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Bicycling San Francisco: What Kind of Cyclist Are You?

April 9th, 2013 · 1 Comment · Bikes

For a city known for its hills, I have no idea how or why bicycles took off as a major method of transportation in San Francisco. But, the San Francisco bike messenger is a city icon right up there with the Silicon Valley entrepreneur and locavore chef. Particularly within the past few years, though, it seems like everybody here is getting into cycling, and it’s particularly a great way for tourists to get out and see the real San Francisco.

Of course, not all cyclists are created equal. Keep reading to figure out what kind of cyclist you are, along with my tailored-for-you recommendations for touring SF on two wheels.



The Lycra Road Warrior

This might be you if:

1. Obviously, you own a lycra bicycle outfit.

2. You actually did some research before buying your bicycle. And then went and paid real money for it.

3. You care about things like drafting and electrolytes.


You should consider renting from:

The Sports Basement, The Presidio

San Francisco Bike Rentals, Fisherman’s Wharf


Where to go:

Make like most cyclists in this city and head to Marin Country. Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t the bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito that’s plastered all over the Blazing Saddles bike maps (even though that’s not for the faint of heart either). Serious cyclists take it to the winding cliff side highways of the north bay, making their way through seaside villages, dairy farms, and redwood groves. For a short ride, consider cycling to the Marin Headlands for dizzying views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate. If you want to make it epic, plan a trek to Point Reyes Station for lunch at Cowgirl Creamery or at the oyster farms on Tamalas Bay.



The Urban Cyclist

This might be you if:

1. You’ve taken part in a Critical Mass ride. Or, you know what Critical Mass is and choose not to partake in it.

2. You bought the cheapest road bike you could find on Craigslist and you plan on riding it into the ground.

3. You cycle as an alternative to driving or riding transit.


You should consider renting from:

Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours and Rentals, Hayes Valley

Bike Hut, South Beach


Where to go:

You could go to San Francisco’s Mission District and hang out with fellow urban cyclists. Or, if you want something a bit more interesting, I’d recommend heading over to the industrial waterfront of up-and-coming Dogpatch. This narrow slice of a neighborhood, three miles south of Union Square, is bordered by the mountainous Potrero Hill on one side and the working piers of San Francisco Bay on the other. You can cruise past desolate urban warehouses and piers, maybe catching the phenomenal sight of a 200 ft tall cruise ship docked for repairs, then head inland to 3rd Street for some of San Franciso’s best new restaurants.

If you do make it down there, make sure to check out Warm Water Cove for wildflowers taking over abandoned industrial lots, crumbling warehouses, and impromptu public art displays.



The Beach Cruiser

This might be you if:

1. You cycle when you’re on vacation

2. You like to cruise nice and slow, preferably on a boardwalk.

3. You don’t want any part of hills or rush hour roads.


You should consider renting from:

Parkwide Bike Rentals and Tours

Golden Gate Park Bike and Skate


Where to go:

Of course, you could go bicycling along the Marina; it’s a favorite pastime for visitors to San Francisco. With flat streets and Golden Gate Bridge views and some of San Francisco’s finest restaurants only a few blocks away, the Marina is a no-brainer.

But, if you’d like to do something a little bit more local but just as fantastic, head to Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach. On Sundays, San Francisco shuts down JFK Drive, the park’s major thoroughfare, to auto trafic, and the entire city floods in on bicycles, roller blades, unicycles, and even tricycles. It’s pretty much the happiest place on Earth.

After cycling through Eucalyptus groves and past the Golden Gate Park buffalo range and rose garden, you’ll come to San Francisco’s 10-mile long sandy beachfront: Ocean Beach. From there, you can cruise on the wide cement boardwalk, stop for lunch at the Beach Chalet, pick up sandwiches from nearby Safeway for a beach picnic, or head a few blocks north for an elegant lunch at the Cliff House or a ramble through the Sutro Baths ruins.


Additional Resources

Check out SF Travel’s Top Five Bike Rentals.

For specific route information, check out Google Maps Bicycle Directions. Click on Get Directions and the Bicycle icon to see all of San Francisco’s bike lanes and bike paths.


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