Cycling to San Luis Obispo

Cycling to San Luis Obispo

We’ve invited Russ and Laura of Path Less Pedaled to share some of their adventures using Amtrak’s bike service. Check out their recent visit to San Luis Obispo below.

Here in Portland, we’re emerging from one of the rainiest winters on record. So, a few weeks ago, to break out of the endless grey and get a much-needed sun break, we loaded up our bikes and let the Coast Starlight carry us south to San Luis Obispo, California.

We love exploring by bike. Pedaling through a new place is unparalleled in its ability to slow us down, show us new things, and put a smile on our faces. Plus, there’s no more enjoyable way to bask in the sunshine all day, and feel like we’ve earned that ice cream at the end.

We chose San Luis Obispo as our destination because we knew it would be gloriously sunny, even in the dead of winter, because it’s a designated baggage stop along the Coast Starlight, and because we could choose to ride to the beach or up into the mountains or through a wide variety of vineyards.

To Box or Not to Box

Arriving at Portland’s Union Station, we first popped into the baggage department. Until recently, traveling with a full-size bike meant boxing it up and checking it ahead-of-time as baggage (which, while not as complicated as boxing a bike for air travel, definitely required some disassembly and advance planning). The new Trainside Checked Bike Service eliminates the need for the box; but, as the name implies, bikes are still checked into the baggage car. We showed the baggage folks our tickets (we had reserved a spot for each bike when we booked online), and they gave us a tag to put on our handlebars that designated where we would be getting off.

When the train arrived, we walked our bikes down the platform to the baggage car. We removed all the bags and water bottles and anything else that could fall off; and we handed the bikes up to the Amtrak employees inside. Then we gathered all of our things and found our seats.

Aside from juggling multiple bags on the walk between the baggage car and the sleeper cars, we were surprised by the ease of the new service. That said, if juggling isn’t your thing, you might want to continue with the old bike box routine, or take advantage of Amtrak’s Red Cap service to help with your bags. Whichever service you use, it’s important to note that you can only get a bike on or off at a designated baggage stop.

Mountains or Ocean.. or Both?

Path Less Pedaled - SLOOver the next 24 hours, all memories of the grey NW weather receded into the distance. And, exactly as we had wanted, we stepped off the train into the sunshine. We collected our bikes from the baggage car and pedaled off to our hotel for the next few days.

In the morning, sun shining again, we headed off to nearby Avila Beach. Following one of our favorite routes, we pedaled out of town by way of the steep and incredibly scenic climb up Prefumo Canyon. We enjoyed a lazy lunch on the beach, and then opted for a flatter and more-relaxed return, along the popular Bob Jones Trail. Back in town, we flipped a coin to decide which of the many delicious restaurants we would enjoy that evening.

We love San Luis Obispo as a getaway destination. Not only is it super bike-friendly, its walkable downtown is rich in things to eat and drink and do (and it’s only a few blocks from the train station!). And with the Coast Starlight as our chauffeur, we’re free to focus on the important things, like which of the many craft coffee shops to stop at first.

Follow our route with this handy GPS guide.

About the Authors: Russ and Laura are bicycle tourism advocates who write about their adventures at Path Less Pedaled. Follow their travels on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.