Monterey to Santa Barbara Bike Route Details
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This post gets into the details of my and my partner Nate’s ride. If you want a more general overview, check this out.
Pacific Grove to Big Sur
- Distance: 40 miles
- Elevation: 3000 ft
- Lodging: Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn (Cozy, charming, great staff, great food. No bike storage, but helped us find a sheltered spot outside. Highly recommend!)
- Experience: We took the scenic 17 Mile Drive, stopping in Carmel to pick up sandwiches for lunch at Bruno’s Market & Deli (delicious!). From there it was a pretty straight shot to Highway 1, at which point it started storming. We had to stop every few miles to steady ourselves in the midst of the pouring rain and accelerating winds. We took a water break about 6 miles away from our destination, when a car pulled up and warned us about going further because of the high wind and rock slide advisories. They offered us a ride and although I didn’t want to, we ended up taking it. I’m glad we did — it was crazy just driving in those conditions. We made it to Deetjen’s by 1:30pm and immediately warmed up by the fire, drying our wet shoes and socks. Definitely recommend staying at this cozy lodge, and having dinner (expensive but super tasty) and breakfast (not included) on site!
Big Sur to Gorda
- Distance: 33 miles
- Elevation: 2800 ft
- Lodging: Gorda Springs Resort (Clean, aesthetically pleasing, and comfortable cottages with stellar views and super friendly staff. There are no springs and it is not exactly a resort. It’s a bit pricey, but it was one of ew options in the area and we had our most relaxing day here. Kept bikes in rooms. Highly recommend!)
- Experience: After a breakfast of raspberry cream cheese-stuffed french toast (highly recommend) at Deetjen’s, we got on to Highway 1 and were met by perfect weather, empty roads, and just the right balance of steep climbs and thrilling coasts. Nate got a flat, but he fixed it quickly and we were back on the road in no time. We made it to the Gorda Springs Resort in time for a late lunch at the Whale Watchers Cafe, a diner on-site with a very satisfying burger. We had plenty of time to relax, enjoy the sunshine, watch the sunset, falling asleep around 8:30pm. We skipped dinner because of our late lunch, and purchased snacks at the general store instead. Warning: depending on weather and road conditions, the restaurant on site may close early.
Gorda to Cambria
- Distance: 35 miles
- Elevation: 2000 ft
- Lodging: The Squibb Houses (We loved this bed and breakfast — definitely our favorite of the trip. Karin and Bruce were super accommodating with our bikes, had cookies and tea waiting for us, helped us with laundry, and made a delicious breakfast (included) in the morning. Stored bikes on covered porch. Highly recommend!)
- Experience: We climbed 1500 ft in the first 12 miles (the first third of our ride), which made for a tough morning. After a quick stop at Ragged Point, we began to descend and the road flattened. We visited the elephant seals during prime mating seasons, and spotted cranes, California condors, cows, and horses. We arrive in small town of Cambria in the late afternoon and settled into our charming room at The Squibb Houses. Nate popped over to a small bike co-op to lubricate our chains, we walked up and down Main Street, and had a tasty (and huge) dinner at Linn’s.
Cambria to San Luis Obispo
- Distance: 37 miles
- Elevation:1200 ft
- Lodging: Garden Street Inn (Old, historic building and clean rooms, but felt more commercial and less homey than our previous spots. Central location. Cookies! Had place to store bikes. Breakfast (included) was tasty!)
- Experience: Wet, chilly, muddy ride. Due to the rain we stopted (opted to stop) to warm up along the way, first at Cayucos Coffee and then at Shine Cafe Morro Bay. Such cute spots! We made our way through the valley, passing luscious farms and ranches. In SLO we couldn’t find a great place to wash or dry our drenched clothing and shoes, so hoped for the best. (Spoiler: they almost dried completely). We journaled, had a great veggie dinner at the Vegetable Butcher, watched a movie, and went to bed early.
San Luis Obispo to Santa Maria
- Distance: 35 miles
- Elevation: 700 ft (aka relatively flat)
- Lodging: Santa Maria Inn (Definitely old and historic, but in a creepy, dated sort of way. They had a place to store our bikes and guest laundry on-site. There wasn’t a lot of charm, but it felt better than one of the chains.)
- Experience: Easiest day of riding by far — great weather, flat roads, and a very manageable distance. We took the long way and dipped in the ocean at Pismo Beach. In Santa Maria, I got a flat (try to avoid biking on Broadway) right next to a bike shop (took advantage of that), got a quick massage, and ate some BBQ. By this point, we were starting to miss the remote-ness of Big Sur, and my right knee was killing me.
Santa Maria to Solvang
- Distance: 40 miles
- Elevation: 1400 ft
- Lodging: Hadsten House (My criteria for Solvang was charming but not super fake-Danish and kitschy. This place hit the spot! It was modern, yet homey, and had great accommodations, not to mention yummy cookies upon arrival. The breakfast (included) was the most warm and hardy of the trip. We were able to store our bikes inside.)
- Experience: The morning started off great with Acai bowls at Paradise Juice Bar, where we also picked up some PB & banana sandwiches for lunch. Within the first hour, my knee was hurting really bad, the roads were bumpy, and the wind was blowing hard. I felt so mentally and physically tested, and now I realize it was probably because I hadn’t had enough to eat. After a few stops and some carbs, I felt way better and regained motivation. I now know that what I experienced is called bonking. We took Foxen Canyon Road (where Sideways was filmed), saw an eagle and hawk fight, some longhorns, and a bobcat! We made a quick pitstop at Panino in Los Olivos, and then rolled in to the weird little Danish town of Solvang. We ate a delicious veggie dinner at Root 246 and soaked in the jacuzzi for far too long. With ample relaxation, we felt ready and motivated for our last day on the saddle.
Solvang to Santa Barbara
- Distance: 47 miles
- Elevation:1500 ft
- Lodging: Wayfarer
- Experience: I have to admit, I was nervous for this last day from the beginning, but we woke up ready to go and super determined. We got on the 101 just as it started to rain, climbed up a mountain pass, and stayed on for 28 miles. We accidentally got on the 101 too early, and it was kind of scary because we had to go over a few narrow bridges without shoulder lanes. Once we hit the coast at Gaviota, the shoulder widened and the weather was perfect. Because of the rain, all sorts of glass and debris washed up to the shoulder. We got 3 flats between us, I had to get a new tire, and in the last 30 min I bonked… but we did it! We made it to SB, took a celebratory dip, had an early dinner, iced a lot, and got a lot of sleep
- Bikes: I rode a Liv Avail — not high end, but not the worst. No clips (don’t yell at me!), but I did have cages. Nate rode a District S — a single speed! He’s crazy, I know. He didn’t have clips or cages. He’s just a beast.
- Panniers: I had two classic Ortliebs that I borrowed from a friend (highly recommend!). Nate had a mismatched pair that weren’t as heavy duty or easy to get on and off the bike.
- Clothing: We tried to pack as light as possible. For cycling, I brought a rain jacket, a lightweight fleece, one pair of fleece-lined padded bike pants, one short sleeve and one long sleeve shirt, 2 sports bras, regular old tennis shoes, and one pair wool socks (I couldn’t find all my others… maybe still in Minnesota). For the rest of the time, I brought two lightweight outfits, a heavier fleece, a pair of pajamas, undergarments, ankle socks, and flip flops.
- Accessories : I had gloves, a thin fanny pack for my phone, a helmet, sunglasses, and my U lock. Instead of a fanny pack, Nate had a nifty top tube bag with his keys, wallet, and phone, of which I quickly became jealous. We also brought an additional cable lock, just in case.
- Equipment: We each brought two spare tubes in case of flats. Nate carried the tube and tire repair kit. We bought chain lube on day 3. Nate also brought a rag to use for wiping down the bikes after rain.
- Other: We brought trail mix, 3 reusable water bottles total, sunscreen, band aids, rash cream, and our toiletries.
Interested in my reflections from the trip? Check out this post.