I moved from San Francisco to Portland a little over 7 months ago and became an avid cyclist up here in the Pacific Northwest. I love it! The biking community is great and it's an easy place to ride.
I'm coming down to SF to visit for 5 days in about a week and a half and would love to find out where to rent a bike (or perhaps someone wants to loan me their spare for low cost?). I'm definitely looking for a road bike, probably a 10 or 12 speed - I don't think I could ride a fixie on those hills! On that note, do any of you actually ride fixed gears in San Francisco? Aside from those of you who are crazy in shape that sounds like a death wish to me. Perhaps the messengers and marathon participants are the only ones bold enough.
Anyway...I would love some advice/tips on best routes, how to logically get around, dangerous areas to avoid, and the best bike shops to check out.
For rentals, try Blazing Saddles, as they do have some road bikes. Mike's Bikes also does rentals, but maybe only in Sausalito. You have to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge while you are here. From there, you have many choices, but two favorites are (i) if you like to climb, go for Mt. Tam or (ii) if you prefer flatter riding, go for the Paradise loop to Sausalito and Tiburon. Both loops are somewhere around 40 miles RT from SF. If you get tired, you can catch a ferry back (or partway back) if you are on route (ii).
There is quite a diverse cycling culture here, so there is no such thing as "most people" doing any one thing here. For city riding, you will see every different kind of bike, from the utilitarian to the absurd. If you can get out of town, there is great riding for both roadies and mountain bikers, so many of us have both kinds of bikes! A car is handy, but by no means necessary for hitting tons of great paved and dirt routes in the area.