In 2015, I bicycled from Vancouver, BC to San Diego, CA. I rode every day (usually 50–60 miles), save for a weeklong hiatus in Sausalito and one day resting my Achilles tendon while it was trying to kill me.
Frequently Asked Questions
Because I’d already bought a touring bike and needed to justify it. Actually, I’d wanted to try bike touring ever since I learned it was a thing. Then when I started reconsidering my life choices and went on leave from grad school, I finally had the chance to make it happen.
Did you go by yourself?
Mostly, but not at first. I didn’t want to start 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. Touring as a solo woman is not a big deal. 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 a problem (95% of which had running water, electricity, and cell reception), 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 gear. My favorite items were a pStyle (or similar device, for the ladies), Power Grips pedal straps, a stylish helmet-mounted mirror, a stylish hi-vis reflective harness, a comfy saddle, and comfy bike shorts.
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. In Big Sur, 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. Bridges with narrow shoulders. Exercise-induced asthma attacks from trying to keep up with other people (do not do this). Developing Achilles tendonitis mere days before the end of the trip and pedaling with only my good leg until I couldn’t bear it any longer. But nothing was consistently horrible: none of the hills were insurmountably steep and traffic wasn’t usually too bad.
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; if you’re on paved roads, you’ll never be far from someone who could help you. I had a great time lugging all my gear up hills, but you could go much lighter than I did, or even just do supported or credit card touring. Start with an overnight trip and see if you don’t get hooked.