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San Diego’s Best Road Bike Routes

| Greg Hodges
Travel

Sick of the winter weather and desperately need to start planning your next cycling trip? Yeah, us too. We were thinking San Diego.

San Diego has something for every rider—challenging road routes, leisurely trails, rides that will push your limits, and rides that prioritize the microbrews over the microbursts. It’s easy to see why plenty of pros train in San Diego during the offseason. Cycling-friendly, gorgeous-beach-boasting, better-weather-than-yours San Diego! Seriously, how much are flights right now?

From South Bay to Oceanside, here’s some of our favorite routes we love to ride when we’re in “America’s Finest City.”

Bayshore Bikeway

The Bayshore Bikeway is an iconic 24-mile ride through downtown, Coronado, and South Bay. The route includes about 13 miles of car-free bicycle paths and wraps around San Diego Bay, through Silver Strand State Beach and the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It’s an easy, mostly flat ride, full of sightseeing, shopping, and dining opportunities. While you can make the trek in either direction, we suggest taking a water taxi across the landing and starting your ride at Coronado Ferry Landing—plus, parking is easier that way. There are plenty of places to eat and drink at the beginning and the end but not much in the middle, so bring water and a few snacks.

Recommended BMC Bike for this route: BMC granfondo GF01 Ultegra

 

State Route 56

Looking for the spot locals go to train and get away from the whiney tourists? Welcome to the polar opposite of the Bayshore Bikeway—State Route 56 Bike Path. Running along (you guessed it) State Route 56 for much of the way, this traffic-separated, 14-mile connection between inland and coastal San Diego features a gradual incline going west to east. The scenery is a little drab in the eastern section and picks up as you ride west and follow the river bed. It should be noted that there aren’t any bathrooms or water on the path itself, but there is a convenience store and gas station next to the trail at Camino Del Sur, near the halfway point.

 

Recommended BMC Bike for this route: BMC roadmachine RM02 Ultegra Di2

 

Mount Palomar

How does a 13-mile ascent up a 6,000-foot peak sound? If you answered “invigorating” or “what memories are made of”—we like your style—and you’ll love Mount Palomar. During the opening 5-mile stretch, you climb about 1,500 feet at an average grade of 6.3 percent—then the fun really starts as you power through 20 switchbacks and reach 4,100’. Here, you can either end the climb at the Sound Grade Road or continue onto Crestline Road up to the summit.

In terms of places to stop, the taco shop at the beginning is a decent spot for lunch after you come back down, and there’s a general store and great cyclist cafe (Mother’s Kitchen) near the top of the climb.

 

 

Recommended BMC Bike for this route: BMC teammachine SLR01 Dura-Ace

 

Saturday Swami

If you’re looking for some group motivation and you’re in pretty good shape, you have to check out Saturday Swami’s club ride. The group ride starts in Solana Beach and, while the route can vary each weekend, generally the pack heads through the Elfin Forest to Escondido then back along Del Dios and through Rancho Santa Fe to the coast, returning to Solana Beach—a total distance of 38 miles. There are two groups that head out shortly after 8 a.m. each Saturday, both very fast, but only group A is for, as the website puts it, “any hardware (medals) from States, Nationals, Olympics, Worlds or make your living riding a bike really fast . . . if you’re ‘reconnecting’ with your bike fitness, or you want to ride at a pace less than full on OMG this hurts . . . race pace, the B ride is for you.”

As a note, if you’re looking for a less intense group ride, North County Cycling Club hosts a number group rides on the weekends for varying levels of riders, including shorter routes around the Lake Hodges area.

 

Recommended BMC Bike for this route: BMC timemachine TMR01 Ultegra

 

PCH

You can’t talk San Diego routes without mentioning the Pacific Coast Highway. Obviously, the old highway stretches all the way up the California coast, but locals like to start their route in Del Mar, head through Camp Pendleton above Oceanside before turning back south again. The route offers a good variety of rolling hills and flat stretches and includes many stopping points along the way.

 

 

Recommended BMC Bike for this route: BMC crossmachine CXA01 Rival CX1

 

Mission Trails

We know, we know—this is a list of road routes. But we couldn’t resist. Just take a short 10-mile drive northeast of downtown, and you’ll wind up in Mission Trails Regional Park—6,000 acres of mountain biking trails for nearly every type of rider and experience level. Split by the Fortuna Mountains, the eastern portion is home to leisurely, sightseeing rides, while the west attracts more experienced cyclists.

Trail map

Recommended BMC Bike for this route: BMC speedfox 01 XT-XTR

Enjoy the ride.