Seattle to San Francisco 2012 Bicycle Tour Coastal Challenge
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The S2SF Guide to Bicycles

- Road bicycles are an excellent choice for S2SF and a luxury that only some sort of support can afford. On a road bike, your time in the saddle will likely be shorter as you simply move faster. The S2SF has many sections where the handling and speed of a road bike will send you into cycling nirvana. As with anything, there are considerations however. A rider using a dedicated road model should include the capability of mounting a rear rack or a small pack for carrying snacks, repair kit, map, etc. It is strongly encouraged to have some ability to carry cargo for use on rest days, or in case of emergency – a feat that may leave those riding carbon racing frames using ungainly backpacks for laundry runs unless a safe way of mounting a rack can be found (luckily they do exist). Many road cycles have little if any fender clearance for riding in the rain. Dedicated road models can be more fragile than other types. Consider ergonomic “endurance” road models over “quicker” models or certainly Triathlon or TT bikes!!

- Touring Bicycles , whether purpose built or bikes “converted” for touring duty, may be the safest choice in terms of adaptability, reliability, and ergonomics. Given the need, you can make a large grocery run, carry that large camera, or take a nice picnic lunch. Touring models typically have excellent tire clearance for fenders, lots of braze-ons for water bottles and tire pumps, and allow versatile tires that won’t leave you squirming if you run into gravel (which the S2SF route tries VERY hard to avoid). There’s another aspect too: Those on road bikes usually keep some of their weight off of their narrow stay-out-of-the-way saddles – typically by supporting themselves with their legs and therefore moving AT ALL TIMES. A proper touring setup should let the rider go fast(ish) to make camp, or sit more upright and go slow (more weight in saddle) to enjoy the scenery. While the Road rider may enjoy more of the riding aspect, the Touring rider may enjoy more of what’s around them! On the flipside, touring models are made to be trucks – and compared to the finesse of the road models, will feel like trucks. A perhaps more important potential issue is that unloaded touring bikes can feel unstable since their handling was tuned for riding WITH weight.

- Hybrid Bicycles and Mountain Bikes, if able to lock their front forks for efficiency and if sporting high-pressure slick tires, may do the job and will begin to fall into the Touring category mentioned above. These bikes will carry one advantage: the setup will likely have excellent gearing for ratcheting your way up climbs (Oregon climbs are 4% to 5% grade typically where California grades are in the 6% to 7% are with one special hill topping out at 15+%). The advantages begin to end there. Although you may notice an impressive number of loaded tourers on US-101 on knobby, front-suspension, flat bar MTBs, most of that group has a goal of 30 fully-loaded miles for the day at 10 mph and ride that type of bike for the bad roads in Alaska or in Brazil – a far cry from the mission of 70-90 miles an S2SF rider will ride on pavement! What works for them on their journey may not work for you on your challenge. A bouncy suspension fork will sap efficiency and wear you out. Bikes with rear suspension may have a tough time mounting any sort of rack. Flat bars might work just fine for you, or you might develop painful wrist problems.

- Department Store Bikes or “cheap bikes” make us have to say something we hate to say….a lot. This category just may not be a good fit for the S2SF. Not only may they not be reliable enough to make the trip, or maintainable enough to be repaired WHEN they break, they may not be safe enough either. This isn’t about elitism or weight. The S2SF has 1200ft screaming descents on roads with busy traffic, descents that may have you well over 30mph or even 40mph. You could be 20 miles from help and have a wheel fail. Your bicycle must be able to perform perfectly because your life is on the line. Any bike that carries doubts should NOT be taken on the S2SF. Borrow a bike or buy a better quality used bike.

Don’t get us wrong – in the end, if you can make 80 happy miles a day in reasonable time on an all-terrain setup, then it‘s a GOOD setup, and that‘s great!