Days 93-105: Northern California

I set off from San Diego toward Alaska two weeks before the summer solstice. The long summer days are a big improvement over the short winter days I experienced toward the end of the last leg of this tour. I’m averaging 85 miles per day (137 km) even with headwinds and 3300’ (1000 m) of climbing per day. The densely populated parts of Southern California make for so-so riding but further north the coast is mostly wild and undeveloped and utterly breathtaking.

The ACA map notes advise the cyclist to avoid riding in peak summer due to traffic and to ride from north to south due to prevailing wind direction. I don’t take their advice because you can’t get to Alaska by riding south.

I meet cyclist after cyclist, all heading south with the wind at their backs. Maybe half are American and the rest have flown around the world to ride this famous route. German, French, German, Swiss, German, Canadian… there are a lot of Germans. This is a nation that embraces bicycle travel and their engineers have created the recumbent I’m riding, it’s tires, internally geared hub and headlights which don’t blind oncoming traffic. Dankeschön!

In the negative column, they also pioneered the sandals-and-socks look that I am rocking so you may wish to hold your applause.

In the first week, I encounter four other solar bikes. The first two are a couple traveling with a dog on their custom trikes. They pull up next to me on the beach path in Los Angeles and declare, “Hey, we know you from the Grin profile video on YouTube!” I feel famous. Briefly.

Number three is a fellow solar vehicle builder I met two years ago when I rode through LA. He and his wife are kind enough to host me for the night and ride out to the beach with me to see me off. I pass solar bike number four a couple of days later but there’s too much traffic to stop and chat. When I arrive at that night’s hike/bike site, the camp host has detailed photos of the mystery woman’s bike and I share some tips on how she can go about converting her own ebike to solar power.

I take my first rest day in 12 days on the summer solstice. Tomorrow, I cross into Oregon.

13 Replies to “Days 93-105: Northern California”

  1. Being born a German, I take umbrage at the socks and sandals insult. Riding through Minnesota winters with Shimano SPD sandals and GoreTex socks (multiple interior layers & active heating added, of course), I happily embrace the shame heaped on me by the likes of you, the California Correct Cadre. I’ve given away my sartorially supreme Lake winter boots and will ride off into the proverbial Biker’s Sunset with my sandals and socks — where I assume I’ll meet you again going in the other direction (also wearing sandals and socks)! I do miss you and the few miles we did ride in the same direction. May you always keep the rubber side down!!
    (P.S. I’m in the process of installing 10 more solar panels on the garage roof following your ‘back-of-the-napkin’ design recommendations last summer — thanks!!)

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    1. Good news about the solar panels. I hope I steered you in the right direction. Speaking of rubber side down, a strong gust of wind blew me off the road yesterday and I landed rubber side up. No injuries but the trailer snapped in half. Just completed repairs and I’m waiting for the epoxy to cure.

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      1. Mark, I do wonder how much of a spinnaker the rear panel trailer is when it comes to passing semi-trailers. We have absolutely ideal solar touring conditions in inland australia for most of the year- excepting the constant passing road trains (53m long) which slow down for no one- wild pigs, kangaroos, emus or inter continental cyclists riding recumbent. I’m wondering how much cross-wind your rig can take before it’s keel-over-game-over.

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  2. Thankyou for your trip activity. I’m 63 and have been plannig a trip from Alberta to Ontario when I retire. I built a tadpole ebike recumbent 2 years ago and have been testing and making modifications ever since. I build my own batteries using reclaimed tool battery cells. I’ve assembled them using springs instead of welds so that they can be repaired on the road if required. I’m also trying solar panel to recharge and could use all the advise I can get. Im in the process right now of converting my front two wheels into tilting with a tilt clamp when stopping. I would love to chat with you to talk about your experience with your bike and camping etc.

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    1. Hey, Doug. That sounds like a great project. I was aware of dozens of people who’ve done solar ebike conversions through their online posts and my online interactions with many of them. In my last two weeks of riding up the West Coast, I have encountered a several of them and even the strangers who come up to me and tell me “there is a man here in town who has a bike just like that with solar panels.“ I suspect the total number around the world is in the hundreds by now.

      I recommend everyone start with the following video when approaching the technical issues of connecting a solar panel to an ebike: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14yliWlykfg

      After that, you may wish to read my post here: https://solare.bike/2020/08/03/convert-your-ebike-to-a-solar-ebike/

      If you still have questions, feel free to ask them here so that everyone who reads the blog can benefit from the Q & A.

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  3. Mark,
    Was just thinking about you. Happy to see you are underway. I’ll be following you from the relative comfort of my little home “up nort.” Cheers and Goddess speed!

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  4. Happy trails Mark! We missed you on the Sun Trip ride to Monterey but you would have perhaps grown tired of our incessant breakdowns anyway. Thanks for the tech tips and inspiration!

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      1. It’s a peril we face by taking these complicated systems out on the open road… I’m still blown away by the Australian guy who welded his trailer frame out in the desert using his LiPo batteries as the power source

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      2. Yes, I think I know who you mean. I’ve made my own stick welder from re-purposed microwave oven transformers so the idea seemed feasible to me when I read about it.

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  5. My panels are more top-heavy than yours and I’ve now let it fall over three times while parked and charging…better kickstanding is called for

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    1. I’ve had the same issue. My latest approach was to install a cargo bike dual leg kick stand for general purpose use and I have carbon fiber trekking poles attached to the sides that I can deploy in high wind conditions. Seems to be working well for my set up.

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