Author Topic: Pacific Coast in the Summer?  (Read 1876 times)

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Offline ritterider

Pacific Coast in the Summer?
« on: May 22, 2013, 03:20:45 pm »
Hi All;

Avid cyclist here. Roadie but not touring.

Our college age daughter plans on touring from Monterrey to Orange county with friends.  Fully loaded etc. They plan to follow the lower Pacific Coast route.  But in July.

Having cycled and trained in many parts of California, my immediate reaction is wow that's not the safest road in the Summer.   Of course there is no talking them out of it because after all they are in college ;)

The question I have is this.  Can anyone recommend an alternative route or alternative trip in July for them?

I worry as a typical parent but more so as a cyclist and parent who jumps at the chance to build up and epic bike my kid for an epic trip.  This one has me troubled however.   Am I over reacting?

Please advise as you see fit


Offline MrBent

Re: Pacific Coast in the Summer?
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2013, 09:17:35 am »
I understand your concerns, but most of this route is reasonably safe.  I've ridden from Sonoma County to Santa Barbara three times, all in the summer.  It's one of the great bike tours of North America.  If you're daughter is an experienced cyclist, she should have no problems.   There are, of course, always risks, but knowing how to deal with traffic, wearing bright clothing, riding defensively are all skills she should have before setting out on ANY ride.  She'll encounter other riders and stay in hiker/biker campsites and have a blast.  The problem with alternatives at that time of year is that virtually all of them are bloody hot.

Here is an alternate that I've ridden several times, too.  The route begins and ends in Bishop, but in July, riders would want to start from Bishop on the first day VERY early to do most of the first climb before the heat sets in.  After that, the ride is at a pretty high altitude for much of the way, which keeps temps more reasonable.  The climb to Monitor Pass on Hwy 89 can be hot, too, so an early start is recommended there, too.  Most of this route has excellent shoulders and good services.  It's also perhaps one of the most beautiful rides in the country.  Keep in mind, however, that it is a good deal more challenging than the coastal ride you're talking about.  Check out the elevation profile.  I've typically done the ride in late May/early-mid June:

All the best!


Offline johnsondasw

Re: Pacific Coast in the Summer?
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2013, 10:39:38 pm »
I would worry too if she is not an experienced road rider.  I have ridden the route in mid-summer and had no problems at all.  But I have been touring 30 years and have a mirror and know how to use it. Make sure she does the same and wears very bright clothing. 
May the wind be at your back!

Offline ritterider

Re: Pacific Coast in the Summer?
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2013, 10:06:02 am »
Thank you both for the replies.  Mrbent the bishop loop alternative sounds like something i might try myself.  What is camping availability like and did you free camp at all?

With regards to your Cali trip
Where in Sonoma did you start?

Also how would you compare your trip tp Santa barbara to Crescent City to Frisco ? 

Offline MrBent

Re: Pacific Coast in the Summer?
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2013, 11:03:01 am »
Hi, ritterider:

The camping options for the Bishop loop are many, from Forest Service campgrounds to RV parks and free/wild camping.  One of my favorite spots is a Forest Service campground just outside Markleeville,  one of the most beautiful places you'll ever see.  The climb up Monitor Pass from 395 is stout and spectacular, one of the all-time greats, and the descent to Markleeville is a life-changing event.  It's especially nice in the spring when snow is still on the high peaks.

Re. Sonoma start:  I began in Santa Rosa, taking a bike path to Sebastapol and back roads to Occidental.  From there, it's the spectacular and challenging Coleman Valley Rd., which takes you to the top of the coastal mountains and a big drop down to the coast a little north of Bodega Bay.  Good campgrounds nearby.

To be honest, I haven't done the whole coast route in California.  I've been from Crescent City all the way to Garberville, which includes the Avenue of the Giants, one of the great bike runs ever.  I know the coast north of Fort Bragg, where I have cycled, tends too be narrow and hilly, but folks ride it all the time.  Some non-cyclists freak out when I tell them I've ridden the Big Sur coast, but I've never had a  problem.  There is very little commercial traffic, and people interested in going fast will take Hwy 101 or Hwy 5 to the east.  Great camping, too, all though I hated Plaskett Creek (sp?).  Not a good hiker/biker.

If I had to pick a favorite, I would definitely choose the Bishop loop.  The roads are more bike friendly, I like the big-ass mountains and passes, and the access to some free/wild camping makes for some good variety.    I suggest, for best conditions, you ride it before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.  Once the Bishop area is seeing temps in the 80's, you're set!  Dang, I wish I were out there riding right now.  Go do it.

A blog on that tour from 2009: