Author Topic: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept  (Read 6351 times)

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Offline pax78

Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« on: May 30, 2009, 09:02:34 pm »
I am planning my first long tour (over 200mi), beginning in Seattle and heading to San Francisco. I would appreciate some help in planning and understanding this route. I am coming from south Florida (flat flat flat) and don't know how to judge travel in this region. I need to be in SF on a particular date. I am ordering AC maps, but don't have them yet. So far, I don't have any traveling companions.

Is it unreasonable to expect to travel 50-60 mi/day heading north to south (for a flatlander)? I hope to take a day off every now and then, to enjoy the scenery.

Are there frequent bike-friendly places to stay on AC route? (churches, YMCAs, fire houses)

I have a road bike with pretty good low gears -- is this route going to feel rough for a road bike?

Are there lots of bears in campgrounds on this route?

Any input welcome.



Offline wanderingwheel

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2009, 11:58:04 am »
Depending on your fitness, 50-60 miles per day should be very reasonable.  The route is hilly with the occasional longer climb.  A triple crank, or a compact crank with a larger cassette is usually low enough for most people.  Generally, you can expect a nice tailwind for much of your trip. 

For most of the route there are hiker/biker camp sites at state parks and national forests.  Bears are not an issue anywhere along the route.  If you are lucky enough to see one, it will likely be on the Olympic Penninsula in Washington or along the Oregon coast.  If the campground has a bear box to store food in, please use it, but you still are not likely to see a bear.

Enjoy the trip
Sean

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2009, 11:46:11 pm »
It's a great route with cheap camping in the biker sites in Oregon and California.  It is almost constant rollers, frustrating at times, but the scenery and the nature of the country make it well worth it.  I was able to average 72 miles per day and I was 56 at the time.  I think I would have enjoyed it more at 50-60 mpd.  It seems we were almost always riding or setting up camp or shopping, cooking, or cleaning up.  We also took only 1 day off, and that was consumed taking care of chores, etc for the most part.

You will have a wonderful time, meet other bikers you can hook up with if you like, and remember it forever.  It's considered one of the world's classic tours.  If possible, I'd recommend going south of SF, at least to the Santa Barbara area.  One of my favorite bike days of alll time was from Big Sur to
San Simeon.

 
May the wind be at your back!

Offline pax78

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2009, 09:36:55 am »
Thank you both for the responses. I consider myself fit, but do need to load my panniers and begin riding with the load. A 50 mile ride is easy for me on any given day and depending on wind conditions I can average 16-19mph, but speed is not the concern -- it's the hills! South Florida is one big sand bar, and the local highway bridges are my only source for incline practice.  I have perused the forums for more posts on this route (and older posts) and understand that north to south is definitely the better direction.

Thanks too for the encouragement to continue farther south... I am pondering that. I ordered the entire Pacific AC map set. I've been wanting to do this trip for so long, I can't believe I finally have the opportunity to go! Actually, I am wondering why I would stop, except to take in the beauty of the scenery! Once I get going, I may prefer to call the road my home!

Offline valygrl

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2009, 09:49:53 am »
It's hilly - hilly enough that if you are carrying more than about 15 pounds of gear, regular road bike low triple gearing might not be enough, especially for someone not accustomed to hills.  Though this might not be what you want to hear, getting yourself some lower gearing might really improve your trip experience.  I wouldn't know what to recommend you do about that, given I don't know anything about your bike - but if a dedicated touring bike isn't possible, maybe a temporary swap to a MTB derailleur and cassette would do it - 30x34 low gear would be just adequate, IMO, with a camping load.  I would NOT recommend doing this with a standard double unless you are a very strong rider.

In terms of "rough" - if you mean road surface, it's all good pavement, put the fattest tires on your bike that you can, bring your sturdiest wheelset.  Touring with a load is tough on wheels.  Be prepared to deal with broken drive-side spokes.

There aren't any bear issues on the coast, but you might encounter raccoons in the campsites that want to eat your food, and you should look up Poison Oak, learn what it looks like, and don't touch it - it's definitely growing in areas on the OR/CA coast, I've seen it in the campgrounds.

It's a fantastic route, and I echo the recommendation to continue further south, at least through Big Sur.  I would go to Santa Barbara if possible.

Offline pax78

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2009, 10:32:23 am »
Valygrl, I remember you helped me out when I started planning 6 years ago (before being hit by a car.) I can't remember the formula to calculate gear inches, but my triple ring is 46-34-24 and my rear cassette is 9 rings 23-11; I think this was close to what John Schubert recommended. I am mid-40s with a severed ACL (severed, not torn) so have to be conscientious of the knees. Is it feasible to only carry 15 lbs on a trek from Seattle to Santa Barbara, camping? (maybe you mean that it can be done if CC traveling) Would you forego cooking to lighten the load? Not carry a tent and hope for shelter? Thanks so much for your suggestions.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2009, 10:39:10 am by pax78 »

Offline aggie

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2009, 12:50:04 pm »
Take a look at Bicycling the Pacific Coast by Tom Kirkendall and Vicky Spring.  Their route closely matches the ACA Maps and it lists a number of campgrounds and the accommodations at each.  It also discusses the scenery along the way.  I found it to be a good addition to ACA Maps.

Offline valygrl

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2009, 02:02:40 pm »
Valygrl, I remember you helped me out when I started planning 6 years ago (before being hit by a car.) I can't remember the formula to calculate gear inches, but my triple ring is 46-34-24 and my rear cassette is 9 rings 23-11; I think this was close to what John Schubert recommended. I am mid-40s with a severed ACL (severed, not torn) so have to be conscientious of the knees. Is it feasible to only carry 15 lbs on a trek from Seattle to Santa Barbara, camping? (maybe you mean that it can be done if CC traveling) Would you forego cooking to lighten the load? Not carry a tent and hope for shelter? Thanks so much for your suggestions.

You have a better memory than I!!  :)

Gear inch calculator: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/

That 24 in front is fantastic, just get the biggest cassette you can on there - the late Sheldon says a regular road derailleur will handle a 30 tooth rear cog, and harris cyclery sells them, get a new (longer) chain, and you have reasonable touring gearing!   Even a 27 tooth cassette is probably fine - and easier to find.  Also, depending on your crank (ask your bike shop) you might be able to swap your granny for a 22. 

With 22x30 you can spin your way up everything the coast has to offer except maybe about a half-mile of real steepness a few days north of SF.  Which ultimately is so darn short that you can just walk if it's too steep.  If you can only get it down to 24x27 you're still in good shape.

I wouldn't want to recommend what not/to carry - was just using the 15 pounds as an example of what you might be able to get away with for regular road bike gearing.   I ran an 11 pound credit-card load on my triple (30x27 low gear) road bike in the rockies, and it was fine.  I personally would not be able to get a camping load down to 15 pounds - i like my camping luxuries!   But your 24 tooth is smaller than the standard 30 tooth road granny, so you're ok there.   

Have a great trip!

Offline whittierider

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2009, 02:14:25 pm »
Quote
I can't remember the formula to calculate gear inches, but my triple ring is 46-34-24 and my rear cassette is 9 [cogs] 23-11; I think this was close to what John Schubert recommended.

Gear inches is front teeth divided by back teeth (which is why a gear should be written for example 46/12, not 46x12), multiplied by the tire diameter in inches, nominally 26 or 27.  When I was building up a touring bike in 1977 for myself at the shop where I worked, I was planning on a low of 28/31, or about 24", and asked the manager who rode across the country to the '76 Olympics in Montreal IIRC how low of a gear he wished he had, and he exaggerated to make a point, "There were times when I could have used a 2!" (although I anything below about 16" (20/34) means you'll get passed by someone on foot).

Even though your big ring is only 46T, you could probably trade the 11T cog at the small end of the cassette for a 26 or 27 at the big end, and go with a 12-26 (if SRAM) or 12-27 (if Shimano), and keep the closer spacing between other gears.  I put an 11-34 cassette on one bike just because it was cheaper than changing the crankset to a triple, but I sure don't like its big jumps between gears in the cruising range.  Your 24/27 won't be as low as my 24/31 was, but what you need down there varies so widely that it's hard to recommend without having ridden PCH that far north myself, or knowing your condition, etc..  My highest gear on the first bike I mentioned above was 45/13, which was definitely enough for this spinner for a touring bike.

Quote
Is it feasible to only carry 15 lbs on a trek from Seattle to Santa Barbara, camping?

I understand the weight of things has come way down in recent years.  Someone I hear from every day on another forum says you can get the whole kit for camping in 15 pounds.  I don't know how.

Offline damselfli

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2009, 02:19:42 pm »
It's been so long ago, I nearly forgot -- I have a set of heavy duty touring wheels with the 34-11 cassette stowed in my closet, just need to make the switch; they are practically new, since I never got to take the long haul with them!

Valygrl, You seem to have a lot of experience with longer self-supported tours, do you have a packing list to share? I have read the ones on AC 'how to' and a few others, but curious what you have found useful and desirable to take along as a girl going solo.

Thanks for the inspiration -- and thanks to Forum folks, for restoring my username!
« Last Edit: June 01, 2009, 04:23:48 pm by damselfli »

Offline valygrl

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2009, 01:22:02 am »
Damselfli, are you the same person as pax78?  (I'm confused! but that's nothing new.)

I don't have a packing list online - there are tons on crazyguyonabike.com.  If you want mine, PM me your email address and I can send it to you - they are in Excel, and I have a few of them.  It doesn't look like you can attach a file here.  They are works-in-progress always, and of course specific to the items I own.  I doubt I have anything special, though - just look at some on crazyguyonabike, and think through what *you* need and what you can live without.  For example, I can live without a computer but not a book or coffee.  If I could live without coffee, I would probably go stoveless. 

Be careful, the things you decide to bring often bring other things along.  For example, coffee brings a stove & pot, filter cone, cup... so while you're at it, may as well have some cooking supplies, pretty soon you have oatmeal, raisins, brown sugar, olive oil, pasta, pesto, .... all because you had to have coffee. 

As a "girl going solo" the only things I probably do any different than a guy going solo is some extra hair products (I have a lot of curly hair) and um, well,  certain monthly supplies.  I do carry pepper spray for bad dogs that can be used on bad men, but (knock on wood) I haven't had to use it yet.

The Pacific Coast route is pretty forgiving -  nice weather, cheap & easy camping, lots of places to get food and water, frequent hotel and hostel options, lots of towns with bike shops & other stores.  So if you make a mistake with your packing list, it's easy to fix along the way.

Hope you have a wonderful trip!  I still haven't figured out what I'm doing this year, and if I can get away from my job at all.

:)

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2009, 12:11:27 am »
Teh recent news is that California may close hundreds of state parks due to budget problems.  This could create problems for Pacific Coast riders.  You will want to keep an eye on how this plays out.  We relied on those great, cheap biker sites all the way down, every night.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline litespeed

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2009, 08:47:08 pm »
I have a Deore XT triple (dunno the numbers) at the crank and 11-27 Ultegra at the cassette. I was in my 60's and about 200 pounds (280 total load) when I did the west coast in 2004. I made all the climbs, even the tough ones on route 1 north of SF. I was circumnavigating the 48 states counterclockwise, starting in Florida, so I was in pretty good shape. You need low MTB gears at the crank or rear wheel (or both) to do this.

Offline cgarch

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2009, 04:16:32 pm »
Teh recent news is that California may close hundreds of state parks due to budget problems.  This could create problems for Pacific Coast riders.  You will want to keep an eye on how this plays out.  We relied on those great, cheap biker sites all the way down, every night.
The word we're hearing here is that the parks, if they close, won't close until after Labor Day. Makes sense given the pile of reservations they have for the summer. Sure will make a mess of everyone's Pac Coast plans in the future. (Mine? - Tandem/BOB Southbound from Port Angeles in July).

Offline damselfli

Re: Seattle to San Francisco Aug/Sept
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2009, 08:25:24 pm »
Thanks to everyone for the replies. Somehow I had my notifications turned off, and I've been offline recently, readying for major exam.

Will definitely be using the lower gears, and keeping my weight down so think that I will survive the hills.  Will enjoy the downhill anyway!

Very sad to hear about possible park closings... and I hear that the parks are going to be full this summer due to economizing of summertime vacation plans. Ironic. Will have to look at alternatives, since I am not planning an extravagant budget for the trip.

Coffee. MUST have coffee. Will resist the olive oil, for now.
3 weeks to go! Maybe I will see some of you out there.

Cheers!