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
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.