Thursday, 14 January 2010

The girls in San Francisco

I'm not cool. No way. I'm not even sure I embody geek chic (unless it's geek sheek.) Juliet Elliot and Posy Dixon on the other hand = cool. Charge riders, PR agency owners, totally into track bike culture. Cool.

Here's their lowdown on cycling in the bestest city in the USA and home of MASH, from a recent trip there. And a photo of Juliet outside a funky taco bar. Look - she eats and she's skinny. Cool.

San Francisco being famed for its undulating topography, would not instantly spring to mind as a cycle-friendly city. Yet bicycle culture is booming. From fixed gear hipsters to commuters in suits, rent-a-bike tourists to serious roadies, the city heartily embraces the bicycle. And at a fairly compact seven square miles, a bike is an awesome way to see the city and enjoy the massive diversity of the various neighbourhoods that fill the bay.

You can pretty much grab a bike, grab a map, and explore the city at your own pace and leisure, seeing as all the roads are pretty cycle friendly, and non motorized bike routes through parks and along the bayside are well advertised for those less confident riders. However, here are a few tried and tested ideas for some rides to get you inspired.

1) The city Loop, difficulty: medium

Start your ride at the mouth of the Panhandle heading into Golden Gate Park. Enjoy the road all the way through the park before shooting down John F Kennedy drive where you'll be welcomed by a vast expanse of empty beach. Pull a right and climb the road up to Sutro Heights Park. From here follow the coast line around South Bay taking in a steep climb before enjoying the descent back to the coast and the swimming beach of Aquatic Park. From here, continue to hug the shore and pedal on to Fisherman's Wharf, not forgetting to check out the resident seals at Pier 39.

Recommended bike shop: Mojo Cycle Cafe 639-A Divisadero Street; +1 415 440 2338.
Where to eat: Herbivore, 531 Divisadero; +1 415 885 7133.
Where to sleep: The Fairmont hotel, 950 Mason Street; +1 415 772 5000.

2) The alternative cruise, difficulty: medium

San Fran is famous for its alternative scene; follow this ride to enjoy the full extent of it. Start your ride in The Mission, the latest happening spot and from here head up Market Street towards the hill. Turn right by the large Safeway's near the top of the slope and from here follow The Wiggle, (ask anyone local for directions to this mystical route) which will bring you up to Haight-Ashbury whilst avoiding the bigger hills. In this famous hippie outpost you can stock up on tie-die T-shirts and stop in at the world famous Amoeba Records. From Haight wind your way up to North Beach to explore the spiritual home of the Beat poets, the
bookshop, before fuelling up on Italian food.

Recommended bike shop: Push Bike 3045 24th Street @ treat; +1 415 647 7222.
Where to drink: Pop's Bar 2800 24th street; +1 415 401 7677.
Where to eat: El Farolito 2779 Mission St; +1 415 824 7877
Where to sleep: Green Tortoise hostel 494 Broadway; +1 415 834 1000.

3) The car free cruise, difficulty: easy

Beginning at Fishermans Wharf (where you can easily rent a bike if need be) follow the National Park Bike Path around the headland to the Golden Gate Bridge. Head over the bridge on the car-free cycle path and enjoy the downhill cruise into Sausalito. After a look around the chi chi bayside town you can opt to either catch the ferry across the bay home (last ride at around 6pm) or face the uphill ride back to San Fran.

Recommended bike shop: Blazing Saddles 2715 Hyde Street; +1 415 202 8888.
Where to sleep: The Union Street Inn 2229 Union Street; +1 415 346 0424.
Where to eat: Winship restaurant 670 Bridgeway, Sausalito; +1 415 332 1454.

General tips for first-time visitors

• Get a bike map! You can buy these at all the bikes shops for $5.

• Although San Fran is hilly, most people don't just power themselves straight up (or down) a killer slope. Follow any local for a mile or two and you'll quickly pick up the left, right, left, right traverse that allows you to mount some mighty hills without taking on too deadly a gradient.

• Despite the city's state-provided cycle lanes, it's worth noting that there is a lot going on roadside. In particular, be careful of the tram lines, which run down the inside lanes of many of the city's key arteries; these are easy to cross at an angle but take extra care when it's dark or rainy.

• The weather here can change by the minute as the famous Bay fog rolls in, so always carry layers and be prepared for warm days and cold nights.

• As in most major cities, bike theft is rife so always lock your bike up in sight, never leave it overnight, and when possible use a separate wire lock to secure your wheels.

No comments: