A Californian Bikepacking Epic in Big Sur
Now that the dust has settled and I’ve finally had time to edit my photos and upload my videos I’m enjoying reminiscing about my time in California last month. I’ve long been a fan of the sunshine State, indeed in the past I sometimes wondered whether I’d end up moving there, not-so-secretly hoping I’d find an American husband and get a green card. Of course, I’m happy I met my Englishman Dave and I love our life in the South West of England; no regrets there! But visiting California remains a true joy.
On my last trip, before I participated in Nova Eroica and Eroica California I took the opportunity to join a uniquely fun, creative, generous and kind crew of people on a bikepacking trip of a lifetime. Our plan, assembled via a lengthy chain of emails pinging back and forth across the Atlantic was to ride from Monterey on the coast, up into Los Padres National Forest (a huge area of wilderness with no shops or habitation) then descend down to the Pacific Coast Highway and make our way to Cambria.
Those present included Sami Sauri, Gus Morton, Sarah Swallow (who joined us halfway through), Chas Christiansen, Ultraromance, Nam, Mattia (Legor Cicli), Franka Ramia (MAAD), Brad Hammonds, Matt (Crust Bikes), Patrick (Ultratradition) and Bregan Koenigseker (Crank Communication).
Benedict (aka Ultraromance) had come up with a route that would take us about four days at a leisurely pace, the idea being we’d be fairly heavily loaded with supplies, and more simply that we just saw no point in rushing. Coming in at around 150 miles all in, there was a lot of climbing on gravel roads and dirt paths once we got into Los Padres, which was sure to slow us right down. Our modest target didn’t seem unreasonable, in fact it had been stated on our email chain that the ride was going to be ‘tough.’
Here’s what Benedict had to say,
“We start on a quiet paved rd from Carmel up and over a 2000 ft pass. Then we turn into Los Padres and creep our way into Indians road down a small trail. Indians road is amazing and legendary. Not many folks get to see it cuz you can really only make it a through road on a bike. This road snakes through the heart of Big Sur before dumping us out in a really weird inland zone with a 400 year old Spanish mission we can visit.
Then we climb up the paved back side of Nacamiento Furgusen road (a world class coast climb). At the top we hit dirt again and traverse one of the most scenic ridge lines in all of California. Spanning views of the coast on one side, and the Ventana wilderness on the other. This is a difficult route, but can still be done on the bikes y’all will have. I would just do something about your gearing!”
Before the ride, I’d taken the time to try out various different tyres and set ups, one of my main concerns being the fact we’d been told to take 4 litres of water along, plus food for at least three days. Coming from Europe where you don’t go long without seeing a shop or a bar, I’ve never actually had to content with being away from everything for any extended period of time and spent far too long worrying about how to transport the water and what food to take.
In the end, I went for the worst possible solution, carrying a hydration pack (which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone) so it was great to learn about better ways of doing things from people like Nam and Patrick, who have extensive experience of bikepacking and were happy to give tips. I now know that dates and nut butter make the best snack, that tortillas travel well and that I get jealous of people with avocado and cheese. I also found out you should always carry coffee, a pot scraper and a headtorch. Other than that, I didn’t do too badly with my packing.
I’m planning on doing a separate post about what gear I took, the best tents, sleeping mat and bags for lightweight bikepacking, what kind of food to take and how to transport water, so stay tuned for that one.
The trip was absolutely fantastic, truly one of the best I’ve ever been on. If you’d like to see what we got up to, check out my video. And if you’d like to see the route, it’s over on my Strava in daily segments so have a look at April 2019’s rides.