Biking San Francisco

When Ben and I got to San Francisco, our first order of touristy business when we left the airport was the Golden Gate Bridge, obviously. There are a variety of ways to see the bridge: drive over it, take a bus tour over it, park the car on one side and walk or bike over it, or rent a bike and ride through the city to the bridge. The first two must be lame because how can you even see anything at 40mph? The parking lots before the bridge are crazy packed so good luck with that. We did the last option and it was awesome. We rented our bikes through CityRide Bike Rentals in Hayes Valley, solely because I had already booked a tour with their sister company Streets of San Francisco, and therefore had a 50% discount on rentals (FYI - they offer 20% just for booking on their website). I found SOSF (and therefore CityRide) via Google and chose them because we had a limited time frame and they happened to have a tour that fit our window.
I chose a road bike since that's what I'm used to riding, but they have comfort and commuter style bikes as well. We walked up, were greeted by a couple of friendly dudes with beards, hopped on the bikes that had already been prepped for us, grabbed helmets and bike locks, spent a few minutes going over how to get to the bridge with one of the bearded dudes, and then we were ready to roll.

This ride is fun but it's not exactly for the faint of heart. San Francisco is bike-friendly and there are lots of bike lanes, markings, and even bike-specific traffic signals, but it was still what you'd imagine a ride through the city would be like. And don't forget that SF is a friggin' HILLY city. The route that the bike shop suggests does guide you around the hills as much as possible (The Wiggle is popular among SF's cyclists), but you do have to go up some eventually. Once you get through the city you get into the Presidio, which is more of a gradual incline leading up to the bridge.

So why would you torture yourself riding 45 minutes through the city and uphill when you could have just driven?

Because this.

And this.

And this.

We happened to be there on a miraculously clear day and the views going up were stunning. Sure, you could drive a car up the same roads and stop at the same pullouts, but I really don't think it would have the same effect . There's just something about riding alongside those vistas in the open air, not inside a metal and glass box.

Biking the GGB was the very first thing we did in California and, oddly enough, riding bikes was also the last thing we did in California before we left. Our last itinerary item was that aforementioned bike tour, which was different from the bike rental gig since we were in a group this time (we were with 5 other people) and a tour guide to lead us around the city. We met at the same bike shop where we already had bikes waiting for us (we didn't get to choose this time and were all given comfort bikes) and were introduced to our tour guide, Josh. This was the 3rd run/bike tour I've done in a major U.S. city, so I'm not exactly an expert, but my experience so far has been that the guides are super awesome, friendly, willing to answer all kinds of questions, and are chock full of interesting tidbits about the city since they're either natives or have lived there for a significant period of time. Josh was no exception. He grew up just a couple miles from where the bike shop is located and had all kinds of interesting information - both factual and personal - about every neighborhood we went to.

We chose the Heart of the City tour, which is ~3.5 hours long and covers ~9 miles. We ventured from Hayes Valley over to Market Street/South of Market, into the Mission District, through the Castro and  Lower Haight, rode through the Panhandle to Golden Gate Park, to Haight-Ashbury and back to the bike shop.











Notably, this tour did not go over the Golden Gate Bridge (which is why I wanted to make sure we did that on our own), and I really think I preferred it that way. I felt like we saw so much of the city, some of the touristy parts but a lot of the real parts. Being on this tour didn't feel like the massive cluster-you-know-what that the various groups we side riding over the bridge looked like, but instead felt like hanging out casually riding around with friends for a few hours. There were also delicious fresh berries that we picked up at the farmers market for some mid-ride fuel, so...there's that.

12 comments :

  1. how fun!!! i tried a few of those 'comfort' bikes (we call them Townies) and omg, SO COMFORTABLE but i couldn't see one doing that tour on that kind of bike? or maybe if you go at a slower pace. and SF is such a gorgeous place to do a bike ride/tour anyway.

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  2. I LOVE San Francisco!!!! Did you go to Alcatraz? Did you have some of the best food of your life? Did you go to Twin Peaks? The first time I was on Ashbury Street as soon as I got out of the car some guy with a cat in a cage asked me if I wanted to buy drugs. Then he said that later the cat would make a good snack.

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  3. Gorgeous photos! I can't wait to visit some day. Bike riding is the best for getting in some exercise without watching the clock on an elliptical or treadmill ;)

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  4. What a great idea to do a bike tour!!! Your pictures are absolutely amazing, it sounds like such a great time!!!! I would love to visit that area some time. The bridge itself is amazing. I love that last picture, looks like Full House and makes me all giddy :)

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  5. Ahh such gorgeous pictures! I love biking (leisurely), but I think I would be nervous there with all of the hills and traffic! When we did the bike tour in New Orleans, it was really good, but we were both a little bit bored with all of the constant stopping and I think we would have preferred to just rent bikes on our own.

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  6. oh my goodness! what gorgeous photos. definitely want to do this if / when we ever get there.

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  7. We did the park and walk over the bridge thing, but that's because I'm not even sure if my parents CAN ride a bike. hahaha. But I LOVED the bridge - obviously, super cool. We didn't really spend much time in SF though, so I would looove to go back. I think the bike tour would be fun!

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  8. These photos are absolutely amazing!! I am so glad you got to see all those great sights and have a good and sweaty time doing it. You've also absolutely convinced me to do a bike or running tour the next time I visit a new city :)

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  9. I love all of that graffiti art! How awesome. I came across a lot of that in Austin a few weekends ago. :)

    I totally want to do a running and a biking tour. So fun.

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  10. So fun! Beautiful shots of the bridge and the shore there.

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  11. So fun! I'l need to do this next time I am in SF.

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