Author Topic: Riding North on the Pacific Coast  (Read 6745 times)

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Offline gyraffoclops

Riding North on the Pacific Coast
« on: March 31, 2009, 10:47:38 pm »
My name is Ben and I am planning to ride the pacific Coast this summer from Ventura, Ca to Canada.  My biggest worry though is the wind.  I've heard always travel south because of the wind but is it really a huge deal? How big of a problem would it be to ride North.  If anyone has experience on this route in the Summer please let me know on how the wind conditions were for you. Thanks

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Riding North on the Pacific Coast
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2009, 11:34:21 pm »
It's a very big deal.  That wind will cut you down like a knife.  Most years it is steady and hard all the way, and consistently from the north.  I would definitely recommend finding a way to ride north to south.  I would venture to say that you will do at least twice as much work going souith to north, and will go half the speed or less!
May the wind be at your back!

Offline valygrl

Re: Riding North on the Pacific Coast
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2009, 01:41:26 am »
It's true, there's a prevailing northwest wind, which translates to headwind.

You can go north, but going south is more fun.  I've done some of both directions.  If you go north, the wind often picks up during the day, so you will benefit from an early start.  It can be wearing - physically and mentally - to have such a consistent headwind. 

Also, if you were wanting to join the steady stream of people doing that tour, and maybe make some temporary ride-buddies along the way, that's unlikely to happen if you are swimming upstream.  I think it's about 10:1 southbounders.

If you don't have a strong reason to northbound, I wouldn't, but it's totally do-able.  Just, less fun.

Offline whittierider

Re: Riding North on the Pacific Coast
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2009, 01:58:09 am »
In the book "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" by Kirkendall and Spring, the preface is entitled, "Why North to South?"  Here's some of it, telling about Kirkendal's first coast ride, going north.  (I think copyrights allow this since I'm giving credit to the book and it may increase sales of the book.  If the owners of the copyright don't like it, I'll edit this and remove the quote.)

"North of Santa Barbara, encoutered 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.  The wind created an invisible, never-ending hill that had to be constantly climbed.  The wind beat dirt into his face, produced an annoying whistling through the vents in his helmet, while attempting to push him back to Mexico.  By San Francisco, riding had become a chore.  In Oregon, 80-mile-per-hour winds blew him to a stop while going down a steep hill.

"When describing that trip, Tom will pull out his trip journal.  The beginning of the journal is full of his thoughts and impressions; in the second half he wrote only of the wind.  His journal describes how he got up early in the morning to avoid the winds that blew strongest in the afternoon.  ...Nowhere in the second half of that book is there any mention of beautiful vista points, magnificent redwood forests, sea otters, sea lions, lighthouses, sand dunes, and fascinating old forts.  Nowhere is there any mention of the word fun.

"The following summer, Tom and I rode back down the coast to prove it can be fun.  It was an incredible trip.  The wind was still blowing but this time it was pushing us south.  Near the Sea Lion Caves in Oregon, I had to apply my brakes to stop on a steep uphill grade....We were surprised to note that the highway department expects cyclists to travel from north to south.  We frequently enjoyed a good shoulder on the southbound side while northbound cyclists had to dodge trucks and cars on a shoulderless roadway."


  • Guest
Re: Riding North on the Pacific Coast
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2009, 09:56:53 am »
Hi Ben,

I rode it south to north because of a fixed starting point, well aware of the wind problem. The high heat of California's central valley causes a more or less permanent summertime low pressure area. Its counter-clockwise circulation creates that wind just about every day.

I did not find it as difficult mentally as Johnsondasw did, and I agree with Valygrl about the value of an early start. The locals told me the wind would return to normal once past Cape Blanco, which did happen for me.

I believe that a lot of the "big deal" depends on your mental set. Know that it will blow, but otherwise be nice temperatures and beautiful scenery. If you start out saying "I'm gonna ride 80 miles today" and don't make it--or struggle to make it--you will indeed be unhappy. If you start out saying "I'm gonna ride seven hours today and take in all the scenery and local color," so what if you only go 50 miles? This is not a race.

For what it's worth, these are ending towns, estimated *average* headwind, and miles for the days I spent in the windy zone in late June 1999:

  Rio Dell CA, 9, 63
  Trinidad CA, 14, 58
  Crescent City CA, 0, 63
  Gold Beach OR, 16, 59
  Charleston OR, 7, 84
  Florence OR, 2, 56

Going into Gold Beach was the worst day. I noted "wind NW@15 at 10:00, 20 at 11:00, 30G40 by noon." Of course the road did not always head straight into the wind, hence my average headwind estimate of 16.


Offline Westinghouse

Re: Riding North on the Pacific Coast
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2009, 01:28:10 pm »
I did the PCBR in 1993, north to south. I remember clearly having tailwinds day after day after day, on and on. The winds were sometimes strong, usually brisk. There are many many hills, and deep horseshoe bends. You do not want tthe combination of going up steep hills against strong winds.
You can probably do it, but it will be very much more difficult that going north to south. The hot inland valley might provide more helpful winds going north, but here you have temperatures in the nineties, maybe even 100. Go north to south.

Offline nobachi2000

Re: Riding North on the Pacific Coast
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2009, 02:26:07 am »
In April 2008, I rode from Oxnard to San Luis Obispo.  The only place I got off my bicycle and pushed it was thru the tunnel at Goleta Pass.  When I went thru Guadalupe, it was windy because the farmers cut down all the trees.  You can't blame mother nature for high winds there.  In April 2009, I rode from San Luis Obispo to Salinas.  There was one place where the road went between two hills that was very windy and I got off my bike and pushed it thru.  Getting up early helped me avoid heavy winds on the way to Big Sur.  The wind helped dry off my facial sweat but I could feel my sweat soaking me elsewhere.  I was miserable the first two days because I covered only 40 miles a day but on the third day I rode 65 miles and I felt great.  I'm planning on going north to Berkeley from Salinas this September.  That is the furthest north I'm going because cold weather bothers me more than the wind.  Yes.  Everyone I talked to asked me why I'm going north instead of south.  I'm going north because that is my goal besides I take the bus or train back to Los Angeles.
One pedal at a time