Ride The California Coast
San Francisco To Santa Barbara
You’ve undoubtedly seen pictures of the California coastline (or even driven on it) but nothing compares to cruising by those rugged cliffs and turquoise waters while on two wheels. Thousands of cyclists make the trek down Highway 1 every year, so it’s easy to find an organized trip that suits you based on how much distance you want to cover per day or how hands-off you want to be in regard to logistics.
A middle ground between complete DIY and a full-on guided tour is to hire SAG Monkey, a “personal bike concierge” business that handles everything from transporting your gear to the next hotel to providing delicious ride nutrition (gluten-free chocolate chip cookie bars or sweet potato rice cakes!). Chef Nick Nicastro provides impressive all-you-can-eat dinners made from his elaborate 22-foot kitchen trailer parked right outside the hotel for each night.
Day one takes you from San Francisco to Seaside, a 130-mile route with about 5,500 feet of climbing. Start by crossing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy stunning views of the city. After you emerge from the fog, the epic sights continue through redwood forests before the sandy surfing beaches begin. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a powerful tailwind, which makes the triple-digit miles fly. Make a lunch stop at Whale City Bakery Bar and Grill, just north of Santa Cruz in Davenport, Calif., for delicious baked goods or a hearty sandwich to fuel the rest of the day.
Day two is known as the most beautiful but also the most challenging, as you climb more than 8,300 feet (over about 125 miles) on your way from Seaside to Morro Bay. There are seemingly endless awe-inspiring views, especially through Big Sur, and those who have done this route in January often spot whales and dolphins. Before you get to your destination for the night, stop in Cayucos, Calif., for a hand-rolled Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookie at Brown Butter Cookie Company. Day three takes you slightly inland from Morro Bay to Santa Barbara (115 miles, 5,100 feet of climbing), traversing through farmland and wine country before shooting you back out to the coast.
The coast ride is all about options — because the appeal truly is in the journey, you can hammer away for hours or simply spin at your leisure.
Who it’s for: The experienced rider looking for base miles set against the backdrop of America’s most remarkable views
Brag factor: “I rode more than 350 miles on the California coast in three days. What’d you do this weekend?”
Rider level: Comfortable riding more than 80 miles at a time and regularly rides three-plus times per week
Length: Entirely up to you, but this itinerary is three days at an average of 120 miles per day.
Sample day: Grab a quick breakfast and roll out early, tackling the first half of the ride before a long lunch break in a town along the way. Continue on and return just in time for dinner. Sleep and repeat.
Cost: For SAG Monkey services, prices vary, but $175-$250 per day for full ride support, mobile bike repair, post-ride dinner and beverages for a minimum group of eight. Does not include nightly accommodations.