Cycling the Pacific Coast (Vancouver-San Diego)

Discussion in 'Touring and recreational cycling' started by KevinSherm, Feb 28, 2005.

  1. KevinSherm

    KevinSherm New Member

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    I know a lot has been posted on this message board about this route, but I'm looking for some more specific answers, and am a little lazy about searching through message boards.

    Anyways, I'm planning a tour down the west coast (probably following primarily the Adventure Cycling maps) from late May to late June, this year. It will be fully self-supported, with primarily (if not all) camping. I'm 22 and in realtively good shape (planning on using the next few months to get in better shape), and am going with a friend who is about the same. Neither of us have any experience with touring.

    Now to the questions - feel free to answer as many as you'd like!
    -How much money should we be looking to spend a day, including food costs, camping costs, other incidentals

    -We feel confident in our riding abilities (even though we haven't ridden a ton in our lifetimes), and are planning to average between 75 and 100 miles a day, with maybe a day off a week...this may sound a little high for "beginniners", but we feel we could manage this for just the few weeks. From your experiences, based on your tours, the terrain, etc., is this reasonable?

    -The Adventure Cycling route takes you on the PCH for a lot of the ride, and from my experiences on it and from what I've heard, this does not sound like the most "conducive" place to cycle, especially on the right side of the road! What are your thoughts on this, and possible alternatives?

    -As beginners, looking to do this quick tour, what other things should we be considering and planning for now?

    Thanks a ton for whatever help you can give!!!
     
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  2. EmmCeeBee

    EmmCeeBee New Member

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    Welcome! After this summer, you'll be hooked.... :)

    I hope "late May" to "late June" is at least 5 weeks, because 1800 miles is barely doable if everything goes right, inconceivable if you mean 4 weeks. You've got youth and energy on your side :) but nature usually counters that with some rain, fog, and flats, not to mention saddle sores. When you wheel into San Diego, you'll have a sense of accomplishment that will take years to duplicate.

    For all their over-organization, Adventure Cycling does a fantastic job on maps and choosing routes. I don't think you could improve on the Pacific Coast Route, except for a handful of short detours. The roads they choose are almost always the "safest" (sometimes just relative, though), balanced with availability of services, sights to see, and roughing it. Believe it or not, the west side of the coast roads are gonna be the safest place to ride: it's on the beach side (you're not squeezed against a cliff), and the inevitable rubber-neck drivers will be looking in your direction to see the view. There are frequent pull-outs, and usually wide shoulders (at least on 101). Of course, this assumes you're going north-to-south, which is a given if you want a tailwind.

    Some of the best camping in the western states is in the string of state and national parks down the coast. If for no other reason, the Pacific Coast Highway is the place to ride. About the only alternative you have compared to the Adventure Cycling route, is two stretches of 101, as opposed to Hwy 1: roughly 1) In northern California, from Garberville to San Francisco, and 2) In southern California, from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo. The only reason to choose these is for speed, they might cut off 3 or 4 days. But you'd give up fresh salt air and idyllic riding for exhaust fumes, 8 lanes of speeding traffic, bad camping choices and surly drivers. Stick to the Adventure Cycling route unless you have a schedule to meet. Hwy 1 on the California coast is one of North America's gems.

    Camping in state parks (at least in WA and OR) costs $4 or so (hiker/biker), maybe $12-$15 at a private campground (and there's lots of good ones). The only other expense is food -- right? -- which could be $5/per person at a grocery store or $30+ at restaurants. So I'd plan on $15-$35 day each, which should include an occasional hot meal, inner tube, and acquarium visit. Maybe a bit more in California... Have more in reserve, just in case, such as for a bus ride to the next city, or replacing lost sunglasses, or....

    If you're not in ideal shape at the start, you will be within a week. 75-100 miles a day is ambitious but doable, but try a weekend trip now at that mileage to see what to expect. The first week may be discouraging if you don't know about sore butts and muscles. Also, get some practice with camping on wheels: setting up camp, cooking/washing/tuning your equipment for an hour before sunset, and setting up a routine for packing up in the morning. 100 miles feels like 1000 if you don't take breaks during the day. So if you can break camp early, you have time for rests during the day. Taking a lazy 2 hours for breakfast feels so good, until about 2 o'clock when you realize you have 60 more miles to go.

    What would worry me about the "few weeks" timeframe is, if anything goes wrong -- a 3-day rainstorm, a bent wheel, nursing a cold for a few days -- you'll find your mileage estimate go out the window. Before you start, have a Plan B (such as taking Amtrak from San Francisco to LA) so you don't kill yourselves trying to keep up.

    The most valuable advice is: know your bikes. Know how to fix, adjust, replace parts. With that knowledge, you can go anywhere. Happy tours.
    -- Mark
     
  3. Norsman

    Norsman New Member

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    If you haven't already done so, get a copy of Tom Kirdendall and Vicky Spring's book "Bicycling the Pacific Coast." It is the bible for this tour. They have divided the trip into 35 day trips averaging 53 miles per day. It would not be difficult to change their day trips to keep up the pace you plan to set.
     
  4. crazyk

    crazyk New Member

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    I was in Washington doing the hiker/biker thing and campsites ran me $10/night in the state parks. The price had been raised and I found that it made as much sense for me to stay in hostels for $4 more and avoid having to pay for the shower as well.
     
  5. analogkid333

    analogkid333 New Member

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    I've only ridden the Oregon section of the route, but I can give a couple bits of advice:

    "Coast" does not necessarily equate to "flat" (unless you're in Florida). At least in Oregon, on some days you will be climbing and descending headlands all the time; the constant up/downs have a way of wearing on you. In light of this, 75-100 miles a day is a big bite to chew. Not to say it isn't possible with decent fitness, but touring is less fun when you're always up against the wall schedule-wise. I've learned over the years to pad my schedule by holding to 50-60 mi. daily averages.

    Watch out for the tunnels in Oregon. The few that I went through were long, dark, narrow, and basically felt like riding through the barrel of a loaded gun. The state actually has helped cyclists with this by putting buttons at each end of the tunnels that activate flashing lights, which let motorists know that cyclists are in the tunnels. I don't know how many of them appear along the coast, but they racked my nerves a bit and it's good to know about them ahead of time.

    Sounds like a great trip. Live it up and ride safe.

    --Jeff
     
  6. squirt

    squirt New Member

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    The coast is anything from flat. The Big Sur section from Carmel to San Simeon is something like 8,000 feet of climbing overall in undulating terrain. And that is 75-100 miles. But, you'll likely have a 40 mph tailwind, so it can be pretty easy. I'd start riding at 50 miles a day and work your way up to 75-100 even if you feel good on the first few days. Sores seem to creep up on day 3-5 somehow.
     
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