Whether you’re looking for a recreational spin or a serious workout, trying to get a good, long bike ride within San Francisco city limits can be a challenge. Here are five long rides that start in the city but promise to take you to new heights.
One of the most popular escapes from the city for hikers and bikers, the Marin Headlands offer sensational scenery, opportunities to ride both on and off-road, and a few serious ascents. The best time to go is spring and fall and an early start is recommended to avoid the swarms of tourists on the Golden Gate Bridge and the viewpoints along Conzelman Road. Some of the best views and least crowds are to be found on the battery Townsley loop. Go counter-clockwise via the Marine Mammal Center for the easy approach, CW for an intense climb. // Ride details.
San Andreas Trail
Follow the fault line alongside San Andreas Lake and Crystal Spring Reservoir, and take the opportunity for an extended ride all the way to Woodside (where a good lunch is the reward). Make it virtually carefree on Sundays in the summer when Canada Road is closed to cars. There’s easy access via BART at the San Bruno station; head up Sneath Lane to the trailhead. // Ride details
Tour de Presidio
If you want an energetic but short ride, this is your course. At approximately 1,500 feet and 16 miles, it provides enough on/off riding to really test your mettle. If that’s your goal, then get out early to avoid traffic. If it’s a laid back ride you’re seeking, this is a scenic way to take in almost all of the Presidio. // Ride details
San Bruno Mountain
San Bruno Mountain offers not only a good workout but some of the most stunning views in the Bay Area—at some 1,300 feet, you really are above it all. But it’ll take a bit of work to get to the top. Access via BART SSF station, then head north up to Hillside Blvd. // Ride details
The Paradise Drive loop offers more mileage than a Headlands ramble (but less elevation) and the possibility of coffee or lunch in Tiburon. Transit options for this ride include the Golden Gate Ferry to Sausalito or the Blue and Gold to Tiburon. We advise taking the ferry to Sausalito, and then riding your bike back, since most tourist bike rentals go the opposite route and the ferry queue can be daunting. // Ride details