With scenic vistas at nearly every turn and more bike lanes being built every day, San Francisco is well-known as a two-wheeled haven. Brave the notorious hills around the bay and you'll be rewarded with either an incredible view or a nice set of quads. Here now, our list of five destination-centric bike rides in San Francisco (and slightly beyond).
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE TO SAUSALITO
Anyone who has never ridden a bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge should put aside any fears of being spotted on a rental bike and indulge in the scenic ride from San Francisco's northern waterfront to Sausalito and beyond. Starting at Fort Mason, riders can pack in an easy 7 mile ride with views of the best urban waterfront in the country. (In our humble opinion.) Tourists and locals with athletically-minded family members in town will roll down Alexander Avenue to Sausalito to reward themselves with a beer or an ice cream before catching the ferry back to Pier 41. To make a whole day of it, add on another 10 miles by following the bike lanes all the way to Tiburon for post-ride drinks at Sam's. [Map]
HAWK HILL LOOP
Riders looking for something more challenging along the Golden Gate Bridge should take the West side sidewalk, hang a left off of Alexander Road on the north end and brace themselves to climb Conzelman Road to the Hawk Hill overlook. Or take Bunker Road through the tunnel West towards Rodeo Cove to add on a mile climb up switchbacks on McCullough Road. Pause at the top to Instagram your scenic vista and try not to be distracted by the views on your left as you bomb down the hill to a decommissioned Nike missile site. Follow Bunker Road back to the bridge and you'll put in over 12 miles, not including the distance you covered getting to the south end of the bridge. [Map]
(Photo credit: Jon Carr)
This ride could not be more straightforward: on a sunny day without too much wind coming off the Pacific, follow the Great Highway south from Golden Gate Park to Fort Funston. It's just over 4 (relatively flat) miles from the windmills of the park to the recreation area at Fort Funston. Bring a picnic and a set of bike lights so you can watch the sunset and warm up as the cold sets in. Count on a roughly 9 mile roundtrip if you're starting from the outerlands and almost twice that if you're tacking on a spin through JFK Drive in the park proper. [Map]
(Photo: Bhautik Joshi)
VALENCIA STREET CRUISE
Valencia Street is a hub for all sorts of retail, food and general sceney action, but it's also one of the city's vital bike arteries. It's infinitely more pleasurable to ride along Valencia than it is to drive (just ask anyone who's ever tried to park there, ever) or even to walk if you're going a decent distance. Well-established bike lanes and militant bike commuters have drivers on Valencia cowed, so they're usually looking out for cyclists, and the Mission's flatness will have you sailing from Market all the way to El Rio and back. The 1.5-mile stretch of Valencia is bristling with bike racks and we can't speak highly enough about the air compressor outside Valencia Cyclery as first aid for flaccid tires. [Map]
(Photo: Troy/Third Uncle)
BAKER BEACH: CLOSER THAN YOU THINK
Baker Beach is a mecca on hot S.F. days, but getting there can feel like a schlep, especially when everyone and their mom has already staked out a plot of sand and a coveted parking spot. But getting to Baker from the center of the city on your bike is actually a far more enjoyable proposition than you might realize. Join up with the Wiggle in whatever way is most convenient, then continue through the Panhandle, but take a right turn directly after you enter the park (this is officially called Conservatory Drive E.) to join up with Arguello on the north side of the park (it's a quick bit of uphill). Once you're on Arguello, cruise up towards the Presidio and turn left on Lake Street, where a relaxing, tree-lined and relatively flat ride awaits you. Continue on Lake all the way to 25th Avenue, where you'll turn right and then right again to descend, triumphant, to the entrance of the Baker Beach parking lot. It's just over 5 miles each way, just remember to pack a towel, sunscreen and snacks (and let those suckers who really want to drive take care of the beer cooler). [Map]
An early morning view from Hawk Hill. (Credit: Juicyrai)
Rose Garrett and Andrew Dalton contributed to this piece.