Best Bike Rides San Francisco  by Wayne Cottrell

Best Bike Rides San Francisco Guide Book

by Wayne Cottrell (Falcon Guides)
Best Bike Rides San Francisco  by Wayne Cottrell
San Francisco has consistently been rated by Bicycling magazine as one of America’s best cities for cycling. San Francisco is the largest city in California to be rated as such. In a fall 2010 issue of VeloNews, five of thirteen of the United States’ most-decorated cyclists rated the San Francisco Grand Prix (unfortunately discontinued as of this writing) as the best-ever American race. San Francisco is consistently rated as one of the top five destination cities in the United States, and Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area—which includes the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, Ocean Beach, the Marin Headlands, and other famous landmarks—is consistently rated as one of the country’s top ten places to visit.

© 2013 Wayne Cottrell /Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Bike Rides San Francisco" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 40.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 40.

The Angel Island Expedition is a double-counterclockwise perimeter ride around Angel Island on paved and dirt roads. Double-counterclockwise? Yes—one loop on the outer, paved perimeter road, with a detour to an inner, unpaved fire road. Riding counterclockwise keeps the bay on your right. This is an excellent ride for children, as only maintenance vehicles ply Angel Island’s roads and the terrain is relatively gentle. The children should be in good enough condition (and decent enough bike handlers) to pedal up and coast down a few hills. The inner loop can be eliminated to make this an easier outing. The outer, paved loop can, in fact, be ridden on a road bike.
Tiburon, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 9.6
This course is a comprehensive tour of San Francisco’s waterfront. San Francisco, shaped like a thumbnail, is bounded on three sides by water: the San Francisco Bay on the east and north, the Golden Gate on the north, and the Pacific Ocean on the west. The west, north, and northeastern waterfronts are very accessible; only portions of the southeastern waterfront are accessible. And to move from the Pacific Ocean to the Bay along the southern extremities of San Francisco requires some urban navigation.
San Francisco, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 31
The Berkeley Hills Challenge is, as suggested by the name, a 33.5-mile-long hilly ride that climbs into the Berkeley Hills, travels along the ridge, plummets down the Hills’ back side, snakes its way back up to the ridge, and eventually descends down the front side to return to the North Oakland Sports Center (NOSC). The route features two loops, connected by a spine that you will ride in two directions. The route passes through two cities, Oakland and Berkeley. The scenery along the route includes pleasant and interesting residential neighborhoods in Berkeley, the “eastside” of the University of California, Berkeley campus, commanding views of the Bay Area along Grizzly Peak Boulevard, and roadside redwood trees along Pinehurst Road. Berkeley is a highly liberal enclave that continues to be associated with the political unrest and civic upheaval of the 1960s.
Emeryville, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 33.5
The Santa Cruz Mountains run north-south along the San Francisco Peninsula, beginning just south of San Francisco. San Bruno Mountain (see Raid de San Bruno Mountain) may be considered the range’s northernmost peak. The northern third of the range, in the area north of SR 92, is dominated by Montara Mountain, which peaks at 1,898 feet (see the Old San Pedro Mountain Road Climb). The middle third of the range begins south of SR 92 and is referred to as the Sierra Morena.
Half Moon Bay, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 25.3
The Briones Hills Workout is aptly named. Many cyclists enjoy the “Bear Creek” loop, which is often used in duathlon and triathlon races, as well as the annual Berkeley Hills Road Race (the 54th edition was held in 2011). The Briones Hills Workout heads in the opposite direction of these races, however, traveling northeast on Bear Creek Road, and then incorporates pleasant and challenging roads on the fringes of the nearby cities of Martinez and Pleasant Hill.
Oakland, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 28.8
Burleigh H. Murray’s father established a ranch in a hidden valley east of present-day Half Moon Bay in 1857. Sheep and cattle were raised on the ranch, which also served as a dairy farm. The property was acquired by the state in 1983 and was preserved as a state park. The historical ranch includes several buildings that are in an “arrested decay” condition, as well as a hiking/ riding trail. The trail is only 2 miles long in each direction, with no spurs, but is nonetheless well worth the journey.
Half Moon Bay, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 4
Anthony Chabot Regional Park, at 4,927 acres (some sources say 5,067 acres), is large enough to warrant a lap around the park as a full-length road ride (see Circle Chabot). The interior of the park, however, is ripe for off-road riding. The park features a designated 12.4-mile Lake Chabot Loop for bicycles. Anthony Chabot Regional Park, at 4,927 acres (some sources say 5,067 acres), is large enough to warrant a lap around the park as a full-length road ride. An off-road enthusiast enjoys the paved, multiuse path hugging Lake Chabot.
San Leandro, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 18.6
The Charles Tilden Wild Ride is a brisk off-road loop through Tilden and Wildcat Canyon Regional Parks along the hills and ridges above Berkeley, El Cerrito, and Richmond. The terrain is mostly dirt, although the closing miles are on the paved Nimitz Way.
Albany, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 13.3
The Chicken Shack Queen Stage is mostly a dirt ride along the trails of several of Marin County’s open spaces, including Marinwood Open Space and Ignacio Valley, Loma Verde, and Pacheco Valle Open Space Preserves. The route follows a clockwise loop on terrain that is at times steep and rugged. The title is merely a play on words: Chicken Shack Fire Road is one of the primary segments of the ride; the main ascent is on Queenstone Fire Road; “queen stage” refers to the most difficult stage of a multiday bicycle race. That said,the Chicken Shack Queen Stage is not the most difficult ride in the book, but the climb up Queenstone Fire Road may have you walking your bike once or twice (or more!).
Novato, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 7.1
China Camp Outing follows a clockwise loop entirely within the boundaries of China Camp State Park in San Rafael. The park is located on the Point San Pedro isthmus, bordering the northwest side of San Francisco Bay. In this environs it is actually San Pablo Bay, despite there being no boundary between the two bays. The ride is ideal for mountain bikes, with a challenging mixture of hills, single-track, and technical segments over dirt and rocks. The challenges are not great, however, making the ride suitable for conditioned beginners.
San Rafael, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 9.2
Circle Chabot is a nifty but challenging loop, wrapping around the perimeter of Anthony Chabot Regional Park in Oakland and Castro Valley. The loop strays from the park’s boundary where necessary to enable continuity. The ride begins at the Castro Valley Community Center in Castro Valley.
Castro Valley, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 25.2
The Circuito de Montagna Montara makes a giant counterclockwise loop around Montara Mountain in northwestern San Mateo County. The mountain is the most prominent peak in the northern part of the Santa Cruz Mountains, which stretch from north to south along the peninsula south of San Francisco. The high point (peak) is at 1,898 feet above sea level. There are no paved roads over the summit, so the Circuito hugs the mountain as closely as possible on good through roads and highways.
Pacifica , CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 36.6
Flat rides in the San Francisco Bay Area are not easy to find, except along the edge of the bay. Fortunately for recreationists, the San Francisco Bay Trail project is working toward completing a 500-mile loop around the bay, hugging the shoreline and wetlands. Most of the terrain is flat, making it a pleasant alternative to the ruggedness of the Bay Area’s interior and ocean coast. As of this writing about 300 miles (60 percent) of the Bay Trail had been finished.
Emeryville, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 23
Escalada Bolinas Andreas is yet another super-scenic ride that is a smorgasbord of sights. In a ranking of “most scenic rides” in this book, I would place this one second or third. The ride starts in the unincorporated town of Bolinas on the coastline of central Marin County. You may not spend much time here (see sidebar), as the ride immediately leaves town and heads out onto the surrounding two-lane roads and highways.
Bolinas, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 43.5
The Giro di Nicasio covers an exciting circuit in central Marin County, somewhat removed from the more popular locales toward the south. The ride begins in the community of Lucas Valley–Marinwood at Marinwood Park on Miller Creek Road. Exit the park, turning left onto Miller Creek Road and then right onto Lucas Valley Road.
Novato, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 33.7
The Guadalupe Canyon Loop is a clockwise loop that passes through Brisbane, South San Francisco, Colma, and Daly City. The feature attraction of the route is Guadalupe Canyon Parkway, which climbs to a crest adjacent to San Bruno Mountain in Daly City. The climb requires some exertion, but with the mountaintop at 1,314 feet, and the road cresting at a lower elevation of 714 feet, the climb is not overly challenging. This makes the route a nifty climb for recreational riders, with the start/finish point close enough to San Francisco for easy access. The route is very much an “urban” ride, in that you never really escape civilization, except for a few miles along the segment of Guadalupe Canyon Parkway that passes through San Bruno Mountain State and County Park.
Brisbane, CA - Road Biking - Trail Length: 10.8
The Hayward Shoreline Dig is a mercifully flat dirt and gravel ride along the shores and former salt evaporators of the San Francisco Bay’s southeast shore. The ride uses the San Francisco Bay Trail, traversing Hayward Regional Shoreline in San Lorenzo and Hayward and Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in southern Hayward. The route is out and back, except for a couple of short loops within the boundaries of the Hayward Regional Shoreline. The only hill on the route is a short climb to the top of a freeway overpass.
San Lorenzo, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 17.1
The Ivan Dickson Memorial Trek follows the Ivan Dickson Memorial Loop in Briones Regional Park. The route pays homage to Ivan Dickson (1898–1993), a legendary hiker who was active well into his eighties. While many memorials tend to pay tribute to benefactors and political leaders, this one acknowledges a man who lived and breathed the trails. This is a challenging ride on graded trails that can be bumpy. The route is consistently hilly, and a few of the climbs and descents are quite steep. All of the descents are rideable, but the Spengler Trail has a few steep “hike-a-bike” segments.
Walnut Creek, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 11.6
Hidden among the hills and residential communities of the city of Belmont, located south of San Francisco in San Mateo County, is a small open space preserve that offers a surprising abundance of secluded and challenging hiking/riding trails. I was pleasantly astonished upon visiting the preserve. The park features a nice mixture of wide- and single-track trails with some technical segments and a few steep climbs and descents. Trail junctions are generally well marked with wooden posts that indicate a numbering system for the trails. The flora are typical of Bay Area open spaces that are not within coastal environs. These include poison oak, buckwheat, clematis, California sagebrush, toyon, sticky monkeyflower, coyote brush, honeysuckle, coastal live oak, California bay, elderberry, and buckeye. Poison oak should be recognizable and avoided.
Belmont, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 5.3
Routes within the confines of a large city that are suitable for mountain bikes are rare, outside of designated parks. A creative rider could probably piece together an urban tour of bumpy back alleys, undeveloped lots, and staircases. It would be nearly impossible to describe such a tour, however, withoutmy clients getting hopelessly lost. San Francisco, fortunately, features a handful of short trails that can be connected via city streets, thereby creating the opportunity for a delightful off-road/on-road combination.
San Francisco, CA - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 9.1