Rosie Leung

Pacific Coast Bike Tour

In 2015, I cycled from Vancouver, Canada to San Diego, California, beginning April 24th and ending June 8th. I biked every day (usually 50–60 miles), save for a weeklong hiatus in Sausalito and one day resting my Achilles tendon. I owe much of my success to the Adventure Cycling Association’s excellent map series, which I followed religiously, except for where I could use the (free!) Oregon coast bike route maps.

Surly LHT

Face Rock, in Bandon, OR

Frequently Asked Questions

Why? Because I’d already splurged on a touring bike (Surly LHT) and needed to justify the expense …. Actually, the idea of bike touring had appealed ever since I learned it was a thing. Then I started reconsidering my life choices, went on leave from grad school, and finally had the time to make it happen.

Did you go by yourself? Mostly, but not at first. I was anxious about starting alone, but figured once I got going, it would be fine. This turned out to be the case, with the additional benefit of not having to keep up with anyone else. (I bike slowly, especially up hills.) Almost everything south of Florence, OR was solo. From my experience, bike touring as a single woman is perfectly safe. There were almost always other cyclists in the campgrounds and everyone was super friendly and awesome.

Did you camp the whole way? Everywhere except in the big cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego). Otherwise, getting to a campground was never difficult (95% of which had running water and electricity), but don’t miss the chance to stealth camp in the redwoods.

What did you take? Too many clothes at first. One pair of bike shorts will do nicely; get two pairs of Ibex or Ex Officio underwear and wash one every day. Two wool shirts (short and longsleeve). Layers for wind, rain, and cold. Bike tools. Basic camping and cooking gear (although if I did this particular route again, I’d ditch the stove and just bring a thermos + electric immersion heater). The best stuff I had was a pStyle (or similar device, for the ladies), Power Grips pedal straps, a dorky helmet-mounted mirror, a dorky reflective harness, a comfy saddle, and comfy bike shorts. And save room for a massive bag of food.

Best part of the trip? Bandon, OR was magic. Go during low tide and walk around the sea stacks. Look for sea stars in the tidepools. Walk through a sand labyrinth.

More generally, the entire Oregon coast was amazing, as was the Avenue of the Giants. After getting on Hwy 1 in Leggett, CA, there’s a tedious uphill, followed by the most exhilarating long, twisty downhill of the entire trip. Big Sur wasn’t as stunning as Oregon, but you can pull over and watch California condors swirling overhead. Rolling into San Diego/up to the border was also extremely satisfying.

Worst part of the trip? Tunnels and bridges with narrow shoulders. Having exercise-induced asthma attacks from trying to keep up with other people (do not do this). Getting Achilles tendonitis mere days before the end of the trip and pushing on with the other leg until I couldn’t bear it any longer. But nothing was consistently horrible: none of the hills were insurmountably steep (no, getting off and pushing a loaded touring bike is not easier than pedaling) and traffic wasn’t too bad. Cyclists are pretty common along the coast so cars tend to be considerate.

Any unsolicited advice? If you’re thinking about doing a tour, you should go for it! Bike touring is a lot easier than people think; it’s not like you’re wandering around alone in the wilderness for weeks. I had a fantastic time lugging all my gear up hills, but supported or credit card touring is definitely an option. Start with an overnight trip and see if you don’t get hooked.

Photos!

Small sample of several hundred photos …

Bike with redwood

Avenue of the Giants

Ground squirrel

Bike thieves in Monterey, CA

Golden Gate bridge

About to cross the Golden Gate

Border fence

Finish line at the Mexican border