Alain Rumpf; Bikepacking the Pacific Coast Highway

Alain Rumpf explores the idea of simple, accessible adventure, on California’s Pacific Coast Highway.

Reading time: 4 min
Alain Rumpf Bikepacking the Pacific Coast Highway

Anyone can do a bike adventure!

Since I took up cycling in 1984 at the age of 12, I have been a purebred roadie. The kind that has a sub-seven kilo bike, carries only an energy bar, a windbreaker and a phone in his jersey pockets, and is constantly looking for the tiniest possible saddle bag.

In October 2014, I lost my job of 20 years. It was my first job ever…straight out of university. At first, it was horrible. It was as if my life had completely lost its meaning. What else could I do? But after the shock waves subsided and the dust settled, I found myself getting excited by wild things hiding in the very corners of my mind, things that I had been too afraid to even dream of. Like getting married. Or bikepacking; the craziest thing a roadie could ever imagine.

So I took a leap and embarked on a new way of life. I decided to participate in the 2015 Transcontinental Race, an unsupported race from Belgium to Turkey over more than 4,000km. 15 hours per day on the saddle for 15 days, finding my route across unknown territories, and way beyond my comfort zone. I loved it on levels that I cannot even begin to express in words. Let’s just say that I cried more than once as I was approaching the finish line in Istanbul on my last day, full of emotion from this incredible life experience. The Transcontinental Race changed me forever, and for the better.

Gravel and bags: living the roadie’s nightmare to the fullest… and loving it

Now I am married, I have a great new job, and my rides (often with our baby boy Ben in the trailer) rarely extend beyond 90 minutes. I am (good) busy so I won’t be able to go on a big bike adventure for a while. And that’s fine.

But I can still go on microadventures, a concept I feel was popularised by British adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys, who defined it as “an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding”. I would add: meaningful.

In March this year, we traveled to California for the wedding of my wife’s sister. The plan was to spend a few days in San Francisco to catch up with friends, then head to Los Angeles for the wedding. With the blessing of my amazingly supportive wife Lillie, I did the journey by bike.

Starting from Los Gatos, a town south of San Francisco, I rode 650 km in four days. While that doesn’t seem to be a crazy distance, I had not ridden much during winter. We live in Switzerland, where we prefer cross country skiing and ski touring all winter to riding in the cold, or worse…indoors.

Thanks to the wonderful people at Rapha, I picked up a bike at their San Francisco Cycle Club, and dropped it off at their Pop-Up in Los Angeles. In between, I was back into Transcontinental Race mode: riding and eating all day, then sleeping in the first motel I could find when the sun set. The perfect definition of a microadventure.


Getting inspired at the Rapha Cycle Club in San Francisco


Day 1 was a wet and epic ride through the Santa Cruz mountains. I dodged rain, fallen trees and landslides to reach Monterrey just before dark


Breakfast in Carmel on day 2


Day 2 lunch: much needed for a 206km ride on the hilly Pacific Coast Highway


The harsh beauty of the Pacific Coast


Day 3: breakfast burrito and bad coffee in Morro Bay


Meeting up with Lillie and Ben in Santa Barbara on their way to LA


A true bicycle highway on the way to Malibu


Mission accomplished


My legs were sore for the wedding so I did not dance much (well, at least that was my excuse). But I was feeling incredibly satisfied after completing this microadventure that I will remember for the rest of my life.

So… just go on a bike adventure! Grab your bike, fill your bags with the essentials and simply ride away – even if it’s just for one day. You’ll come back a better person.

To say Alain Rumpf is a passionate, lifelong cyclist is a huge understatement. He lives cycling! As Chief Cycling Officer for Grand Tours Project, Alain is designing idyllic rides through the Alps, which he enthusiastically shares with guests from all over the world. Follow Alain on Instagram.