In other places, bicycling is a sport or a mode of transportation. In San Francisco, bicycling is a religion. (The concept of mountain biking originated in the City.) As a newcomer to biking in the City, it’s wise to start off gently, perhaps with a guided tour that avoids the dangerous traffic areas.
The fabulously named Blazing Saddles (2715 Hyde St., 415/202-8888, www.blazingsaddles.com) rents bikes and offers guided bicycling tours all over the Bay Area. If you prefer the safety of a group, take the daily guided tour (10 a.m., 3 hours, reservations required) through San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin. You’ll return to the City by ferry.
Blazing Saddles can also supply intrepid cyclists with bike maps of the City and the greater Bay Area. For a sedate introductory ride, you can take the popular self-guided tour of the waterfront.
With five Blazing Saddles locations, most set into the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf area, it’s easy to find yourself a cruiser and head out for a spin.
Not a serious cyclist? Or are you a serious cyclist who’s new to the City? Take the easy and flat nine-mile ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. This is a great way to see the Bridge and the Bay for the first time, and it takes only an hour or two to complete. Another option is to ride across the Bridge and into the town of Sausalito (8 miles) or Tiburon (16 miles), enjoy an afternoon and dinner in Marin, then ride the ferry back into the City. (Bikes are allowed onboard.)
If you’ve got a bit more time and leg strength, consider a scenic ride on the paved paths of Golden Gate Park and the Presidio (20 miles, 2–4 hours without stops). A bike makes a perfect mode of transportation from which to explore the various museums and attractions of these two large parks, and you can spend all day and never have to worry about finding parking spaces.
Looking for some great urban mountain biking? Miles of unpaved roads and trails right inside the city limits are open to bikers, and provide technically challenging rides for adventurous bikers willing to get away from the tourist realms and take a risk or two. Check out the website for San Francisco Mountain Biking (www.sfmtb.com) for information about trails, roads, routes, and regulations.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition