Bike California: from the Sierras to San Francisco, from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica!
California is big, and it is beautiful. From chilly mornings on the northern cliffs to sun-soaked days on sandy SoCal beaches, the variety of landscapes along its 800-mile-long coast offer endless opportunities to explore.
And it’s not just a matter of beautiful coastline-California is also ideal for biking. Our bike ride starts with climbing up through the redwoods, crosses the Golden Gate and winds down the coast through Monterey and Santa Barbara all the way to Santa Monica.
At each step of the way, we’ll bike as a group. Taking on a three-week bike trip is
no small feat. You’ve got to be fit. You’ve got to be committed. But if you are, you’re in for a treat because you’re going to do all this, see all this and experience all this in a wonderful, warm, supportive, encouraging, enthusiastic Overland group with two rock-star leaders.
What’s your dream? See the redwoods? Cross the Golden Gate? Roll down the coast through Carmel? Surf at Pismo Beach? It’s all here for you. In a giant, beautiful state that’s just waiting to be explored.
Kenna had a great time away from her family and technology; on the trip, she was in a new situation and environment where she was able to have fun, build confidence and make new friends.
- Noah Franzblau, Mountain Lakes, New Jersey
Day 1: Trip Start
We’ll meet in San Francisco and take a shuttle to Leggett, in the heart of the redwoods. In the afternoon, we’ll build our bikes and learn how to load them, practice riding as a group and prepare for our journey.
Days 2-7: Redwoods and Rugged Coastlines
Building our fitness and increasing our mileages, we’ll grow comfortable riding with weight and as a group. We’ll climb out of Leggett on our first day, then hug the coast as we explore small northern California towns and ride past dramatic Pacific bluffs.
Days 8 & 9: Marin County and San Francisco
Increasing our mileage to 50 miles per day, we’ll bike past historic Pt. Reyes Station and Tomales Bay, across the Marin headlands, and over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. Views of Alcatraz and San Francisco Bay will greet us as we cross the bridge.
Days 10 & 11: San Francisco to Monterey
We’ll take a scenic route through San Francisco’s hilly neighborhoods, and we’ll rejoin Route 1 south of the city for a coastal section renowned for its stunning
beaches and bountiful wildlife. We’ll skirt around Santa Cruz, watching surfers tackle big waves and pedaling past the famed Natural Bridge, and then continue south through farmland and Monterey, home of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.
Days 12-15: Big Sur and Surfing
the beautiful Big Sur region of California, we’ll see the Santa Lucia Mountains rising up to the east and a stunning shoreline to the west. Around San Luis Obispo, the terrain levels out, the hills become gentler and eucalyptus and palm trees provide welcome shade. Entering Southern California, we’ll take a break from biking for a morning of surf lessons.
Days 16-20: Southern California
After surfing, we’ll continue riding south through the Spanish-influenced city of Santa Barbara. We’ll marvel at the grand mountains of Los Padres National Forest and skirt around Oxnard before a final night on the coast. We’ll finish our ride at the Santa Monica Pier and enjoy a celebratory dinner before saying our goodbyes.
18 nights of frontcountry camping. All campgrounds will have flush toilets. Many facilities will include showers and laundry.
1 night in a hostel in Santa Monica. The hostel is a dormitory style accommodation. The rooms are divided by gender. Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.
Bike from California’s Sierra Nevada to Santa Monica!
Students going on California should prepare for:
- Full days of outdoor activities led by two caring Overland leaders
- Camping out and cooking meals as a group
- 16 days of biking with an average of 50 miles per day
- A fun, supportive and wholesome Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for the Biking
Daily rides on California average 50 miles over varying terrain. There are six days over 60 miles and the longest day is approximately 70 miles. The itinerary includes one buffer day to allow for delays en route (most groups will find that they spend this day partially or completely off of the bikes) and a second day off the bikes to go surfing.
Overland bicycle tours are self-contained—there is no van support. You will carry all of your belongings, plus some group gear and food, on a sturdy rack mounted over the back wheel of your bike. You will hang panniers (these are saddlebags, pronounced “pan-yers”) off the rack and attach gear like your sleeping bag and sleeping pad to the top of the rack using bungee cords. On average, you will carry 40 pounds of equipment on your bike (not including the weight of the bike).
You should come prepared and recognize that some days will be more challenging and longer than others. Delays occur due to a wide range of variables—weather patterns change and road conditions vary. You, or someone in your group, might get a flat tire or encounter another mechanical issue that could delay your group. On some days your group will arrive at camp in the early afternoon, with plenty of time to explore, play games or go swimming, while on other days your group will spend more time on the bike.
Every California participant should complete all of the spring training rides, and, once on the trip, must be able to maintain 10 mph over challenging terrain on a fully loaded bicycle. Please keep the following responsible riding practices in mind as you complete your spring training rides.
Responsible riding practices
WEAR A HELMET AND CLOSED-TOED SHOES
Always, no exceptions.
DESIGN A GOOD TRAINING LOOP
To the extent possible, ride on bike paths, bike lanes, and bike routes.
FOLLOW THE LAW
You have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers. Obey traffic signals and stop signs. Ride with traffic; use the rightmost lane headed in the direction you are going.
Make your intentions clear to everyone on the road. Ride in a straight line and don’t swerve between parked cars. Signal turns, and check behind you before turning or changing lanes.
Ride where people can see you and wear a hi-vis top. Ride with your rear light on and flashing. Make eye contact with others and don’t ride on sidewalks. When possible, ride with others.
Watch for turning vehicles and ride outside the door zone of parked cars. Look out for debris, potholes, and other road hazards. Cross railroad tracks at right angles.
Check that your tires are sufficiently inflated, brakes are working, chain runs smoothly, and quick release levers are closed. Carry tools and supplies that are appropriate for your ride.
- 4 weeks before your trip: one ride of 6 to 8 miles and a second ride of 8 to 10 miles.
- 3 weeks before your trip: one ride of 8 to 10 miles and a second ride of 10 to 12 miles.
- 2 weeks before your trip: one ride of 10 to 12 miles and a second ride of 12 to 14 miles.
- 1 week before your trip: one ride of 12 to 14 miles and a second ride of 14 to 16 miles.
All training rides should be at an average speed of 12 miles per hour. Fully-loaded, our groups average 10 miles per hour while riding. You will take multiple short breaks (five minutes or less) throughout the day—for water and snacks, to rest and stretch, to enjoy the view and relax!
Please refer to the Pre-Trip Training Calendar where you will record your training in the weeks leading up to trip start.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland trips are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be enthusiastic, positive, helpful and supportive of your trip mates and your leaders. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland trip!