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Bike ride to set things right

On Labor Day weekend, I went on an overnight bike ride from Santa Barbara, CA to Santa Monica, CA. I’d been wanting to do it since my attempt at a mini bike tour last year was foiled by, you know, my stuff getting stolen.

Having finally re-bought all of the essential equipment (see packing list below), I adjusted my trip to ride a shorter distance and further north, avoiding the dangers of the LBC this time around. Good call, because riding down the coast on Hwy 1 was one of the best, most beautiful things I’ve ever done.

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Riding solo, the trip sparked intensely lonely moments that shook me up and left me emotionally bare and a crying mess for a couple of weeks afterwards. It was weird. I thought a lot about important relationships and what it really means to be a loving, compassionate person, and why I was so far way from being that. All the open space I had to myself gave me an opportunity to finally confront and also grieve the loss of one of my oldest friendships and close the chapter of my life in which it played such an important part. On this journey, I also finished reading Wild, which resonated with me through every inch I pedaled.

This was once a mountain that stood 12,000 feet tall and then had its heart removed…But hard as I tried, I couldn’t see them in my mind’s eye. Not the mountain or the wasteland or the empty bowl. They simply were not there anymore. There was only the stillness and silence of that water: what a mountain and a wasteland and an empty bowl turned into after the healing began. -Cheryl Strayed

I was gone and back home within 36 hours, but it felt like I had been away for at least a week. It gave me a good idea of my capabilities and how to plan a longer, more legit ride for next time. Some notes:

  • I cycle, on average, about 7mph, which is a lot slower than I thought.
  • Hills with a 15% grade and above, I gotta hoof it.
  • I really wasn’t that hungry! Water was more important than food.
  • Riding down Hwy 1 while the sun set was worth every mile of cycling through California’s inglorious butthole (Thanks, Oxnard).

Packing List

(2) Panniers-front(2) UnderwearHelmet
Handlebar bagSports braSunglasses
Tool/smartphone case(2) Short sleeve shirtsDebit card and ID
Mini-bike pumpLight hoodieSleeping bag
Spare tubePair of shortsOne-person tent
Tube patching kitPair of sweatsBicycle lights-front and back
Switch bladePair of socks200ml of water
SmartphoneStick of deodorantLog of salami
External battery, for charging phoneToothbrush4 deckled pluots
Printed bike mapToothpasteBag of sweet and spicy pecans
Sunblock(2) Towels(4) Pieces of sourdough bread

Trip Overview

Saturday, 08/30

  1. 5:45a – Arrive at the Santa Fe Depot
  2. 6:05a – Train departs for SBA
  3. 11:40a – Arrive in SBA
  4. 12:00p – Start riding!
  5. 7:15p – Arrive at Sycamore Beach; camp; watch sunset
  6. 9:00p – Fall asleep

Sunday, 08/31

  1. 6:00a – Wake up; watch sunrise; do yoga
  2. 7:00a – Start packing up
  3. 8:00a – Start riding again!
  4. 12:15p – Lunch at Subway in Malibu
  5. 1:00p – Start riding! (Final stretch of 14mi)
  6. 2:30p – Arrive at Sta. Monica Pier
  7. 3:00p – Catch Big Blue #10 to Union Station
  8. 3:50p – Arrive at Union Station
  9. 4:15p – Train departs for SAN
  10. 6:45p – Train arrives in SAN


Luckily, there is enough information on the internet to be able to figure this ride out without too much hassle. I used Google Maps for most of the trip, using the printed map as a backup. The route below includes the detour I took (thanks to a lady cyclist that helped me, near Rincon Beach) that is not yet part of the cycling directions, since the new bike lanes along the coast in Carpinteria are fairly new.

Adjustments for next time

  • If possible, next time, bring a pal.
  • Absolutely, next time, bring a sleeping pad.
  • Re-think single gear touring OR change to a lower gear ratio.
  • Bring singles for bus fare.