It’s one thing to have boots on the ground, but rubber on the road is oh so much better. Visitors to San Francisco and Northern California’s greater Bay Area benefit from “off” seasons; opening up possibilities that are less than typical in other U.S. destinations. Meaning, the generally cold and foggy metropolis from May through August makes for a less crowded city. But naturally, summer travellers are going to itch for some ultraviolet light sooner than later. And the best way to do it is by renting a bicycle and peddling yourself over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, past the fog bank and into the breezy climes of Mt. Tamalpais. Here’s how to get the best out of Bay Area biking.
We should note: The sport of mountain biking was born on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais. Hop in the saddle and pedal your way to Mill Valley, Sausalito, Fairfax, Bolinas””any of the towns surrounding the towering mountain that rises from the redwoods at Muir Woods””and you’ll be regaled with stories of local founders of the sport. These include pioneer Gary Fisher, who notoriously rigged two pogo sticks to the front fork of his bike in the mid-1970s, making him the sole biker on the planet to enjoy front suspension for nearly a decade.
There are plenty of outfits to suit the needs of riders based on experience. Blazing Saddles based near Fisherman’s Wharf, outfits riders of all types and sends you with a map and a dream along the scenic Marina district before popping over the bridge. You can then make your way into the lovely fishing village of Sausalito, where lunch, plenty of shops and photogenic vistas of the city await.
The various outfits can offer your choice of beach cruiser, road or mountain bike, and some have hybrid electric bikes for those seeking a little boost up the infamous hills of S.F.
Those who want guaranteed sunshine and a little adrenaline rush can book a Bay Area biking experience with Mountain Biking Marin. The outfit employs seasoned trail riding enthusiasts who know single track, fire road and backcountry routes better than most in the area. Tours include loops through Tennessee Valley (which brings you from lowland scrubs through a wooded forest and out to a secluded beach) as well as a 7-mile loop off Lucas Valley Road called “Big Rock”, which is teeming with wildlife and vistas across the North Bay.
A lesser-known destination for bikers is the Western Marin region surrounding Point Reyes and Inverness, a thin peninsula that skirts the rugged coastline and Tomales Bay. Point Reyes National Seashore is a 71,000-acre park teeming with bird sanctuaries, coastal vistas and a staggering number of trails for riders of all levels.
If big thrills are your speed, don’t skip the opportunity to visit the Lake Tahoe region, three hours inland from San Francisco. The winter ski town is rife with well-maintained trails, for both lakeside and mountain biking adventures.
Are you a biking enthusiast? Have you been to any of the Bay Area biking spots mentioned in our feature? Share your highlights in the comments section below.
Written by Brian Berusch