Category Archives: SF Bay

Grizzly Peak Boulevard to Redwood Road

Distance: c. 44 miles 
Elevation gain: 4510 ft

There’s a line of hills and ridges that make up the spine of the East Bay from Tilden Park in Berkeley to Fremont.  Along that line is a series of four nearly-contiguous rides, all outstanding: this ride, Palomares Road, Calaveras Road, and Sierra Road.  The Best of the Bay Century (see the regional introduction) strings them all together, with filler.  As always, I’m going to give you just the good stuff, working north to south.

This ride is really four different roads.  The first, Grizzly Peak Blvd., is, along with the Golden Gate Bridge Loop, the only riding on our list that’s city riding on purpose (i.e. not as filler).  In the beginning it’s densely populated residential, and the traffic is dangerous.  It’s not relaxing.  But there’s a magic to the Berkeley Hills that leads hundreds of cyclists to brave the dangers every day, and every time I go to the East Bay I can’t wait to jump on my bike and get up there.  The views of the Bay are unbelievable.    The second road, Skyline Blvd., is less built up, and the views are even better.  The third road, Redwood Rd. is the antithesis of Grizzly Peak Blvd.—a sublime, solitary, and thoroughly unexpected ride through the bowels of a primaeval forest (hence the name).  You’ll expect to see Ents.  And finally the fourth road, Claremont Ave., is a classic plummet, short, steep, and just curvy enough to keep you on your toes.

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Golden Gate Bridge Loop

Distance: 18 miles one way plus ferry ride
Elevation gain: 490 ft

This is a flat, easy recreational ride with lots of company through many of the Bay tourist’s favorite haunts: the San Francisco waterfront, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, the SF Marina, Crissy Field, the Bridge, Sausalito, the Mill Valley-Sausalito Mike Path, Tiburon, and the Bay ferries.  Each of these is a treasure worth hanging out in and exploring.  The centerpiece is the Golden Gate Bridge: the most photographed man-made object on Earth.  So this ride isn’t really about “cycling,” which is why you’ll be sharing the route with a few hundred wobbly tourists on rental townies.   If you want to expand the loop to include more work, there are five excellent ways to do that, detailed in the Adding Miles section.

I know riders who say they wouldn’t be caught dead riding on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Granted, you’re riding on a sidewalk that’s usually full of hordes of pedestrians stopping to gawk and take selfies, not to mention hordes of cyclists riding rental bikes and staring out over the water as they ride.  To these naysayers I say in the nicest possible way, What the hell is wrong with you?   Crossing the Bridge under your own power is the archetypal Bucket List experience.   Just go do it.   Walk it if you’d rather.  I’m a cyclist, so I’m riding it.

The Bridge is open to cyclists every day of the year during daylight hours, but the Bay (east) side is closed to bikes on weekend days because of the crowds.  At least I think so.  The rules governing bikes on the Bridge are a bit complicated.  If both sides are open to you, you must make a decision.  The west side is much less crowded, but the views are only grand, not cosmically marvelous like on the east side.  I’m pretty sure that the “no bikes on the east side on weekends” rule isn’t strictly enforced (like the Pirates’ Code, it’s more like a guideline) so if you want that Bay view you might try to poach it.  Or ride the west side and accept second-best.  Or ride on a weekday.   The east side isn’t usually crowded in the morning (see photo below).

Navigating this route is pretty tricky throughout, so take along some mapping capability.  For the City portion of the loop, the SF Bicycle Coalition has made a great bicycle map of San Francisco, and it will guide you.  For the Marin leg, there’s the Marin Bicycle Map.

About a quarter of this loop, the leg from the Pier 42 ferry dock to the Bridge, duplicates a leg of our other SF ride, San Francisco’s Wiggle Loop.

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Pescadero/Tunitas Creek Road

Distance: 51-mile loop
Elevation gain: 4488 ft

(A Best of the Best ride)

About a quarter of this route is covered thoroughly in words and pictures at toughascent.com, enough to give you the look of the ride.

Before we begin, let me raise two red flags.  First, as several commenters make clear below, many people simply won’t ride Skyline Blvd because of the danger from car traffic.  I’ve never found it problematic (nerve-wracking, yes, dangerous, no), but it’s certainly one of the most hazardous roads in Bestrides.  Second, there are differing opinions about the quality of the road surface on Tunitas Creek Rd.  Two commenters below say it’s been recently repaved and now “sucks.”  I haven’t ridden the new surface yet, but it looks to be a smooth chipseal, which some people hate and some don’t mind.  I asked a rider doing the route how the surface was for riding and he said it was superb.  So I stand by the original route, but if either issue worries you, you can try the Short Version laid out at the end of this post, which avoids both while retaining most of the good stuff.

This ride is one of the harder rides in Bestrides—50 miles, none of them flat, and 6000 ft. of vert by my computer.  It’s a big climb through forest that’s as pretty as forest gets, then a leg up and down along the ridge spine down the middle of the San Francisco Peninsula, with a stop-over at an iconic California hippie/biker cafe, then one of the great descents in California and Oregon.  The ridge leg isn’t an A-level ride, because it’s straight and trafficky with no shoulder, but you’re going to have to do it to get to that descent, so what the hell.

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