Self Guided Multi-Day Bike Tours

If you want to cycle a portion of the California coast or wine country areas between San Francisco and Los Angeles (or cycle the whole way!) on a self guided bike tour, look no further. We are located in San Luis Obispo (SLO) County, about half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles along the coast nestled between the wine country areas of Paso Robles, SLO and the Santa Ynez Valley and have a unique and innovative program to support you. This is an excellent program for cyclists who are comfortable changing flat tires and performing minor adjustments and repairs on their own and are comfortable without a support vehicle. If you are unsure of your mechanical abilities and/or would prefer the comfort and convenience of a support vehicle, our Guided Multi-Day Bike program may be a better fit.

“Virginia and John - I really enjoyed planning the trip with you. You are so upbeat and everything I asked for was possible! This trip was one for the memory banks.”

Rande Greiner
New York City, NY

Our Self Guided Bike Tour Program Includes:

*** All rates quoted on this website for self guided tours include the services listed above. Extra fees will apply for any additional services ***

Our Program Does Not (Usually) Include:

Steps for booking a self guided bike tour with us:

  1. Review our services and itineraries on the website.
  2. Make sure you are comfortable changing a flat tire and performing minor adjustments and repairs on a bike.
  3. Call 805.528.1080, email us or submit a Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire to discuss specific itinerary and pricing.
  4. Once itinerary and dates are agreed upon, pay a deposit (usually 20%). We'll email a confirmation packet with information specific to your tour as well as recommended accommodations. Recommended accommodations can also be emailed to you while you are looking into different itinerary options.
  5. Book your own accommodations.
  6. Email us your accommodations so we can create detailed directions and maps specific to your tour.
  7. Pay remaining balance (usually due one week prior to tour).
  8. We meet you at the start of the tour with detailed directions, maps, and gear.

 

We don't sell just directions/maps without the other services for our self guided tours.

 

Suggested Itineraries and Pricing

We have numerous suggested itineraries with prices to choose from. We have organized these itineraries into Itinerary Zones. Please click on the Itinerary Zone below or to the right that most closely matches the area you want to cycle in for detailed itineraries and pricing. Our price structure for most of our California self guided bike tours is based on the rough overall mileage of the itinerary and the number of people in your party. Our price structure for most of our self guided bike tours assumes a typical range of days to complete the tour, but you can plan a tour with longer than the typical number of days allowed for a small surcharge or less than the typical amount of days for a small discount. Self guided bike tour itineraries entirely within SLO County are usually priced per day.

 

IMPORTANT: Due to heavy rains over the winter 2016-17, many sections of Highway One down the Big Sur coast were heavily damaged. During the repair phase (which may take well into 2018) portions of the highway are likely to remain closed to through traffic, and this will impact any biking itineraries that come down that stretch of coast. Please see our Big Sur Highway News page for more details.

 

Itinerary Consultation and Planning

We know the California coast and wine country areas from SF to LA (including Monterey, Big Sur and Santa Barbara) intimately. We live here and have provided support for self guided and fully guided tours down the California coast and in Central Coast winery areas for years. We know the best ways to route you where there are choices and we know the best side trips to take as well. We can plan short self guided bike trips to focus on a certain section of the California coast or wine country areas close to our location (i.e. Big Sur, SLO County and northern Santa Barbara County) or longer distance trips up to the full 500+ mile bike tour along the coast from SF to LA. We don't sell just directions and maps separately from the other elements of our self guided program.

 

Regional Map for Planning Itineraries

Here is a regional map of the California Central Coast to aid in planning your tour.

 

Mileage Calculator for Itineraries

You can use the tool below to get an idea of how long a self guided coastal itinerary might be between select towns anywhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The tool will also tell you average daily mileage if you enter how many days you will be cycling. Please don't hesitate to email us if you have other questions or would like a proposed itinerary with your specifications sent to you.

Start End Total Miles Num. Days Daily Average
 
 

Metric conversion: miles x 1.61 = kilometers

 

Accommodations Recommendations

HOTELS

We have carefully selected accommodations in each potential overnight town that avoid cycling on busy streets as much as possible and are usually walking distance to restaurants and attractions. Once we work out a biking self guided itinerary with you, we'll recommend a selection of hotels for each overnight stop for you to choose from. Our suggested hotels cover all budget ranges available in each town. You contact the hotels to book directly and let us know where you are staying so we can customize the turn by turn directions for your hotels. We normally do not receive any special discounts at our recommended hotels.

Many of our clients also use accommodations not on our recommended list or stay in Air BnBs. This is fine, but it's always a good idea to run these choices by us first as some may be at the top of a huge hill, away from the main part of town and/or not within walking distance of restaurants.

The cost and availability of accommodations on a California coast self guided bike tour can vary considerably and are influenced by location, high season vs. low season rates, and weekend vs. weekday rates. The best way to get a sense for what accommodations for your tour might cost is to first choose a specific itinerary and dates and ask us to email you our lists of recommended accommodations for each stop along the way. Then you can check availability and rates for your specific dates. It can be a challenge to find hotel accommodations for less than $100 per night average, although if you are willing to stay in hostels where they exist, you can average less than $100 per night. Most budget hotel accommodations are in the $70-150 per night range. Mid range accommodations are typically between $150-300 per night. Some places, especially along the Big Sur coast, may sell out months in advance during the busy summer season or other holiday times, and/or may require two nights stays on certain busy weekends. The farther in advance you plan your bike tour, the better chance you have to get the accommodations you want at each stop along the way. Virtually all accommodations we recommend have websites where you can check availability and book rooms. If you are having a hard time finding appropriate accommodations in your price range, let us know and we may be able to offer some additional suggestions or alter the route somewhat to give some other options.

 

CAMPING

Although most of our client prefer to stay in hotels, we also support groups that prefer to camp. We don't rent any camping gear, so you'll need to bring your own. For camping trips we outfit our bikes with a tradtional rear rack and traditional side panniers. We don't have any front panniers, so you'll need to make sure your camping gear is compact and lightweight and pack lightly in general. Since traveling on airlines with a camping stove can be a challenge, most people decide to omit a stove and elect to buy food at restaurants or cafes along the way. Sometimes places to eat are several miles from campgrounds and may require buying food along the route and carrying it with or cycling a few miles after you get to camp to obtain food.

We have a list of campgrounds along the coast route. Some are close to the town listed on our itineraries. Some may be outside of towns. Wherever possible, it is usually best to stay in campgrounds with hike/bike sites. Hike/bike sites are sites specifically set aside for people arriving on foot or on bike. They can not be reserved in advance. Theoretically campground staff may turn you away if all these sites are full, but in practice we have never heard of this being done. Since many of the campgrounds along the coast are very popular, especially in summer, all the regular sites may be reserved several months in advance. You can always try to reserve sites in advance if you want, but if you can't secure one there is always the hike/bike site option. On some itineraries in some locations there are no campgrounds with hike/bike sites. If that is the case, and the campground(s) we recommend have no availability for the dates you want, you may have to stay in a hotel or a hostel.

 

MIX CAMP, HOSTEL AND/OR HOTEL

Some people are looking for a mix of camping, hostels and/or hotels. In this case we highlight stops where campgrounds have hike/bike sites and/or hostels are available as well as sending our recommended lists of hotel accommodations options.

 

Bike (Road or Hybrid)

We offer either hybrid or road bikes for use on our self guided tours. The hybrids we use are more toward the road bike end of the spectrum. They are lightweight with relatively skinny tires but still have the straight across mountain bike style handlebars that many of our clients prefer. Please see the bikes section on the Bike FAQs page for more details. It is important that you are able to change a flat tire and perform minor bike repairs and adjustments on your own before you undertake a self guided multi-day bike tour with us.

 

Pannier System

One main difference between our California self guided tour program and many other companies is that we normally do not provide daily luggage transport between hotels. Although we'd certainly love to provide this service as part of our regular self guided program, we found that on most of our coastal itineraries doing so was very expensive and very few of our clients wanted it once they heard the cost. Most California coastal bike tours are one way and cover hundreds of miles, which makes it logistically challenging to move luggage from a central location. Utilizing local cab or parcel delivery companies also proved to be very expensive due to the distances covered. We can certainly look into providing daily luggage transport on request, but realize it usually costs a minimum of $150 per move and often more than double that.

To address the challenge of getting all your luggage and gear down the coast on a self guided bike tour, we came up with a hybrid system. We provide you with a pannier system to carry only the clothes/gear you need during the bike tour. All of our clients have managed to put the clothes/gear they needed in our pannier system (even on our SF to LA tours) and sometimes even with room to spare. Keep it simple and light! Anything that you don't carry on the self guided bike tour we call excess luggage. We transport this excess luggage from the beginning of your self guided bike tour to the end of the bike tour, when we meet you to pick up the bike(s) and gear.

Note that on our wine country oriented self guided bike tours it is more feasible to have us move luggage along the route for you. If we will be movin luggage for you, we usually supply an optional smaller seat post mount rack and rear bag system to carry just the things you may need while out riding.

If you will be carrying your own gear during the tour, we use a few different types of pannier systems. Unless a specific request is made and confirmed, you may get either of our systems on your bike. The most common system we use is a traditionalt post mount rack and rear bag with fold out panniers. Here are links to the most common system we use:

Sometimes we may also use a more traditional style rack that attaches near the rear hub as well as on the bike frame under the seat. The panniers are traditional side rear panniers. We provide a set of two panniers per bike. Here is a link to the most common pannier set we use:

During rainy season, we use a traditional rack with waterproof panniers:

We usually do not provide a handlebar bag, but can do so on special request. We never provide front panniers.

 

Helmet, Flat Tire Changing Kit, Mini Tool Kit and Lock(s)

These are all provided at no extra cost. We do not have cartridge style tire inflators. We have high quality mini hand pumps instead. YOU SHOULD BE COMFORTABLE CHANGING A FLAT TIRE AND MAKING MINOR ADJUSTMENTS OR REPAIRS TO A BIKE before you undertake a self guided multi-day bike tour through us.

 

Drop Off and Pick up Bike(s)/Gear/Excess Luggage

Due to the one way nature and longer distances of most California coast self guided bike tours, moving bikes and gear up and down the coast for you is one of the key services we offer. We'll meet you at the start of the tour with the bike(s), all necessary gear and printed information/maps. After making any necessary adjustments to the bike/gear and letting you repack, we'll take your excess luggage with us for safe storage during the tour. At the end of the tour, we'll meet you again, deliver your excess luggage and pick up the bike(s) and gear. You are free to continue your travels without the hassle of packing or shipping all kinds of bike specific gear.

On most of our wine country oriented self guided itineraries, you begin and end in the town of San Luis Obispo (SLO), and usually leave your excess luggage at your SLO hotel or in your vehicle if you leaving it parked there for the duration of the tour. We can also take care of excess luggage for you.

 

Turn by Turn Directions

Some stretches of the California coast bike route are on Highway One for many miles. Other portions (especially through towns) have many turns per day. Furthermore, there are often different ways to cycle through a given coastal area. In the wine country areas, some roads are busy with traffic and others are not. Our directions are turn by turn, customized to your itinerary and accommodations and are field tested several times per year.

Sample Turn by Turn Directions

 

Detailed Maps

We provide a variety of map formats depending on what is the best map to use for cyclists in a given area. Wherever they are available, we provide maps produced by local county bicycle agencies. Virtually your entire self guided bike route is covered by detailed maps, so if you want to go "off route" (or get off route accidently!) you'll be able to find your way.

Sample Detailed Map

 

Daily Memo and Lists of Services

The Daily Memo for your California self guided bike tour contains descriptions of terrain and road conditions, suggested lunch spots as well as interesting side trips and things to see along the way. You'll also be provided with an updated list of bike shops, medical facilities and bike friendly bus services along the way, just in case you run into any mishaps.

Sample Daily Memo

 

Traffic, Road Conditions and Terrain

Traffic along California coast self guided bike tour routes is highly variable. Some stretches are on remote roads that have little to no traffic. Much of the cycling route is on Highway One, which has differing traffic volumes on different portions. Hwy 1 also has highly variable shoulders with some stretches (especially through Big Sur coast) that have little to no shoulder. Summer tends to see the heaviest traffic on Highway One. Inexperienced cyclists or cyclists who have a low tolerance for riding with traffic have commented that the busier sections of Highway One (especially on the Big Sur coast) during summer seemed hectic to them. More experienced cyclists seem less impacted by the traffic on Highway One. If you are going as far as Santa Barbara or beyond, a small portion of the cycling is actually on freeways, but these sections always have a large shoulder, except for two very short stretches on the approach to Santa Barbara. However, motorists are used to seeing lots of cyclists along the route and are normally courteous. Bicyclists doing these self guided tours should be comfortable riding with traffic for portions of the tour. Many of our routes that start south of Big Sur avoid sections of the coast that may seem hectic to inexperienced cyclists or cyclists with a low tolerance for traffic.

The terrain for the bike self guided tour routes along the California coast are also highly variable. Most days will have some combination of relatively level riding and some hill climbing. Most of the sustained climbs (i.e. 1/2 mile or longer) are of moderate steepness (5-8%) and there are no sustained climbs that average over 10%. The hilliest section for cyclists doing self guided bike tour routes that start in Half Moon Bay is the 75 miles of Big Sur coast between Carmel and Ragged Point. There is very little level riding on this stretch of coast and the vast majority of the route is either climbing or descending. There are two climbs on the Big coast that are just over 2 miles long and gain almost 1000 feet. Each itinerary has the daily elevation gain and loss (in feet) listed. Cyclists contemplating doing self guided bike tours along the California coast should be comfortable with riding hilly terrain. Tours that start south of Big Sur (in Ragged Point for example) and just concentrate on San Luis Obispo County are usually less hilly than other parts of the coastal route.

 

Route Support

Due to the long distances and costs involved, it is not feasible for us to offer emergency route support for most areas of the coast or wine country. You'll be much better served by utilizing a mix of local services, depending on your need. If you have a mechanical break down and cannot fix it yourself, we'll reimburse or pay direct for any necessary repairs at a local bike shop (except for damage caused by crashes or other user negligence). The only exception to this is on the Big Sur coast. There are no bike shops on the Big Sur coast or the northern SLO County coast area from Carmel to Cambria - about 100 miles. If you have a serious mechanical problem in this area, we will come out to fix it or swap bikes. There is no extra charge for this, but be aware it should be used for true emergencies only and it may take us several hours (or even until the next morning) to get to you. It is important that, at a minimum, you know how to fix a flat tire and perform minor adjustements and repairs on your own. We provide all the tools and equipement needed to fix flat tires and make minor adjustments and repairs. If you prefer to have route support, we suggest looking into one of our guided levels of service.

 

Daily Luggage Delivery

Daily luggage delivery is not normally included in our self guided bike tour package, but can potentially be arranged for an extra fee. Our standard self guided services include a pannier system for the bike so you can carry just the clothing and gear you need during the tour. We will take your excess luggage (anything you don't carry on the bike), store it for you during the tour and deliver it to you at the end of the tour. If you want daily luggage transfer, be aware that moving luggage down the coast one way can cost a minimum of $150 extra per moving day and often up to double that or more. We usually use a combination of parcel delivery services or taxis (in areas farther from our home base in SLO County) and our own staff and vehicles (closer to our home base). If we are in transit to meet you on the first and/or last day of your self guided bike tour, we can often waive the luggage moving fee for those day(s).

On wine country oriented itineraries, the overall cost of us moving luggage for you is usually much less than compared to our coastal one way tours. Our wine country itineraries usually have fewer moving days (many days are loop rides out of the same location) and the itineraries are usually much closer to our home base.

Please contact us if you are interested in a quote on daily luggage delivery for your self guided bike tour.

 

Self Guided Bike Tour FAQs

Do you sell just directions and/or maps for your self guided bike tours?

No. Many people ask us about buying directions, maps and perhaps getting accommodations recommendations for bike trips down the coast or in wine country areas. In cases like this we are happy to give some free advice over the phone, but we don't sell just information separately from taking one of our tours, guided or self guided. For people planning a tour down the coast who don't need our bikes or excess luggage transport, we recommend buying "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" by Tom adjustmentsnd Vicky Spring. It has detailed maps and directions for the entire Pacific Coast bike route. They route people a little differently than we do in certain situations and the information is a bit dated (last edition is 2005) but it will get you down the coast. The book also lists most of the campgrounds along the coast. For hotel accommodations, we suggest picking towns to stay in and then looking up accommodations on a site like equipmentr.