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.

How This Works

On our self guided bike tours we provide all necessary equipment (i.e. bikes, panniers, helmet, tools, GPS bike computer), all necessary information (i.e. itinerary planning, accommodations recommendations, turn by turn directions) and we meet you at the start and end of the tour. Prices quoted on this website are per person per itinerary and include equipment, information and tour start/end meet. Prices do not include cost of accommodations or food. You take care of booking and paying for your own accommodations and food. On some shorter itineraries we can also provide daily luggage transport. One some itineraries we also provide a shuttle at the start and/or end. LEARN MORE...

**GET THE PROCESS STARTED - Submit a Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire.**

 

***ALL BIKE TOURS GUARANTEED PRIVATE***

 

“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:

CUSTOM ITINERARY PLANNING. We have dozens of itineraries available. LEARN MORE...

ACCOMMODATIONS RECOMMENDATIONS. You book and pay directly. LEARN MORE...

BIKE(S). Jamis Renegade Explore road bike OR Trek FX3 hybrid bike. LEARN MORE...

PANNIER SYSTEM. Mounted on rear racks. LEARN MORE...

ESSENTIAL BIKE GEAR. Includes helmet, tool kit, flat tire changing kit, and more. LEARN MORE...

CUSTOMIZED TRIP INFORMATION. Turn by turn directions and more. LEARN MORE...

NEW! GPS BIKE COMPUTER pre-loaded with all your routes. LEARN MORE...

DROP OFF BIKES/GEAR AT START AND PICK UP AT END. No hassles! LEARN MORE...

EXCESS LUGGAGE STORAGE. You only carry exactly what you need on the tour. LEARN MORE...

NEW! CAMP GEAR RENTALS. Optional for extra cost. LEARN MORE...

 

Our Program Sometimes Includes:

 

Our Program Does Not 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 itinerary(s) and pricing. We usually email a specific proposal and can also email accommodations recommendations to you to research as well.
  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 if we have not already done so).
  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.

 

Custom Itinerary 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

 

Suggested Itineraries and Pricing

We have numerous suggested itineraries with prices to choose from. Our coastal tours cover the territory from San Francisco to Los Angeles and run from north to south due to prevailing winds. Our wine country trips cover San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County (Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Ynez Valley).

COAST ITINERARIES

Our coastal itineraries are organized by pages according to the start town. Each start town page has several end towns and total days in itinerary to choose from. You decide what section of the coast you want to cover and how many days you want to do it in and select the appropriate itinerary from the charts on the pages. Each itinerary listing also has pricing. Prices are per person per itinerary and include all the standard self guided services mentioned above. The Regional Map and Mileage Calculator below are great tools to help your planning. Here are the coastal pages:

We don't offer any self guided bike tours north of San Francisco, although other start/end places between San Francisco and Los Angeles may be possible.

Self guided bike tours that encompass the coast are virtually always routed from north to south due to prevailing winds. LEARN MORE...

WINE COUNTRY ITINERARIES

Our wine country itineraries always include San Luis Obipso County and longer itineraries can also include Santa Barbara County. You usually get yourself to the town of San Luis Obispo and we provide a shuttle to the tour start and/or from the tour end back to San Luis Obispo. Each itinerary listing has pricing. Prices are per person per itinerary and include all the standard self guided services mentioned above and usually also include any necessary shuttling. Our wine country self guided bike tours also usually include daily luggage delivery (for an extra fee). Here are the wine country pages:

 

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

 

Traffic, Road Conditions and Terrain on Coast Routes

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.

 

SPECIAL NOTE FOR BIG SUR SECTION OF HIGHWAY ONE:

Please be aware that many non-cyclists and even some Big Sur locals may tell you that cycling down Highway One along the Big Sur coast is not safe and that they may continue to insist this in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. The Big Sur section of Highway One is designated as part of the Pacific Coast Bike Route by the state of California. Literally thousands of cyclists riding all types of bikes come down this route without incident each year. Many cyclists each year do both our guided and self guided programs down this stretch of coast without incident as well. That being said, it is still not a section we recommend for very inexperienced cyclists or cyclists who have a low tolerance for riding with traffic.

 

 

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 or wine country 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. Adding a layover day where two night minimums are required will often address at least that issue. 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. You can bring your own camp gear or rent from us. We have very lightweight camp gear options, which is important for bike touring. We don't have any front panniers, so if you bring your own camp gear, make sure your it is compact and lightweight and pack lightly in general. Lightweight backpacking style gear is perfect. 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.

NEW! Camp Gear Rentals. LEARN MORE...

 

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

We have both hybrids and road bikes available. Our road bikes are actually "gravel bikes" that are perfectly designed for the heavier loads of clothing/gear on a self guided trip. All our bikes are outfitted with rear racks to carry panniers, as well as water bottle cages. Our Bike FAQ page has more details. LEARN MORE...

 

Pannier System

All our bikes have rear racks and we provide a pair of panniers to mount on these racks for each cyclist in the group. If we are providing daily luggage delivery, you can still use the pannier set (or just one) and/or smaller rear bags that attach to the rack to carry the smaller amounts of clothing and gear you may need during the day.

We don't provide front panniers or front handlebar bags. We do have top tube mount bags that can carry cell phone, wallet and a snack. Here are descriptions of the panniers we typically provide:

 

AXIOM DLX 35

This is the most common pannier we provide. They are waterproof. Both panniers combined have a capacity of 35 liters or about 2135 cubic inches.

 

AXIOM DLX 30

We sometimes provide the Axiom DLX 30 during non-rainy season. They are water resistant. Both panniers combined have a capacity of 30 liters or about 1830 cubic inches.

 

Ortlieb Back Roller Classic

During rainy season and if there is a chance of rain for your tour, we usually outfit you with the classic heavy duty fully waterproof Ortlieb Back Rollers. Both panniers combined have a capacity of 40 liters or about 2440 cubic inches.

 

Essential Bike Gear

Helmet, mini tool kit, flat tire (puncture) changing kit, lock(s), map cases, water bottles and rear light(s) 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 (PUNCTURE) AND MAKING MINOR ADJUSTMENTS OR REPAIRS TO A BIKE before you undertake a self guided multi-day bike tour through us.

 

Customized Trip Information

Many of our past clients say that the detailed and accurate trip information we provided was perhaps the most valuable service we offered!

NEW! Starting in 2019, all trip information for your trip will be available in digital and/or downloadable formats! Here is the information you'll get:

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. Can be delivered as PDF files electronically, as well as via links to routes on an online bike mapping website. We'll also provide as many hard copy versions as you want.

Sample Turn by Turn Directions

DETAILED MAPS

We provide a variety of hard copy 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. One set of paper maps is offered per group. Many people decide not to carry them considering that they have personal cell phones with mapping functions as well as our GPS bike computers. We'll still offer hard copy maps to you at the start of the tour.

DAILY MEMO AND LIST 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. Can be delivered as PDF files electronically. We'll also provide one hard copy version per group.

Sample Daily Memo

 

NEW! GPS Bike Computer

New for 2019 we are providing each self guided group with one GPS bike computer at no extra cost. We feature Wahoo Elemnt, which are relatively basic and intuitive for the user. All the routes for your self guided tour will be loaded on the device and delivered to you at the start of the tour. Extra units can be provided for extra cost (please inquire) depending on availability. We'll also provide you with printed paper directions as a back-up.

 

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 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 can also take your excess luggage with us for safe storage during the tour. At the end of the tour, we'll meet you again to pick up the bike(s) and gear (and deliver excess luggage if necessary). 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.

 

NEW! Camp Gear Rental

Starting in 2019 we have limited amounts of rental camp gear available for our self guided bike tours. We have functional yet lightweight gear, which is important if you are carrying it up those hills! Gear available includes very lightweight tents and bivy sacks, lightweight down sleeping bags, lightweight Thermarest sleeping pads and lightweight stoves and cooksets. LEARN MORE...

 

Daily Luggage Delivery

Due to longer distances covered and high cost, the majority of our itineraries DO NOT have daily luggage delivery available as an option. Our shorter itineraries that focus exclusively in SLO County and/or Santa Barbara County areas are closer to our home base and DO have daily luggage delivery available for an extra charge.

If you are doing a tour WITHOUT daily luggage delivery, you will be provided with 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 are doing a tour WITH daily luggage delivery, you can either have panniers (one or two per bike) or smaller rear bags for the bikes - the choice is yours.

Rates for daily luggage delivery are typically posted on the itinerary pages where this service is offered.

 

Shuttles on Some Itineraries

For coastal itineraries starting in San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, and Monterey/Carmel, we do NOT provide any shuttles before or after the tour. You are on your own for transportation (each itinerary pages lists transportation options).

For most tours starting in San Luis Obispo (SLO) County and staying exclusively in SLO County or going no farther south than Santa Barbara County (Solvang or Santa Barbara), we usually do provide some shuttling to make the tour work logistically. On these tours it often makes the most sense to get yourself to the town of SLO. From there we usually take care of any shuttling necessary to get you to the tour start (if not in SLO itself) and/or back to SLO at the end of the tour. This means you can schedule round trip transport to/from just SLO or leave a car in SLO for the duration of the tour. These shuttles are usually complimentary if they coincide with tour start and tour end meetings.

 

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.