SF to LA Bike Ride. March 25-30, 2018

by - Monday, April 02, 2018

SF-LA Bike Ride: 490 Miles, 6 Days, 2 Crazy Guys, 1 Audacious Goal

The inspiration came last year from my kids' Tae Kwon Do master instructor KJN Teri Lee. While trading stories of the marathons we have run, she casually mentioned about a bike ride she did from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It sounded pretty crazy and out of reach for me but the idea stuck somewhere in the back of my head :)

I didn't think about it again until October last year when I bought a bike to add a cross training day for my marathon training. I went for a couple of 20-30 miles long rides with friends and really enjoyed it. After completing my marathon on Dec 3, I visited India in late December and discussed the SF-LA bike ride idea with my friend Samir Palnitkar. He immediately jumped on it and just like that the plan was finalized. We had absolutely no idea how to plan or prepare for it! We tried recruiting other friends but there were no other takers.


I started training in earnest in Feb and trained for about 6 weeks before the actual ride. I rode over 700 miles and went up and down various hills during these six weeks. I also added strength training and yoga days in between. As I started riding long distances I realized that it is not just about the leg strength. Other body parts specially back, neck and butt need to get used to the punishment as well.

Gear Selection

I tried several bikes and finally settled on Fuji Roubaix 1.2. It is a road bike meant for racing and not really suitable for touring. However, I really liked the ride and decided to go with it anyways. Samir bought the Fuji Sportif 2.0 which is slightly heavier but better suited for long distance riding. Both of us bought our bikes just 4 days before the actual ride and did just one trial ride! Fingers crossed :)

Rest of the packing list including links to specific items I bought can be seen here: MY PACKING LIST.  Note there are two tabs in the spreadsheet.


The plan was to go mostly along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). However, a section of PCH is closed due to mudslides from last year. So we had to find a detour around it. I did some research and finally bought both the paper and digital maps from Adventure Cycling. However, we didn't always stick to the planned route. More on that later...

The Uncertainties

We were originally planning to start the ride on Saturday, Mar 24. However due to rain predictions we postponed it to Sunday. March is a rainy month in California so it was likely that we may encounter rains along the way.

On Friday we went for our final training ride in the morning and by evening I was beginning to feel a bit unwell ! I rested the entire day Saturday and  although I didn't have any fever, I was feeling very tired and it felt like the onset of some viral infection. We packed our bikes regardless and decided that we will wake up at 5am on Sunday morning and take a call.

We were complete novices and didn't know what to expect. Big thanks to Rich Blanco and Paul Ries who are both experienced riders and took time to answer a lot of my questions. Their guidance was instrumental in the success of this trip.

Day 1. Mar 25, 2018. San Francisco to Santa Cruz. 82 miles

I had a restless night. Woke up at 5am and to my relief I had no fever. I added a bunch of Advils to my bikepack and decided to go for it. My entire family drove to SF to see us off. It was great to have such strong family support.

Starting point: Golden Gate Bridge

We started the ride at 8am. The entire luggage including food, water, clothes, bicycle repair kit, first aid, toiletries etc was carefully chosen and packed into small bags that were attached behind our seats. The weather was gorgeous and was predicted to stay that way. Everything else was uncertain :)

Presidio, San Francisco, CA
Soon we were greeted with incredible views. Most of the ride today is going to be on Highway 1 which runs along the Pacific coast. 

Although sunny, the weather was quite cold specially while biking. I am layered up in five thin layers

Miles and miles of riding along the ocean in perfect riding conditions
Pigeon Point light house in Pescadero. You can see the bed of flowers in the foreground
Mustard bloom. They look really pretty but is one of the top invasive plants in California

Approaching Davenport which is 12 miles from Santa Cruz, our destination for the day. The red bag has all the luggage I am carrying for six days!
We had lunch at Davenport at around 3pm. Most days our meal schedule was off and we had to ride until late afternoon before we could find a place to eat.

As we got closer to Santa Cruz, we started seeing a lot of surfers. Here's a colorful picture of para surfers. They are using both the wind and waves to surf. It was fascinating to watch

Para Surfing

We ended the day at around 5:30pm in Santa Cruz after riding for 82 miles. This was already the longest ride of my life and we have to sustain it for five more days. Can we do it?

Day 2. Mar 26, 2018. Santa Cruz to King City. 100 miles

We left Santa Cruz at 8:20am. It surprised us how much time it took us to repack and get ready every morning. It was a nearly two hour affair every day. We were slightly inland today and saw a lot of farms.

We were originally planning to do a shorter ride today but decided to extend it on the fly because it was a relatively flat terrain. This became our routine - we decided on the route and distance for the next day at night and asked my wife Jyoti to book a hotel for us. There were many routes to follow and we spent time every night deciding which way to go.

Fields of Watsonville

Riding on a bike gives you a very different perspective. Instead of zooming by, you get to see everything in greater detail and get time to appreciate and enjoy every little detail

Giant green fields with the Pacific ocean in the background

Moss Landing. It is a marshy area with a lot of wetlands. It is a great spot for bird watching and wildlife in general
Met Tim who was walking from LA to SF. I am layered up while he was happily sporting just one short sleeve T-shirt
We saw this young kid skipping along the side of the road with his backpack. We stopped to talk to him and found out that he was walking alone from LA to SF with just a backpack with a tent in it. He had come all the way from Massachusetts. Tim had been walking for 7 weeks already with a few more weeks to go. He told us that he managed to crossed the 7 mile section of highway one that is officially closed around the Big Sur area. He simply waited until 6pm when the rangers were gone then crossed it on foot. We were really tempted to change our plans and follow his trick but then better sense prevailed and we decided against it! 

Panoramic view of the valley between Soledad and Greenfield. There are several vineyards here
Arroyo Seco River
After a long day in the saddle just as we were nearing King City, our destination for the day, we encountered a mountain pass and had to navigate the ups and downs on tired legs

A Century Day !!
When we reached King City, the GPS showed 97 miles so I decided that I will ride another 3 miles to make it an even 100 miles :) Samir agreed to join me in the silliness so we headed back into the headwinds and completed 100 miles for the day. Some people go the extra mile, we tripled that :)

Day 3. Mar 27, 2018. King City to Atascadero. 74 miles

We started at 8:20am in 37 F weather which feels much colder when biking. Little did we know that things were about to heat up for us :)

The first few miles were on a flat road with beautiful greenery on either side

And then just like that we hit the mountains and climbed the first of about 17 climbs for the day!

Long stretch with no services
From King City to Paso Robles there was a nearly 50 mile stretch where there were no services. No food, no water, no help. We had survive on the energy bars and ration our water to make it through this stretch. There were constants ups and downs with some really hard climbs which made it even harder. This was the toughest day for us.

Along this stretch of the road, we were pulled over by a cop! We were riding side-by-side on the road because there was hardly any traffic and this allowed us to talk to each other and also made us more visible. The occasional vehicle could easily overtake us by using the other lane. We were riding merrily along listening to Kishor Kumar when we suddenly heard a booming voice on a loudspeaker asking us to pull over. Turned out that someone took a video of us and had complained to the cops that we were obstructing traffic. We nearly got a ticket but managed to get off with a stern warning.

We passed the Fort Hunter Liggett US army base. It was HUGE - went on for miles and miles
We met Nico who was also riding alone from SF to LA. He was really fast and completed the ride in just 5 days. He also shared his Strava routes with us which we used at times

The hills were beautiful but never ending. We were hungry, thirsty and tired. Lake San Antonio in the distance.
This is just one of the many climbs we did today

Long climbs were rewarded with gorgeous views. Lake Nacimeinto in San Luis Obispo county near Paso Robles. It is 18-mile long

Lake Nacimiento

We finally found a place to eat at around 3:30pm. It was the most delicious pizza I have had. We decided to take the leftover for dinner :)

We finally reached Atascadero at 5:30pm. Beaten up but excited to have completed half the journey.

Here's the elevation profile for the day. Look at all the climbs

Day 4. Mar 28, 2018. Atascadero to Lompoc. 75 miles

Managed to start a little earlier today - at 7:45am. 

We rode on highway 101
After riding for 19 miles, we reached San Luis Obispo. 7.5 miles were on highway 101 !! This was our first experience riding on a highway. It was unavoidable unless we took a long detour. It was a little unnerving to ride alongside cars zooming past at 70mph but it was also a lot of fun. The last few miles were downhill and we were riding at 30-35mph !

We stopped at SLO to get our bikes lubed. My bike was making some noise so we got that fixed as well.

Pismo Beach

Enjoying a short break at the beautiful beach

Picture perfect day
At Pismo Beach we ended the detour we had taken due to highway 1 closure. We were expecting the inland areas to be boring but it turned out to be really beautiful due to all the greenery.

We both ate huge burritos for lunch then realized it was a mistake. Carrying that burrito up the steep slopes was not easy :)
Strawberry fields
 The route from Pismo Beach was slightly inland. We could not see the ocean

Hills between Orcutt and Lompoc. About 10 miles before Lompoc
Whenever we abandoned the major roads or highways, the scenery got prettier but the roads got steeper as well.

Lompoc Valley. The destination is in sight

Day 4 done. A long soak in jacuzzi, using the jets for massaging our tired quads brought some relief :)
Lompoc turned out to be a nice little town. Our town selection purely based on the distance we wanted to ride every day and the route we wanted to follow. We were not paying attention to the quality or significance of the town itself as there was no time to do any additional sightseeing. Lompoc has a federal prison so our expectations were low but it turned out to be a nice place.

Day 5. Mar 29, 2018. Lompoc to Carpenteria. 80 miles

Leaving Lompoc
We left Lompoc at 7:45am. The plan is to ride 80 miles to Carpenteria which is about 11 miles south of Santa Barbara. We were originally planning to stay in Santa Barbara but decided to go a little further to shorten the distance for the final day. 

We also picked a longer route for today via Solvang which was 12 miles longer than the shortest route. The shorter route was on the highway which would've been boring.

Passing through Buellton. Flat roads + no traffic = opportunity to take selfie videos while riding :)

Ostrich Dance - must see :)

There are Ostrich and Emu farms near Solvang. We even saw an ostrich dance (see video above). It was simply fascinating to see such a big bird dancing so gracefully.

Ostrich farm
acres and acres of lush green grassy lands greeted us as we neared Solvang
We got REALLY lucky with our timing. It was lush green everywhere due to recent rains but there were no rains during the week of our ride.

Solvang is a small Danish style town nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley. It has many wineries and excellent bakeries.

Danish style architecture in Solvang, CA
We stopped at the Solvang Bakery to sample a variety of yummies :)

We passed through more green fields and empty roads. It was so peaceful - almost meditative

How can you be tired riding on such roads?
Met Laurena and Fernando on highway 101. They were riding from SF to Tijuana, Mexico. And we thought we had a long ride :)
After Solvang there was a long stretch on highway 101. We saw some fellow riders along the way. The weather also changed and it started to get foggy

Fog started rolling in late morning around 12 noon
Fixing a flat on highway 101 just after Gaviota State Park
And finally the luck ran out... We had gone over all kinds of terrain without any issues but finally Samir had a flat tire with just 1.5 days to go. I had some experience with it and managed to replace the tube. It was unnerving to do that on the shoulder of highway 101 with cars flying past us at 70mph. It took us nearly an hour because we had to unpack our bags to get to the tools. We were also incredibly lucky because we happened to be riding next to each other. Most other times we got separated by as much a mile or more because we were riding at different speeds. This happened to be one of our 'sync' points. We decided to ride within the earshot of each other from here on.

Who says fixing flats can't be fun :)
Fascinating bit of trivia (Arroyo Hondo Vista Point)
When the bicycling craze started in the 1880s, cyclists lobbied for better roads. Ironically their effort helped usher the rise of automobiles in early 20th century

Getting close to the coast again

Marked bike lanes even in construction zones
If you look closely you will see that there is a marked bike path cordoned off with traffic cones in the construction zone! This is highway 101. The attention to detail to accommodate cyclists is just mind blowing. We felt really special :)

Dedicated bike path in Goleta
Not only did we find a dedicated bike path in Goleta, it was also decorated ! I had never noticed these details until now.

Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara. We stopped there to enjoy the views and also indulged in an ice cream :)

Time to leave Santa Barbara and be on our way to Carpenteria

It's beginning to get dark and we still have an hour's ride left. Gotta stop taking pictures..

..ok just one more picture. How can you not?

Made it to our hotel at 7:30pm, before it got dark
Here's everything I carried for the trip. Makes you realize how little you need in life!
Stats for the day

Day 6. Mar 30, 2018. Carpenteria to Santa Monica. 78 miles

The excitement is building - today is the final day. We have managed to ride for five long days and are determined to finish strong today.

Starting early at 7:15am

Foggy morning. Hoping it will clear up soon so we can enjoy the views
Dedicated bike lane on highway 101 !!
We were already highly impressed by the biking infrastructure we had seen so far but this blew away our minds completely. There was a dedicated, cordoned off bike lane running parallel to highway 101, right next to the coast. It went on for nearly 15 miles. It is simply amazing planning. Hats off.

My trusted companion! Any suggestions for naming the bike?
Sufer's Point at Seaside Park in Ventura

The bikes needed some time off to enjoy the view as well :)
Everywhere we went, we were always asked about how long we have been biking. I guess our weathered faces and geared up bikes were a telltale sign that we were not casual bikers.

Oxnard, CA

Channel Islands in Oxnard, CA

Channel Islands in Oxnard, CA

Missile Park at Point Mugu. This is an F4 plane. US Navy has a huge air force !
Stunning views of Zuma Beach, Malibu

...and the rich and famous living in houses overlooking the beautiful views :)
Final stretch - on a bike path on Santa Monica Beach. It is a 3 mile long beach !

YAY !! Almost there

Final Approach

Mission Impossible completed successfully :) We Did it !!
22,000 ft of climbing, 490 miles of riding over 6 days. This was a trip of a lifetime

The signature headstand :) My bike has joined me in the headstand this time !

Stats for the final day
The ride back was swift. We reached home in just 5 hours !
We stayed overnight at my cousin's place who came to pick us up from Santa Monica Pier. We had a sumptuous dinner and breakfast the next day before driving back to Sunnyvale.

Grand Welcome by the kids - it was great to be with the family again :)
Close friends and family came over to visit us and joined in the celebrations. It was wonderful to have such support.

It was an amazing journey. Neither of us are professional bikers and had no idea whether we were adequately prepared. We hoped we had trained enough, had the right gear and the weather will be ok. As they say, fortune favors the brave. Everything went perfectly with no major scares. Hope this is not the end but the beginning of more journeys in the future.

Here's a short poem summarizing the trip :)

This was an audacious thought
But into the idea I bought
I was joined by another crazy soul
And together we set out for our goal
From Golden Gate Bridge to Santa Monica Beach
Riding our bikes for over 80 miles a day each
We braved cold, foggy days and we braved the scorching Sun
We were famished, parched and exhausted, yet it was really fun
It may not be doable and one wondered if we should
But we knew we'd do it simply because we thought we could!

And if you have made it this far, please do leave a comment ! :)


  1. Great ride and a well written blog.

  2. Very inspiring. Breathtakingly beautiful pictures with equally beautiful captions. You also make references about support from the family which is very touching. Keep up this zeal to take up new challenges and convert them into fun on the way - Ashutosh

  3. Great to see you both doing this! Can't even imagine how much fun it must have been! and does Dhanno count as a bike name? :) thanks for sharing...

    1. Yes, it was indeed a lot of fun. As for the bike name, Dhanno was the first name that came to my mind as well :)

  4. Nice Picture !! Must be a lot of fun!

  5. Incredible ride and memories of lifetime!! Pictures are awesome. How about kitt for bike name? Trusty sidekick who helps you complete almost impossible things ����

  6. Very impressive and truly inspiring. Great blog to share your adventure!!!

  7. Congratulations Jai and Samir for completing this adventure as planned. And a wonderful blog that chronicles the journey without being too verbose. As an addendum, more details on the equipment used including the choice of the bikes would be nice. Well done indeed and looking forward to the next one...
    --Ravi from NYC area.

    1. Thanks Ravi and good suggestion about adding the equipment information. I will add a link to my equipment spreadsheet

  8. Congratulations Jai and Samir! I am a Team ASHA biker (did the 100KM in 2015 - Healdsburg ride). Well-written blog and very inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Jayashree. Glad to meet a fellow bay area biker :)

  9. Congratulations! We're all so proud of you

  10. CONGRATS, Job well done Jai and Samir! Thanks for sharing your entire SF-LA Bikeride details and I felt like I was biking alongwith you. Great pictures and short descriptions so I could read the blog through the very end.

  11. Great achievement Jay! If you decide to plan a ride in North-east let me know. Abhinav Rawat

  12. Awesome job. Especially carrying all your belonging. We did a similar thing few years ago, 6 of us, 3 guys 3 gals, we didn't even know each other until the ride, rode from San Francisco Golden Gate park to San Diego. We took train from Oxnard to skip riding thru Los Angeles. We've had 1 pick up truck to haul our camping gears but it had no room for 6 of us and bikes, so always had to have ppl riding the bikes. We've stayed in a motel in Lompoc as there was no camp ground available. It was fun and made great memories with newly met friends. Our spouses and significant others were waiting for us in San Diego with sighs of relief we made it safely.

  13. Nice post! I loved all the pictures.


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