day, but some legs look up to 97 miles in one day! Is there an online resource that shows it broken up a bit more (maybe into 45-50 miles).?

3. I intent to take a daysack and cycle without panniers. I know this is not ideal, but it saved a lot of hassle taking my panniers over, and everything I need will fit into it. Reasonable idea?

4. I am thinking of going without a tent and making for hotels/hostels along the route so I don't need to camp (and haul sleeping back, mat and tent). Is California just too big? Will I come unstuck somewhere wild?

1) it could end up being a big PITA, but yes, it is possible.

2) see 4)...

3) it's a personal matter. i like panniers and don't consider them a hassle.

4) there are motels and hostels all the way to L.A. from SF. they are less than 50 miles apart, even in the Big Sur area.

as mentioned, not a bad idea to pick a bike you want off of Craigslist, contact the seller, by phone before even leaving Germany, or email, and make a deal. offer a deposit via Paypal or something. try to make a friend. you never know, they may be of great help setting you up for your trip.

Last edited by hueyhoolihan; 03-10-15 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 03-10-15, 09:04 PM
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Wow, what a lot of negative Nellie responses. Of course you can find a bike that will be able to make the trip for $200 in the Bay Area. If you can't find it at a bike shop that sells used, Craig's list or at a flea market (Best Flea Markets in the East Bay), you can always pick up a bike-shaped-object at WalMart for about $100. Just be sure to bring your own saddle and pedals and it will work out fine. Oh, and if you should score a bike in LA, you can always cancel your flight to SF and take the bike on the train. You might even be able to rent a bike in LA, take it on the train to SF and return it when you get back south. If you have used it before, you might be able to find a bike on ebay that is listed by someone in the Bay Area who will sell to you.

Also, you should be able to camp without a tent. It's not like that stretch of coastline gets a lot of storms after March (or any time of year these past few years). A thin tarp or even plastic sheet to keep the dew off will help.

It sounds like you'll have a fun trip. It's not like some little thing taking you out of your precisely planned tour is going to throw you for a loop.
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Old 03-20-15, 08:31 PM
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You might find a nice used touring bike at Refried Cycles in SF. Price is likely to be closer to $400 though.
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Old 03-21-15, 10:59 PM
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I did a similar trip last Fall on a used bike. But I spent more. I was lucky enough to find a used trekking pack with rear rack and panniers that I got for a little over $400. It was a stroke of luck that I found the bike at all. I definitely test rode it. For a non-local, making a deal for a bike before you ride it sounds crazy to me. You can find a good used bike for the trip--think you will need to pay more, though.

I pre-booked rooms at Motel 6s in every town I planned to spend an evening. Most were about $65 for the night. Monterey and one other place were $90+ so whoever rode about an $80/night average was pretty spot on.

Backpack would be miserable. I did it with the read panniers and a day pack bungeed to the rear rack. It was perfect. Plus I carried a foot pump bungeed to the rack in case I had a flat because my hand pump never gets my tire fully inflated. Maybe I am just weak!

It was a beautiful ride and a great trip. I didn't want to spend big bucks for a room in Big Sur so I rode 90+ miles from Monterey to San Simeon. That was the toughest day as there is definitely some climbing in the cliff areas. Other days were pretty reasonable and averaged 55-60. Because I had to get back for work, I did another 90+ mile day from Carpinteria to home. That was totally my choice, though. There were plenty of options to break up that long ride.

If you bring a tent and sleeping bag, I would think it you could stealth camp in Big Sur for one night pretty easily.
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Old 03-22-15, 04:32 PM
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I didn't quite make it through all of the comments, so maybe someone said this, but my recommendation would be to camp rather than hotel. That should save you several hundred dollars, affording you a cheap pair of panniers/front rack, and more importantly, more for the bike. Also, there are some cool bike shops in San Francisco. Maybe you could get in contact with a couple of them ahead of time and see if they can help you get a used bike in your budget that would work. I know I'd Much rather camp and have $500+ to spend on a bike and not wear a backpack the whole time. Could you mail your tent/panniers to your US destination? You can always find a cheap fleece blanket for sleeping and a foam pad. That should do well enough strapped to a cheap-o $20 rear rack.

I personally do think that you could probably sell the bike within two days in LA, but at a loss from what you paid for it. If you don't let it go for fairly cheap to guaranty that you get it sold that quickly, you chance not selling it at all.

Last edited by 3speed; 03-22-15 at 04:36 PM.
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