Distance: 23 miles roundtrip Time: 2-3 hours Difficulty: Medium Elevation Gain: ~1900ft Road: Shared single-lane road with cars
This medium ride is short but steep, a foggy climb to the pastoral Pelican Inn at Muir Beach. From the Golden Gate Bridge, this route follows the touristy road to Sausalito but branches off onto Highway 1 (Shoreline Highway) shortly after. From there, you will climb from 100 feet below sea level to 550 feet above, into the fog and back out towards the shore.
The Pelican Inn is more realistically modeled in the 16th century style than the re-enactment at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony – you half expect a Tudor bard to jump out from around a corner. The Pelican Inn is biker and hiker friendly, with a bike rack nestled right on their front lawn. The heated patio is a lovely way to fuel up with the Pelican Pale Ale and some authentic British food. The Bangers and Mash (pictured above) were tasty with the fresh peas, and the Shepherd’s Pie doesn’t cut any corners.
These well-paved bike and pedestrian roads can get crowded on the weekends but have very low traffic on weekdays. You will find the journey relatively smooth, but you will also notice scars on the road from the horizontal tectonic activity.
The end destination is Himawari (202 2nd Ave), a Japanese restaurant that pre-dates the newer Ramen joints in town. Their Tonkotsu ramen has been my favorite so far, but if you like a little more kick to your ramen, opt for the Szuechuan-inspired Tan Tan noodles (below). And for an elegant side, the Agedashi Dofu (pictured above).
Distance: 42 miles Time: 4-5 hours Difficulty: Medium Elevation Gain: ~1600ft Road: Mostly away from car traffic with 5 miles of dirt and gravel road Landscape: Industry and Conservation
This long medium route covers the majority of the San Francisco Bay’s eastern shore, taking you through industry, ecological reserves, suburban sprawl, and across the Dumbarton Bridge to Stanford University. Being mostly flat, this route is perfect for riders who want to go far and see much without having to tackle too many hills.
A few notes to help you prepare: Approximately 5 miles of dirt and gravel road are on the Hayward Shoreline of this ride. You may venture inland to avoid them, but you will miss an incredibly scenic tour of wetlands, migratory birds, and crashing waves. I was fine on 700×23 tires, but it doesn’t hurt to use fatter ones.
You have your pick of restaurants once you reach University Ave in Palo Alto. I was craving spice and carbohydrates, so I opted for Darbar (129 Lytton Ave). The service was classy, the flavor profiles robust. Naan and rice come with your entrees. There is a very non-traditional beef samosa on the menu, which I didn’t try. Conveniently, the restaurant is located one block from the Caltrain station.
START at West Oakland BART, exit SOUTH on Mandela Pkwy. In0.2 miles, Mandela Pkwy becomes 3rd St. Continue reading →
Distance: 23 miles Time: 2-3 hours Difficulty: Medium Elevation Gain: ~1000ft Road: Well-paved with brief sections of sand, rubble, and un-maintained road.
This medium loop is good for a day when you want a challenging climb like Twin Peaks, but you want to get a little farther away from San Francisco. The hardest section is up San Bruno Mountain, but it is swiftly rewarded by a breathtaking descent where you will go upwards of 50 miles per hour with a view of the Sunset District and SF Bay that you just can’t get from Bernal Hill!
Starting at Mojo Bicycle Cafe (639 Divisadero), you can fill up on coffee, breakfast bagels, and the occasional offerings of a guest chef. Plus, you can hit the shop in the back for any last-minute supplies. I myself stopped in for some toe cages for my touring bike to help crank up some inclines.
In Daly City, there are lots of Burmese and Filipino restaurants to stop. I’ll save those for another tasty post and skip to the Dogpatch neighborhood, where the finish line is Hard Knox Café (2526 3rd St) ”southern homestyle cooking.”
For me, the highlight of Hard Knox was the hot-from-the-oven cornbread muffin that preceded the entrées. Perfectly baked from outside to inside and neither too sweet nor too salty, there’s a slight grainy crunch from the corn fibers. The award-winning fried chicken is served up a number of different ways, and if a three-piece meal is too large for you, you can order individuals! There aren’t a lot of vegetarian options – the collard greens and cabbage are both cooked in chicken broth. As for beer, Hard Knox sports a comprehensive selection, including their crisp and light house ale and southern delights like Purple Haze!
This easy 28.9 mile ride from the Mission District in San Francisco to IndoChinese food in San Carlos is a variation of the Bay Trail. Instead of taking a winding route along the airport, this inland one is easier to navigate. What you’ll miss in jet fuel fumes will probably be made up in automobile fumes before you shoot out along the bay for the last third of the stretch. Getting out of San Francisco is the most challenging part of this ride – there are three small climbs before you hit San Bruno. From there, it’s all downhill, and you can take Caltrain back from the San Carlos station. Total elevation gain is a mere 438 feet.
Don’t tell your gang about Red Cafe (2894 Mission St at 25th) – okay, maybe tell your closest brunching biker pals. The chilaquiles are out of this world! They’re a million times fresher, crispier, and tastier than the ones at the Saturday Ferry Building Farmer’s market. And a little insider tip from my friend Vincente – order the casamiento style refried beans and rice – not a lot of places in SF serve it. Add a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, and you’ve got enough energy and protein to take you on a long ride.
Red Hot Chili Pepper (1125 San Carlos Ave at El Camino Real) in San Carlos is the end destination. Yes, they use Ghost Pepper, 3x hotter than a habanero, and the world’s hottest naturally grown pepper. Yes, we tried the Devil’s Vegetables. Yes, they were hot! It was a slow burn on the palate, with an onset of about 10 minutes before the full effects were felt. I didn’t get the heartburn I anticipated, and it was okay going through the rest of my GI tract. The Vegetable Coins in Manchurian Sauce were my favorite dish – a sweeter, earthier contrast to the Devil’s Vegetables. The decor here is a swanky modern Asian, so it felt a little funny strolling in wearing a chamois and covered in road dirt.
This easy 16 mile ride out and back takes you along the rolling and bumpy hills of the West Shore Trail of Lake Chabot, through the strip malls of Castro Valley, and out to Val’s Burgers in Hayward. Total roundtrip elevation gain is 1,000 feet. The short trek is a half-and-half mix of solitary natural environments and dusty suburban sprawl. Bring a lock and some cash for Val’s.
On Lake Chabot, you’ll be sheltered from the sun by trees, and the only major obstacles you will encounter are pedestrians and children. Proceed slowly around sharp turns, and take special care within 1 mile of park entrances, where there is a denser population of families. There are only a few stretches of paved roads on the West Shore Trail and East Shore Trail. Bring your fat tires for dirt roads if you want to do a loop around the reservoir.
In Castro Valley, you will be in traffic with cars, despite the fact that Google Maps indicates bike paths. There is no shoulder here, and the roads are pockmarked from ongoing construction. We took up the entire right lane, and cars were respectful and safe when passing.
Val’s Burgers is for omnivores – and boy howdy is it tasty! They make a well-seasoned fresh patty and have some fantastic condiments to go with it. The huge fat fries were definitely the shining star of sides. Open since 1958, they have preserved the 60′s diner feel with vintage signs, neon lights, red and chrome bar stools, and a machine that can dish out up to 12 milkshakes at a time!
The decision to eat a burger was not without some guilt about about the environmental footprint. In the end, I justified it by the fact that I bike or take public transit almost everywhere, eat mostly vegetarian, and haven’t had a burger for almost a year.
The ride is fairly urban until Novato, when you will begin to pass through 14 miles of agricultural knolls leading up to Petaluma. This section contains the most noticeable and condensed amount of elevation gain: 1,317 feet total. Although the number look like a no-brainer, keep in mind that you will be unsheltered by trees or structures, exposed to the brunt of the gusty winds and heat of the sun, especially if you ride alone. When I went, I was slammed by multi-directional gusts up to 23 mph. In addition to adding resistance to your efforts, the wind picks up neighboring farm dust and cow manure, making the stretch even more challenging for those with sensitive palates.
The Lagunitas Taproom (sat/sun 11:30 am – 8 pm) features a covered outdoor picnic area and special-release brews that are not sold anywhere else. They offer prizes on their daily tours, and over half their sandwiches are vegetarian. I sat down to their home-made red pepper hummus and pita chips, artichoke heart sandwich on ciabatta, and a glass Cappuccino Stout.
If you’re looking to escape the rowdiness of the tap room, Aqus Cafe (189 H Street) is close to the water and the bus terminal. Located in a quiet, residential nook, this community space has plenty of bike parking and outdoor seating, as well as live music on Sunday afternoons. In addition to a spicy cup of Babba Chai, they also have vegan-friendly and gluten-free options on their extensive menu.
START at the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge, and take your pick of the following routes to Sausalito: Continue reading →
This simple 28-mile loop around Pescadero will be a breeze if you ride every weekend, and it will take you away from cars, through agricultural land, rocky mountainside, and fragrant Eucalyptus and Redwood trees of Sam McDonald Park. Total elevation gain is between 2,500 and 2,900 feet.
The main events of this ride are two 1-mile climbs of 250 feet and one final 5 mile climb where you’ll gain 650 feet winding to and fro among the redwoods! Cell phone reception is limited in the mountains, so make sure your whole group knows the directions and meeting points before you take off.
The food options in Pescadero are fresh, as both artichoke and grass-fed beef are the pride of the local agricultural industry. At the deli-restauraunt-bar Pescadero Country Store, you can park your bike at an outdoor picnic tables and enjoy your vegetarian pizza and fried artichoke hearts with a glass of wine or bottle of sparkling water. Next door, we picked up loaves of Artichoke Garlic Herb bread from Arcangeli Grocery Co (Norm’s Market), still warm in their bags.
Harley Farms recently had 102 kids! If you swing by, you’ll get to see the little ones, pick up award-winning cheese, and maybe a goat’s milk skincare product or two. The lotions and creams contain high levels of vitamins, natural beta-hydroxy and lactic acid exfoliants, and pH levels close to human skin. Call me bourgeoise, I have to admit that it was really hard not to walk away with a soft pair of Selina Scott’s Angora Goat Wool socks for a sweaty ride on a cool, crisp day!
START at Pescadero Creek Rd and Stage Rd. Head NORTH on Stage Rd. The first mile will be flat, and the next four miles will feature the two of the three climbs on this ride. Continue reading →
This easy 31-mile ride from the Golden Gate Bridge to San Rafael and back is perfect for the casual rider who wants to tackle a few small hills, and whose desired cuisine extends beyond Sausalitan Fish and Chips. With 2,000 feet of total elevation gain, the frequent rolling terrain makes the uphills very manageable. To do half the ride, take public transit home.
The bike side of the Golden Gate Bridge is closed through April; bikes and pedestrians currently share the eastern pathway. Start your morning early so that you’ll have a little more room for the way there, at least. If you venture onto the bridge in the afternoon, beware of wandering children, dazed tourists, aggressive roadies, and large bicycle tour groups. Call out, use signals, and proceed slowly, especially if you see someone not paying attention. We got lucky with sunshine galore, but faced strong headwinds over 25 mph on the road home.
Sol Food features a fantastic array of home -roasted, -braised, and -stewed Puerto Rican food. The decor is vibrant, and floor-to-ceiling windows make the space airy during the day. Seating is family style. Order at the register, and they will speedily bring your meal. Highlights are their Veggie Deluxe sandwich, and their Bistec steak sandwich. Their tasty drinks are served in large mason jars and include their delicious home-brewed Te Helado orange mango iced tea. Their salad is dressed with a garlicy vinaigrette, and if you like their secret recipe hot sauce, you can order a bottle to take home with you. We arrived before 12 and didn’t see a line, but you can order to-go next door if the wait is too long.
From the Marin side of Golden Gate Bridge, take your pick of the following routes to Sausalito.
While the western bike lanes on GG Bridge are still closed, you will see designated bike lanes through a parking lot and signage towards Sausalito and Tiburon. Either follow the cyclists or signs down Vista Point Rd. Continue onto Alexander Ave for 1.3 miles. Continue reading →