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Biking the Orange County Coast from Seal Beach to San Clemente
6:30am: A friend and I are dropped off at Seal Beach Municipal Pier. I’m on a hybrid mountain bike in a ski helmet; she’s on a road bike in a skate helmet. We begin cruising down the boardwalk through Huntington Beach and into Newport Beach.
7:30am: Ten easy miles under our wheels, we turn off the bike path to fuel up with a veggie scramble and bottomless cups of coffee at Cappy’s Café in Newport Beach.
8:30am: Jump back on the bike path. Easy riding for the length of the boardwalk, then turn down Balboa Pier but backtrack a few streets to the Balboa ferry. Hit up an ATM for the cash-only $1.25 fare.
9:30am: Bike through Balboa Island’s main drag and turn right on Bayside Drive to avoid scary Coast Highway traffic in Corona del Mar. The detour adds hills.
10:18am: Pick up Coast Highway toward Crystal Cove. BLOWOUT! Friend rides over a rusty nail. An earlier statement—“I’m riding this bike down to the rims!”—seems prophetic. Luckily, there’s a bus stop nearby.
10:22am: Use a bus bike rack for the first time ever. Arrive at Laguna Beach Cyclery, where three friendly gearheads welcome us despite our unusual helmets.
10:45am: After entertaining the crew and chatting with local safe-biking crusader Les Miklosy, we leave with a new tube and repaired tire. $7—a friends-and-family discount, natch.
10:55am: Dodging parked and fast-moving cars on Coast Highway’s Laguna Beach stretch. We huff up the legendary hills as we pedal on to Dana Point.
11:37am: We make a wrong turn and have to stop a couple to ask for directions to the harbor and for a coffeehouse recommendation.
11:43am: A superfun downhill road takes us into Dana Point Harbor where we try Coffee Importers’ coffee-hot-chocolate combo and a gluten-free cookie.
12:15pm: Refueled, we have just 10 miles left. We turn into Doheny State Beach parking lot, make a weird turn through a fence and over railroad tracks, and end up on San Juan Capistrano’s PCH bike path.
1:30pm: Follow signs through San Clemente ’hoods. We curse the hills and convoluted path to our destination. Finally zoom downhill to the San Clemente Municipal Pier and happily kick off our shoes!
Click here to check out the MapMyRide map of the actual bike ride.
Total time (leisurely): 7 hours
Total biking time: 4 hours
Total mileage: 42.02
Average speed: 10.34 mph
Total elevation gain: 1,348.4 feet
Min elevation: 0 feet
Max elevation: 240 feet
# bike helmets used: 0
# ski helmets used: 1
# skate helmets used: 1
Easiest stretch: Seal Beach to Balboa Island
Hardest stretch: Laguna Beach to San Juan Capistrano
Breakfast from Cappy's Cafe in Newport Beach
Thanks to the staff at Laguna Beach Cyclery for not laughing too hard at our gear, showing feats of athleticism, and the flat fix.
We met the man behind Laguna Streets, a blog dedicated to advocating for safer biking in Laguna Beach.
Coffee from Coffee Importers in Dana Point Harbor