Author Topic: Pacific Coast Road Quality  (Read 3447 times)

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Offline FromEurope

Pacific Coast Road Quality
« on: June 06, 2017, 01:24:44 pm »
Hi guys,

im planning to do the Pacific Coast route from Vancouver to LA from the beginning of september to middle of october. I guess that should be a good time (not to hot).  As I see it the route follows the highways 101 and 1 most of the time. Does it mean you are driving on the highway or are there seperated bikelanes etc.? In any case, how is the traffic on these highways? And how is the quality of the roads? That's my main concern as im going by road bike (1,8 cm / 0,7 inch tyres).

Thanks for the infos

Offline John Nelson

Re: Pacific Coast Road Quality
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2017, 02:03:39 pm »
You are asking about the conditions on almost 2000 miles of roadway. I can assure you that almost every condition imaginable exists somewhere along the way. It is impossible to generalize. I wish I could tell you that 27.3% of the distance is on a wide shoulder and 7.2% is on a separated bikeway, but I don't think anyone has compiled those numbers.

Having said that, I'll try to give you a perception. These are the most common conditions:
  • A fair amount is on the shoulder of US101, especially in Oregon. In most cases, there is a wide shoulder, good pavement and moderate traffic. You will feel safe, but there will be traffic.
  • Some of it is on small county roads, especially in Washington. There's no shoulder, and the road surface is mixed--sometimes quite good and sometimes otherwise. I remember a few roads that are quite rough, but only for a few miles. Trinidad Scenic Drive in Northern California springs to mind. Traffic will generally be very light.
  • Some of it, as little as possible, is on moderately busy highways with a token shoulder. You won't like it, but such conditions are impossible to completely avoid. Such conditions are more common in Southern California. I remember the 27 miles through Malibu as being particularly bad (since Malibu has no beach path).
  • Some of it through towns is on city streets, with or without bike lanes. You pretty much know what to expect there. Small town streets are no big deal, but you will be on city streets in LA for a few miles.
  • There are a few separated bike paths. Not many. In Southern California, many of the towns have a beach path. Most of the route through LA uses those. There's no worries about cars, but you have to watch out for kids and dogs and surfers and skateboarders and picnickers and what not. There's a great separated bikeway south of Carpinteria that you will use.

I would say that the Pacific Coast Route is a bit more dangerous to cyclists than some other routes such as the TransAm and Northern Tier, primarily because those other routes use a lot of the tiniest roads you can imagine. The scenery makes up for it. For example, Big Sur (if the road was open) isn't particularly safe cycling but it has some of the most gorgeous scenery in the world.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "1,8 cm / 0,7 inch tyres". 1.8 cm is way too wide, and 0.7 inches is way to narrow. Nevertheless, you will be fine with regular road tires in most places, and you'll get by with them everywhere else. If your road bike will fit 25mm or 28mm tires, I'd recommend you use them. The heavier your load, the more you will appreciate wider tires. Skinny tires under heavy loads put a lot of stress on the spokes, so have a good wheelbuilder make sure your wheels are as bulletproof as possible.

Offline Krampus Snail

Re: Pacific Coast Road Quality
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2017, 10:29:59 pm »
I think OP has 0.7 inch/18 mm tires. In my opinion, that's too narrow for anyone to tour on, unless they are credit card touring and weigh less than 80 pounds.


  • Guest
Re: Pacific Coast Road Quality
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2017, 06:57:32 am »
Good lord. When I was a svelte 6' 2", 180 lbs. back in the early 90s I experimented with 18c tires for unloaded road riding. The experiment lasted about 3 weeks.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Pacific Coast Road Quality
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2017, 06:58:48 am »
Sept. and Oct. are very nice times to do the PC.  The tourist traffic dies down a lot after Labor Day.

The road conditions vary widely, but are generally good as long as you are somewhat traffic tolerant.

You could ride the PC on just about any tires but the best choice will vary with your weight and how much you are carrying.  Personally I would run 28-32mm tires if packing heavy (40 pounds of gear, not counting food/water).  I typically pack pretty light (15 pounds plus of minus a few pounds) with minimal camping and cooking gear and tend to run 25 mm tires these days.  I did half of the Southern Tier on 23 mm tires and half on 25mm tires and the 25mm were definitely nicer on the Texas chip seal roads.  That was carrying only 15 pounds of ultralight gear and at a body weight of about 210.

I tend to like skinnier tires than most tourists, so factor that in.  Even so, I don't see much sense in using tires narrower than 23 mm in any case for any kind of touring.  I don't think many folks run 18mm tires even for racing.

EDIT: One other thing...  Make sure to plan ahead for road closures.  I think you will find a huge detour at Big Sur as there was a huge slide that is unlikely to be fixed any time soon and with no easy way around it.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2017, 07:06:21 am by staehpj1 »

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Pacific Coast Road Quality
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2017, 01:37:19 pm »
That's my main concern as I'm going by road bike (1,8 cm / 0,7 inch tyres).

Just to beat the dead horse until its a decomposing corpse.  I looked over at Starbike for skinny tires.  Fine German online seller with almost everything bike related on earth.  They had a 100+ road tires listed.  Only tire maker they don't have is Vredestein.  Michelin, Continental, Challenger, Mavic, Vittoria, Ritchey, etc.  Found one 19mm tire, couple 20mm tires, and a few 21mm tires.  Think the 19mm was a tubular track tire.  So when people start talking about going smaller than the already skinny 23mm road tires, they are getting into fantasy drug taking land.

Offline Krampus Snail

Re: Pacific Coast Road Quality
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2017, 01:56:33 pm »
Speaking of 1.8 tires, I've set up my touring bike for the Pacific Coast with new Compass Naches Pass tires, 1.8 *inches* wide. I couldn't be happier with these tires. Like all low pressure tires with compliant sidewalls, they have low rolling resistance; high pressure tires, we now know, have higher rolling resistance than low pressure tires. I replaced some 1.5" Schwalbes that were like riding on rocks.

I had been touring on Panaracer Pasela 35 mm tires, which I also like, but these Compass tires are better. For me, riding on hard narrow tires offers scant benefits.