Trip Taken: 2004, 2009
I have done this bike ride twice in my life so far and I highly recommend this day trip itinerary to anyone visiting San Francisco. It is a great little work out so you have to be in moderate shape for it. Especially the very first part when you are going over the hill from Fisherman’s Wharf to Fort Mason. The beauty of this bike ride is that you get to see most of the great attractions next to the water: Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Mason, the Marina, Sausalito, the Ferry Building, and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. There is also the option to visit Tiburon if you so choose, but I’ll get to that later.
Renting the Bike
To rent a bike, head to Fisherman’s Wharf. Bike shops open fairly early in the morning. I headed to the wharf around 7am to do a long bike tour. The buses and the trolleys run early so it’s very easy to get on one. You’ll see most of the commuters on the buses but it’s nice being the only tourist in a crowd in a tourist city. I went to the Blazing Saddles bike shop in Fisherman’s Wharf. Honestly, any of the bike shops will do. They have the same prices and I think all of them have a coupon on the free map you get at your hotel. So be it Bike and Roll, Blazing Saddles, or Bay City Bike, take your ass out and start riding. On a side note, if you wake up early enough, it might be worthwhile to drop by Mama’s on Washington Square before the lines start forming. Mama’s opens at 8am.
Riding along the marina and through Fort Mason is definitely one of the highlights of the bike ride. The road is flat and you have a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge. You really should enjoy the view of the bridge and watch the wild birds play in the protected sanctuary. The exercise portion of the bike ride begins in earnest the closer you get to the bridge. For me, this is the most difficult part as it’s a fairly steep incline and it hits you immediately. You can walk your bike up if you would like, but you’re losing your workout. The bridge itself is slightly arched so be prepared for a little bit of work up until the halfway point. There will be people on the bridge so bike carefully and use your bell often. Once on the other side of the bridge you hit Vista Point and a long stretch of downhill awaits.
Sausalito and Coming Back
The bike ride to Sausalito gets a little bit hilly, but definitely not as strenuous as the bike ride up to the Golden Gate Bridge. You will reach Sausalito in no time. After you lock your bike up near the dock, you can do a little bit of exploring in Sausalito. In my opinion, there really isn’t anything to do there. There are some neat art galleries and boutique stores. But it’s hard to carry any large souvenirs on a rental bike. Check the times of the ferry and return to the city when you’re ready. A one way ticket doesn’t cost that much and you arrive at the Ferry Building where you can grab a pricey lunch. Or you can ride to Tiburon and take Tiburon’s ferry back to the ferry building. Personally, I get tired just from the back ride to Sausalito, but I hear the ride to Tiburon is gorgeous. The ferry building is Pier 1. Fisherman’s Wharf is Pier 40+. It’s a fairly flat ride to Fisherman’s Wharf. Enjoy your journey back.
BONUS: Dinner in North Beach
If you did a late bike ride and not an early bike ride, then head on over to North Beach after you have returned your bicycle. There are a bunch of great restaurants in North Beach and I would strongly recommend eating at these fine establishments.
Some of them have changed since my days as a Bay Area resident, but I’m sure any place packed with people would make a great casual dinner. Michelangelo Caffe used to serve huge portions of seafood in their seafood pasta. I’m not sure if they do anymore. I hope they do.
Golden Gate Bridge Bike Ride Video