Presented by Ford
Bridging the gap between San Francisco and Los Angeles can be done in the matter of minutes by plane or in a few hours via plane but imagine conquering the west coast on cycle. Many have been able to cover the sub-500-mile gap over the span of six to seven days, with careful planning and a ton of training beforehand to ensure you’re not stuck with no place to eat or sleep between sprints. And though the trip really pushes cyclists to their limits, there’s also something so captivating about riding down California’s Pacific Coast Highway that once you pull into Santa Monica Pier, you’ll know it was all worth it.
Since you can never be too sure about traffic on Highway One, it’s best to pace yourself but also to keep safety as a priority. You’ll go through stretches where the shoulder size changes and even bits where there’s little to no shoulder. With this and the fact that Highway One traffic gets crazy in the summer months considered, it might be a good idea to aim for a late summer, early fall ride.
This trek isn’t for the faint of heart. The total run will be roughly 470 miles and should span across 6-7 days if you really want to push yourself while still being able to enjoy the experience and soak in the sights. Make sure you spend a few months training and getting in all the proper conditioning so that your body can manage the journey without cramping up or completely breaking down. This is by far the most important part as it requires the most lead time and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
As you get closer to your desired date of departure, you can start really planning out your route. Here’s a custom Google Maps we recommend that highlights the path and stops to make. We’d say you’re better off opting for hotel rooms than camping out simply because you want to keep your gear focused on keeping you hydrated and comfortable. The route:
Day 1: San Francisco (City Hall) to Santa Cruz
Day 2: Santa Cruz to Big Sur
Day 3: Big Sur to Morro Bay
Day 4: Morro Bay to Lompoc
Day 5: Lompoc to Ventura
Day 6: Ventura to Santa Monica Pier
The six-day ride means you’ll be cycling about 80 miles a day. You really need a proper touring bike to land at your destination. It’ll offer the most comfort and form to help you catch speed when you need it. The frame should be sturdy enough to handle changes in elevation and wind speeds while also supporting you and one or two panniers. Timbuk2 and Rei both have great options for bike panniers or rack trunks while you should hit your local cycle shop to ensure your current bike’s equipped to handle the trip. Pack some clothes and a ton of water. We can’t stress how important this is, especially when you get into day 5 or 6 when there really isn’t much going on along the coast. Energy bars are a must. In fact, PROBAR is a great choice as they offer vegan, organic and non-GMO energy bars that are healthy and taste pretty good, too. One thing folks don’t think to grab is a portable battery for their phones. Sure, you won’t be using your phone but you can’t be too sure. Having some extra juice on deck will ensure you’re ready to rock should you need to make an emergency call.
So there you have it, a rundown of everything you’ll need to ride from San Fran to LA in less than a week. Ride well, take photos along the way, and push yourself beyond all your limits.