How to ride a fun MTB trail as a tourist?
January 28, 2008 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I'll be visiting SF soon (yay, visiting mefi friends!) and want to go biking on an MTB trail. I've found a few internet resources on biking around SF but I have a few particular constraints that make me require your help.

- I need to rent an MTB bike that's big, around 23", since I'm 6'6". If possible fitted with SPD pedals.
- I need to get to the MTB trail without use of a car.
- I need to rent the bike near to the trail or take the bike there by public transport if it's far. I'm not sure yet whether I want to ride a bike through SF since I'm from the Netherlands and as a result accustomed to very safe biking conditions.
- I'll be staying in the Bernal Heights neighbourhood of SF if that matters.
- my ideal trail would be physically demanding but technically easy and with beautiful natural surroundings.
- although we say we do mountainbiking in the Netherlands we are pretty impressed if there's a 300 foot difference in height. So it's more hillbiking that we do. Go easy on me on the technicality of the trail.

Oh, and if somebody wants to come with me: great. I'll probably go on a working day but maybe some people have a flexible working schedule.
posted by jouke to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (7 answers total)
Where do I rent the bike?
Where's a great trail?
How do I get there?
posted by jouke at 7:40 AM on January 28, 2008

I'm not a mountain biker, so this'll be a bit vague, but hopefully it'll help a bit.

Marin County is probably where you want to go. Potentially the Marin Headlands for max. beauty (view of the Bay, the city, and over to the Pacific Ocean, but I'm not sure which trails there allow bikes), or you can bike up into a place called China Camp (hills and a view to the Bay) from San Rafael.

Transit: Golden Gate Transit bus routes go north across the bay. So, if you're going to the Headlands, you could either get dropped off right across the bridge or bike there, since the trailhead is probably just across the bridge, and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge is a fun thing in itself. Safety probably is nowhere like the Netherlands, but there are usually safe routes you can find if you ask a bike shop, particularly for a well traveled route like the path to the Golden Gate bridge. Then, you can bring your bike back to the city on the ferry from Sausalito (safe, I rode it with my mom). If you're going to China Camp, I think you'll want to take the bus to San Rafael or the Marin Civic Center, and I think the bus lines are the 70 & the 80, though there might be other ones (I was always going further north, so buses that stopped in San Rafael would be ones I didn't notice. The 40?). I think you can throw a bike on those buses (racks in front).

Where to rent: Maybe southern cities in Marin, maybe the northwest side of the city. I would skip bike shops downtown and in the Mission, and look for places that describe their location as Fisherman's Wharf, the Haight, the Inner Sunset, near UCSF, the Richmond, North Beach.
posted by salvia at 8:39 AM on January 28, 2008

Maybe check the mtbr forum for Northern California and/or post a message there.
posted by indigo4963 at 9:18 AM on January 28, 2008

I bet you could rent a bike in Saulsolito, just over the SF bridge. From there, you could ride up near Mt. Tam, where mountain biking was born (literally -- a bunch of guys converted cruiser-type bikes with knobbie tires and gears and started riding dirt trails in the 1970s)
posted by mathowie at 9:21 AM on January 28, 2008

I'm not sure where you'll be able to get the bicycles. Maybe Mike's Bikes in Sausalito, but they are first-come first-served.

A great transit resource when in the Bay area is it has bus/ferry schedules, traffic conditions and a trip planner which tells you what public transit you can take to anywhere.

Mt. Tam is virtually off-limits to 'real' mountain biking. There are no good trails for mountain bikers and the rangers will give you speeding tickets for going faster than 15MPH on the paths they do have. Going off piste can get you a >$400 ticket if you are caught.

China camp will probably be your best choice for a fun, not extremely technical mountain bike ride in the area.
It's very busy there on weekends, so go during the week if you can.
Here is the park brochure.

A good route is a counter-clockwise loop from Shoreline to Bay View Trail. Bay view meets up with Oak Ridge trail which takes you back to Shoreline. If you want the view from the very top, take a right on Echo trail and follow it to the paved road. Ride/walk the rest of the way to the top. It's not far, but pretty steep.

Some more photos if you are interested.

I might even be able to ride with you depending on when you come. Contact me via email if you want to try to meet up.
I don't have any friends who have a bike that would fit you, or I'd borrow one for you. Sorry.
posted by whoda at 9:39 AM on January 28, 2008

I live in Marin, and that's definitely where you want to ride! If you want exhausting but technically easy, ride up Mt. Tam from Mill Valley. Rent a REAL mountain bike (with SPDs, even) from Mt. Tam Bikes in Mill Valley. Buy the Mt. Tamapais trail map, and have Bryce (the shop owner) hilight the trails to take.

China camp is fun riding, with great views of the bay area, but nothing beats getting to the top of the mountain, and being able to see 100km in every direction. My email is in profile, I've been in the local bike industry for ten years.
posted by wzcx at 11:28 AM on January 28, 2008

For future reference: whoda found another bike rental in Fisherman's Wharf that do rent 23" bikes.
posted by jouke at 12:09 PM on January 28, 2008

« Older Where can I find pictures of dead firefighters?   |   Unnaturally hard to find: the author of this quote... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.