I am an “unserious” cyclist

If you’re unfamiliar with Russ Roca and Laura Crawford of PathLessPedaled, subscribe to their YouTube channel here. One of Russ’ videos that I completely aligned with is “5 Things I LOVE that SERIOUS Cyclists Hate“. Sums up how I approach cycling and how others do not.

Everyone recognizes the “serious cyclist”. Lycra top to bottom. Jersey commemorating a competition. Aerodynamic helmets. Cycling glasses. Carbon fiber frames. Cleated, expensive cycling shoes that sound like tap shoes when worn indoors. Grim countenance. Unfriendly. Snobbish.

An “unserious cyclist” could be the exact opposite of the serious version, but after viewing Russ’ video, it’s more nuanced than that. So here are the 5 things Russ and I love that serious cyclists hate.

  1. Crocs. Russ favors Crocs for riding because they’re flexible, versatile and waterproof. Riding through a stream? Leave ’em on. Drives serious cyclists crazy. I wear tattered sneakers most of the time, and sandals when it’s hot out. I can wear any kind of shoe really – see #2.
  2. Flat pedals. I love my flats. They have studs on both sides that grip my sandals or sneakers. I can change foot positions as needed. Any shoe will do. It’s easy to dismount. But serious cyclists always make a comment when they pull up alongside me during a ride. Something like – “Oh, you’re riding flats?” Or “how those flats treating you?”. Rolls off me like water off a duck’s butt.
  3. Non-cycling kits. I favor loose fitting regular shirts or t-shirts and baggy shorts with chamois liners underneath. I have some Club Ride long-sleeve shirts with snaps so I can easily pop open the shirt if the riding gets hot. The long sleeves protect my arms from sunburn, or I can roll them up for a short-sleeve version. My shorts are mountain bike shorts with five pockets. I carry everything I need and reach it quickly, rather than contorting myself to reach around to get something out of the back pockets of a Lycra jersey. Way too casual for serious cyclists.
  4. Friction shifters. I have friction shifters on my 2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker. When I bought the bike second hand, I didn’t understand why the shifter didn’t click between cogs. My bike mechanic explained it to me, and ever since then I’ve truly fallen in love with my friction shifters. Most serious cyclists I know a) don’t know what a friction shifter is, even though it was standard equipment on 70’s bikes. They favor electronic shifters that are right by the brake levers for rapid shifting, like for a race. Mostly I think they favor electronic shifters because they’re electronic, the latest thing, and expensive. And forget about adjusting your electronic shifters, whereas I can easily adjust my friction shifters.
  5. Rim brakes. Serious cyclists favor disc brakes, especially hydraulic versions, but I prefer a rim brake. This style of brake has plenty of stopping power, but for me, rim brakes are easy to adjust by yourself, no mechanic needed.

Let’s face it – the cycling industry loves serious cyclists. They buy the most expensive stuff – frames, tires, Lycra, electronic shifters. The unserious cyclists, we few, just love the freedom of riding a bike, around the block, the city, the state or the world.

2023 Cycling Goal – Bikepacking

When I acquired a used 2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker is 2021, I envisioned going on adventures fully self-contained and camping along the way. True bikepacking. So far my bikepacking has been more like bike touring because I overnight in hotels or stay with friends. True, I camped overnight during RAGBRAI 2021 and Death Valley 2022, but I consider those van supported, so not really bikepacking. In 2023, I need to do some real bikepacking. I have some criteria that I’ve established for planning my bikepacking adventures.

  1. Ride straight from my house. I live on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and I want to ride out my driveway fully racked and packed and head straight to my destination.
  2. If I can’t ride straight from my house, I’m willing to drive 4-6 hours to get to a good bikepacking route.
  3. Mostly overnights or long weekends. I still work full time (I’m 70) and any bikepacking adventures will depend on whether I have to use Paid Time Off (PTO) and whether I can get time off from my employer.

Where will I go?

One bikepacking destination I’ve been eyeing for some time is Catalina Island, which has great scenery and campsites. And I can get there from my front door, riding south on Palos Verdes Drive to San Pedro, then down to the waterfront to the Catalina Express, a boat shuttle that operates several times per day. I can simply walk my bike on and enjoy the 22-mile ride to Avalon.

Catalina is considered a bikepacking gem, with incredible views, lush vegetation, wildlife (including buffalo), great campsites, and challenging climbs. Most of the bike route is unpaved, but I’m confident my LHT can handle the off-road with my new Maxxis Receptor road/gravel 40mm tires. As the Catalina Island website warns, some of the climbs are not for the faint-hearted, with grades up to 14%, and plenty of switchbacks encountered. Yet, if I have to hike-a-bike to make it work, that’s what I’ll do.

Getting to Catalina is a slam dunk compared to reserving campsites along the Pacific coast heading north from my house. Ideally I’d like to ride up PCH to Leo Carillo State Park, camp overnight and ride back. Sounds easy, right? Not so much.

If you want to camp in one of 15,000 State Park campsites in California, you must reserve your dates six months in advance. If I want to reserve a campsite for June 23, 2023, I need to book it December 23, 2022 when those dates open at 8:00 am Pacific. Similar to check in roulette on Southwest airlines. Plus I need to have alternate campsites handy if I can’t get my first choice.

HipCamp is a good option for finding and reserving campsites that are not state parks. I used HipCamp to book a campsite in San Luis Obispo prior to a bike overnight to Paso Robles. HipCamp offers glamping, lodging, RV and tent campsites, but does not have inventory like California State Parks.

The Bureau of Land Management allows camping on public lands, offering everything from fully developed campgrounds to dispersed camping, which is camping on public lands away from developed campgrounds, all without needing a reservation. However, for my planning purposes, there are no BLM campsites near my desired overnight route along PCH North. I did find BLM dispersed camping site near San Simeon, so that could be added to a drive-to overnighter. The best site I’ve found for finding free camping is Campendium, with locator maps and plenty of useful tips, guidelines and suggestions.

Meanwhile I will try to play Reserve California roulette and see if I can score a Pacific coast site sometime in the future. I will keep you posted on my success.

Recollections on My Cycling Adventures So Far, Part VII

Death Valley Bike Tour, Feb 26 to Mar 5, 2022. I had wanted to participate in one of Adventure Cycling’s bike tours for some time and had signed up for a self-contained long weekend tour of Lake Tahoe, to be held in September 2021. Fire and smoke canceled this tour, so I applied my credits to a longer tour in 2022, in part because I would not be able to ride in RAGBRAI 49 due to a family commitment.

I chose the Death Valley tour because I had never been there, and it was close enough I could drive there and not have to ship my bike. This tour was limited to about a dozen riders, plus two tour leaders, and van-supported, meaning the van would carry everyone’s equipment from place to place. All we’d need to do is carry what we needed for the day and just ride.

The tour also looked to be challenging, including such cyclist favorites as wind, dry humidity, and elevation. Despite the fact that most of Death Valley is well below sea level, the route included a number of fairly tough climbs. Yet it was a wonderful cycling experience, comprised of riders mostly like me – casual riding outfits and steel frame bikes (including three Surly LHT and one Rivendell). A week-long ride in Death Valley, well-organized and staffed, is a great way to meet riders of a similar type and forge new friendships.

You can read my detailed post about my experiences on this tour here:

Recollections of My Cycling Adventures So Far, Part VI

RAGBRAI, July 25-31, 2021. Every cycling adventure I’d undertaken so far was really a prelude to my first RAGBRAI (Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). After watching Ryan Van Duzer’s YouTube video on his RAGBRAI ride, I was inspired to participate in what is arguably the largest cycling event of its kind, anywhere. And while RAGBRAI is not technically a bike tour, it did involve nightly destinations and overnight camping. This would also mark the first long distance cycling I had done on my Surly LHT.

I started planning for RAGBRAI 2021 in 2019 but COVID forced the organizers to cancel the 2020 event for the first time in history. So as soon as registration for the 2020 running opened, I quickly signed up.

Logistically, participating in RAGBRAI posed some challenges. I live in Southern California, so I would need to get myself, my bike and all my gear to the starting town in Iowa, which in 2021 was Le Mars IA. Learning of my plan to ride in this event, my best friend in Kansas City volunteered to drive me and my gear to the start town. He wanted to see what RAGBRAI was all about.

My research led me to BikeFlights, a company that furnishes bike shipping boxes and shipping services. So I purchased my box and ordered shipping to a local Kansas City bike shop, where my Surly would be assembled and tuned. My friend and I would pick it up on Thursday before heading to Le Mars on Saturday. I checked my one duffel at LAX on Thursday and headed to KC.

Being a RAGBRAI newbie, I followed the guidelines that allow rides just one large bag. However, after seeing a post in Facebook by the Out of Staters charter, I signed up for weeklong service. Getting my tent and clothing into the one duffel was extremely limiting. I found out later that OOS would have allowed more than one bag, including camping equipment. Mental note for my next RAGBRAI.

Another college friend volunteered to ride with us to Le Mars, and the three of us headed out early Saturday morning. One advantage to driving to the start town is that we were able to stop in Sioux City IA so I could tire dip in the Missouri River, because Le mars is inland from the Missouri.

Further logistics. Conducting all the logistical planning meant that I was researching without any prior experience. BikeFlights offered shipping to and from RAGBRAI through an association with Pork Belly Ventures, another stalwart RAGBRAI charter service. I could have gone exclusively with Pork Belly, but I had already signed up with OOS. Since I had used BikeFlights to ship my bike to KC, I would need to utilize Pork Belly to return my bike and equipment to LA. This meant when my friends and I reached Le Mars, the first order of business was to locate Pork Belly and give them my bike box and another box to return bike and gear. Pork Belly, I discovered, was its own city of riders and staff, so locating the right person to talk with was an adventure in and of itself. But mission accomplished.

We spent the rest of the afternoon taking in the RAGBRAI expo, sampling beers and food in the almost 90-degree heat. It was quite a scene, and my friends, though not participating in the event, really felt like they had gotten a real taste of what RAGBRAI was about. We headed off to find the OOS campsite so I could get situated there, after which my friends would head off to a hotel they had booked in Orange City, a few miles north of Le Mars. They were staying overnight so they could see me off the next morning for the first day of RAGBRAI.

Saturday July 25 dawned hot and sunny. My friends came to see me off before heading back to KC. I really appreciated their support. It was great having friends who were there really for no other reason than providing support. After taking pictures and shooting a few videos, they took off and I followed bike traffic out of Le Mars, heading to Sac City, the first overnight town.

Right away I learned that RAGBRAI is a pretty straightforward event. You ride your bike across Iowa over seven days, stopping in the various towns along the way and then camping in the overnight towns. Yet it is the sheer number of riders in the event that is staggering for newcomers, and maybe even veterans, as well as the variety of cyclists and types of bikes.

I saw road bikes, touring bikes, touring bikes fully racked and packed, tandems, tandem recumbents, unicycles and ellipticals. Speedy riders, slow riders, old people and young people. Friendly riders and focused riders.

RAGBRAI is a financial boon for the state, the individual towns, and the citizens, who show up en masse to support cyclists as they pass through. Kids spraying cold water on hot riders. Popups in front yards and driveways offering water, Gatorade, protein bars, and of course, pickles and pickle shots. Folks just sitting out in their front yards waving to riders as they pass by.

Each town does its best to put on a show for the participants. There’s always food, cold beer, and music. Bars and restaurants experience a surge of food and drinks served. Residents dress up in costumes. There’s always pie and ice cream, and a Casey’s nearby if you’re seeking something fast-foodish.

As a solo rider without any affiliations to any groups, I found that registering with a charter was a smart move. Each evening after the day’s ride I joined others under the outdoor tents to enjoy beer and make new friends. RAGBRAI is the kind of event where the participants all have something in common, no matter where they’re from. RAGBRAI is a one-of-a-kind of event, and that’s why it draws so many newcomers and veterans.

I’ve written in detail about my first RAGBRAI experience and you can read about it here.

Reflections on My Cycling Adventures So Far, Part V

Bike Travel Weekend, June 4-6, 2021. I decided to make another attempt at San Luis Obispo to Paso Robles and back. I revisited the original route and modified mine so that I followed the exit off Old Creek Road onto Santa Rita Creek Road, avoiding the big climbs and switchbacks on Old Creek Road.

March 2021 I found a 2010 Surly Long-Haul Trucker for sale about an hour away from me. I hurriedly contacted the owner and made arrangements to see the bike. I had done hours of research on touring bikes, and the brand Surly kept popping up. I wanted to buy a new LHT, but due to the pandemic lockdown and depleted supply chains, I couldn’t find one in my size, in stock. So I pivoted to looking for a used Trucker, and luckily spotted the one I eventually bought on Craigs List.

This LHT came outfitted with racks and packs – rear and front racks, along with front and rear panniers and a handlebar bag. I took the LHT to Shift Bicycle, where Jason Morin added a new stem and handlebars, new handlebar tape, new cables, new chain, new flat pedals (came with clips – not my style) and new Maxxis Refuse tires. This LHT came with its original Brooks B17 saddle, color black, that had obviously been broken in thoroughly. Ready to ride!

I loaded my LHT onto my bike rack and drove to San Luis Obispo. This time I had decided to add camping to the event. I found a campsite near the SLO Regional Airport. Not truly bikepacking, because I drove to the campsite, unloaded my gear and set up my tent. Then in the morning I loaded everything back into my car and drove to long term parking near the airport. I loaded up my bike with front and rear panniers and set off for Paso Robles.

The revised route put me on Turri Road off of Los Osos Valley Road for a much quieter, more scenic ride towards Morro Bay. I stopped to shoot some video of the scenery when I heard someone call out behind me: “All good?” Another rider had seen me stop and following cycling protocol, asked to make sure I was okay. We introduced ourselves to each other. His name was Paul. He was riding a steel bike like my LHT, and he had bright yellow Ortlieb panners on his rear racks. Paul new this route very well, riding it frequently, so we decided to ride together to Morro Bay, where he would turnaround and head back home to Los Osos.

Turns out Paul is a Warmshowers host and made a point that I should book with him if I ever ride his way in the future. I promised him I would. It is simply wonderful to run into someone who loves bike travel as much as you.

Turri Road connected with South Bay Boulevard into Morro Bay and then connected with Highway 1. After a short distance on Highway 1 I exited as I had before onto Old Creek Road. This time, though, I took Santa Rita Creek Road just past the Whale Rock Reservoir.

Santa Rita Creek Road is a gem! It follows Santa Rita Creek, is tree-shaded and virtually car-free, but it is also mostly unpaved. I had planned for this so no surprises this time. My Maxxis Refuse tires, while not totally appropriate for unpaved roads, handled this section well and had no issues with the hard-packed dirt, road ruts and loose gravel. A deer ran across the road in front of me. Truly felt like an off-road adventure. Summitting Santa Rita Creek Road was also much easier than Old Creek Road, to my obvious relief.

The downhill side of Santa Rita Creek Road was more challenging than the uphill because I had to regulate my speed and brake often to avoid potholes and large rocks. I made my way back onto the paved section, where Santa Rita Creek Road merged with Cayucos Templeton Road and eventually became Bethel Road, which connected with Highway 46 into Paso Robles. As I came down from the higher elevation, I ran into heat in the high 80’s with virtually no humidity. So I was struggling a bit as I headed to my friends’ house for cold beer, good food and good times.

Saturday, I retraced my steps and once again climbed up Santa Rita Creek Road to the Summit and pedaling to the top this day was easier than the day before. There were more cyclists out and about as well. I struck up casual conversations with some of the riders, who seeing my panniers asked me where I’d been.

Once back on Old Creek Road I headed down into Cayucos and stopped at Brown Butter Cookie Company for a bag of originals. I retraced my route back to SLO following Highway 1 for a few miles, then South Bay Road, Turri Road and Los Osos Valley Road back to the airport. I loaded up my bike and drove to my hotel, spent the night and then drove back to LA on Sunday.

This is a ride I would do again. I think there are additional variations to the route that would allow me to really do some bikepacking and discover new areas. For example, I could head east from Paso on Union Road, then South on Geneseo and take in some wineries. Continuing southwesterly, Geneseo connects to Creston Road, on into Creston CA which has numerous wineries to sample. From Creston I could hop on the 41 Highway and back to Morro Bay. I’m sure there are additional possibilities and I look forward to exploring them.

Reflections on My Cycling Adventures So Far, Part IV

San Luis Obispo to Paso Robles and back, March 11-14, 2021. I had been meaning to find a reason to visit Paso Robles and one of my closest friends. I got on RWGPS and designed a roundtrip route from SLO to Paso. I would drive to SLO, stay at a hotel where I could leave my car, pedal to Paso, spend the night with my friends, and ride back to SLO the next day.

I utilized a RWGPS feature where I could see if anyone had already developed a similar route, and sure enough, found one that I repurposed as my own. The original route had good notes, but I overlooked one key part of the route.

My route would head northwest from San Luis Obispo towards Morro Bay and then inland heading East on Old Creek Road from Cayucos. The original route, the one I copied, exited Old Creek Road at Santa Rita Creek Road, and I missed this bit and it cost me dearly. I’m still riding my 2005 Diamondback Edgewood, weighing in at 30 pounds before baggage and rider. I suddenly flashed back to the climbs and switchbacks I dealt with on Old Stagecoach Road. Once again, I had to mix riding and hike-a-bike in order to reach the top.

Once I summitted, I began a nice downhill ride and connected with Highway 46 heading East into Paso Robles. I made it to my friend’s house where I was greeted with a cold beer, well-deserved.

March weather had been fairly kind to me Saturday as I headed West on Highway 46 back to Highway 1. I had added a Garmin Edge 130 to my tech and installed an additional application from the Garmin app store called Windfield by Scott Beam. This is a terrific app and lets the rider see windspeed and direction. Wind, as everyone who rides a bike knows, is the bane of cyclists.

As I’m climbing Highway 46 out of Paso, I’m glancing at my Garmin, and the Windfield app is showing 19 MPH winds from the West. I’m getting a break from these high winds on the climb to the Highway 46 summit, but once I start heading downhill, I’m riding straight into the teeth of the almost 20 MPH headwind. A headwind so strong I’m still having to pedal on what is one of the longest, fastest downhills in the area.

Highway 46 Summit heading West towards Highway 1

I reach Highway 1 and turn south and suddenly the wind is at my back — a tailwind! Nirvana! I cruise into Cayucos and make the obligatory stop at Brown Butter Cookie Company and buy a bag of originals. I had downloaded a reverse route on my Garmin, but I had pivoted to Highway 46 after experiencing Old Creek Road the day before. I used turn-by-turn on my iPhone, stayed on Highway 1 until the turnoff into San Luis Obispo and cruised to my hotel. I made a mental note to revise my SLO to Paso out-and-back route for another future ride.

Finally, this turns out to be my last ride on the trusty and dependable Diamondback Edgewood. Time to upgrade.

Reflections on My Cycling Adventures So Far, Part III

San Luis Obispo CA to Santa Barbara CA, Dec 3-6, 2020. With one weekend tour under my belt, and then discovering how easy it was to use Amtrak to get you and your bike to a starting destination, I mapped out a route from San Luis Obispo to Goleta CA with a layover in Lompoc CA. Once again, I learned that designing a route is a lot different than riding one.

Highlight of the tour was the Amtrak ride from Union Station Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo on the Pacific Surfliner. Amtrak has bike racks inside the last car, so I simply rolled my bike on and then navigated my way back to my first-class seat. First class is the way to go in my opinion. Included in the ticket was a snack box and complimentary glass of wine. Service was outstanding, despite the fact that COVID restrictions were still in effect. I had selected a hotel a short bike ride from the SLO train station where I spent the night before starting the journey Friday morning.

The route I designed utilized back country roads versus the always-busy Highway 1. This took me southwest through Pismo Beach, Guadalupe and Santa Maria. From there I had chosen to ride the Harris Grade Road which was a direct route into Lompoc. It was a fantastic route, very little car traffic and passing through quaint towns and farmland. I’m rolling along, enjoying 70-degree weather and fairly smooth pavement when my route abruptly ended at a locked security gate.

I discovered there was no way around this gate, and I couldn’t understand how a winery could close off what seemed to be a public road. There was a keypad that could be used to summon someone on an intercom, but despite trying this button repeatedly, no one responded.

So now I have to reroute. I’m not lost. I know where I am, and I know which direction I need to go to get to Lompoc. I use my iPhone to assess my location and next steps. I would need to backtrack slightly and then enter Highway 135, navigating two lanes of highway traffic, to then exit 135 and get on Highway 1 (aka Cabrillo Highway at this point). Which I managed to do, and then was confronted by multiple steep climbs on Highway 1 heading west towards Lompoc. I had specifically designed my route to avoid Highway 1 and the climbs by utilizing Harris Grade Road, but I was stuck now, gritted my teeth and pedaled on. This is why it’s called “adventure” cycling.

Lompoc is the home of Vandenberg Air Force Base, where I made a left turn to head to my hotel. I was using Google Maps for turn by turn now, which worked out fine, and arrived at the lodging as the sun was setting. The hotel is known as O’Cairns Inn and Suites, and it’s one of the best hotels I’ve experienced. Even with COVID restrictions I was able to get a drink at the bar and have dinner delivered to my room. I totally recommend this hotel.

Saturday was bright and sunny, typical weather in this part of California in December. I had breakfast and then prepared to pack up my bike and ride. Coming out of my room I dropped my helmet and broke the action camera mount that I used for videoing my rides. So now I have no way to mount my action camera to my helmet, and I have no way to mount it on my handlebars. Then I remembered I had a tripod with gumby-like legs, and I was able to fix it somewhat reliably to my handlebars. It was now past 10:00 am and I had planned on a lot earlier start.

The route I had planned sent me out of Lompoc on backcountry roads with very little traffic and plenty of farmland scenery. I wound my way on Highway 246 through Buellton, then Solvang, and then Santa Ynez where I would ride on Highway 154 for a few miles before exiting onto Stagecoach Road, an off-the-beaten-path that would eventually take me by the Cold Spring Tavern, where many years before my future wife and I went on our first date.

Once again, riding the route was vastly different than designing the route. I had failed to consider the elevations and switchbacks on Stagecoach Road that I encountered. Also, there was so little traffic that the thought of my bike breaking down on this road might leave me stranded. That’s when a little panic starts to creep in. I can’t go back. I can only go forward. My Edgewood doesn’t have the kind of gear ratio I needed for these climbs. I was down to my lowest gear ring and largest cassette cog, but I still had to hike-a-bike to continue forward. Turns out I could walk faster than I could pedal.

Eventually I made it to the Cold Spring Tavern, elevation about 2,200 feet. I was fatigued from the ride, somewhat emotionally tired from panic attacks due to the seemingly endless number of switchbacks, and the fact that it was late in the day and the sun would be setting in an hour. I still had some additional climbing after Cold Spring, but eventually I reached the top and prepared to head downhill. Elated that I had completed the climbing, I stopped at a viewpoint and asked one of the visitors to snap my picture.

I made it into Goleta as darkness fell. I had chosen Goleta because it was a smaller station stop for the Pacific Surfliner, had more affordable hotel rates, and was a short bike ride from my hotel. Sunday morning, I rode a short distance to the Goleta Amtrak station and boarded the Surfliner for the trip home.

Reflections on My Cycling Adventures So Far, Part II

Bike Travel Weekend, September 26-27, 2020. BTW is a weekend bike travel event sponsored by the Adventure Cycling Association. I planned a solo ride from Santa Barbara CA to my front door in Palos Verdes Estates. Weekend mileage would be 110 miles. My initial plan was to ride fully racked and packed and camp at Leo Carillo State Park, about 60 miles from Santa Barbara. But COVID had closed or severely restricted available campsites, so I pivoted to hoteling the first night in Port Hueneme. That broke the ride into a 40-mile Day One and a 70-mile Day Two.

My wife and I drove up to Santa Barbara, met up with our daughter who was visiting friends, and had brunch near the beach. I would bike off from there and my wife would meet me in Port Hueneme.

I had created my own route for the weekend trip using RideWithGPS, which is now my go-to route planner now. But I was new to the app, so I cribbed off the Adventure Cycling Bicycle Route Navigator Pacific Coast route to gain some context. This worked out pretty well as it kept the route confined to mostly bike paths, bike lanes and the Coast Highway. I downloaded an offline copy to my iPhone.

My ride was a 2005 Diamondback Edgewood hybrid that I had updated as a touring bike. I added Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, Planet Cyclery fenders, and a Brooks B17 saddle (big mistake!). Regarding the Brooks saddle, it is a fabulous piece of workmanship. But in my haste to add it to my hybrid, I overlooked the research on how long it actually takes to break in the B17. Like thousands of miles. I had about 100 miles on my B17, so basically riding it long distances for the first time. Painful lesson learned.

Despite hoteling at the end of the first day, I still carried all my gear in two rear panniers. Those included clothes, toiletries, camera equipment and tech. Doing so added a little extra weight, on top of the Edgewood’s 30 or so pounds. While the Edgewood was not designed for long-distance bike touring, it was the bike I had, and these are times when one must ride the one they’re with.

Day One route took me from Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, onto a pretty nice bike path that paralleled the 101 Highway, into Carpinteria, down by Rincon Beach and off the beaten path through Ventura into Port Hueneme. My wife rolled up in our car just as I was checking into the hotel. We had a nice dinner in Ventura that evening, and a nice breakfast in Port Hueneme the next morning. Then I took off for the remaining 70 miles.

One of the things I’ve learned in route planning is that even the best software can’t compare to actually riding the route. I soon discovered as I approached Pt. Mugu on the Coast Highway that there were elevations I clearly hadn’t factored into the equation. There were a number of up-downs on the way to Malibu and riding up so many hills now exacerbated the unbroken Brooks B17 situation. This caused me to take a number of rest stops along the way.

After about 30 miles I reached Malibu and stopped at a Chevron station to get water and enjoy an ice cream cone. Then I pedaled on through Malibu, hitting a ton a car traffic as I reach the city center. Made me glad I was riding a bike because I was able to maintain a pretty good cadence through the chaos and soon reached Will Rogers State Beach.

At Will Rogers a got another ice cream cone and water at the food shack and rested up a bit before heading down the oceanfront bike path, getting off PCH. I’ve ridden the Strand bike path, also known as the Marvin Braude Bike Path, a number of times, but never on weekends when all the amateurs come out. So it was slow going through Santa Monica to Venice, Playa del Rey and then into Manhattan Beach. On weekends Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach all require cyclists to walk their bikes by the pier pedestrian traffic. With my butt aching from the rock-hard B17, I was more than happy to hop off and walk my bike for a stretch.

At Torrance Beach I began the first of three climbs on my way home. First the ramp at Torrance Beach, an 8% grade, then Paseo de la Playa (9% grade) in Hollywood Riviera, and finally Palos Verdes Drive (7% grade). When I finally turned onto my street, my daughter and my wife and two golden retrievers were there to cheer me as I finished the ride. Pretty good accomplishment despite the weight of the Edgewood and the unforgiving B17. Here’s a quick video commemorating the moment.

What a welcoming committee!

Reflections on My Cycling Adventures So Far, Part I

Partially torn tibialis anterior tendon. Yes, I’ve torn the one on the inside of my right ankle, from riding my bike frequently on long distances. Surgery to repair the tendon is scheduled for Jan 5, 2023, so no cycling for me until March 2023, which has given me time to reflect. With the end of 2022 in sight, I’ve decided to chronicle my cycling adventures so far.

I’m not sure what first inspired me to travel by bike. Like many, the COVID lockdown forced me to find a way to get some exercise. In 2005, I had purchased a Diamondback Edgewood hybrid commuter bike. At the time I was just looking for basic cycling transportation. The Edgewood had plenty of gears, riser handlebars, suspension fork, dropper seat post and index shifting. It was easy to ride and handled hills and climbs fairly easily.

Prior to COVID, I had done a little bit of long-distance riding. In 2006 cyclists were allowed to bike the LA Marathon route, which I did, and a few years later did the same at the Pasadena Marathon.

2020, the first full year of COVID lockdown, I got serious about riding, starting with 10-mile rides and building up to 20-plus mile rides. Nothing fancy, just rides around the Palos Verdes Peninsula where I live. I could pedal down my driveway and in a minute be cycling along the Pacific Ocean.

Once I got more serious about cycling, I began to peruse the Internet to learn more about it. Which ultimately led me to websites dedicated to travel by bike, like the Adventure Cycling Association, which I consider the Rand McNally of bike mapping. I was amazed at the number of bike tours offered by the ACA. The thought of traveling by bike had never crossed my mind. Bike touring was a real thing!

Googling “bike touring” took me to YouTube channels on bike travel, where I discovered Ryan Van Duzer, riding his bike from Honduras to his home in Boulder CO, pulling his worldly belongings in a trailer behind his used Trek. So now bike touring has become bike packing, since he carried camping gear as well. But my takeaway was his message: you don’t need a fancy bike, just ride the one you’re with. “Get out there!” In other words, my Edgewood would have to do for any bike travel I might undertake. So be it.

Around the same time, I discovered Shift Bicycle, which at the time consisted of a mobile bike repair van operated by its owner, Jason Morin. Riding my bike around Malaga Cover, I spotted the Shift Bicycle van, looked up the contact info on the Internet, and made an appointment for a tune-up on my Edgewood, done right at my house. Jason advised me that my rear cassette was pretty worn, and the small cog was pretty much non-functional. I managed to hunt down a new wheelset and Jason installed a new cassette along with new brake and derailleur cables.

Then I began shopping for accessories on Amazon, purchasing a new rechargeable headlight and taillight combo, pannier racks front and rear, pannier bags, and a seat bag. New saddle? Check. New helmet? Check. I added fenders and new tires. Watching Ryan Van Duzer’s videos inspired me to buy an action camera. I found a cheap GoPro knock-off on eBay. Now I was ready to go someplace on my bike.

But where? I decided my first bike travel trip would start in Santa Barbara and wind its way down the Pacific Coast, eventually right to my front door in Palos Verdes Estates. My trip would coincide with Adventure Cycling’s Bike Travel Weekend. Let the adventure begin!

The Three Most Influential People in Bike Travel

L to R: Ryan Van Duzer, Alee Denham, Russ Roca

Ryan Van Duzer, Alee Denham and Russ Roca have a lot in common: they are absolute bicycle nerds – and that’s a good thing. They also share a love of bike travel – bike touring and bikepacking – and they all make a living riding a bike. They make superb videos of their travels and informational videos on bikes and accessories. They are total gear junkies. They shun racing bikes, spandex outfits and clip-in pedals. In short, they’re a lot like me. Individually and as a group, they have inspired me to explore the world on a bike, and they will inspire you as well.

Ryan Van Duzer is the most inspirational bike traveler in the world. Period. I first discovered Ryan perusing videos about RAGBRAI, the annual bike ride event in Iowa. I was planning to participate in my first RAGBRAI and learned there were a lot of helpful videos on YouTube, and there were. There was also a video from Ryan Van Duzer, where he rode his bike from Boulder CO and across Nebraska to get to the starting town of RAGBRAI in Iowa and stealth camped along the way!

Fun facts about Ryan:

  • He once rode a bicycle from Honduras to his home in Boulder CO, hauling a trailer with all his gear
  • He doesn’t own a car – he rides his bike everywhere – to the grocery store, the airport, the gym
  • He once rode a 3-speed bike across the country and finished the last 50 miles with only one pedal
  • He loves beans, especially when they’re in a burrito
  • When he rides through a tunnel he sings “Ole, ole, ole, ole!”
  • His mantra: “No whammies, no flatties, no crashies!”
  • His mission statement: “Get out there!”

The “Get out there!” mission statement seeks to inspire everyone to ride a bike. Ride one for fun, ride one to work, ride one across town, across the state, across the country. You don’t need a fancy bike – almost any bike will do (remember, he rode a 3-speed across the country) – just get out there. Fully energized from this message, I decided to “Get out there” and start doing a little adventure cycling and create my own videos.

If you’ve seen any of Ryan’s videos, you know what a great storyteller he is. Basically, “I’m going on a bike ride and I’m going to show you everything I’m seeing.” His drone shots are incredible. He puts a lot of thought, effort and time into framing his shots. He speaks directly to you, sharing his thoughts and emotions.

Van Duzer’s videos often don’t pull any punches. Anyone who’s done any bike travel knows there are good days and bad. Ryan shows them both. Riding in rain, sleet or wind? Check. Booting a tire after a nail puncture? Check. Hike-a-bike up steep hills, straining at every foot? Check. Busting a carbon belt drive? Check. Navigating his bike down a narrow stairway in his condo? Check. Pushing his bike-in-a-box through an airport? Check. There are really no behind-the-scenes in his video, because he’s telling the whole story – not just the glamor shots (plenty of those, he has a good eye).

Van Duzer generally rides solo on some pretty intimidating routes. He’s done most of the Great Divide, the Baja Divide, the Colorado Trail and more by himself. Frequently his is joined by Canadian John Freeman, who bikes the world with his dog Mira, who has her own Instagram page.

Ryan is also an athlete, competing in marathons and just recently in the Leadville 100. Ran 100 miles and videoed the whole thing – the pain and the gain.

Van Duzer doesn’t hawk any merchandise, although I expect he will eventually. He promotes Priority Bicycles and helped design the off-road beast called the Priority 600X Adventure (I want one!) and rides the heck out of it. He favors certain bikepacking equipment brands – tents, panniers, frame bags. Some of the manufacturers are local Boulder companies. He’ll talk tires, rims, brakes, handlebars, racks, pedals with the best of them.

He also promotes local businesses. Recently he published a video of his trip to a market called Nude Foods where food is unpackaged, and shoppers use returnable glass jars to load up on the goods. Of course, he rode his bike outfitted with rear pannier bags, got his groceries, loaded them into the bags and pedaled his way back home.

Van Duzer has managed to create an enviable life based on a very simple lifestyle. In his own way, he’s made the world a better place. You cannot help but feel better after watching one of his videos. You can follow Ryan on Patreon, YouTube and Instagram.

Alee Denham is the world’s most prolific bike traveler. He has ridden across at least 5 continents and pedaled hundreds of thousands of miles. He is, in my opinion, the ultimate bikepacking expert on both bicycles and gear. Alee publishes an annual guide to the best bikepacking bikes, maybe the most thorough and objective of its kind. He’s Australian, so his analyses are more international in scope, so many of the bike brands he evaluates may be unknown to U.S. riders. He also does bikepacking reviews on YouTube and watching these inspired me to find and acquire a Surly Long Haul Trucker for my bike travel adventures.

In addition to the Bikepacker’s Buying Guide, Alee also publishes The Touring Buyer’s Guide and the How-to Travel By Bike. Order here.

Alee quit his job after socking away savings for over a year and selling unneeded possessions. He then combined his two greatest passions – cycling and traveling – and began to navigate the world by bike. He appears to earn a modest living from his content.

I would characterize Alee as more of an explorer than traveler. He goes wherever 7 or 8 hours of pedaling will take him. While I am super, super obsessive about turn-by-turn, Alee appears to focus more on the ride than the route, although he does use his smartphone for navigation.

What is most endearing about Alee is the mountain of knowledge he’s built up and his willingness to share with others so they too can have the same experience. You can follow Alee on Patreon, Instagram, YouTube and his website.

The Path Less Pedaled. Russ Roca and Laura Crawford, like Alee Denham, sold all their possessions to travel by bike and chronicle their adventures. Together they’ve logged about 15,000 miles in two countries and the mileage and list of countries is growing.

I discovered the Path Less Pedaled when I was researching cycling routes from San Luis Obispo to Paso Robles. One article featured a description of the route I eventually built in RideWithGPS and used, and the article credited PLP.

I identify with Russ and Laura because they dress and ride like me – no spandex – just regular outdoor clothing. Russ often wears Crocs or sneakers, maybe even sandals sometimes. PLP has come up with solid branding for their community of followers. First, there’s Party Pace, which champions riding for fun at a pace that suits you, and the Un-Serious Cyclist, which I definitely am.

In fact, you should watch Russ’ “un-serious” YouTube on five things he loves that serious cyclists hate. I identified with all five.

Russ and Laura are solid merchandisers, offering a variety of products such as stickers, patches, bandanas and hats. As you can see, I’m a consumer of their goods.

A selection of my personal Path Less Pedaled Merchandise

Projects of the Path Less Pedaled includes the Bicycle Tourism Advisor, which was started after seeing the positive impact bicycle touring has on small-town America. The BTA is intended to help guide communities and public agencies on how best to take advantage of bicycle touring. You can follow Russ and Laura on Patreon, YouTube, Instagram and on The Path Less Pedaled.

Summary. I’ve given my readers just a snapshot of the people I believe are the top influencers in bike travel. They have inspired me individually but also as a group. At the heart of all their messages is simple: your bike can take you around the block or around the world. Start your cycling adventure today, and we’re here to help you do it.