SBA to LA '02



Tour Report: Santa Barbara to Los Angeles
Late Spring 2002

The section of coastline from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles has been the "missing link" between San Francisco and San Diego that I've wanted to cycle for some time now. This was a perfect time to do this in conjunction with a "light touring" (as opposed to touring on bikes fully loaded bikes with camping gear) experiment.

John had sent out an email to a bunch of people in the club to see who was interested in doing the tour. There was a lot of interest, but the Mother's Day Weekend was bad timing for most. So it was just me, John, and Dan.

In advance of the trip, the three of us had worked out different schemes to carry our gear. For the past couple of weeks I had been using a Carradice saddle bag, which looks like a small duffel bag mounted horizontally behind the saddle. A Bagman brand rack mounted to the saddle rails props up the bag so it doesn't hit my legs. Dan had experimented with a few different systems, but settled on a large rear bag (similar to a Vaude Hightail) that points backward and mounts to the seatpost using the "Klickfix" system. John had invested in one of the popular racks that mounts to the seatpost, but at the last minute he abandoned it in favor of a backpack after finding out on a test ride that weight on a seatpost rack bounces up and down like a pogo stick.

Day 1 - Saturday, May 11, 2002
Santa Barbara to Port Hueneme
about 45 miles

After picking up John and Dan and their bikes in my minivan, we drove to Anaheim to pick up the train to Santa Barbara. The new Pacific Surfliner trains between San Luis Obispo and San Diego have bike racks inside the passenger cars, no extra fee or special handling is (supposedly) required - you just carry the bike on the train yourself and mount it to the rack.

Two of the passenger cars on our train had the bike racks, with three racks each for a total of six bike racks. However, when we went to load the bikes on the train, we were told by the Amtrak staff that the bike racks were full, so that we had to put the bikes in the baggage car.

When I have had to put the bike in a baggage car in the past, I've handed the bike up to an attendant who would find a good place to put it in the full-size baggage car. But this train had a combined baggage/passenger car, giving very little room for the bikes. This is when I noticed a potential problem with my Bagman rack - the rack just hangs "out there" from the back of the seat rails, waiting for the possibility to be bent from leaning on something. We were also worried out the security of the bikes, yet we couldn't lock them because they would need to be moved to get to the other luggage.

Once we found our seats and the train was on its way, we took a walk around the train to take a look at the bike racks. We were upset to see the bike rack compartments not full with bikes, but with luggage that could have been conveniently stored elsewhere.

We took a look at our bikes when the train had a short layover in Los Angeles Union Station. The baggage handlers there had stacked them intelligently against each other, and luckily the bikes were placed in a spot where they would not have to move for the remainder of the train ride.

The rest of the train ride to Santa Barbara was uneventful. After the train ride we inspected the bikes. The paint got chipped on one spot on John's frame, but at least there was no structural damage.

After lunch in downtown Santa Barbara we were on our way. The route heads out of town on a maze of residential streets, crossing US101 several times while heading southeast.


The bikes (from left to right): Dan's, John's, and Brian's.  Oh yeah, that's John in the picture...

All of our baggage carrying systems were behaving well. Dan's bag bounced up and down slightly, but it looked OK. Mine was steady, although I was aware of the weight sticking out towards the sides of the bike. I must have packed slightly more weight than John and Dan, since I was a little faster on the downhills. Maybe the extra weight was from the camera that I brought?

I got the misfortune of getting the one and only flat tire for the trip. There was a portion of freeway that we had to use for one exit (no other alternate route), so I believe the flat was caused by debris on the shoulder. Luckily the flat was a slow leak, so I could wait to get off the freeway before the repair. While changing the flat I found another issue with the Bagman rack - leaning the bike on its side without bending the rack. Propping my helmet underneath the bike was an imperfect but workable solution.

The tailwinds come from the northwest during the summer, and today was no exception. We had especially noticed that while riding almost effortlessly at 20 mph on the stretch of US101 just before Ventura.

Navigating through Ventura turned out of be surprisingly simple, and soon we found ourselves on quiet farm roads heading towards the Oxnard/Port Hueneme area. The rough condition of the farm roads made us wish we had more comfortable bikes and/or tires for this part of the ride.

Ideally we would have liked to split the mileage more evenly between the two days. However, that would have put us in the no man's land between Oxnard and Malibu. Therefore, we had made our hotel reservation in Port Hueneme, the furthest south we could stay without having to go all the way to Malibu.

With tailwinds the entire afternoon, we arrived at the hotel around 4 PM. That night Dan and I continued with another one of our light touring experiments - the chess equipment. Dan and I are both master strength chess players - it's unusual for us to be relatively evenly matched in both cycling and chess abilities. I had the plastic pieces inside my Carradice bag, with the board rolled up and conveniently placed under the flap of the bag. Dan had carried the chess clock in his Presto rear bag - this gave a relatively even distribution of weight between the two of us.

Day 2 - Sunday, May 12, 2002
Port Hueneme to Long Beach
about 85 miles

The hotel had a free buffet breakfast that started promptly at 6:30 AM. Perfect timing! As a result we were able to get an early morning start.

Dan, John, and Brian, before the day's ride

We couldn't have asked for better weather for the section of Highway 1 south of Port Hueneme - clear blue skies, with just traces of fog burning off in some of the enclosed valleys. We couldn't have asked for better scenery either, with the Santa Monica Mountains on the north side of the highway and the Pacific Ocean on the south side.

fog burning off, Pacific Coast Highway


more fog burning off, Pacific Coast Highway


Pacific Coast Highway, near Malibu

More of Pacific Coast Highway, near Malibu

The congestion increased as we got closer to Malibu and Santa Monica, signifying our entry into the Los Angeles area. We took the beach bike path from Santa Monica to Torrance. Being a weekend, it was busy with walkers, runners, rollerbladers, other cyclists, etc., so progress was slow. It's even busier on mid-summer weekend! Next time I would take a roadway alternate - where all users follow rules - as opposed to the chaos of the bike path. But I had to ride the bike path once just to say I did it.

Beach bike path

We then turned inland to go up and around the hills of Palos Verdes. The hills sheltered us from the ocean breezes, so the temperature felt noticeably warmer, especially riding uphill past houses that looked like they were owned by the rich and famous. I was struggling to keep up with Dan and John here - I think that the flu-like bug that I had a couple of weeks before was starting to make its presence known again.

After Palos Verdes, there's no scenic way through the industrial part of Long Beach. We took Anaheim Street per the Adventure Cycling maps, which is the preferable way to the Pacific Coast Highway recommended by Kirkendall and Spring in the "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" book.

The Adventure Cycling route then goes through downtown Long Beach - Dan instead led us out another way to the traffic circle on PCH, since that would be a better place to part ways. From there, Dan and I rode to his house to finish, while John continued south on PCH directly home to Huntington Beach to make it a century ride for him.

All in all, a nice weekend tour, but next time we'll consider renting a car one way or having someone give us a ride to the start.

Page Last Edited (though probably not for content): 14 September 2010