San Francisco on the West Coast was the last destination on our 2 week US Road Trip through America. We decided to rent bicycles during our 3 nights stay. Cycling in San Francisco is a must for your vacation in the lively active city. Whether it’s just for a day or for longer, it’s totally worth it. Cycling to locations like the Golden Gate bridge and Fishermans Wharf gave us more of a local feeling and highly recommend it.
Cycling in San Francisco
While in San Francisco it’s a must to rent bikes and cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge. After our early bird tour from Alcatraz that morning we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf. From there you can rent different types of bicycles from one of many bike rental companies. All with similar prices and offers we ended up picking one close to where we had lunch. We had the perfect weather while cycling too, clear blue skies and sunshine.
Renting The Bikes
Since we live in the Netherlands, we cycle daily. Cycling in San Francisco however would be a whole new experience with the landscape. But it was so obvious and rather humorous that there were many people renting bicycles that hardly rode them. Swaying across the pathways with their helmets on and trying to read the map at the same time. I really think some tourists were cycling for the first time in their life! It was also a busy Saturday so we took our time going around the slower cyclists and made our way along the bike path from Fisherman’s Wharf to the bridge.
We rented bicycles for 24 hours, allowing us to cycle them to our Travelodge Presidio at the end of the day. Make sure they come with a bike lock so you can secure them. We checked with the friendly hotel staff and it was perfectly fine for us to lock the bikes up at the reception area overnight. Some places you can bring the bicycles back to a different location, so check this before you leave. We took our bicycles back the next morning before heading to the airport, giving us some fresh air and before our long flight back to Europe.
Viewpoint from South Side
At the start of the bridge on the south side it was very touristic, another popular spot for a photo. Be careful for all the pedestrians here as they are also there for a photo and likely standing in your way on the bike path. We had bells and definitely used them at this section!
Strava Cycling Stats
A good system is in place that cyclists must go on the left side of the bridge and pedestrians on the right side. This gave us a good opportunity to enjoy cycling across and setting a nice record on our Strava cycling app. As cycling ehnthusiastics we of course timed our selves and made some nice stats!
You can see from our stats that we didn’t do much, but perfect distance and time for an afternoon activity cycling in San Francisco.
The feeling of cycling in San Francisco over the Golden Gate bridge was pretty awesome. To cycle over a location you have seen so much in films, series or heard about. Since living in Rotterdam, I am often cycling over the many bridges so I was not worried about my cardio strength. However it was still a little challenge as it was a larger and longer bridge.
Cycling To North Side Battery Spencer Panoramic Viewpoint
Once over the bridge we cycled up a very steep road to the viewpoint on the northern side. From here you have fantastic views of the bridge and the city behind. I say cycled but only my partner cycled, I had to walk – was way too steep for me to cycle up! But totally worth the effort. There was space at the top for you to lock up the bicycles while you walked to the edge of the viewpoint just 1 minute away. It was very popular when we arrived, with cars queueing to park at the limited space available. So arriving by bike was definitely hassle free.
This Battery Spencer viewpoint is actually an 19th-century concrete bunker used from 1897 to 1942, when it was deactivated. Used for the defence of the harbour, it previously had three guns. There are many other batteries you can visit on this side of the bridge, but we only cycled to this one.
Read more of our USA posts!
Helicopter Tour Above Grand Canyon
Cycling The Golden Gate Bridge, CA
Exploring Bodie: An Abandoned Mining Town
San Francisco 2 Day Itinerary With & Without A Car
Summary of Cycling in San Francisco
All in all we had cycled 22km through the streets of San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a shame we didn’t have any longer time in San Francisco as we would have made many more cycling trips around the city. Renting the bicycles for 24 hours was nice that we could use them during the evening and watch the sunset at the coast. Gave us a bit more freedom time-wise to use the bikes during our stay. Not all streets are suitable for cycling, so it was nice to stay on the bike paths along the coastal areas. We also found the city a nightmare to drive in that you can read about here! As for staying active on vacation, this was perfect to burn off some of those extra calories we were eating during our 2 week US road trip!!
- You can rent bicycles for just a day or multiple days, so take advantage of the gorgeous weather and explore by bike!
- Cycle only what you feel comfortable regarding distances
- Always smart to have some water and a snack with you
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Have you ever been to San Francisco and rented bicycles before? Did you enjoy cycling in San Francisco and see some of the top highlights? Let us know in the comments!
Mijia Eggers25th July 2018 at 11:52 pm
Thanks for sharing.
Meggan26th July 2018 at 1:36 am
I have been to San Francisco one time before but we did the hop on/hop off bus tour and honestly I never thought of biking. I do live in a city where biking is popular but I don’t do it myself however this sounds like a good work out and in some ways more convenient than driving. The views are spectacular either way but this is definitely an interesting alternative to getting around, thanks!
Togetherintransit13th August 2018 at 12:40 pm
Since we live in the Netherlands, its more normal to cycle everywhere than drive, hence why we were so motivated to also cycle on our vacation to SF. We were totally temped by the hop on/hop off bus though to see more in a shorter amount of time as we did miss some things. But thats a good excuse to visit again one day 🙂
Becki26th July 2018 at 1:42 am
This looks absolutely awesome. I want to do a big trip to the US at some point so this will certainly be an activity I’m going to add to my to-do list. Thanks for sharing!
Kris26th July 2018 at 3:49 am
I really wanted to try this when I was in San Francisco, but I only had one drizzly evening. I had to settle for driving across the Golden Gate Bridge instead. I hope to visit again sometime when I have a little more time, and I’ll definitely look into renting bikes for a bit.
Togetherintransit13th August 2018 at 12:38 pm
I can imagine it definitely would be less nice to cycle across the bridge in drizzly weather! We were worried about predicted thunderstorms but were lucky to wake up with bright blue sunshine skies.
Anna26th July 2018 at 2:43 pm
Such a good idea to cycle across the bridge! I’ve only been to San Francisco once, but took a bus over one way and came back walking. Cycling definitely seems to be the best way to do it though. I’ll remember that next time!
Suzy26th July 2018 at 4:15 pm
Such a great article, love the idea of cycling around this iconic area! I definitely agree that having your own transport is more flexible, and even better that it burns off a few extra calories! Thanks for sharing your tips and experience, I hope I can visit sometime!
Monica26th July 2018 at 5:48 pm
Yes! This is definitely a must when visiting SF! We ended up cycling all the way to Sausalito. I agree, there’s something very special about cycling across the bridge 🙂
Farah al Zadjaly26th July 2018 at 6:15 pm
This has made me excited even more because I love seeing one place from many views. Especially if your walking or cycling. Loved the blog post. Great photos.
aimee horgan27th July 2018 at 2:16 am
Your photos are stunning, I do love San Francisco but I may be slightly biased as I was born there. I’ve walked the bridge many times, but never cycled and I feel in future that’s how I will do it. Did you make it to Sausalito on the other side of the bridge? It’s one of my favourite towns in the Bay Area.
Rosemary27th July 2018 at 6:54 am
How fun and what a great way to experience San Francisco. You made me laugh about the “tourist-type” cyclists. I bike regularly too and also meet these “first-time” bikers on the path. Regardless, it’s good when people are getting some type of exercise in 🙂 Great pictures of the Golden Gate bridge. Cheers.
Taru28th July 2018 at 12:07 pm
That looks so amazing, would love to cycle on the bridge! One of my favourite ways of exploring 🙂
Danie28th July 2018 at 12:25 pm
I’ve been to San Francisco twice, and I’ve never considered biking around! Granted, I don’t bike that often at home, but it sounds like a really unique way to explore the city!
Togetherintransit13th August 2018 at 12:27 pm
It sure was cool! and nice in the warm temperature we had. We’d love to go back one day and cycle more routes too.
Anisa28th July 2018 at 12:40 pm
I loved biking across the bridge. We went to Sausalito (which is a cute town on the North Side) had lunch and then took the ferry back to the Fisherman’s Wharf area. Next time, I want to go all the way to Tiburon.
Togetherintransit13th August 2018 at 12:27 pm
Sounds lovely. We didn’t have time to visit Sausalito, but its a great excuse to go back! I’d love to do a similar route, sounds grat with a combination of the ferry!
Hazel Joy28th July 2018 at 3:15 pm
I drove the same route, Zoe, so was interested in seeing it from a cycle perspective. It really is an amazing feeling to cross the Golden Gate Bridge so must have been extra special with the wind blowing in your hair!
Togetherintransit13th August 2018 at 12:28 pm
Haha yes it sure felt different than in the car. Just great to experience the famous bridge so close up and able to stop on it I loved!
Josy A28th July 2018 at 5:35 pm
This looks soooo fun! I like the sound of this way more than getting around by buses or taxis!! Did they not rent out bike helmets too though? I might have to bring mine with me if I visit SF!!
I got hit by a car while riding my bike this week, so I don’t ever want to cycle without a helmet now!!
Togetherintransit13th August 2018 at 12:35 pm
Yes it’s good to know, there were helmets i believe but we didn’t want to use helmets from where we rented the bikes from as a personal choice. In the Netherlands we never use helmets either (since everything is so safe for cyclists) so we felt good and trusted the cycle paths, but worth double checking when you rent a bike in SF!
Megan29th July 2018 at 4:09 am
After biking in Golden Gate Park last time we were in San Francisco, I really want to bike the bridge next year. Thank for this!
Togetherintransit13th August 2018 at 12:36 pm
Thanks for commenting Megan, if we retun we want to explore more of San Francisco by bike too. A good excuse for visiting again!!
Eva24th November 2018 at 8:57 am
Wheew when I visited San Francisco I walked everywhere and man were the roads steep! 😀 I live in Sweden so I also pretty much cycle everywhere, but I don’t think I would have managed up some roads in SF!! Having a bike was a great way to cross the bridge – on foot I didn’t even try. It would have taken too long and I was there only for two days. If I ever make it back I’ll seriously consider renting a bike for the sake of seeing the bridge from the other side!
Sarah24th November 2018 at 9:26 am
I loved San Fransisco, and it would be awesome to take a bike tour
Pau24th November 2018 at 10:25 am
I’ve biked in San Francisco as a tourist on a tandem bike with my boyfriend. Boy did he suffer on the hill, and boy did I suffer when going downhill at light speed. Lol. That sh* was scary.