Seattle to San Francisco
Bicycle Tour

Copyright (C) 1991 by C. Anderson - All Rights Reserved
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A number of articles in rec.bicycles and about the Oregon Coast inspired me to take my first long distance bicycle tour. I flew to Seattle from Denver (I live in Boulder, CO) on the 10th of July with a plane ticket to return from San Francisco on the 28th. If there was anything that I didn't like about this trip it was that deadline. I felt free except for the schedule I had to keep. I rode from Seattle to San Francisco following highways 101 and 1 along the Pacific Coast.

This is a log of that journey intended to provide specific information on this trip, my personal thoughts, and some observations on touring in general. It is a bit verbose, but I hope it is informative, enjoyable and at best useful. Note that I included a LOT of information for the novice bicycle tourist.

If you have any inclination at all to take a bicycle tour - take this trip!


I bought a Bridgestone MB-6 in Feb. of this year and upgraded the seatpost, pedals, and brake levers. A month after buying the bike I substituted a 24 tooth chain ring for the stock 28. This made it nearly the equivalent of an MB-5, but for a little less money. I also put a Vetta Gel touring saddle on it. I've only ridden my road bike once since getting my MTB. Part of my reason for touring was that I feel so "at home" on my MTB.


I moved my Vetta-2 cyclocomputer from my road bike to my MTB. It's very handy to have an odometer for knowing how much further it is to a particular destination. Average speed was interesting to note as well as max speed (50 mph down a hill at Cape Sebastian - would I have gone 60 if I used aero bars?)

I bought an MTB Mirrycle™ while on the road (at Moe's in North Bend, OR). It installs VERY easily in the bar end and is great for seeing the color of the cab on the logging truck that's about to mow you down. But really, I find it is best for telling you HOW MANY cars are passing you. You can always hear the first one, but how many will follow? When is it all clear? Besides, the convex mirror provides a pretty little picture; black road, green trees, blue sky, wet shirt flapping off the rear packs.

I have a 24-38-48 front chain ring and a 13-30 rear freewheel. I stayed on the middle chain ring nearly the entire time. I used the 48 when descending, and on a couple of the steeper climbs I dropped to the 24.

I used Specialized Nimbus tires (1.4" - minimal tread).

Panniers:  I had to buy panniers. Luckily the Madden Factory Outlet was right here in Boulder and I was able to buy factory seconds (the side pouch zippers open UP instead of DOWN). I got "Buzzards", the largest rear MTB pair (3000 cubic inches). I also got last year's deluxe handlebar bag. The handlebar bag proved to be very useful (camera, sunglasses, sun-block, salt water taffy and anything else that I wanted to get at without stopping).

I also got pannier covers. They were very effective. As a test I put a roll of toilet paper in the top of my pack and rode in a downpour. Not a drop made it inside the panniers (panny-yeas or pann-ears?).

Tent and Sleeping Bag:   I also had to buy a tent. I got a Eureka two man tent (more like a man- and-a-woman tent, to me). It's the same as a North Face design, but about 25% less in cost. If I'd had the money and knowledge I'd have gotten a small dome tent that I saw while traveling made by Sierra Design. It uses 3 poles like the Eureka and only weighs 2 lbs. more. It would afford much more comfort for extended stays while waiting out a hard rain and allow more room for changing clothes or packing gear in the rain.

I sealed the seams of the rain fly, twice, and made a ground cloth out of heavy duty plastic per recommendations that came with the tent.

My sleeping bag is a 4 pound, down, mummy, bag. A bit much for this particular trip, but I used it like a blanket and was able to get quite comfortable. Temperatures at night were in the low to mid 50's. I also brought a thinsulite (thin blue) pad and a 1" foam pad with a nylon bottom and a "cloth" top that I got years ago. For luxury I brought the down pillow that I normally use on my bed. It smashes up pretty small and made the difference between a good night's sleep and an oh-my-aching-back night's sleep. Some called it luxury. I know it was a necessity.

Stove:   I brought a camp stove (with the blue fuel canisters), but I got lazy and virtually quit using it. Someone would always buy firewood in the hiker/biker sight and I'd warm up a small can of beans and eat a sandwich and some fruit. At the only KOA I stayed in I microwaved some lasagna. Breakfast (and lunch for that matter) became a peanut butter sandwich with banana, oj, and milk. A short stack of pancakes after getting on the road was nice, too. Snacks on the road filled in any dietary deficiencies. Brewpubs were handy for acquiring an added boost at the end of the day.

Checklist:   Here is a rather complete list of the items I brought with me. I referred to Jobst's checklist and omitted a few hardware items. After all, there are a lot of places to get Bicycle parts in the NW US.

  • shoes (I used an old pair of hiking sneakers)
  • 2 pairs of shorts (unpadded hiking)
  • 2 t-shirts (bought another along the way)
  • underwear
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 1 cheap nylon rain jacket
  • 1 cheap orange poncho
  • 1 pair of fingered gloves (never used, but kept ready)
  • 1 pair of jeans (not used)
  • 1 pair of polypro leg warmers (not used)
  • flip-flops for the beach
  • a small towel
  • sunglasses
  • bandannas
  • sweat band

toiletries as deemed necessary

  • sunblock
  • lotion and other sundries (kleenex, ibuprofin, vitamins, ... etc.)
  • lip balm
  • insect repellent (Cutter's)
  • a spoon
  • one person does not need a plate
  • knife (with can and bottle opener, of course)
  • sm. roll of paper towels (needed if you're going to do much cooking)
  • pot scrubber "
  • sm. bottle of Dr. Bronner's All-One Pure Castile Soap

  • weather radio (morning fog, again?!?!)
  • a walkman that I listened to for a total of 15 mins. (Mozart...and WORTH IT).
  • mini-mag flashlight with clip to hang in the tent
  • Cateye Halogen light
  • spare batteries

  • a few 1 gal and 1 qt. zip locks
  • 4 heavy duty garbage bags (raincovers and a pannier ground cloth)
  • 4 small (4 gal) garbage bags

(All of the following fit in my underseat pack - a Cannondale cleat mount)

  • cone wrenches
  • crank tool
  • free-wheel tool
  • chain rivet tool
  • multi-headed screwdriver
  • small vice grip
  • allen wrenches
  • patch kit (no spare)
  • 2 plastic tire levers
  • small bottle of Tri-Flow (in a zip lock!)
  • a rag and packets of hand cleaner

I'd recommend bringing 2 pairs of riding gloves. I sweat a lot and my gloves were pretty wet during the whole trip. Not a real problem, but with an extra pair you could alternate and dry one pair out every day.

Items of General Interest

By the last week of my trip I was washing a pair of shorts and a t-shirt in the shower I took at night and then drying them on the back of my bike the next day. This doesn't work in the rain, but in good weather this can save time by avoiding a laundromat stop.

I used a number of bungies and found them to be most useful for strapping on miscellaneous items throughout the trip (i.e., a six pack of beer). I brought my day pack along and used it to carry food. Before entering a state park I would buy groceries for dinner and breakfast, put them in my daypack and either wear it or strap it onto the back of the bike. This scheme was MOST useful, but usually meant that I would be a natural volunteer to do a "store-run" for myself and any fellow hiker/bikers after entering camp. Although, I did get a free hot dinner for my efforts once.

I found that I averaged about 10 miles per hour counting meal, sightseeing, and rest/snack stops. I averaged between 12 and 15 mph rolling. I could sustain periods of 15 to 18 mph, but the whole day's rolling average always came out between 11 and 14 mph.

I had no flat tires. I broke no spokes. All the broken spokes that I saw were on cheap, road (skinny) wheels.

I set a $20 a day budget and was consistently $5 over it until the last week when I really got into the swing of it and found it easy to stay well under my budget.

I stayed in a motel on 3 nights (the first night, the third night, and one very rainy evening).

There's a certain muddleheadedness that you get from sitting on your bike and cranking away all day. It's main symptoms are indecision and a general state of absent mindedness. Its easy to make mistakes while suffering from this little talked about disease. Try to pay closer attention to what you're doing while shopping so that you don't get short changed. Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place or you may lose things. When suffering from indecision ask other people to make up your mind for you. Only you can fight the affects of "cycling muddleheadedness." Try not to become a victim. You probably will, but try to minimize your losses.

If you use "Bicycling the Pacific Coast," by Tom Kirkendall and Vicky Spring, note that there are some minor mileage errors in it. I verified my readings against road signs. Maybe they used an old analog Huret. Other than that it's extremely valuable for details along the way. I always asked someone with the book to let me know where the last or best place to buy groceries was before that night's campground. In Oregon the book is hardly needed. In Caifornia it seemed like a necessity.

The Oregon Depatment of Transportation publishes the Oregon Coast Bicycling Map, which contains all the information you will need for the entire Oregon coast.  It has a legend detailing all campgrounds along the route.  It was easy to plan my next day by choosing a campsite that was 50 - 90 miles away with hiker biker sites and hot showers.  The map includes a topological graph of the route (elevation) which helps you know how the day will go (big hill in the morning) and gives you a clue as to exactly where you are on the map. These maps are free and printed on weather resistant paper.  They can be found at the Chamber of Commerce or Tourist Information offices in most towns along the coast. I got mine in Astoria, where the Oregon Coast route starts.  You can also click on the above link to order one through the mail.


I transported my bicycle in a box that I got at a local bicycle shop. It's a simple breakdown. I took off the crankarms because I don't have a cone wrench big enough to get the pedals off easily. I removed the front wheel, turned the fork backwards removed the handlebar stem, turned it sideways, and removed the seat. I also put a 3/8" carrriage bolt between the forks (using three nuts) to prevent worst case damage from the baggage gorillas that work for Continental. (You'd think that for $30 you'd get special handling, but no. It appears that the box was thrown and tossed - upside down - thanx boys!) Then I packed all my camping gear (tent, pads, bag) into the box around the bike.

I tried to pack my panniers, but it was obvious that I couldn't use the "Baby Buzzards" I had originally bought so I would have to get up early the next morning and trade them in for the real thing. Thank goodness the Madden factory was in Boulder.

Enough of this. Let's hit the road!

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