Cycling the Big Sur Coastline


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The first days of my journey from San Francisco could not be said to have been a success in many peoples eyes. But my eyes see things differently. I had mechanical problems but that thing called Karma, if you believe in such a thing  got me through. Fortune favoured me and I was able to continue my journey, as planned.

I cycled the length of Monterrey Bay to the town of Monterrey. My route mostly took me through back roads and farmlands. I shared the roads with tractors and farm workers, all of whom greeted me with a friendly smile and a wave. Strawberries were the crop of choice when I passed through. I was very tempted to stop on a secluded section of road and sample the crops but I thought better of it. I cycled into Monterrey on the dedicated cycle path. I made good time during the mornings ride so thought I would take time to enjoy the coastal delights. Harbour Seals cruised among the bay with the kayaks and boats oblivious to the tourists taking photos. I followed the scenic road around the bay. It seems golf is big here. The courses looked all very well manicured, almost like California is not even in a drought!

Mid afternoon I cycled up the steep hill to The Vets State Park, my cheap camp spot for the night. The walk in Hiker / Biker site was near full when I arrived. Mostly filled with vagabonds and drifters. Some had just moved to town and were looking for work, others were homeless people who spent less time sleeping on the streets than most.

They were all nice enough people and I had the gut feeling that I could trust them. I’ve learned to trust my gut instinct. They were honest people struck with a combination of bad luck, poor choices and mental health issues that set them apart from normal society. This country treats its poor people very poorly. Social services are way behind what is provided in every other developed country that I have visited. And I’ve visited a lot!

The following morning I cycled a short distance to a coffee shop to charge my electronics. The coast around Big Sur was my destination. I’d specifically started my cycle trip in San Francisco so I could see this part of the coastline. Blue skies, light wind and fresh salt air was all my pleasure on this day. The road was a constant roller coaster of big hills and big descents with little or no shoulder. Fortunately, the drivers were very considerate, even the large motorhomes gave me plenty of space. On the climbs I was slow. My legs have lost a lot of muscle in recent months and with that loss I was weak. But things will improve in time. On the descents I was able to take up the whole lane of the road as I was able to keep up with the traffic, or in some cases I could cycle downhill faster than the traffic. I reached the small hippy village of Big Sur by mid afternoon and made my way to the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. I set my tent up in a grove of large Redwood trees. Many other cyclists joined me there, but none are on any epic cross continent journey. I washed my smelly, sweat stained clothes and started to read a book. I’ve been longing to read a book for months but I’ve not had the time until now. Audiobooks have been my company for the last 5 months. Both of which I enjoy. I read late into the night until my eyes were no longer able to take the strain and the call of sleep overtook me.

The morning greeted me with world class coastal scenery and cycling. The road shoulder was again quite poor but the traffic was again very respectful towards me. More of yesterdays roller coaster rides of big hills and descents with more great views. I took a short rest at a small roadside side stop which overlooked the Pacific Coastline. I noticed a buzz of activity on one of the Eucalyptus Trees that was in flower. Ten or more Monarch Butterflies feeding on the flowers. I’d read about their huge migrations across North America which strangely occurs over many generations. It occurred to me that I will be following their southerly migration. Some populations spend winter in California and others migrate to their wintering grounds in Mexico. I suspect the ones I saw will be staying here for the winter but I will visit their cousins in Mexico, it will be one of the many natural highlights of my trip, I hope.

I camped at Plaskett Creek Campground right next to the main highway. It was packed beyond full. I set up camp and took a stroll across the highway to the beach. I sat on a log overlooking a beach framed with coastal cliffs and mountains, life is good, I thought to myself. I spent a lot of time thinking and daydreaming. More planning in my head what I want from the next several months of my journey. I have some bold dreams which have since turned into grand plans. The future really is great, almost as great as the present.

  • New Brighton State Beach to Vets State Park 83km
  • Vets State Park to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park 54km
  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to Plaskett Creek Campground 54km
Coastal Town
Two harbour seals resting on rocks in the harbour
California Coast
California Coast
Cycling Bixby Bridge
Big Sur coast Bixby Bridge
Big Sur coast Cycling
Bixby Bridge Cycling trail
California Beach Big Sur Coast
Monarch Butterflies
Monarch Butterflies

Next : Cycling the Ventura Highway in the Sunshine

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Where to buy all the best gear for Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking:
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Campsaver | Competitive Cyclist | Patagonia | | MEC Canada -Bicycle Touring Gear |

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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14 thoughts on “Cycling the Big Sur Coastline”

  1. I checked the distance to the end of your trip and its darn near 7000 miles.. Are you going to bike the entire distance? How long will this trip take…

    • Yes I’m going to bike the whole way, but the distance is more like double that because I will take a lot of detours along the way. I’m thinking something like two years till I finish.

  2. My family took a road trip along that road a couple summers ago. Beautiful. Stopped at that Pfeiffer Park and hiked out to an incredible cove view with waterfall.

  3. That trip down hwy 1 is said to be one of the most scenic drives in the world… I rode my 10 speed from Monterrey to San Luis Obisbo many years ago…. How far south are you going.

    • Well, in my humble opinion, the Big Sur Coast is right up there. I’ll be cycling until the road runs out in Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina. But I’ll be back in 2016 for another thru hike in between the cycling journey.

  4. The Bixby Bridge must have been an enjoyable ride. It saved you what would have otherwise been in the 1930’s, an 18km trip inland, plus you had an enhanced view of the coastline. I last crossed that bridge in a small motorhome with my brother in 2001. I’d love to revisit this part of the world again which is kind of what I’m doing now through your photos. Thanks!

      • Hah! Don’t tempt me! ;), I would opt to cycle the west coast in a heart beat but by the end of my PCT I’ll have to return to the work side of life. I’ll be taking some time off early next year to prepare for the PCT – then fly over and turn the dream into reality. Your momentum is impressive I have to say! It’s a pleasure to witness.

  5. I have always felt that when God looked around and saw he had some extra Heaven left, he dropped it on Earth it landed along the central California coast. You are riding smack dab in the middle of that section of Extra Heaven. Love it, and your pictures show just how incredible that area is. I am, again, jealous.

    Be careful from Big Sur to Cambria – some narrow sections of Highway 1. Good on you, mate!

    Mike M, Riverside, CA


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