Author Topic: Banff to San Francisco  (Read 3170 times)

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Offline EnduroDoug

Re: Banff to San Francisco
« Reply #15 on: October 20, 2011, 08:00:18 pm »
I'm a bit closer in age and speed so maybe I can help. :D

These are just my rules of thumb as a relatively fit tourer who tours with his wife, but has a background in triathlon and endurance mountain bike racing.

1) Regarding Speed: It's probably safe to anticipate an average of 11-14 mph. Seriously. It sounds slow, and I usually average 18-20mph on road rides, but that weight makes a big difference.
2) Concerning Planning: My safe estimate is to plan for 55miles/day and every 7th day off. Give or take based on weather, gradient, and your morale.
3) Regarding April: My wife and I are planning a Northern Tier-ish kick off to a lengthy multi-year tour and we have been planning an April 1st start in Seattle. We know this is borderline "Insane" but plan to make allowances by detouring around the North Cascades (Hwy 20 is typically closed until mid May) and by budgeting plenty of days off the bike in a motel. Starting in Banff in April is not recommended. Not for a first time trip.

That said, you'd be surprised how warm you could actually be with proper tights, outer rain gear, long sleeve jersey, warm socks and shoe covers, headband, and winter cycling gloves. Crazier things have been done and it's not that what you're proposing isn't possible, but rather that it could be very less than enjoyable. Just some food for thought.

Offline syndrome

Re: Banff to San Francisco
« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2011, 02:06:08 pm »
I've been talking to a lot of people who have done long bike trips like this and I've decided to flip my trip and start in San Francisco and make my way home from there.

Offline PeteJack

Re: Banff to San Francisco
« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2011, 11:58:10 am »
Probably a wise move syndrome. However it's possible to get passes as far south as California blocked by snow quite late in the year. I went over Mt Lassen on July 17 this year and the road had been opened just the day before. I met two guys coming the other way who had had to detour round it. But I don't think you'll meet any show stoppers. By that I mean passes you can't avoid although you may have some long detours. You may have to find an alternative to the North Cascades Highway: snow can hang around late there. Having said that, there have been years when it didn't close at all (very few). Check on the internet; Washington State DOT even has a North Cascades  newsletter you can sign up for which I recommend. States sometime have 800 numbers for road conditions.

Since you're new to touring. I'll offer this: locals have no idea what it's like to get anywhere on a bike. "not far" can be 15 or 20 miles. "A bit of a hill" can be 2000 ft in 3 miles. "down the road" can be uphill all the way (got bit by that this year)

Go for it.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Banff to San Francisco
« Reply #18 on: November 30, 2011, 09:56:30 am »
I've been talking to a lot of people who have done long bike trips like this and I've decided to flip my trip and start in San Francisco and make my way home from there.

I re-looked at this a week or so ago, and I don't think your original idea (Banff to SF) was nearly as crazy as some have inferred.

First, the route looks pretty reasonable.  You've got two passes I'd be concerned about, coming out of Banff and Lolo Pass west of Missoula.  The rest of L&C to the coast is lower, and the coast itself will be temperate barring late winter storms.  Looks like the high point of the route is around 5,000 feet, so you can safely ignore those warning about 10,000 foot pass closures.

Second, using Missoula as the proxy for inland weather, looks like the average temperature is 30-45 degrees in March.  It's quite possible to cycle in that kind of weather, although some people's preferences may be to wait until it's warmer.

Third, the route and roads.  The roads from Eureka to Missoula have approximately zero rideable shoulders.  Even if it snows, once the road is plowed, motorized traffic will have just as much room to pass you in March as they would in July.  Other traffic on most of these roads is pretty light, thanks to the AC route selectors, so you shouldn't have much problem.  I don't know about Canada south of Banff, Lolo Pass, or the L&C route west, but I suspect they're similar.

All that said, here are some recommendations if you (or future readers) want to try this.

 - Be prepared for cold rain, cooler temperatures, and perhaps snow.  Your load will be slightly heavier than a summer tourist's.
 - Check the weather forecast regularly.
 - Keep a financial reserve for a few nights in a motel in case a major snowstorm hits.
 - Local knowledge trumps any 'net posters from afar.  If someone from Seeley Lake or Lolo tells you (s)he rides roads five months a year starting April 20, pay attention.  Be wary of advisors who never ride on the road "because it's too dangerous," or ride in different locations.  Logan Pass closed until July is as relevant as Alabama roads never close if your route doesn't include Logan Pass or Alabama.

Offline MrBent

Re: Banff to San Francisco
« Reply #19 on: December 14, 2011, 08:28:03 pm »
If you flip the route, as you seem inclined to do, consider powering over the Sierras then heading north up the inland desert regions east of the moist coastal mountains.  This would be a fine time for eastern Oregon and Washington and, for that matter, the east side of the Canadian Rockies, all drier than the western slopes.   Getting over the Sierras will be a challenge that early, but often Carson Pass is open, although using the ACA maps (Western Express) you'll likely get shut down on Mormon Immigrant Trail.  So, I guess, bottom line: Do your homework regarding weather (search weather histories and averages for key areas) and route issues (passes open or closed?), do some riding fully loaded to get a good sense for what you're comfortable doing per day, and prepare for the worst.  Once you've got your plan, go for it!  I once read a blog of some Norwegian guy who pedaled across Canada---in the winter!  Starting in the south and working north, even with a start as early as April, you'll have some great days but likely some downright wretched ones that will make you want to quit.  That's when the learning really starts.

Report back, young adventurer.  We want to hear how it goes.

Scott