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.
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 26-mile ride is perfect if you’ve trained a couple weeks and are ready to hit some rolling hills and steady climbs. Starting at Orinda BART, you will explore a variety of terrain, from sunny mountaintops to cool redwood groves. The ride ends after a series of glorious panoramas of the bay along switchbacks towards the top of Grizzly Peak. There are hardly any flat stretches, and most of the time, you will have the whole road to yourself…you may not see an automobile for miles!
Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen (Fri-Sat 11:30 am – 10 pm) awaits at Berkeley after an electrifying descent – make sure you check your brakes before the ride! There are plenty of vegetarian options, including the Vegetable Muffuletta (pictured above), and a delectable Macaroni and Cheese. If you arrive during peak hours and don’t want to wait in line, the so-called “Gourmet Ghetto” is 1 mile farther north on Shattuck.
START at Orinda BART. Exiting BART, turn RIGHT onto Camino Pablo. In 0.2 miles, Camino Pablo turns into Moraga Way. Continue reading →
This 37-mile ride starts and ends at the Walnut Creek BART station, winding through off-road paved trails and city bike lanes to Martinez, around Port Costa, through Crocket, and back. The ride includes over 1200ft of elevation gain, with the bulk of climbing – along with the best panoramas – along Carquinez Scenic Dr/Snake Road. I have included a “shortcut” in this ride that will shave off 2-3 miles from the total distance and bring you through some more challenging natural terrain.
Lunch options abound! In Martinez, where you can stop at the Sunday Farmer’s market on Main St. from 10:00AM – 2:00PM. This time, we stopped at Luigi’s Deli and Market for well-priced custom sandwiches on local Semifreddi’s handcrafted bread and sundry 99-cent drinks. There’s also Creek Monkey gastropub. Although their lunch/dinner menu looks delightful with their microbrews, they only serve from brunch on Sundays, and you’re out of luck if you don’t eat eggs.
For a beer break, stop at Warehouse Café on the waterfront. It’s bikers, bikers, and more bikers – both the motorized and non-motorized variety, a large outdoor space to sprawl out beer-garden-style, and a taxidermy polar bear inside. Prices are a bit high, and portions small. Since it’s still winter and daylight hours were short, we didn’t stay here too long before climbing up and out of the park again.
In high summer, there can be minimal wind and high temperatures with few opportunities for shade once you’ve left the Contra Costa Trail. In autumn or spring, there can be slight headwinds heading towards the water.
START at Walnut Creek BART, head EAST on Ygnacio Valley Road, SECOND RIGHT on N Main St.