blog

San Francisco’s Best Road Bike Routes

| Greg Hodges
Travel

Thinking of visiting San Francisco? Why not bring your bike?

Don’t get us wrong. Cycling in San Francisco can be treacherous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Those famed steep hills, heavy traffic in places, difficulty crossing major intersections, and the lack of bike lanes on many older streets makes you think this might be the opposite of a cycling-friendly city—but that’s just not the case.
Riding bikes in the second most densely populated city in America is incredibly popular with nearly 5 percent of commuters riding to work, up 16 percent from 2012. In fact, this past year, Bicycling.com named San Francisco second, behind Chicago, on its annual 50 Best Bike Cities list, based on “everything from miles of bike lanes to the percentage of cycling commuters who are female—a key indicator of safe bike infrastructure—to the number of cyclist-friendly bars.”
To take it a step further, recently Fog City has also not only broke ground on a number of protected bike lane projects, but also began to analyze and design improvements to the SF’s most dangerous streets.
Alright, enough chit chat, let us show you around to our favorite routes to ride when we’re in the city by the bay.

Headlands Loop

Like most of the rides we’ll recommend, we start this route on the city side of the bay. This short, 18-mile route delivers some of the best views in Northern California while combining sustained climbs with technical descents. It’s a strenuous, yet rewarding route with plenty of places to stop and grab coffee or snap a few photos.

Recommended BMC Bike for this route: BMC teamelite 02 Deore-SLX

Point Reyes Loop

Here’s a 60-mile loop that starts relatively easy with a few rolling hills and ends with a pair of challenging Marin climbs, so be prepared. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to refuel at the halfway point with a cup of coffee and a pastry from Bovine Bakery. You’ll enjoy quiet roads and breathtaking scenery as you wind through and overlook Pt. Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Areas.

Recommended BMC Bike for this route: BMC teammachine ALR01 Ultegra

Butterlap

While this one is a little touristy it does offer a great workout and a chance to explore North SF without venturing outside the city. Breeze along the coast through Golden Gate Park for nearly 19 miles with climbs near the middle and the end of the route. You can even snap a pic of Alcatraz or the Golden Gate Bridge and feel like a real tourist. Every Wednesday at 7pm, a group meets in front of the Ferry Building to head out on the Butterlap with frequent stops for food and drinks along the way—think more socializing than exercising—ending about 9:30 or 10pm.

Recommended BMC Bike for this route: BMC alpenchallenge AC01 IGH

China Camp

Here’s a 35-mile route that has something for every type of rider. The paved road along the perimeter is ideal for road bikes with skinny tires, while the interior offshoot trails are perfect for mountain bikers to explore. Did you know, that Marin County is actually considered the birthplace of mountain biking as we know it? Crazy. Anyways, with views of the Bay and sensational scenery in every direction as you approach the mid point, it’s a perfect opportunity to bring a lunch and take a break China Camp State Park.

Recommended Bike for this route: BMC roadmachine RM02 105

Marshall Wall

Reserve an entire day for this 92-mile trek across North Bay suburbs and into open, rural farmland. Throughout the ride, you’ll enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean and Marin County’s Arroyo Sausal Reservoir as you conquer the ascends up the three “walls” throughout this route. But don’t worry, these walls are tame by comparison to other more appropriately named climbs in the North Bay such as Rancheria and Pine Flat Walls. Pro tip: stop off at The Boat Oyster Bar in Marshall for the best raw and BBQ oysters, local breads, and cheeses you’ve ever tasted.

Recommended Bike for this route: BMC granfondo GF01 Ultegra

A special thanks to Strava’s Cycling in San Francisco guide for providing information about rides and commute routes around the SF metro area.