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Pacific Cycle Route tour suggestions for visiting Brits

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We're visiting friends in Reno and San Mateo next spring as part of 7 week trip to the US from Wolverhampton, England. Whilst in America we'd like to take a bicycle tour - ideally self guided for about 2 weeks. We've investigated the Pacific route and our simple options would be north out of San Francisco and therefore into the prevailing wind according to the guide or south and away from our general direction of travel. We're flying into San Francisco and home from New York, crossing the country by rail.

Basic questions - suggestions for a 500 -700 mile road tour on undulating rather than severe climbs.
Bikes... we don't really want to fly with our bikes, although as mine's a Marin it would be coming home, so we are looking into either hiring or buying and then selling or maybe even donating to a community project if they aren't too expensive. Any suggestions that could avoid us flying out our own bike?

Happy to offer UK tour advice in return, Sarah and Phil

John Nelson:
So is it your objective to get to Reno as part of your bike ride? You could use the Western Express for much of this. This is more doable in late spring than early spring. Once you get to the intersection with the Sierra Cascades route, you can (and should) dip south to see Yosemite.

Renting a suitable touring bike in the U.S. will be difficult, so research this well in advance. I'm not sure what's available in San Francisco, but that's probably as good as your chances will get. There is an REI in SF, so you could buy a Novara touring bike there and try to sell it later. It may be so hideously expensive to bring your own bikes along that giving away $2000 worth of bikes at the end might not be as silly as it sounds.
I did Portland to SF 12 years ago mid - late summer (930 miles). The really pretty part is the Oregon coast to say 200 miles south of SF (Big Sur). There are some severe climbs, but lots of rolling. The pacific coast is far from flat, so there is little level riding.

One gotcha is weather. Depending on what you mean by spring, you could be rainy much of the time. The coast north from SF will be wet until sometime in June. South is beter.

Also, you say 500 miles - that is about what SF to LA is, so you might do that. Keep in mind that trains are not as good in the US as the UK, so you may be better off flying from LAX to SFO return. So, if you kind find a way to rent, ride from SF to LA, fly the bikes bake and return them. Then go on to Reno, which is straight east from SF.

I haven't riden that route, but I have driven it (a couple times).  The part closest to LA isn't as exciting (in my mind), but Big Sur is gorgeous.  I will note though - there are hills - This coastline is right along the San Andreas Fault.  Other attractions - Hearst San Simeon "castle". The huge mansion built by Randolf Hearst, the New Paper millionaire, Monterey... Not a bad ride by any means.

Does that help?

It is hard to provide specific advice given the limited information you listed. Questions whose answers would help:

When in the spring are you coming?  Every time I've ridden SF to LA it has been in April.

Will you be camping or requiring motels?

Renting suitable bikes in SF will be easy if you can deal with road or mountain bikes.  Not sure of availability of touring bikes but there are lots of bike rental places in SF.

There is no reason to go north out of SF, though it is a beautiful ride.  You can pick a spot north of SF and possibly take a bus up the coast or rent a car one-way and drive there. 

One idea: Rent bikes in SF, take a bus (or two) up to Fort Bragg, ride down to San Luis Obispo, take the train back to SF, turn in bikes and go on your way.  This takes in the very best of the California Coast and is about 2 weeks of riding.  There will be hills, some long, some hard, but none any worse then what is in the UK.  As an example, I've ridden the Kirkstone Pass from Windermere and there isn't anything that long or steep on the entire route above.

Have a great time,


Hi - I applaud your endeavor.  It sounds like fun, and I envy you.  If you can get hold of the Pacific Coast ACA maps 2, 3, and 4, you will get a good look at Portland to San Francisco (2 & 3), and San Francisco to LA (Map 4 mostly).

I did a very, very rough cut of where the ACA route generally goes, using GPSIES.  The Oregon trip is about twice as long, and the LA trip has over twice as much climbing.  As you plan in more detail, these numbers will change:

(1)  Maps 2 & 3: 900 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing  -- I've done AMTRACK from San Jose- to - Portland -- it is about 20 hours, and you will have to box your bikes.  As long as you don't have same-day connections to another train or air, you should be fine.
(2)  Map 4:  500 miles and 25,000 feet of climbing -- I've not done AMTRACK from LA to San Jose, so you will have to check their schedules.  I would not schedule same-day train or air connections as your arrival.

The weather is getting ready to change.  I live in San Jose (south end of San Francisco Bay), and we have had rain already and a cool spell, with a heat wave about to roll through.  From now until the true rainy season hits, the weather will be unpredictable and the winds will soon begin to shift from northerly to southerly.

Happy Trails,



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