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Thread Box:
bicycle tour help
Thread started by KiMS1 at 01.23.09 - 12:27 am

who has done multiple day self supported tours?

how did you pack ur bike?

panniers front and back? rack in the front and back?

what did you pack?

where did you sleep?

where was the bike as you slept?

what kinda route?

is it something worth doing or was it just a pain in the ass?


"who has done multiple day self supported tours?"

All sorts of people

"how did you pack ur bike?"

I pulled an extrawheel trailer, used a seatbag, and a camelbak

"panniers front and back? rack in the front and back?"

I observed people with all sorts of these set ups. It depends on how much stuff you're packing. If it's a lot, and you're not pulling a trailer, go with both front and rear. If you want to fit stuff in only front and rear, I don't know, there is debate about which makes for a better ride. It depends on the terrain too.

"what did you pack?"

Here is a rough outline, not complete.

Camping gear:

sleeping bag
sleeping pad

Bike tools:

flat repair
spare spokes
bike multitool with lots of stuff on it

wool cycling jersey
2 pairs bib shorts
insulating layer
rain gear

other stuff
other small things.

"where did you sleep?"

wherever. if you go through a national forest you can camp anywhere for free legally. otherwise you can camp covertly.

"where was the bike as you slept?"

next to me. if you were going through urban areas it might be wise to bring a lock or use www.couchsurfing.com to find places to stay

"what kinda route?"

Great Divide Route. see www.adventurecycling.org/

"is it something worth doing or was it just a pain in the ass?"

Both! Literally.

01.23.09 - 12:52 am


try this site....other than the adventure cycling site this is the next best resource (kinda like a wiki for of the beaten path tours)


also check out grant petersons general rants on cycling, although opinionated and a bit of a luddite the man knows what he's talking about (and makes sweet custom frames)

(start here but read his other articles)


01.23.09 - 8:52 am


Get a trailer, you can carry more.

01.23.09 - 9:43 am


Meghan and I did a short tour from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara self supported. Since it wasn't crazy long and we planned places to stop for lunch along the route, we did not need a very extensive set of gear. We both just did rear panniers, shared a tent, sleeping bags and sleeping pads (sleeping pads help a lot with comfort and insulation, even the super skinny light weight ones), variety of layers for the weather, and plenty of snacks to munch on along the way and at camp. We each carried 3 water bottles to be on the safe side but for our particular trip that ended up being not that necessary.

I'm planning to do a more complete write up for my blog soon, but all the photos are up on flickr following the photo link below. We also used Amtrak both to get us to San Luis Obispo and to get home from Santa Barbara since we had a short time frame. Amtrak Surfliner is a great way to transport bikes and gears for a tour and there is no extra charge for bikes, and all of our gear fit as carry on. One extra thing, since my panniers are the non water proof ment for carrying grocery bag variety, I placed my water tight messenger bag inside with any clothing or water sensitive items which works great if you don't have money yet for a serious touring bag.

My Bianchi Bergamo Fully Loaded

01.23.09 - 9:55 am


I did a 3 month tour with not much more than what Zombiefiesta replied with above. +1 to that - a great reply.

The only thing I can add is - STAY AWAY FROM FRONT PANNIERS AND TRAILERS. Just because you CAN carry more doesn't mean you should. If you cant fit everything into 2 panniers and a sack strapped to your rear rack: You're doing it wrong.

01.23.09 - 10:40 am


why no front panniers and trailer?

the idea i had was front and back pannier and 1 rack.

or maybe back pannier and trailer.

the trailer seems a bit excessive though.

is it smarter to pack food or just pick up along the route?

im srsly gonna print out this thread and use it as a guideline,

any other advice?

01.23.09 - 11:23 am


why no front panniers and trailer?
because if you have enough stuff to warrant front panniers and a trailer, you've packed too much.

is it smarter to pack food or just pick up along the route?
It depends where youre going. My preferred method is to dumpster 90% (produce/bread/other) and purchase cheese and ice cream. depending where you're going, you cant find large chain grocery stores and will need to cook. In this case, I recommend beans, rice, tortillas, produce, just good old simple camping foods.

any other advice?
I would suggest going with ZERO schedule. Quit your job, dont be on a lease, smooth everything with your girl (or buy her a ticket to meet you somewhere along the way), and just plan based on the $$$ flow. And remember when youre on the road that the more frugal you are, the longer you'll get to be on the road. Make sense?

Where are you planning to go, anyway? Sounds very preliminary. I would look at adventurecycling.org to see how *people with money* do it, or any entries on crazyguyonabike.com - this is an open-source journal collection from other touring cyclists ... Tons of good stuff out there. Also, read "Get In the Van" by Henry Rollins and get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable (or dying) on the road. Hahaha.. Really, its tough physically, but its not impossible. You'll be fine and come out way ahead when you're done.. I am happy and excited to offer advice on touring, it was 1/3 of my 2008. Introduce yourself if we cross somewhere!

01.23.09 - 11:51 am


I respectfully disagree with SKIDMARCUS, even though he's logged way more touring miles in one trip than I have in several. I lurv my suspension B.O.B. Ibex trailer and have done on and off-road touring with it. Just cause you have a trailer, doesn't mean you need to fill it. I agree that packing light is key. Having done rear-pannier touring as well, I prefer the light-feel and maneuverability of a trailer. With your added weight lower to the ground, once you're up to speed, you sometimes forget it's even there. Plus there's way less stress on your frame and rear wheel and I have yet to break any spokes, though I broke several with panniers (maybe my bad for not building a strong touring wheel).

My best advice for food is to pack a loaf of bread and some PB&J for those times that you can't buy food. And if the trip is short enough, you can premake all the sammiches and put them back in the loaf bag. Having a stove is great, but just more weight to haul.

two wheels good
01.23.09 - 1:02 pm


I haven't ridden with front and rear, but I hear you get better stability on the bike with rear and front distribution of weight. I totally get the if you have space you will fill it idea, and you don't want to carry any more then you need, but I wouldn't say that is reason enough to say totally anti front panniers. I think it also depends on how far you are going and are you going with someone. If you are paired up or going in a group, you can share mutual resources like cookware or have a 2 person person tent, and so the amount each person needs to carry individually is less. I used a front handle bar bag to camera my big ass camera on the mini tour I did, as well as on AIDS LifeCycle, and that can be a handy way to store things as well.

01.23.09 - 1:13 pm


yeah this is definitely very preliminary.

i plan on going around late march when i have a week off for spring break.

i plan on going with a friend but maybe solo if he cant take a week off.

i wanna try from maybe here to oregon, idk, whatever that will take six to seven days.

there are a couple things im worried about though:

1. breaking something on my bike. flats, replacing a chain, truing a wheel is no problem but lets say i snap a spoke or something. i would have no idea how to relace a wheel.

2. getting my bike stolen while i sleep.

3. going through hilly areas on a fixed gear.

idk, i guess if i plan meticulously it shouldnt be a big problem.

01.23.09 - 1:32 pm


Actually thats a good point. My touring mate had the BOB and had no problem. In fact he was much faster and could carry more than my rear panniers when needed (we had music equip you won't be bringing (I think)). I guess I just recommend no trailer only if you already have rear rack / panniers. Good point.

01.23.09 - 1:41 pm


A trailer is nice, especailly for mountain biking, because it gives you the freedom to detach it and have an unladen bike for day rides, if you feel like it.

You can indeed go lighter without one though, but even so, my set up weighed less than most people who have both front and rear panniers.

01.23.09 - 1:49 pm


Thats pretty ambitious, LA --> Oregon in one week. Right on, not naysaying, but you will have to train by doing multiple consecutive centuries. Nothing's impossible if you're trained. DO IT!

Btw, re: Fixed Touring: we met two guys in Chicago that rode there from Portland, fixed, with two tiny front panniers, in 25 days! AND they had food poisoning for 2 days! AND they were there race in the NACCC's!!!!

01.23.09 - 1:55 pm


"1. breaking something on my bike. flats, replacing a chain, truing a wheel is no problem but lets say i snap a spoke or something. i would have no idea how to relace a wheel."

Learn as much as you can now. Build a wheel or something. You don't have to relace the entire wheel to replace a spoke though.

"2. getting my bike stolen while i sleep."

I've heard of this happening in third world countries. Don't know about in the US.

"3. going through hilly areas on a fixed gear."

Though it is occasionally done, there is no reason to take a fixed gear for touring. Most people agree that it's worth it even having triple chainrings. Derailleur maintenance is not that hard, and you will have all night at camp to work on it.

"idk, i guess if i plan meticulously it shouldnt be a big problem."

I wouldn't worry about meticulous planning. Get gear your happy with, learn how to use it, drop the stuff you don't need, and then just go for it.

Also adventurecycling has resources for people who aren't that rich too.

01.23.09 - 1:58 pm



totally didnt calculate how far oregon was.

yep, not planning on doing double centuries for 5 days.

idk, may be around 70 to 80 miles a day?

maybe cut it down or add on more miles depending on how i feel after the first few days.

i might try to arrange couches along the trip. i have family living up and down the coast.

01.23.09 - 2:12 pm


Here to Oregon in a week, for your first time touring, I think is really really really over ambitious. First of all the roads you would want to take on a bike are scenic routes, you aren't going to be going up the 5 nor would you want to, so do not think you can just google maps estimate really fast and think you know how far you will be ridding. To put this in perspective TMR did SF to LA in a week for AIDS LifeCycle, with super high level support and all gear trucked to camp sites, most of us on fast road bikes with lots of gears, and we averaged 88 miles a day for 545 miles total and it took a week. For most people doing the ride, to add any more miles then that would just be more suffering and less fun. Bike touring should have some hurt, but it should be fun too, not a miserable time with swollen legs and a strong desire for pain killers.

I think when you start actually planning and looking at what you would have to do terrain wise and how much you need to bring you will realize how important it is to scale it back.

01.23.09 - 2:43 pm


whats a reasonable amount of riding in a day?

what kind of terrain is it to sf?

i think the most ive done in a single ride was around 70 miles.

i was pretty beat though and all i had was a couple things in my jersey pocket.

idk how different its gonna be with panniers packed with stuff.

i definitely dont want it to be a misery ride.

i plan on just cruising up the coast and stopping off a lot for photos and what not.

i honestly dont care if i make it to sf or not. just getting my bike somewhere outside of la county and camping out is fine with me.

01.23.09 - 2:50 pm


Start training somewhere other than the valley, where everything is flat.

01.23.09 - 2:53 pm


we have hills!


we have foothills.

01.23.09 - 2:57 pm


The pacific coast bicycle route, which is what the ALC route is mostly based on, is mostly flat, however there are plenty of stretches of rolling hills, which you feel a lot more with gear then un-weighted and a few serious climbs, that will be more serious feeling again with the weight. The mini tour I did with gear followed some of the same roads as ALC, and it definitely makes a noticeable difference to carry stuff. For a first time out and a week time frame, I think here to San Luis Obispo along the pacific coast bike route and taking Amtrak surfliner back would be a more realistic and enjoyable goal. The mini tour I did only had 2 camp spots, but gaviota state beach, that is a beautiful camp ground and they have bathrooms shower and great scenery, the beach and right by an elaborate train bridge and a little pier for $5 for non motorized peoples.

01.23.09 - 3:10 pm



do you think itd be better to ride up and then take the train back home, or take the train up and ride back home?

does the wind go in any specific direction or no?

01.23.09 - 3:13 pm


Not sure about wind direction issues going north versus south, but I kind of like the go somewhere and bike my way home concept. Especially on ALC, starting in SF and getting to LA, it felt so great to be on home turf for the finish.

01.23.09 - 3:46 pm


Another good thing about the pacific coast bike route is it pretty closely parallels the Amtrak route during many parts, so if you realized suddenly timing was wrong you could always go plan B and bail at one of the earlier station stops to get home in time.

01.23.09 - 4:24 pm


KiMS, I've done SF to LA twice and LA to SF once. Heading north was a bit harder. The joke is cause it's all uphill to SF. The headwinds at Hurricane Point north of Cambria were brutal but after a few miles they were completely gone. But the wind usually seems to go north to south along the entire coast so keep that in mind.

It takes about six days and because of the gaps between towns, expect to ride 70 to 80 mile days if you're stopping at campsites. The are a few places where campsites aren't as far apart, but they're only like 20 miles away. On one trip I did a few short days and stayed at a few different sites in Big Sur.

For your first trip, I'd recommend flying or taking the train up north and riding back to LA.

zombiefiesta, that Extrawheel trailer looks like the best of both worlds and how rad and convenient that the wheel is a 26". Too bad that wasn't around when I was trailer shopping. In that picture you posted, is your sleeping bag and tent inside your bags? Man, it looks like you packed ultralight for such a monster trip.

two wheels good
01.23.09 - 4:34 pm


oh man, im getting more and more excited bout this.

01.23.09 - 4:38 pm


i think i might start from SLO and head to LA.

i dunno if i can crank out 80 miles for 7 consecutive days.

01.23.09 - 4:44 pm


I'm in the process of getting ready for a long trip this summer...most likely vancouver --> tijuana, or at least 80% of that. I'm taking marcus' advice and rolling with just a rear rack and panniers, plus just a little rivendell baggins bar tube bag on the front...

The winds DEFINITELY go south, overall. I've heard this from many many people and experienced it myself on a few one and two day trips. If you're riding north along the coast, you're gonna go slow and possibly not be very happy, depending on how fast/far you like to ride. If you don't mind goin 12-14mph, it won't make a big difference. If you hope to roll at 17 or 18, I bet you'll notice.

my packing list so far if i can remember it:
-sleeping bag and pad
-trianga cookset + some fuel, utensils, a bowl, napkins, spices, little scrubber, dishsoap etc.
-REI halfdome 2-person tent
-toiletries pack
-wool jersey, t-shirt and long sleeve shirt, a cotton tee or two.
-2 pairs each wool undies and socks
-2 pairs bike shorts
-beanie, arm warmers, knee warmers, a few bandanas
-1 pair knickers/shorts, 1 pair slacks/jeans
-multitool, pump, tubes, extra tire, extra spokes, extra chain, patch kit
-novel, frisbee, a couple of beers, flask, smoking needs

You don't need this many clothes unless you plan on spending a lot of time off the bike, which you probably won't do in a weeklong trip...

That all fits in my ortlieb bike packer plus panniers/on the top of my rack/in my baggins bar bag with tons of room to spare for food during the day, and is plenty easy to handle on my long haul trucker...assuming you don't need to go up any stairs!

Lance K
01.23.09 - 5:05 pm



this is the route from SLO to LA that gmaps spit out,

does that look bout right?

01.23.09 - 5:32 pm


Gmaps route = FAIL

Stay on the 1 / 101 unless you wanna climb some serious hills near Lake Cachuma. You'll go through Guadalupe, Lompoc and Gaviota State Park before reaching Santa Barbara.

There's signage along the way marking that route as the "Pacific Coast Bicentennial Bike Route"

Here's a lame link that'll get you started.

I have the Adventure Cycling Pacific Coast maps from, I think, Eureka to Tijuana and can try to scan them for you and Lance K if you want, but it's not a bad investment to make and a great organization to support.

two wheels good
01.23.09 - 6:27 pm


gmaps automatic = fail

i just clickd on slo then, to la and it added the climb in there

01.23.09 - 6:34 pm


I'm working on getting into a Long Haul Trucker for summer mini tours.

Can't wait.

01.23.09 - 6:59 pm



i wanna leave now!

01.23.09 - 7:13 pm


Yeah for touring into places you have never been, do not trust google to pick a good cycling route. There a number of books and maping resources on cycling in California written by people who actually ride a bike that will be a lot more helpful.

01.23.09 - 7:19 pm


okay, im leaving for the SLO trip in a few weeks.

its gonna be from SLO back down to LA.

one last thing is the route,

would the entire route be along the coast or does pch go inland for a litle bit.

pch/101 looks like its pretty inland from pismo to santa barbara.

am i looking at it wrong?

03.8.09 - 5:04 pm


this is one of my all time favorite threads.... really great discussion

03.8.09 - 5:48 pm


"am i looking at it wrong?"

You're right. And then you're not that close going through Oxnard until you get to Pt Mugu.

03.8.09 - 6:01 pm


Mook, I'm down for some unsupported weekend bike camping trips to Ventura and Santa Barbara County and S24Os if peeps are down. No time for a long tour.

03.8.09 - 6:36 pm



i saw on ur flickr the ride u did from slo to sb with ur lady.

what route did u take?

i think i can get back on pch in sb, or at least it goes coastal.

if u have the route saved somewhere and u can post it up, itd be greatly appreciated.


03.8.09 - 10:12 pm


you cant get back onto pch until you get to rincon. you have to take the bike lane on the 101 from carpinteria to rincon. it sounds scary, but it isnt.

03.8.09 - 10:28 pm



is it like a 4 lane highway?

another thing too is the sleeping situation.

should i try to reserve spots or something for the parks before i go?

is it legal to just set up camp and crash out on beachs?

03.8.09 - 10:42 pm


Get this book out of the library:


Or go look at it at Wheel World or some book store or some other bike shop. Bicycling the Pacific Coast by Tom Kirkendall. In it he advises going south due to the winds. He also gives routes and stopping places plus lots of additional advice.

Many state parks have what is known as hiker/biker spots. While the car camping spots are all reserved months in advance, showing up on your bicycle you can generally get a camping spot first come/first served and they don't generally fill up. It cost $3/per person per night in August up at Big Sycamore.

If you want to try a weekend trip before you go, Leo Carillo and Big Sycamore camp grounds both take hiker/bikers and both are about 35-40 miles north of Santa Monica on the 1. Its a good way to check out how much you like the idea without putting yourself 500 miles from home.



I'd reccomend going to Big Sycamore; the five miles between Leo Carillo and Big Sycamore are the most beautiful of the trip.

03.9.09 - 7:03 am



much appreciated!

03.9.09 - 7:41 am



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