So you’re looking for a great bike ride this weekend to take in all that San Francisco has to offer. Well, you’re on the right track! San Francisco is a biker’s city, and it’s continually adding more bike lanes and safety measures thanks to SF Bike Coalition’s hard work.
But where to begin? Luckily you had the wherewithal to click on this post, and we will not lead you astray. Whether you’re looking for a casual way to see the city or an intense workout, these are six of the best bike rides in San Francisco.
Pro tips before getting started
- If you’re new to biking in San Francisco, there is one bike route you need to know about: The Wiggle. This adorably named route is the flattest way to cross the city. Its name comes from the many turns you take through the Lower Haight and NOPA neighborhoods as you wind through town. If you happen to be heading west, make sure to follow the Wiggle if you want to give your legs a break.
- Watch out for the tracks! San Francisco’s various trains that run through the city are great for commuters, but they’re hell on bicyclists. Most wipeouts happen when a cyclist gets their wheel stuck on a train track. When riding around tracks, give yourself plenty of space, and cross them as perpendicular as you can.
- Don’t have a bike? Not a problem! You can rent them all around the city. Check out Blazing Saddles, Ferry Building Bike Rentals, SF Bicycle Rentals, or FordGo.
A seaside ride
When Karl the Fog finally takes a vacation and a sunny Saturday manifests, get yourself to the Ferry Building. This is an ideal starting point for the many coffee and snack options, as well as the bike rental company positioned out front. Follow the bike path along the Embarcadero and soon you’ll pass The Exploratorium. This would be a good time to indulge the child inside of you and go play with some science experiments.
When you’re done, hop back on your bike and continue north on the Embarcadero. Now, you’ll have plenty of people in your life who will want to visit Pier 39 with you, so on this bike ride, we suggest passing on by — you’ll have other opportunities to see the seals while living here. Follow the bike path, which will take you along the water and then down to Jefferson St. You’ll know you’re there by the smell of the shellfish. Hang a left on Hyde St. and a right on Beach St., and take it all the way to the Maritime Museum and Historic Park. While you tour the historic ships moored right in the bay, enjoy the sea air in your hair.
Easy loop in the Presidio
This gentle two-mile loop has stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and gives you a taste of what the Presidio has to offer. You’ll pass a few picnic spots on this ride, so pack some snacks and enjoy the view. On your way out of the Presidio, explore the Palace of Fine Arts — a great spot to rest and take photos.
Through the park and back
Though this is a nice, relatively flat ride, it clocks in at seven miles round trip, and you feel the incline on the way back (unless you throw your bike on the rack of a muni bus and cruise back into town after your ride). This is a great introduction to Golden Gate Park, if you haven’t been. First, get yourself to Stanyan and Fell, right on the border of the park. Follow John F Kennedy Drive, which has a nice, wide bike path and is closed to cars on Sundays.
Sites you’ll pass on your ride along JFK Drive:
- Conservatory of Flowers: a Victorian greenhouse with regular flower and plant shows.
- The de Young Museum: a museum with a variety of exhibits and a cafe (and the California Academy of Science and Japanese Tea Garden next door).
- Rose Garden: a small garden showcasing several varieties of sweet-smelling roses.
- Stow Lake: a quiet little lake with paddle boats and an island with trails.
- Bison paddock: a meadow where bison sometimes graze.
As you get closer to the beach, JFK Drive veers right. This will take you past Park Chalet, a brewery with food and outdoor seating. Enjoy a snack or a beer, and rest your legs before making the trek back. Or, you can push a little further to Ocean Beach. Once there, make yourself a bonfire (pro tip: pack some brats for roasting!).
Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito
You haven’t lived until you’ve fought against gusts of wind while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Riding across the bridge, you get a view of the ocean, city, and boats braving the chopping waves of the bay below. Fortunately, the western sidewalk is reserved for cyclists most days of the week, so you won’t have to compete with pedestrian traffic.
When you get to Marin, you’ll ride into a parking lot, which leads out to Conzelman Road. Follow that until it ends, and take a left on Alexander Rd. Glide along Alexander Rd. under the highway and into Sausalito. It meanders through town and ends at Richardson St./Bridgeway. Take a right and cycle along the water while taking in the views of Angel Island and Tiburon. Soon after you veer away from the water, hang a right on El Portal and follow to the Ferry Terminal. Purchase a one-way ticket to the Ferry Building, and enjoy the ride back to SF (maybe with a drink in your hand, purchased at the bar).
Trek up to Twin Peaks
This short ride is under the difficult category because though it’s only 1.8 miles, you climb up 735 feet. Start at the beginning of Twin Peaks Blvd. at Clayton St. Ride past houses with some of the best views of the city until you hit the open hills of Twin Peaks.
Slowly make your way up to the top, where you can enjoy the lookout that gives you a killer view of Market St. all the way to the bay.
The best part of this ride? Going back down.
Pro tip: Start your ride from our Mission community for an even bigger challenge!
Mountain biking on Mount Sutro
Though the trails within the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve only add up to about 2.5 miles, its marked mountain biking trails have various ways for you to stretch yourself. Explore this quiet park with towering Eucalyptus trees and get away from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco … while being smack-dab in the middle of San Francisco.
These rides are just the tip of the iceberg. Once you’re comfortable with biking in the city, it may become your main mode of transportation, and in that case, the city is your oyster. If you’re ready to take the plunge and buy a bike of your own, we suggest the following shops: