Author Topic: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?  (Read 8642 times)

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Offline craigory

Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« on: June 28, 2015, 12:22:41 am »
Hello and howdy! I love cycling (road and mountain) but have never done any trips longer than a day.  I'm looking to ride along a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway that would take me about a week and a half.  So here's my question: would taking my road bike on that long of a ride be a good idea? Or would a touring bike be better? I'm thinking about the feasibility of having panniers on a road bike (never used them before) specifically, as well as any other pointers that you'd like to throw my way.

Offline bobbys beard

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2015, 05:25:15 am »
As far as the roads are concerned, there's nothing I remember that a road bike couldn't cope with.

I find it better to think of touring as lots of rides, rather than one big ride. If you're a keen biker, you will be no stranger to riding on a daily basis. How long do you plan to ride versus your usual distances?

On the PCH, you can easily plan to ride between accommodation each day, so if you didn't want to take too much gear, it would easily be done on a credit card. If you plan on camping a lot (it's a beautiful route to camp on), there are several incredibly lightweight tents and sleeping bags, but they're not cheap.

Personally, I think a touring bike is better, just because it's better designed for long trips and the weight of luggage and water, however people also do these trips on unicycles, so a road bike shouldn't be any problem at all!

Offline John Nelson

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2015, 08:13:41 am »
From where to where exactly?

A touring bike is generally considered a sub-class of road bikes. For most touring situations, a touring bike has a number of advantages over a standard road bike: longer wheelbase for stability, more attachment points for panniers and water bottles, longer chainstays to avoid heel strike, steel frame for strength, clearance for wider tires, lower gearing, stronger wheels, etc. But if you keep your load light, a regular road bike can be used.

I would say it depends on the weight of your load. If the total weight of your gear (including panniers and racks) is less than 30 pounds, a regular road bike can be used. If your road bike is full carbon, or even if it's just a carbon fork, I'd probably want to keep the load under 20 pounds.

If I had a regular road bike and a touring bike sitting side-by-side in my garage, I'd take the touring bike. If you travel super-light (less than 15 pounds), however, a regular road bike will help keep the weight down and make you faster.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2015, 08:14:22 am »
It depends on how heavy or light you pack.  My preference would be to take less than 15 pounds of light backpacking gear and a road bike, but a minimalist style isn't for everyone.  You can go a bit heavier too, but I wouldn't go too heavy on a road bike.  If carrying a good bit more you might consider a trailer with your road bike.

In any case a lot of the coast is very hilly so be sure you have low enough gearing.

Is this trip a one time thing?  If so I definitely wouldn't buy a new bike just for it.

BTW, bikepacking bags or even just strapping on stuff sacks can work well for lighter loads.  Packing very light, you might manage with a roll under the handle bars and one under/behind the seat.

PS: John's numbers sound reasonable to me except, I would not worry as much about a carbon frame or fork.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2015, 08:17:50 am by staehpj1 »

Offline litespeed

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2015, 05:37:51 pm »
There are some steep climbs on the PCH, particularly south of Legget CA on Route 1. You will need triple MTB gearing at the bottom bracket (pedals). The two big gears on the standard road bike won't cut it unless you plan to walk up some hills. A touring bike or possibly a mountain bike is really required.

My Litespeed Blue Ridge has a mixed rig - Deore XT at the bottom Bracket and 9-speed 12-28 cassette. It took my lowest gear and all I had on some of those climbs.
« Last Edit: July 04, 2015, 05:21:24 pm by litespeed »

Offline craigory

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2015, 03:03:48 pm »
Thanks for all the helpful responses! I think I'm going to go for the packing light option and just use my road bike.  I'm planning on starting in Vancouver, Canada, and ending in Crescent City, CA.  According to what I read online there aren't too many steep hills in that section of the PCH.  We'll be doing a combination of camping and staying with people along the route, so I'll be figuring that part out a little bit more.  I'll post more questions when I have them.  Thanks for being so prompt and helpful!

Offline RonK

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2015, 10:55:15 pm »

Thanks for all the helpful responses! I think I'm going to go for the packing light option and just use my road bike.
...

We'll be doing a combination of camping and staying with people along the route, so I'll be figuring that part out a little bit more.
Once you bring camping into the mix, packing light is not really feasible.
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

Offline bobbys beard

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2015, 03:47:04 am »
Once you bring camping into the mix, packing light is not really feasible.

Not necessarily. My tent and sleeping bag combined come to around 10 lb's. There are even lighter options, but lightweight camping equipment generally isn't cheap.

Offline RonK

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2015, 05:02:22 am »

Once you bring camping into the mix, packing light is not really feasible.

Not necessarily. My tent and sleeping bag combined come to around 10 lb's. There are even lighter options, but lightweight camping equipment generally isn't cheap.
So that covers the sleeping arrangements. Then you need to add stove, cookware, fuel, food, water and sundry other camping items.
Weight (and volume) can escalate rapidly.
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

Offline John Nelson

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2015, 05:20:19 am »
Once you bring camping into the mix, packing light is not really feasible.
Not that I would ever go this light myself, but you should check out Pete's gear list:
https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=tS&page_id=301886&v=Y

His gear weights just 6 pounds, 9 ounces, and he takes a tarp, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, bivy sack, stove, pot, utensils. He even has a pillow, for Pete's sake.


Offline staehpj1

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2015, 07:23:45 am »
Once you bring camping into the mix, packing light is not really feasible.
Not that I would ever go this light myself, but you should check out Pete's gear list:
https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=tS&page_id=301886&v=Y

His gear weights just 6 pounds, 9 ounces, and he takes a tarp, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, bivy sack, stove, pot, utensils. He even has a pillow, for Pete's sake.

Yes that is true and I find that I am pretty comfortable when packing very light and camping and cooking.  My actual trip weights have been a little higher than what was listed in that link since I often take a few luxuries, but I could go with that weight and be fine.  On the Southern Tier I was carrying 14 pounds of gear, but that included some heavier than necessary items that were later replaced and some luxury items including a fairly big camera with an extra telephoto lens.  I definitely could have easily left a few pounds of stuff home or taken some lighter items and still been very comfortable.

There are conditions where I don't like the bivy, but even when I take a tent I can still stay quite light.  If biting insects aren't a problem I usually cowboy camp anyway only climbing into the bivy if it gets cold and windy or it rains.  Trips where I think it will be hot, humid, and buggy every night I take a light tent, otherwise a bivy or a bug bivy work fine.

BTW, it doesn't have to be expensive to go ultralight since much of the reduction is done by eliminating things.  There are fewer items to buy and you need less luggage to carry them.  I can get by with a stuff sack under the saddle (or on the rear rack if using one), a stuff sack used as a bar roll, and maybe a tiny backpack.  I think my gear expenses are probably less than average, despite the fact that I splurge on a few items including a very good and somewhat expensive sleeping bag and sleeping pad.

Going fully self supported with a very light minimalist approach probably isn't for everyone, but it is definitely possible and for those suited to it comfortable.  Having done a good bit of it I doubt that I will go back to a much heavier style of packing.

Offline bobbys beard

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2015, 04:09:06 pm »
So that covers the sleeping arrangements. Then you need to add stove, cookware, fuel, food, water and sundry other camping items.
Weight (and volume) can escalate rapidly.

a stove isn't at all necessary if you're trying to pack light. Personally, the last thing I want to do at camp is spend an hour warming a can of beans, then have to clean up etc, although I've seen plenty of tourers that do it.

The PCH isn't remote at all and a decent refuel stop is never far away. snacks and a couple of bottles of water is usually plenty to get you to the next one.

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2015, 03:40:42 pm »
So that covers the sleeping arrangements. Then you need to add stove, cookware, fuel, food, water and sundry other camping items.
Weight (and volume) can escalate rapidly.

a stove isn't at all necessary if you're trying to pack light. Personally, the last thing I want to do at camp is spend an hour warming a can of beans, then have to clean up etc, although I've seen plenty of tourers that do it.

I can whip up something like this, munch it down and do clean up in about an hour:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/davez2007/9779778496/in/album-72157635548910265/

Just got back from a non-cooking tour of the Black Hills. It was my first trip of more than three days without cooking gear. I will never do that again unless I know I will be in an area where dine out options can regularly provide broad sources of nutrition as opposed to simply calories.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2015, 06:41:45 pm »
a stove isn't at all necessary if you're trying to pack light. Personally, the last thing I want to do at camp is spend an hour warming a can of beans, then have to clean up etc, although I've seen plenty of tourers that do it.

I'd agree that you can get by without cooking, and if that is what you prefer that is great, but...
I think you overstate the negatives.  My cooking gear weighs 7.1 ounces in its lightest form so it is possible to go light and still cook.  The beans sound kind of bleak, but I don't think I have resorted to a can of beans more than a very few times and when I did I heated them in the can, so almost no clean up.  For me taking the cooking gear is kind of automatic.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Pacific Coast Highway on a road bike?
« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2015, 02:51:03 pm »
I have cycled across the US several times north south east and west on a road bike. It's no problem.