Best Motorcycle Daytrip
August 19, 2009 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Renting a motorcycle for a day in San Francisco - what's the best day trip to take?

I'll be out in San Francisco in early September, and I've decided to spend a day on a bike, getting out of the city.

Motorcyclists in the Bay Area - what's the ideal ride for early September? Assume the following criteria:

* Going midweek, somewhere between tuesday & thursday.
* Looking for something around 200-300 miles for the day.
* A great lunch stop.
* Curvy, scenic roads with photo opportunities.

I've heard about Alice's Restaurant in Woodside, and I remember the drive up to Stinson Beach being gorgeous, but those are two different directions, and so some local perspective would be a huge help.

Might be riding solo, might have a local with me, but that remains to be seen - hence I'll ask the question now.

Also - any suggestions on rental places are much appreciated - I've found a few online, but I have yet to hear anything about any of them.

Thank you!
posted by swngnmonk to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Muir Woods on your way to Stinson Beach.
posted by plinth at 10:29 AM on August 19, 2009

I'm not a motorcycle person, but I think that the only good answer is to take the Golden Gate Bridge to Highway 1, and then take it up the coast. You won't make it 200-300 miles -- it's too curvey. But you could head up to Pt. Reyes, tour the coastline. If you're an oyster fan, stop off at Hog Island in Marshall, where you can shuck and eat 'em right at the water's edge.

Or you could go on to Bodega Bay and all the way up to Jenner. (From Bodega Bay, take a side trip to the inland town of Bodega to see some of the locations from Hitchcock's The Birds.) The beaches north of Bodega Bay are really gorgeous, and the entire trip would hug the coastline.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:33 AM on August 19, 2009

Here's what I might do.

SF -> Lawrence Hall of Science. Reverse commute over the bridge. This first would be optional but I just love the view of the bay from this point in the hills.

Then a straight slab ride down to Carmel & Point Lobos, the most beautiful ocean spot within riding distance. You have 3 choices to get from 101 to Highway 1, 152W, 129W, and 68. 152 is a bit too tight coming over the hills, but 129 is a nice (but all too short) canyon shot and 68 offers the Los Laureles cutoff over into the Carmel Valley and thence to Carmel & Pt Lobos.

You can also take 17 over the hills instead of going through Gilroy. This will add close to an hour to the trip but 17 is a fun road in the mid-day if you know how to ride.

Carmel would be a good place for lunch I guess, though Monterey would work too. Bixby Bridge isn't too far south of Pt Lobos so you can check that out too. The Big Sur coast gets kinda repetitive after that so don't feel bad about turning around there.

Then just take Highway 1 back up through Santa Cruz and Pacifica.

Don't go to Alice's. It's squidville, or at least it was the last I went by.
posted by @troy at 10:35 AM on August 19, 2009

The trip out Lucas Valley Road to Point Reyes Station is a lovely ride with beautiful views that takes you from rolling hills to redwood forests and out to the seaside.

Simply head north on 101 past San Rafael (1/2 hour or so from the City). You'll see the Lucas Valley Road exit. Turn left and go back under the freeway. Tract houses will soon give way to rolling countryside and farms.

You will pass Big Rock (a big rock on the side of the road). There are beautiful views from there and, bonus, because George Lucas built one of his production centers just there (you'll see the buildings just past the rock) he also built a very nice hiking trailing with even more views). His facility is 5858 Lucas Valley Road. Then keep going and at 3838 Lucas Valley Road is Skywalker Ranch. You will only see a very nice gate and stone walls--no buildings. If you pull off in front of the gate, you will soon be joined by 1 or 2 pleasant young men in a Jeep. They will politely inquire about your business and send you on your way.

(Pet Peeve: Lucas Valley Road was not named for George--had that name long before he moved there, it was part of various Spanish land grants in the area--Lucas, Frietas, etc.)

Next is Nicasio--a charming town with church, one-room school house and roadhouse/restaurant that has good music in the evenings (mostly weekends). Past Nicasio is the Nicasio reservoir. Past that you can choose to turn right or left. To the right is the Rouge et Noir cheese factory (yum!) To the left is the route to Point Reyes Station (another charming town) and the Station House Cafe, Bovine Bakery, Cowgirl Creamery, etc. yum, yum, and yum.

Then you have the whole of the Point Reyes National Seashore to explore (for a quick visit, I recommend going to the Bear Valley Vistor's center and perhaps walking the very short Earthquake trail that has preserved a section of fence that was ripped apart 15-20 ft during the 1906 earthquake and has lots of earthquake info). Then I'd head back to the City via Hwy. 1--another beautiful ride that will take you through more of the seashore and connects back to 101 just before the GG Bridge.

Enjoy--The Bay Area is a gorgeous place and a motorcycle is a great way to see it.

On a weekday, these areas should be lovely and uncrowded.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:42 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't miss highway 35, on the skyline of the Santa Cruz mountains. It's totally famous. It's the most perfect bit highway engineering I've ever experienced and the views are spectacular. Okay, so don't stop at Alice's. I wouldn't know. Back in my sports car days, I'd stretch out my 911 on that spectacular bit of asphalt. It's truly like a ride.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 10:46 AM on August 19, 2009

There's great rides either north or south. Heading south will give you great roads with interesting scenery, north will give you great scenery with interesting roads.

My suggested ride: 280 to 35 to Alice's, and then 35 to highway 9 down to Santa Cruz. Ride highway 1 back up the coast to San Francisco. From here you can either call it a day, or continue up 1 across the Golden Gate bridge and up to Marin, with Muir Beach, Stinson Beach, or Bolinas as your ultimate destination, depending on how many miles you feel like logging or how game your passenger is.
posted by zombiedance at 12:31 PM on August 19, 2009

So here's a question for all - and since I only have the bike for one day, I'm really looking to cover as much ground as possible.

Following some of the advice above, I google mapped the following:

* 101 North to Lucas Valley Road, over to Point Reyes
* US1 South to Stinson Beach
* US1 South, back over the bridge, down to Half Moon Bay.
* Continue down US1 to Santa Cruz
* Back up to SF from Santa Cruz via Highway 9 -> 35.

It's about 230 miles, and Google estimates 6 hours. I've found that Google's time estimates in the past are fairly conservative for my purposes.

Other than stops for gas, lunch, and the occasional photo, I'm not looking to mosey around - I'm one of those people that just loves going out on the bike.

So, my followup questions:

* Is this unreasonably optimistic?
* is US1 from HMB->Santa Cruz worth it? Or should I avoid it & spend more time exploring the roads through the hills above?
* Anything I should absolutely avoid or must hit?

again, thank you!

(and again - any experience w/ any moto rental shops in SF much appreciated)
posted by swngnmonk at 12:33 PM on August 19, 2009

My only caution would be that you will hit some northbound traffic into SF on your return leg--commute traffic starts 3:30ish and stays thick until 6:30ish--though 35 isn't a main commute route. Also, there was just a big fire that burned northeast of Santa Cruz (the "Lockheed" fire) that may make some of your route on 9/35 less spectacular than usual. You might Google for the affected area. Oh wait, I'll do it here. Looks like it didn't get near 9.

Can't help you with rental recommendations.
posted by agatha_magatha at 12:55 PM on August 19, 2009

So a follow-up question - would it make more sense to head south & then north?
posted by swngnmonk at 1:21 PM on August 19, 2009

Either way, you'll hit some form of traffic--so I wouldn't worry too much about it. Barring a really awful accident, things move along fairly well.
posted by agatha_magatha at 1:57 PM on August 19, 2009

I'm lucky enough to live out here and ride Highway 9 to Skyline (35) up to Half Moon Bay and back down US 1 along the coast. It is spectacular and super fun. My only caution would be to layer up. The temperature difference between Skyline and the coastline can be rather extreme. That said, it is a marvelous round trip with plenty of great spots for views.

The only un-fun part I can think of is the cross over between Skyline and Half Moon Bay (I think its 156 but could be wrong). The last time I rode it, it was packed with four wheel cages and took forever to get through.

You can also stop at Cameron's outside of Half Moon Bay for some good grub in a great atmosphere.

Have a great time!
posted by fenriq at 3:59 PM on August 19, 2009

is US1 from HMB->Santa Cruz worth it?

It's one of the best rides in the world, scenery-wise. Nothing but ocean and the surf on your right for an hour or two. Road-wise, you'll want to go twice the speed limit but Mr CHP usually has the road wired down with a cruiser or two on duty. I was going about 85 zooming by Pigeon Point when a cruiser gave me a courtesy flash to tell me to slow it down ;) [Which reminds me, Google Maps is an excellent resource to see what kind of ride is in store; I love using it to virtually cruise some roads in Japan that I never got to ride. . .]

But if you're already coming from Stinson Beach all this Highway 1 stuff might start getting old after four hours of it. You might want to cut over from the coast and ride up to La Honda, then take Skyline to 9, then 9 into Santa Cruz. That's a VERY nice ride.
posted by @troy at 7:12 PM on August 19, 2009

Your proposed ride looks fun. (Uh, can I come along? Damnit, why do I work weekdays?) If you do go down 1, detour via Swanton Road. Fun little curvy farm road. Highway 1 can get pretty windy south of the city, so be aware.

SF mefi motorcycle meetup?

If you can, stop for a meal at Alice's. It's sort of legend.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:16 PM on August 19, 2009

Great suggestions here, but you might get other ideas by browsing existing threads or posting this inquiry at our (Californians') regional ADVrider forum.
posted by harmfulray at 9:32 PM on August 19, 2009

harmful - I actually posted the question on ADV at the same time as I did here!

(I'm surprised MeFi is ahead - ADV's an awesome site!)
posted by swngnmonk at 9:44 PM on August 19, 2009

I'm a life long motorcyclist in the bay area. A lot of the responses to this thread don't seem to come from motorcyclists.

Since you're riding midweek, you'll have no packs of squids and posers at Alice's (35&84). Avoiding routes famous to, and for, motorcycles would be silly.

Try this:
Hiway 1 south to 9 (Scenic coastal stuff. Stop in Davenport if you need a break, take Stage Rd. south at 84 if you don't.)
9 east to 35 (great ride through redwoods.)
35 North to 84 (It's called "Skyline" for a reason. See all of Silicon Valley to your right and the Pacific Ocean to your left.)
Alice's Restaurant (@35&84) for mediocre food on the porch while spotting expensive bikes (motor and pedal) and cars, or wait until 8 miles later...
94 east downhill (beware of tarsnakes) to the town of Woodside.
Eat at Buck's Restaurant, or (and I didn't tell you this) The Woodside Pub.

If it's heading towards sunset and there isn't coastal fog, consider leaving Alice's by going west on 84. Stop by at Applejack's Bar and sneer at all the Harleys and Buells (nice guys, though), wave at Ken Kesey's house, stop at the San Gregorio General Store, and head north on 1 watching the sunset. Since it's later (and colder) than you expected, stop at Cetrella in Half Moon Bay to warm up.

This route works for all motorcyclists, but may be a bit long for Harleys, and not quite twisty enough for sport bike riders. BARF has already discussed all the local rides.

Have fun. Don't forget to wave when you see a motorcycle in the twisties.
posted by lothar at 9:37 AM on August 20, 2009

Typo: "94" should be "84" above.

And I didn't even mention half-and-half cream of artichoke/cream of pepper soup at Duarte's in Pescadero via one of the best backroads anywhere.
posted by lothar at 9:40 AM on August 20, 2009

See all of Silicon Valley to your right and the Pacific Ocean to your left

Occasionally. It's mostly just a road with a lot of trees. Nice & all but I find 1 a lot more awe-inspiring.
posted by @troy at 2:54 PM on August 20, 2009

Forewarned: Point Reyes is not open every day. I rode out there on a cold, foggy Tuesday only to find it closed. It was a crappy riding experience but certainly one I remember.
posted by chairface at 4:48 PM on August 21, 2009

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