Author Topic: Pacific coast  (Read 15416 times)

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Offline kenwil

Pacific coast
« on: November 09, 2007, 11:25:01 am »
Hi, I am planning to cycle the Pacific Coast route next year (2008)and would appreciate some advice. I'm English and so will have to travel to the US and have lots of questions !! Bit of background, I am a tourer not a racer and have several long distance European rides under my belt ( Bordeaux - Nice - Camargue / Calais - Geneva / Pyrenees - San Sebastian to the Med) I have got the book by Spring and Kirkendall but have many questions Some are listed below but there will probabaly be more as my planning progresses and your patience would be appreciated. So...
1. Should I start at Vancouver or Seattle?
2. I don't want to cart my bike to the US so would like to buy a bike sight unseen over the web/phone from a good bike shop so when I arrive it's all ready to go - any recommended bikes (I currently ride a custom Roberts tourer) / shops? Would want to sell the bike at the end.
3. Planning starting in May...that OK?
4. What maps are recommended?
5. What clothing is recommended, what is the weather likely to be like?
6. Are there plenty of small hotels, bed and breakfasts etc en route? Would I need to take camping gear?
Any advice would be gratefully received. Also whilst not a natural club rider and I like to go at my own pace (stopping at every cafe !!), usually averaging 50 / 60 miles a day depending on the distractions, it would be nice to meet up with any other riders on the same route.
So, I hope this opens up a rich vein of advice from experienced US riders, look forward to hearing from you folks! Thanks

Offline staehpj1

Pacific coast
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2007, 02:52:03 pm »
3. The weather would be likely to be better mid-June or later.

4. I have heard that the Oregon Department of Transportation has a great map.  I think you can get it from their web page.  Not sure though.

Adventure Cycling has good maps with all of the services and points of interest along the way.

Bicycling The Pacific Coast: A Complete Route Guide, Canada To Mexico by Spring and Kirkendall is a great resource.  It is a pretty complete resource.

5. With a May start exoect cool wet weather.

6. Camping and rooms are both readily available.  Campsites in Oregon are nice and also inexpensive.

You will meet lots of riders along the way expecially if you start a bit later than your proposed May starting time.

Offline whittierider

Pacific coast
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2007, 03:21:04 pm »
I have not done the trip yet, but anticipating doing the California coast next year, just last night I was reading others' accounts and looking at their pictures on, which you can get to at , then select the state, then the part of the state, then select various people's journals.  It was very informative and inspiring.  Nearing the southern portion (Santa Barbara and down), I did find the familiar territory I've ridden so many times and it was nice to see it through someone else's camera.  I bought maps from Adventure Cycling which appear to be quite thorough and printed on plastic paper that should stand up to a lot of abuse and weather.

The northern part of the coast is a lot more soggy than the southern half.  I know the southern half will be driest in July.  I wouldn't start any earlier than May.  Even here in southern California, you can get a lot of damp mornings in May along the coast.

This message was edited by whittierider on 11-9-07 @ 11:23 AM

Offline driftlessregion

Pacific coast
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2007, 10:55:00 pm »
The "Oregon Bicycling Guide" is indeed great and is found at
There are also several books in a series, e.g., Bicycling The Backroads of Northwest Oregon, by The Mountaineers and found at

Advise bringing your own bike unless you have time to shop AND test ride it LOADED for several days before heading south.

Read, read, read, the How To Department here at the Adventure Cycling site for LOTS of information about touring.

Why would you NOT want to start your ride in Seattle, one of the most beautiful cities on earth?

Have a great tour!

Offline valygrl

Pacific coast
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2007, 03:45:41 am »
Why don't you want to bring your bike?  Last time I traveled internationally, the airlines took it free, as one of the two  allowed bags.  The amount of time you spend picking it up, outfitting it with racks, adjusting the fit, & selling it will be way more than just bringing your bike and putting it together.  Also, don't expect to get much of your money back, tour bikes are pretty unpopular here.

Trek 520 ($1300) and Cannondale T800/T2000 ($??) are the standard American made off the shelf touring bikes.   The Surly Long Haul Trucker is a recently very-popular tour bike, but might be a little harder to find.  You can also pick up a Novarra Safari or Randonee at REI (go to and these are very inexpensive and should be fine for that tour.  REI's headquarters is in Seattle.  CHeck which of these offerings come with racks, and which you will have to add racks on.

May is slightly early, but I wouldn't let that stop you if that's the timeframe you have.  Do bring rain gear and cool weather gear, but it won't be super cold.  (You would need rain gear even if you start later.)

You can probably manage with hotels, but be aware that the pacific coast is a tourist destination, and hotels may be booked (june/july) and are not cheap (minimum $50/night, often double that).  Camping opens up a world of options, and there are lovely hiker/biker camp sites all along the coast, often just steps from the beach, for about $5/night.

You can do fine with just the K&S book, no maps, but you might want a map of the the city you fly in to, San Francisco, LA and San Diego areas.  You can pick those up at a gas station on the edge of town, or check if your local auto club has a reciprocal arrangement with our AAA (american automobile association) which gives free maps to members.  

Don't forget to ride on the right hand side!

Happy touring to you...


Offline WesternFlyer

Pacific coast
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2007, 09:41:38 pm »
Consider landing in Portland, Oregon instead of Seattle, WA or Vancouver, BC.  Oregon has no sales tax.  The money you will save on your bike will more than pay for the train fare to Seattle or Vancouver for both you and your bike, and you will have enough change left over for a good meal, a night's lodging and a day riding on some of the hundreds of miles of Portlands bikeways and trails.  

The Amtrak Cascade is a high speed Spanish built Talgo train. It has a special compartment for bicycle ($11.00 last time I took it).  There is no boxing, crating or breakdown required.  You just hand your bike to the conductor less your panniers.  It is really no hassle.

Portland is, by many, considered to be the most bicycle friendly city in the USA (I'm from Portland :-)).  All the public transportation is bicycle friendly with bike racks and hooks at no extra charge.  There are lots of great bicycle shops that can handle any and all of your needs.  Trek, Cannodale, Surly, Specialized, Giant and many other touring bikes are available locally.  

The big discount bike shop, Performance Bicycle, has Fuji, Schwinn and other touring bikes.  You can buy everything from them on line and have it delivered and assembled at their Portland outlet with no shipping charges or taxes.  The same is true of REI.

If you really want to ride first cabin consider getting an Oregon made Co-Motion, Co-Pilot complete with S and S couplings  The Bike Gallery is their dealer in Portland.  You might want to order right now.  I have seen Co-Pilots on their show room floor, but the touring models are pretty specialized and might need some time to get it in stock.

I dont work for the Portland Chamber of Commerce. It can rain or be sunny any time of the year up here.  Be prepared and enjoy a beautiful ride.


Western Flyer
Western Flyer

We must ride light and swift.  It is a long road ahead.

King Theoden

Offline raybo

Pacific coast
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2007, 08:28:02 pm »
Here are a few links from for California,  Oregon, and Washington.

Here is my San Francisco to LA tour journal that might be of use to you.


Visit the on-line bike touring archive at

Offline bogiesan

Pacific coast
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2007, 02:30:45 pm »
Hope you enjoy your stay in our country.
Consider staying a bit longer, into September, and hooking up with Cycle
Oregon. Another $1,000 for a week of pampered touring in the
mountains of Oregon.

david boise ID

go, ristretto, FCP/AE
"Read the manual."
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline kenwil

Pacific coast
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2007, 05:29:54 pm »
Hi All

A quick thanks for all your responses, much far, as a result, I'll probably take my own bike, fly Virgin and start from Seattle !! Still sorting through and will follow up if needs be, thanks in advance, really apreciate your time.

Offline Ransboy

Pacific coast
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2007, 08:51:59 pm »
I would suggest that you think seriously about starting your ride after Labor Day (First Monday in September)  The weather is as good as it gets on the coast, and the traffic is much lighter after school starts. Traffic is manageable in May, but as you get into June in California.....not so much. Winds in September and October will surely be tailwinds when riding north to south. In the summer, you may well have headwinds.

There are plenty of motels, but as mentioned previously, they are not cheap, especially if you go in the summer months. Camping will put you in contact with a lot more cyclists, which is nice. That being said, I'm old enough to appreciate (and to choose to pay for) a room each night.

Great ride, where ever and whenever you start. But it is more scenic in Oregon and California than what you'll see on the Washington coast. In my opinion.

Offline kenwil

Pacific coast
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2007, 05:17:58 pm »
Thanks for the message, I was thinking perhaps September due to work schedules , your good advice helps  confirm this.

Offline gpshay

Pacific coast
« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2008, 02:23:22 pm »
Ray I have been reading your journal and everything you wrote about your SF to LA tour. It is great thankyou so much for sharing it, it is so informative. I have been cycling for several years now and will be retiring this August or
Sept. I have been thinking about a tour since 1993 when I bought my Cannondale T-1000 which has been kept inside my house while I ride my Raliegh Comp GS. The time is growing closer to my tour I started purchasing my gear and paying close attention to everything I  read about what and what not to pack. My plan was to ride from Phx Az to San Diego up the coast to SF (family there) then up and over to Lake Tahoe (family there also) I was going to depart from Phx sometime in April to avoid the desert heat and maybe avoid the possiblity of extreme cold in the Tahoe area. I will be self supported. I have a Major Question. Am I making a Big Mistake on Traveling South to North? Are there bike lanes and shoulders both directions or are the bike lanes mainly for southbound traffic. Should I reconsider my starting point? Any and all imputs will be greatly appreciated. Glenn in Phx

Offline staehpj1

Pacific coast
« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2008, 03:15:14 pm »
There seems to be a strong preference for North to South due to:
1. Prevailing winds
2. Wider shoulder/lane on the West side.
3. Better view of the ocean when riding.

I have only ridden a bit of the coast so I can't really claim much experience with the route, but the preference seems to be strong and widely held.

In "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" Spring and Kirkendall make it sound like the difference is huge.

Offline whittierider

Pacific coast
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2008, 05:31:32 pm »
There seems to be a strong preference for North to South due to:
1. Prevailing winds

People who haven't been here don't recognize the significance of this.  I have ridden the coast a lot from a little west of Santa Barbara to San Diego, and, although the winds are not always out of the northwest, that's the usual situation, and they are often rather strong.  Remember that the coast below San Francisco is not north and south, but northwest to southeast; and that the coast around Santa Barbara goes east and west.  In fact, Santa Barbara's being on kind of a point means you can stand in Santa Barbara and look directly east to see the Pacific Ocean.  I and our younger son rode from Santa Barbara to L.A. a couple of times late last summer, and spent a lot of flat miles near 30mph, and, when we were climbing a 3% grade in Malibu at 28mph, he looked at me and said, "We are climbing, aren't we?"  I said, "Yeah-- Isn't this great?!"

The book "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" says one of the authors, Tom Kirkendall, tried first to ride the coast from Mexico to Canada in 1981.   North of Santa Barbara, he encountered stiff headwinds that blew the fun right out of his adventure.  Scenery and the thrill of exploring became secondary to his daily battle with the wind... In Oregon, 80mph winds blew him to a stop while going down a steep hill.  It says the second half of his journal spoke only of his battle with the wind, and has no mention of fun, points of interest, etc..  After that, the authors only went south.  Since cyclists mainly go south along the coast, the highway department has also made better shoulders and other facilities on the south-bound side of the road.

Offline gpshay

Pacific coast
« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2008, 05:47:27 pm » know I just read all of Ray's journal and he spoke of tailwinds quite frequently...I need to take heed...That does it after this second post about the headwinds I'm changing my plans to ride south. Thanks so much for your imput I'll just fly to Reno, maybe in Sept, and start my ride from there. Glenn in Phx.