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  1. #1
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    Advice for a newbie on San Francisco

    Hello all

    I live in Minneapolis and I'm an avid year round cyclist here.

    Recently, I decided to buy a Bike Friday folding bike to enable me to travel more easily with a bike to escape the winter.

    I want to plan my first trip and my first cycling trip period.

    As this is my first, I want to stick to cities with good, dedicated bike paths. At home, I know my routes and I'm comfortable with roads, paths, etc.

    For my first trip, I'd like to stick to a more conservative plan as I will be traveling alone.

    I was thinking about San Francisco and wanted some advice.

    1) San Fran seems like a great choice as there are nice sights, great food, and great path infrastructure. Any better options?
    2) Any nice hotels have easy access to a good path network?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Western Flyer's Avatar
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    On the west coast SF is simply known as "The City" for good reason. Places to see and things to do, both day and night are beyond counting.
    SF is very hilly so you need low gearing. Lodging can be expensive, but there are hostels. Need a good secure lock.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    It is a great place to bike, but it can be foggy,



    and it is hilly,


    but it does have its rewards

  4. #4
    Senior Member Brennan's Avatar
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    Yes, the city is hilly, but there are routes you can take that will reduce your climbing. Best to pick up an SF bike map, which is probably available in any area bike shop. With regard to the weather, yep, it gets foggy, but generally only in the spring/summer, when you can get relentless fog for weeks. Fall and winter get a lot of clear, sunny days as long as it is not raining. At this moment, it is mostly sunny here. As Western Flyer indicated, bike theft is a significant problem in SF. Bring a good lock, keep an eye on your bike, and/or bring it inside with you whenever you can. Since it's a folder, that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

    Most tourists stay in the Union Square area downtown because there are lots of hotels and shopping, and there is easy access to public transportation. However, it is pretty crowded/noisy/chaotic down there, so it's an area I personally avoid. If that is your thing, then go for it. Otherwise, I would recommend Cole Valley. There is the Stanyan Park Hotel down there (map). I've never stayed there, and it gets mixed reviews on Yelp (for what that's worth), but the location is great. It's right on the edge of Golden Gate Park, with lots of really good biking opportunities, such as through the park to some great museums, or out to Ocean Beach, or to the Golden Gate Bridge on into Marin County (a must for the bike tourist). Lots of restaurants and shops nearby in Cole Valley and The Haight, including at least two bike shops within a block or two. Downtown can be accessed by bike via The Wiggle or by public transportation via the N Judah Streetcar. Be aware that this hotel is near a GG park entrance where some grungy Haight St characters hang out. This doesn't bother me personally, and it's nowhere near as bad as the truly sketchy parts of the city (The Tenderloin, Bayview/Hunter's Point). I really even hesitate to mention it, since I think it is so minor, and you'd see the same sort of thing in the Union Square area anyway, but I'm just trying to give an honest assessment here. At any rate, you'll be past them in a few seconds on your bike. The rest of the park and the area in general is very nice.
    Last edited by Brennan; 01-03-13 at 02:17 PM.

  5. #5
    1. e4 Nf6 Alekhine's Avatar
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    Great city, definitely, and I used to cycle there regularly from Santa Rosa when I lived in CA. Only problem with SF as far as I was concerned is that it is beyond overpopulated for its actual size, but culturally speaking it's what I would call an American must-see. I miss good Cambodian food and have nothing like that here.

  6. #6
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I used the Ferry to Vallejo from Fisherman's Wharf on the north shore .. often, when I lived there.

    Family lived in Napa , a 14 mile ride from the ferry terminal.

  7. #7
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    goldengatetravelerscheck.jpgGO! you'll love it.

    most hotels will be within a couple of blocks of bicycling infrastructure anywhere in San Francisco proper, but I'd go for something near fisherman's wharf. the access to the presidio is excellent from fishermans' wharf, and onto the GG bridge.

    what i would do, although you can cover a LOT of ground in SF in a day on a bike, if you haven't been there yet, take your time and stop to soak it up.

    Here's what I would do if i was a new visitor to San Francisco with a week on a bike. roll with an itinerary like

    Day 1) ride the waterfront extensively from the embarcadero up to the foot of the GG bridge and back. check out The Presidio. ride up thru the presidio, down and over to the Sutro baths thru China Beach if you're feeling leggy.

    Day 2) Ride UP to GG park, check out American Cyclery and the rest of the bike shops around the neighborhood. Ride Haight Ashbury on return. Ride the wiggle down(although the wiggle makes more sense up the hill). Hunt out Box Dog Bikes. go cultural.



    Day 3) another culture day. Market Street from the waterfront to the Castro, and return. cut down to the Mission for some Mexican food, then ride to Timbuk 2 bags downtown and check out the south beach scene. ( I Think Box Dog Bikes might fit better in this itinerary, i forget exactly)

    you could probably combine days 2 & 3 into one long day out on the bike.

    Day 4) take a long day ride across the GG bridge, out into the Marin highlands for a long amble in the park- ride to the missle batteries and return. Take the tunnel on the way back to the GG bridge,trust me on this one.

    Day 5) Do some peakbagging, ride Mount Davidson (highest point in the city, greaat place for a quiet picnic lunch.) ride more of the hills in the Twin Peaks neighborhood, and the longest downhill in the city, nearby Mount Davidson.

    Day 6) across the GG Up into Marin, visit the mountain biking meccas of mountain view and the foot of Mt Tam, around to the Tiburon, and return on the ferry. Include MT Tam if you are an animal on a bicycle.

    Day 7) rest. you've earned it.


    All those are must do's in my book, you may be able to condense those if you're a strong rider. the city is pretty easy to get across on by bike, i find it pretty fast city to get around in by bike, you can be across town in 40 minutes, like, if you're hustling and can ride hills.

    There's a really good book on san francisco cycling, i mean a really good one, called "Short bike rides in and around San Francisco."

    this is the only book you'll really need. it's excellent. I especially liked "the planet of the apes" ride, but it's a bit of a stretch all the way from the city proper, and not well suited for a folder. There's also directions to the longest uninterrupted downhill in the city that is a great descent.



    I've ridden thru Hunter's Point and ridden the neighborhoods around the SE part of the city. hunters point.jpg Hunter's Point is more bark than bite, but you wouldn't necessarily want to stop on a folding bike to ask directions. Really no need to travel into this section of the city on a bike unless you like urban grit and a sense of exploration.

    The picture below is Market Street. You'll find quite good bike infrastructure in the city, a bit more elaborate and on the road than Minneapolis, but a little bit more rideable too IMO. -I've ridden in both cities. I think you'll find it pretty easy to move around on bike there, the drivers definitely 'get it' about bicyclists.
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    Last edited by Bekologist; 01-04-13 at 04:47 AM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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    nope, no place here. no hotels or bike paths, try Sault St. Marie or Billings...

    seriously, if you do come here and inevitably ride over the golden gate, don't be surprised if you find it to be a very uncomfortable, noisy, viewless, crowded mile of biking hell. but Sausalito and Tiburon (forgive me Sausalitians and Tiburonians if i misspelled your city's name) are nice!
    Last edited by hueyhoolihan; 01-03-13 at 04:15 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Brennan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hueyhoolihan View Post
    if you do come here and inevitably ride over the golden gate, don't be surprised if you find it to be a very uncomfortable, noisy, viewless, crowded mile of biking hell.
    On a summer weekend, yes. On a winter weekday, not so much.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Western Flyer View Post
    Lodging can be expensive, but there are hostels.
    and bedbugs
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    I truly appreciate all of the thoughtful and informative replies. I have much planning to do but these tips are priceless.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brennan View Post
    On a summer weekend, yes. On a winter weekday, not so much.
    agreed.

  13. #13
    Senior Member adventurepdx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Western Flyer View Post
    Lodging can be expensive, but there are hostels.
    Quote Originally Posted by frantik View Post
    and bedbugs
    Hotels get bedbugs too.
    http://urbanadventureleague.blogspot.com/ http://societyofthreespeeds.wordpress.com/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanadventureleaguepdx/

  14. #14
    Senior Member adventurepdx's Avatar
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    If you have enough time on your trip, I'd also suggest taking BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) over to the East Bay, namely Oakland and Berkeley. There's a good amount of stuff to do over there, and the city riding is flatter for the most part. And if you like hills, you'll find plenty of adventure in the parklands on the hills outside of town.
    http://urbanadventureleague.blogspot.com/ http://societyofthreespeeds.wordpress.com/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanadventureleaguepdx/

  15. #15
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    oh, one crucial tip I forgot to mention. If you save your Golden Gate Park ride for Sundays, a large portion of the main road is closed to motor vehicles in the morning.

    On Sunday mornings Golden Gate park is the place to be on your bike in San Francisco.

    This thread has brought back a lot of great memories of San Francisco by bike. I love to ride in San Francisco. My GF used to live in San Francisco, and though I never lived there, spent extensive time there as a visiting 'tourist' with a bicycle. Based from her apartment on Market street in the Castro at the terminus of the street car on Market and Castro streets.

    I've ridden hundreds of miles in San Francisco in earnest searches for the best the city had to offer. Love it, San Francisco is one of America's best cities to visit by bicycle.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 01-04-13 at 05:06 AM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by adventurepdx View Post
    Hotels get bedbugs too.
    yep

    http://bedbugregistry.com/metro/sf/recent/
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  17. #17
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Hostel in Ft Mason is nice.. Typically, you bring a sheet sleeping bag with you..

    Don't turn your back on your bike . or it will be gone..

  18. #18
    Senior Member adventurepdx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Hostel in Ft Mason is nice.. Typically, you bring a sheet sleeping bag with you..
    Most hostels in the US have stopped requiring guests to bring sheets/sleeping bags. In fact, it's pretty much discouraged due to the whole bedbug thing.
    http://urbanadventureleague.blogspot.com/ http://societyofthreespeeds.wordpress.com/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanadventureleaguepdx/

  19. #19
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Overseas They just rent the sheets too .

    Ticks in sleeping bags or Bedbugs in sheets , take your Pick.

  20. #20
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Hostel in Ft Mason is nice.. Typically, you bring a sheet sleeping bag with you.
    None of the hostels I have stayed in allow any of you own bedding to be used.

    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Don't turn your back on your bike . or it will be gone..
    True enough.

    San Francisco is a great city to visit, but I think I personally would just as soon use their excellent public transit system and leave the bike home. I'd rather go ride some of the coast on a bike tour.

  21. #21
    Bike touring webrarian
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    This page has 21 links to information about biking and San Francisco.

    Not all of them will be of interest to you but there are several links to rides, maps, and other biking tips, including the offer of a personal tour of Alcatraz Island.
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

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