San Francisco Biking 101

When it comes to transportation, San Francisco is a city with many options. You can certainly take the city on by car, foot, MUNI, or BART, but the most efficient and (in this author’s opinion) fun way is certainly by bicycle. Now whether you are a city resident looking to avoid being sardined into a hot MUNI this summer, or a visitor looking to make the exhilarating ride over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito, we’ve got all the knowledge you need to get rolling in this fair city (in no particular order).

1. Acquiring your bicycle. If you are a first time rider in the city, please don’t shell out thousands of dollars on your first bike. For some great options for buying a cost effective, refurbished bike check out Pedal Revolution or Changing Gears. Please be careful if you are looking at bikes on Craigslist- stolen bikes turn up for sale there all the time, so take whatever precautions you can to ensure you’re not buying a bike someone out there is missing! If you are looking to rent a bike, you have choices from SF Bike Rentals, Blazing Saddles, City Ride Bike Rentals or for something unique, Mission Bicycle.

2. Love your brain. Remember when you were 10 and thought that you were too cool for wearing a helmet? That’s not going to fly in SF. Think about it this way- would you rather be unharmed after hitting the MUNI tracks the wrong way, or have non-helmet hair on your way to the emergency room? Check out Nutcase or Bern for cool helmets that you’ll feel great about wearing. If you’re renting your bike, be sure to bring or accept the offered helmet. If you’re using Bay Area Bike Share you’ll also need to bring your own.

3. Lock it up. One of the saddest things ever is returning to where you locked your bike, and finding nothing- or some mangled parts of what used to be your bike. (Check out this post on what to do if your bike gets stolen). To prevent yourself this heartbreak, follow this guide on how to lock your bike correctly. For extra safety, register your bike with the city just in case.

4. Light up the night. If you are cycling at night, lights are crucial! White lights on the front and reflectors are required by law, red lights on the back are recommended. Have fun with your lights! You’ve got to do something with all that el wire from Burning Man right?

5. Trust the wiggle. We often hear from visitors that they find the hills of SF to be terrifying, or at least very intimidating. Until you build up the super power of calf strength (and the ability to very patiently bike slowly up hill in your lowest gear), make use of the wiggle! This magical route will get you from Market Street to the Panhandle o the flattest path possible. Follow the green paved road and you’ll be happy as a clam. Be sure to admire the Duboce Park Bikeway mural!

6. Biking to Sausalito.  Biking across the bridge to Sausalito can be a great activity for a sunny day. You must follow all rules about which side/lane of the bridge you can bike on (seriously, don’t hit any pedestrians). The ride over the bridge is a quick 1.7 miles long, but if you bike along the water from Fisherman’s Wharf you will encounter a couple of steep hills. Drop into a low gear, walk, do whatever you’ve got to do (just know they’re coming!) Once you get across the bridge, stay to the right. You’ll be biking along the shoulder (unless you’re confident enough to bike in the road) into Sausalito, so be very careful! Cyclists have been known to be ticketed for speeding in this area, because you can pick up quite a bit of speed. Lastly, if you bike across and aren’t feeling biking back, you can always take your bike on the ferry 🙂

7. Ride by the law. Seriously- find out what is and isn’t agains the laws of the road here.

8. Take an urban cycling class. If city biking makes you nervous (and let’s be real- everyone is nervous before they bike in the street at first), the SF Bicycle Coalition offers some great classes for both kids and adults. Getting a membership with them ($35/year) is also a great way to support future bike lanes, pro-cyclist legislation, and get cool discounts at stores all over SF!

9. Join your fellow riders! The Bay has lots of great cyclist activities, like the Midnight Mystery Ride, Annual Naked Bike Ride, East Bay Bike Party, and the last Friday of every month, Critical Mass. Now get out there and have some fun 🙂


About the Author // Eliza Dropkin is a Vantigo Tour Guide. She enjoys live music, good food, and cruising around town in Jerry (though she loves all the vans equally).

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