I'd been seriously riding a bike for about 4 years before I undertook this trip. When I started riding, I could barely do 5 miles. However, by keeping at it, I was soon able to handle the 27 mile round-trip from my house in Santa Cruz (north end of the Monterey Bay on the California Coast) to Davenport, the next town north.
My first bike tour was a fully supported group tour of Bryce and Zion canyons the week after September 11, 2001. We spent every night in a nice hotel and carried no gear. We took the van to the starting point and were picked up at the end. I did my first 50 mile ride on that tour.
I enjoyed that experience enough that I undertook a credit card tour around England in September, 2002. I rode around England for two weeks, riding from town to town on small rural roads and spending the night in B&Bs. I carried about 20 pounds on a borrowed bike.
Since then, I have been wanting to take an self-contained tour for some time. Since I now live in San Francisco and have friends and family in LA, it seemed like a ride down Highway 1 from SF to LA was a no-brainer.
After some research, it appeared that the best time to do this ride was either the Spring or the Fall. As it was the Winter, 2003, I decided on April, 2004 as a good time to schedule my departure. I mainly relied on Bicycling the Pacific Coast by Kirkendall and Spring. I joined Adventure Cycling, bought two of their maps, and read much of the touring advice on their web site. I also got lots of good information from tour journals I found on the web.
With a departure time in sight, I began a more focussed training schedule, to make equipment lists, and draw up a route. My usual training ride was a 50 miler that went over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin county and around the Paradise loop. I tried to do this ride, or one of the other longer rides twice a week.
As April approached, I started to ride with packs to get accustomed to the weight and how the bike handled under load. This was somewhat delayed as I had a hard time finding a front rack that would fit my bike (a Waterford Adventure Cycle). The final two weeks were a whirlwind of equipment buying and loaded training.
When I finally had everything I thought I needed, I did an overnight ride to Samuel P. Taylor State Park. This is a 32 mile ride form my house with a fairly serious hill at the 25 mile mark. I shared the hiker-biker site with another biker who was very a experienced tourer. He gave me lots of advice, much of it useful.
When I returned the next day, I realized that I was carrying too much weight and got serious about removing unnecessary equipment. I got rid of the cooking equipment: stove, pots, mess kit, fork and spoon. I also went out and bought some lightweight pants to replace the levis I had taken.
The week prior to departure was spent resting, packing, planning, and shipping clothes and equipment to places I was headed so that I didn't need to carry any extra weight until it was absolutely necessary. This turned out to be a good idea.
Click here to see my packing list.