As a cyclist myself, who’s taken on some taxing adventures of my own, I was delighted when Brad McCartney of reached out to me wanting to tell his story on the site.

Brad is an experienced long-distance hiker and bike tourer who has spent a lifetime spent on hiking trails on every continent except Antarctica and completing the Hiking Triple Crown.

He completed thru-hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Appalachian Trail. He also hiked the whole length of New Zealand on the Te Araroa.

He also loves bike touring and bikepacking, and this is where our sabbatical story comes from today, with his epic 1,853 mile trip down the Pacific Coast Bike Route.

I caught up with Brad and asked him lots of questions about the Pacific Coast Bike Route, and his incredible adventure,

About the Pacific Coast Bike Route

What is the Pacific Coast Bike Route? Where does it start and finish?

The Pacific Coast Bike route is a cycling route that starts in Vancouver, Canada, and runs all the way down to San Diego near the Mexico border. 

How long is it? Can you ride just part of it?

pacific coast bike route

It is about 1,853 miles or 2,982 km long. Not many people will ride the whole route instead preferring to ride from one destination to another such as Seattle to San Francisco or Los Angeles.

When is the best time to ride the Pacific Coast Bike Route?

While the route can be ridden at any time of year, most cyclists will ride the route in the summer months from May to October.

September and October are good months that take advantage of fewer tourists, fewer cars, and favourable tailwinds (at least most of the time).

Also, due to the favourable wind direction and wider shoulder, it is recommended to cycle from north to south. I would not advise cycling the road northbound, besides, most of the views are on the coastal side you will need to cross the road for photos a lot.

Planning Your Pacific Coast Bike Trip

Why did you decide to ride it?

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Brad taking a few minutes’ risk on the Big Sur coastline

I decided to ride the Pacific Coast Bike Route as part of a long journey from Alaska to Argentina (see Brad’s step-by-step articles from all the route here).

For the first time in a while, I was able to share my riding with other cyclists. There are numerous campsites that are equally spaced out along the route that ensures many cyclists camp in the same spots every night, which makes the trip social for those that want to have that experience.

What tips have you got for someone else planning to take the same trip?

For anyone planning the Pacific Coast Bike Route, it is recommended to give yourself enough time to take a few days off to visit sites along the way or take some detours. Maybe you meet some great cycling companions and want to go at their pace and share a campsite together at night. I guess what I’m trying to say is to be flexible in your planning.

How much did you spend on the trip?

This trip can be as cheap or expensive as you like.

Most of the camping along the route is at campsites that have these brilliant hiker/bikers campsites. They are walk-in or ride-in only and cost $5 which includes a shower, toilet, picnic table, and place for your tent.

Overall, I spent less than $25 per day which included many coffee shops and only a couple of restaurants. I stayed at one or two hostels along the route and had a couple of nights’ accommodation at people’s houses free of charge.

Cyclists on a budget can travel the whole length of the Pacific Coast Bike Trail for less than $10 per day!

What did you pack for the trip? How did you fit it all on the bike?

brad and all his gear
Brad and all his gear

I carried an expensive list of bike touring gear which included not only camping gear, cooking gear, and changes of clothes but also all the basic bike repair tool kit and spares.

You don’t need an expensive bicycle, but you will need panniers to store your gear. Bicycle Panniers are waterproof and attach to bike racks.

Is there any gear you’d recommend someone take with them?

Apart from the gear mentioned above, it is a good idea to take something to entertain yourself if the weather is crap.

For me, that was a good book.

Some cyclists preferred their iPad or tablet, some preferred cards, and others liked to write a detailed journal.

Whatever it is, be prepared for bad weather and potentially having to spend the day in the tent. I have several days when I didn’t leave the campsite until after lunch due to the weather.

Another important item is bright-coloured clothing, so you are highly visible. Wearing a black shirt and black pants while riding a black bike is not the best option. Be bright and visible.

Your Experience of the Pacific Coast Bike Route

What were your top three highlights of the trip and why?

brad mccartney at the golden gate bridge
Brad about to cross the Golden Gate Bridge

The top highlights include the rugged beaches of Oregon, riding the steep streets of San Francisco, and the coastal section of California.

Is there anything that went wrong on the trip?

Most cyclists, myself included, had at least one flat tire.

But the biggest issue I faced was inconsiderate drivers in the section north of San Francisco. I have chosen to ignore the warning of not riding that section on a weekend, as many locals would drive that road on route to Napa Valley. Many parts have a narrow shoulder and a few drunk drivers were on that section.

Is there anything you’d do differently next time?

Riding that route in September and October was just about perfect and honestly, there is little I would change.

In fact, I would change nothing. It was as close to perfect as possible.

Where can we find out more about you?

You can read more about my adventures at, I’d love for you to come over and check out the site.

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