Credit Card Touring: San Francisco to San Luis Obispo

These past few weeks have been incredible. I just returned home from Europe after spending a week in France cycling the Alps and catching a stage of the Tour de France followed by some time spent in Barcelona. What I am about to recall is not the freshest thing in my mind, but it was such an awesome experience it has to be written about.

The weekend prior to embarking on my European adventure, my neighbor Michael and I rode our bicycles from our front doors near Golden Gate Park down to San Luis Obispo over the course of three days. A year prior, he and his wife got married and instead of having a bachelor party he wanted to go on a “mancation.” We had discussed different routes and San Francisco to San Luis Obispo seemed the best fit for our calendars.

The route planning involved looking over a California road map and calculating different distances to resting points in Google Maps. We ran different scenarios and ultimately chose to ride along Highway 1 for a majority of the trip since we didn’t want to miss the stretch of the 1 that runs through Big Sur. We kind of just winged it in terms of navigation, but in retrospect I probably would have liked to have a map from Adventure Cycling since we ran into some hiccups along our course.


Since we had a fair amount of distance to cover each day, we wanted to keep gear to a minimum, and we chose to stay at motels which also eliminated the need for camping gear. I was able to fit all of the gear in my handlebar and saddle bag. Michael was able to get everything into a backpack. This is roughly what I brought for three days of riding and one day of travel on AmTrak.

2 Jerseys
3 Bibs
3 Pairs of Cycling Socks
1 Cycling Wind Jacket
1 Wool Base Layer
1 Pair of Arm Warmers
2 Cycling Caps
1 Pair of Mountain Bike Shoes
3 Water Bottles (I have a third water bottle cage.)
1 Frame Pump
1 Set of Allen Wrenches
2 Tubes
1 Patch Kit
3 Pairs of Underwear (I probably could have done with less since I really only slept in them.)
2 T-shirts
1 Pair of Shorts
1 Pair of Flip Flops
Toothbrush, Floss, and Paste
Endurolyte Pills, Gels, and Bars

With all of my gear and filled bottles, my bike ended up weighing in around 38 pounds.

Day 1: San Francisco to Monterey – 125 Miles
Strava Upload

This was our “big” day for the trip. We had decided we were going to make a push to Monterey instead of staying the night in Santa Cruz since every inexpensive option to stay the second night in Big Sur was booked. Staying in Big Sur would have allowed us to create three days of similar distance, but since that was not an option, we had to front load the mileage.

Day one was full of mechanical issues, which seems to be expected when you are aiming to have a bit of an adventure. About a half a mile from home, Michael had to turn around to address a loose cleat and wobbly tire while I chose to add another bottle cage to my bike to bring a third water bottle. Around Half Moon Bay, Michael ran over a staple which was complicate by a valve on the replacement tube snapping in half. I ran over a drill bit near Pescadero that came out through the sidewall of my tire and that too was followed by a second flat just down the road.

The ride from San Francisco to Santa Cruz I have done a few times at this point. The only variation this time was to take Devil’s Slide just south of Pacifica. We decided on taking this path to minimize the amount of climbing, however, the tradeoff is a narrow windy road with very little shoulder and cars that travel near highway speeds. About 10 miles north of Santa Cruz, we passed by Swanton Berry Farm. I have yet to pass Swanton Berry Farm without stopping. Their strawberry shortcake is delicious and their self-service cash register is a reminder that honest people still exist.

The road past Santa Cruz was a bit tricky. We knew that keeping parallel to Highway 1, which was no longer suitable to ride on, would keep us moving in the direction toward Monterey. Meandering through neighborhoods and beach parking lots, we ran into a couple of dead end streets. Eventually we emerged onto a bike lane that ran through the farmlands of Watsonville and further south to the northern edge of Marina where we were forced onto the highway for a short stretch. At this point, the winds had shifted to a headwind and my tired legs and hungry stomach made me long to be done for the day. After not wanting to be on the highway any longer and exiting on a Marina off ramp, we were pleased to find a series of bike paths taking us through Marina, past the CSU Monterey campus, and into Monterey.

Day 2: Monterey to San Simeon – 110 Miles
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We awoke with sore legs and our bare chested Scandinavian neighbor barking some orders to somebody off in the distance. A few issues to tackle first thing in the morning then we were off.

We continued along the series of bike paths in Monterey down to Cannery Row then through Pacific Grove where we would grab breakfast. If there was a theme to our trip, it easily could have been amazing breakfasts. We were not shy when we ordered breakfast sandwiches, sides of pancakes, and extra syrup.

Growing up in Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel Valley when I was in elementary school, this segment of the ride brought me back to my childhood. From Pacific Grove, we turned onto 17 Mile Drive which took us into Pebble Beach and past some of the most famous golf courses in the world. Looking at the golfers and their caddies, we smiled knowing their experiences were great, but that ours would be grand. Passing by an older English gentleman towards the edge of Pebble Beach, we struck up a conversation which led to him leading us through Carmel and to the mouth of Highway 1, which would lead us along some of the most beautiful coastline in America.

The conditions were absolutely beautiful that day. It was a surreal mix of sun and fog which made the dramatic coastline even more so. We rolled into Big Sur just past noon where we would sit down at The Maiden Publick House for a proper English meal. I could have easily sat there all day, sipped on microbrews, and enjoyed the shade of the redwoods, but we still had nearly 80 miles of rolling coastline to reach our next destination, San Simeon.

We got back on our bikes, slightly drunk from all of the calories, and pushed on. I wanted to stop every five minutes or so to snap a photo, but I knew if I did we wouldn’t make our destination before nightfall. We passed through towns every 25 miles just as our new English friend, Bill, had told us we would. We rode into the mist head on and emerged above a sea of fog just to descend right back into it at the next bend. It was dizzying at times to look over the roadside barriers that were knee high to see a sheer cliff that dropped straight into the ocean 600 feet below.

What an amazing day!

Bill warned us of a climb that had five false peaks and after every climb that felt beyond moderate, Michael and I would assure each other that the last one was it. We began what we thought would be our final descent. Descending to only feet above sea level, we arrived at the base of the climb. Bill wasn’t kidding. There were exactly five times when I said, “Fuck. That wasn’t the top?”

The sun began setting behind the ocean cliffs at our backs as we made our way slightly inland to the final stretch of the day. With a stiff tailwind and a mysterious fog straight out of Treasure Island, we formed a paceline and ripped through the final 20 or so miles of the day. The sun had set as we emerged back on the coast with rolling hillsides to our left. The moon lit up the night and off in the distance we could see the lights of Hearst Castle and San Simeon.

Day 3: San Simeon to San Luis Obispo – 45 Miles
Strava Upload

With all of the mileage in the bank, day 3 was all about relaxation. We stopped in Cambria for another big breakfast where I discovered that country potatoes taste better with maple syrup than they do with ketchup. We rolled along Highway 1 in the direction of Los Osos where we planned to make a left turn at some point to go to San Luis Obispo. With time at our disposal, we took every opportunity to roll down gravel roads, dirt paths, beach walkways, and swamp crossings.

Taking the final left at Los Osos, Michael thought it would be a good time to drop the hammer. We would be going “Cancellara” pace for the rest of the way. I tried to suck wheel for as long as possible, but with a 38 pound bicycle it was hard to maintain 27 miles per hour.

As we rolled through San Luis Obispo and took the final turn to our motel, we were greeted with cheers from a group of cyclists having beers at Central Coast Brewing. They poured us fresh pints and made the perfect ending to a perfect tour!

Flickr Gallery

2012 Davis Double Century

I finished the Davis Double this past Saturday for the third time (1st and 2nd)! This time around was pretty challenging since I had only around 700 miles on my bike for the entire year going into this event. I have been attending an evening MBA program and still hold my full time job, so cycling had really been pushed down on the priorities…unfortunately.

It was a bit of an experiment to see if my body really does require a lot of training miles in order to complete a double century. I found that my body, especially my wrists and feet, did not hold up as well as last year and I definitely found it to be a bit of a mental challenge around 160 miles.

This year I had a special treat though. My parents volunteered on the ride and gave me some much needed support on Resurrection Hill at mile 135. Thanks Mom and Dad!!!

Flickr Set

Another Trippy Camping Trip

My friend Jon and I had been talking for years about recreating a camping trip that we had done when we were both living as roommates. Every year life would get in the way, but finally we pulled our plans together and made it happen.

We packed a rental SUV full of everything we would need for the next four days (which turns out to be quite a lot) and began the 600 mile drive to our ultimate destination, Death Valley. I had done the drive down to Death Valley back in November for the Death Valley Double Century. However, since it was such a short trip, I was not able to see one of my favorite places in the world, the Eureka Dunes. For the past handful of years since my last trip out, I had thought this place was really remote and isolated. Either that was never the case or word got out. When we had arrived there was one other campsite set up, and by the time we had summited the dunes, we could see another truck driving in on the horizon. We even got a really low fly by from a fighter jet the next morning.

The thing I absolutely love about this area is that it is nearly impossible to take a bad photo. There is just something surreal about the sand dunes to begin with that makes pictures amazing and impresses people. We drove back through Bishop and up to Lake Tahoe on the eastern side of the Sierras which is also very beautiful. I’ve uploaded some photos from the trip to Flickr.

2011 Death Valley Double Century

This past weekend I rode the Death Valley Double Century and completed my first California Triple Crown. It was a pretty exhausting weekend (Fri-Sun) with over 1,000 miles driven and 195 miles on the bike. We were really fortunate to have highs in the mid-80s and, aside from one 25 miles stretch, favorable wind conditions.

The course was really exposed to the sun and wind since there is very little vegetation. And a majority of the roads are straight. It was really interesting to ride in a straight line seeing your next destination miles and miles ahead. Additionally, the climbs were very gradual with most of it coming in under 5%. There was a stretch of around 20 miles where it seemed the gradient was less than 2%.

On the drive down, we joked that we would be sick of the landscape come the following day. It turns out though that the views are always good from a bicycle.

Oh, and we burned through the course in under 13 hours. Super stoked about that!

Strava Upload
Flickr Set

2011 SCR Mixed Terrain Dart

This ride was actually a week ago, but I’m finally getting around to posting some notes today. Super busy week.

I signed up for my first dart with the Santa Cruz Randonneurs. The format was to ride in teams of three to five and converge on a single destination at once. There were 11 or 12 teams riding from all around the Bay Area to the final destination, a brewery in Palo Alto. There were time restrictions placed on the teams so that teams would ride at a leisurely pace and arrive all at the same time. Oh, and the distance was a 200k or longer.

Our route started in San Francisco, meandered down the coastline, over Skyline, out to Pescadero, and through the hills again to Palo Alto. The weather was ideal and the climbing was brutal. There was one climb, Purisima Creek, that was about 1,500 feet in elevation gain on gravel and dirt pack with slopes of 11+ degrees. I had to get off of my bike twice just to catch my breath. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to do that. The total climbing for the day was close to 12,000 feet with a respectable portion of it off road.

The nature of the ride allows teams plenty of time to regroup at controls or so we thought. The dirt sections had slowed us down more than we anticipated. At our second to last control in Big Basin, we did a time calculation and figured we would have to hustle to our final control just so we didn’t miss our time cutoff.

Memorable quote: “We can make it. We’re randonneurs!” – Carlos

Strava Deets

2011 Mt. Tam Double Century

To date this has been my hardest ride in terms of elevation gain. 15,000 feet of elevation was covered over 196 miles on the Mt. Tam Double Century course. I was a little anxious going into this ride, but I had picked up a new 13-29 cassette the week before and had realized that I should have done this a long time ago. I had been riding a 12-25 with a standard crank on my Serotta for about six months and it was brutal. Although, I think this forced me to become a stronger rider.

All in all, I think this ride was very successful. Despite being the most I’ve climbed in one day, I only briefly felt tired and feel I rode strong almost all day. And on a lot of distance rides I usually get in a bad mood at some point from the fatigue, but this is how I felt almost all day.

Here are the Strava deets: Mt. Tam Double

Bicycle Vacation: UBI Framebuilding Course

I finally took the plunge and attended the United Bicycle Institute bicycle framebuilding course in Portland, Oregon. It’s something I have wanted to do for several years and I was long overdue for a vacation. It’s been about a year and a half years since I took a framebuilding course with Tim Sanner when he was located in Palo Alto, California. (I wrote about it here.)

The time since, I had purchased an oxy-acetylene setup, taken a welding course and a couple of machine shop courses at Marin College. I wasn’t sure whether or not I would attend UBI during this time, but I figured that if I wanted to pursue bicycle framebuilding as a lifetime hobby that these courses would really help me along the way.

The last course that I had taken with Tim Sanner was lugged bicycle construction. With the rising price of silver and the expense and geometry restrictions of lugs, I thought learning how to fillet braze and potentially building a fork to match would be a good reason to take another framebuilding course. Both of these methods were something I would want to learn eventually.

Compared to Tim Sanner’s course, UBI was way more stocked when it comes to tools. Many people build really high quality frames without as many machine shop tools, fixtures, jigs, etc. than what UBI carries, but having access to the tools does speed up the process when they are used properly. And it was nice to get some hands on time with a wide variety of the industry standard tools to get a sense of what I would eventually be interested in purchasing and which tools are not absolutely necessary. Given bicycle framebuilding tools are for a very specific purpose, they are typically built in small quantities and are very expensive.

Another thing I should mention is that most every tool that’s out there still requires a good “framebuilder’s eye” to use properly. Because of the complexity of circular and ovalized tubing and and some of the complex joints, precision can be gained from taking concrete measurements, but some things still have to be eyed to see if it looks right.

This course has been taught many times over the past decades by UBI’s owner Ron and more recently by guest instructors that are very established in the handmade bicycle world, so the curriculum was very dialed in. We were given a course handout on the very first day and it pretty much established what we would be doing every single day for the two week duration of the course. Just so I don’t have to get into it into too much detail, I took a couple photos of the curriculum.

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The instructor for my course was Joseph Ahearne. I think the biggest benefit of taking this course was gaining the insight of someone that has been building bicycles as a profession for quite some time as well as watching him work. During the two week course, Joseph was always a step or two ahead of us building a demonstration bike so we could see his exact methodology. Watching someone of Joseph’s skill level work is something that you can honestly only experience in person to benefit from. His subtle torch movements and precise yet aggressive file strokes really helped me understand what I have and have not been doing properly in the past. But there are still some things that only come from years of experience.

One of the biggest benefits of taking this two week course as opposed to the one week course that I took in the past was obviously the extra week. This allowed extra time for general discussions and demonstrations. It also gave us a day or two of practice for hand mitering, brazing joints, and cutting them apart to see which techniques worked and which did not.

At the end of the course, I had built a fillet brazed frame with a randonneuring geometry I had based off of Curt Goodrich’s bicycle featured in Bicycle Quarterly. I chose to build a fork (time usually doesn’t allow for this when building a fillet brazed frame) with 64mm of rake making the trail exceptionally low. I figured this would be a little bit on the experimental side and that if the handling is absolutely horrible I can build another fork with more moderate rake.

I have been back in the routine of work and riding or socializing during my free time, so the frame has gone a little neglected in the past few weeks. The frame is essentially structurally finished, but I would like to add a couple more braze-ons as well as finish the filing of the fillets so I can send the frame out to powder coat or paint. I plan to ride the bike for a while unfinished to make sure that everything is dialed in.

I will post more as the frame progresses.

Flickr set from Portland