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.”
New York City, NY
Our Program Includes:
- Itinerary consultation and planning as well as lists of suggested itineraries, regional map and a mileage calculator to help plan your tour
- Accommodations recommendations (you book and pay directly - hotel, camp or mix camp/hostel/hotel options)
- Bike (road or hybrid)
- Pannier system for gear/clothes needed during tour
- Helmet, flat tire changing kit, mini tool kit, lock
- Drop off of bike(s)/gear at start of tour
- Transportation of excess luggage from start to end of tour
- Pick up of bike(s)/gear at end of tour
- Turn by turn directions and elevation graphs in a printed format
- Detailed maps
- Daily memo with terrain description, recommended restaurants and suggested stops
- Detailed list of services along the route (i.e. bike shops, medical facilities, bus services)
*** 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:
- Daily luggage delivery (can be arranged for additional cost)
- Emergency vehicle support on route (except Big Sur area - see below)
- Cost of accommodations or food
- Downloadable directions or downloadable maps (at least not yet). Sorry!
- Lights for riding after dark or cycle computers
Steps for booking a self guided bike tour with us:
- Review our services and itineraries on the website.
- Make sure you are comfortable changing a flat tire and performing minor adjustments and repairs on a bike.
- Call 805.528.1080, email us or submit a Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire to discuss specific itinerary and pricing.
- 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.
- Book your own accommodations.
- Email us your accommodations so we can create detailed directions and maps specific to your tour.
- Pay remaining balance (usually due one week prior to tour).
- 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.
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.
- San Francisco to Los Angeles
- Monterey to Santa Barbara
- Monterey to San Luis Obispo (SLO)
- SLO to Santa Barbara
- SLO County
- Central Coast Wine Country
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.
Here is a regional map of the California Central Coast to aid in planning your tour.
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.
Metric conversion: miles x 1.61 = kilometers
We have carefully selected accommodations in each potential overnight town that avoid cycling on busy streets as much as possible and are walking distance to restaurants. 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.
Costs for accommodations along the California coast can vary greatly from town to town and from low season (winter) to high season (the rest of the year). In the budget range, most towns along the route will have some accommodation options for less than $100 per room per night, although a few places (i.e. Big Sur) might not have anything for much less than $150 per room per night. During summer and early fall, rooms in the more popular locations will often book up well in advance, limiting your options if you are trying to book on short notice. Some places may also require two night stays during busy weekends. 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.
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.
Wherever possible, we have selected campgrounds with hike/bike sites on our camping itineraries. 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.
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.
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.
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 Topeak seat post mount rack and rear bag with fold out panniers. Here are links to the most common system we use:
- MTX Beam Rack - We use the optional side frame for use with fold down panniers as well.
- DXP Rear Bag or the slightly smaller EXP Rear Bag.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is not normally included in our self guided bike tour package, but can potentially be arranged for an extra fee. Be aware that moving luggage down the coast one way can cost a minimum of $150 extra per day and sometimes over double that. We usually use a combination of cabs (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 arre 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
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 Kirkendall and 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 TripAdvisor.