San Francisco is a city of bicycle riders despite the fact that it’s also a city of crazy steep hills. But if you’re up for some adventurous exploring local-style, one of the best ways to do so is from the seat of a bike because you can cover a lot in one day while also having the luxury of stopping whenever you want. There are even ways you can avoid the steepest of hills, and you’ll gain a better sense of the unique little cultures of San Francisco’s colorful neighborhoods. Take a look at this quick guide to some quality biking routes that are pretty easy on the legs and the eyes – just remember to wear your helmet and follow the rules of the road!
Biking Across the Golden Gate Bridge
If you do one bike-related thing in San Francisco, it has to be biking across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. For those who are intimidated by doing it solo and looking for a little insider knowledge, your best bet is to join the Bike the Bay tour offered at all three HI San Francisco hostels. You’ll get to bike along the pier with the famous seals, through the Presidio to the Palace of Fine Arts, and across the iconic bridge with a group of fellow travelers. The tour ends in Sausalito, where you can either take the ferry back or keep exploring the North Bay. The best part is that hostel guests get to keep their discounted rental bikes for the whole day, so once you’re done with the tour, you can keep the momentum going and do some solo exploring with new friends.
Tip: Read more about the Bike the Bay tour – you’ll need a credit card for the bike rental deposit, but HI USA guests pay just $18 to rent the bicycle for the whole day.
Biking to the Mission
The good news is that one of San Francisco’s most vibrant neighborhoods also happens to be its sunniest and flattest. For an easy city cruise we recommend turning onto Valencia Street off Market Street and just making your way down the lane of trendy bars, thrift stores, taquerias and walls decorated with vibrant murals. This is probably one of the most bike-friendly areas in the city so you’ll fit right in, and from here, you’ve got access to the rest of the Mission, including Dolores Park, which makes for an excellent spot to stop for a break.
Tip: Valencia Cyclery keeps an air pump outside in case your tires need a little revitalizing.
Biking to the Beach
On those rare and glorious warm days in San Francisco, everyone makes a beeline for the nearest beach. Starting at the west end of Market Street (towards the Castro), cyclists can catch the famous Wiggle, which locals use as a way to avoid the steepest streets. From Market, turn left at Duboce, then follow the green arrows painted on the street pointing you to left- and right turns until you get to Fell St. This will take you into Golden Gate Park, which makes for an excellent destination itself. If you want to keep going, follow signs for Bicycle Route 830, which will take you straight through the park and drop you at the beach. The route is mostly flat though a little challenging, but it will make your beach excursion that much more rewarding knowing you worked hard to get there.
Tip: Make sure to carry a supply of water and snacks to keep you going along the way.
HI USA Tip: If you are in fact interested in taking on the hills of San Francisco, be sure to take the walking tour offered at the hostels, and while you’re in Sausalito, take a look at some awesome things to do in the North Bay for travelers on a budget.