There’s nothing quite like a long, hilly bike ride in the Bay Area. You get sweeping views, challenging climbs, varied temperatures, random wildlife encounters, and cute coffee shops along the way. There are tons of bike lanes and it’s (for the most part) a biker-friendly region. Going forward I’m going to highlight some of my favorite routes with pictures, directions, and tips/tricks. A bunch of my running friends are starting to bike so hopefully this is helpful not just for you, but for the seasoned cyclist!
Naturally, I’m going to start with my all-time favorite route, Paradise Loop, or “P-Loop” or just “Paradise” for short. It’s arguably the most popular route in the Bay Area which is not surprising — riding on the roads make you feel like you’re in paradise! And there are very few stop lights, the hills are mostly rolling and not terribly crushing, and there are always a lot of other cyclists out there. I did this on Saturday with a group of guys and it was a blast.
Distance: The route I take from home in Pacific Heights and back is 45.3 miles with 2,200+ ft of elevation gain. But you can shorten it by starting at Sports Basement in the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, or in Marin at Mike’s Bikes in Sausalito.
Basic Directions: This is essentially a loop of Tiburon. Start at GG Bridge –> Mill Valley Bike Path–> Camino Alto –> Paradise Dr. –> Go through Tiburon –> and back. The “regular” way is to do it clockwise, but this past weekend we did it counter-clockwise. Up to you.
1) My favorite spot to grab a coffee, check out the views and get a snack if needed is Caffe Acri which is right by Sam’s Cafe or the Tiburon Ferry Terminal
2) Cibo Sausalito has a good hearty breakfast and some coffee if you’re looking to take a longer rest at the end of your ride
- Be very cautious on the Golden Gate Bridge! Remember that cyclists are only allowed on the west side. Tourists are always swerving and snapping photos so just go slow and stay alert. This is not the time to set a Strava PR.
- There is more than one way to do this route. Experiment a little with different roads. Come up “Chapman Drive” instead of Camino Alto. There’s less car traffic and it’s more suburban. Getting back to the GG Bridge, go underneath the bridge (towards Horseshoe Bay/Fort Baker) and come up Moore Rd instead of the typical Sausalito Hill all the way to the top of the bridge. There are fewer cars this way.
- Smile, wave, and communicate with other cyclists frequently “on your left”, etc. Friendliness and caution will take you a long way.
- Have fun with your group, but also make sure to stay to the right and look out for cars. Most of Paradise Drive is a winding road without bike lanes, so look out for cars and always call out “car back” when you hear one coming.
- A few miles into the loop, look over your shoulder and you’ll see San Quentin state prison! Yikes.
- Photo op! Stop and take a picture with the lighthouse right before you approach Tiburon. Or take photos on the lawn near Caffe Acri.
- Too tired? Take the ferry home from Tiburon! Or better yet, stop at Sam’s Cafe for a drink on the outdoor patio and then take the ferry home.
Turn-By-Turn-Directions: Can be found here.
Give it a try! Or contact me and I’ll go out there with you! Have fun and let me know how it goes!
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