When friends suggested we hire bikes and ride across the Golden Gate bridge I thought they were joking. Hello, we’re in the city of killer hills and traffic. A pleasant day of cycling in San Francisco hadn’t sprung to mind.
Bikes on the Bay
But it turns out San Francisco is cycling friendly – everyone’s on a bike. From commuters in suits and hire-a-bike tourists to pro-cyclists, this city zealously embraces the bicycle – ones with good gears.
So having picked up our bikes, helmets and a map, we’re heading to the Bay in San Francisco.
The pace is fast. We’re hurtling along bike lanes and if I don’t keep up I’ll be left behind. But I soon find the rhythm and move more confidently with the flow.
We leave Fisherman’s Wharf and cycle along the marina and through a park that has been converted from a former air base.
The fog has lifted and riding along on what has become a balmy, summer’s day, we are layer stripping. With more space and less traffic, we’re now easy riding.
We stop more than once to take photos of ourselves posing with the Golden Gate Bridge behind us. At the base of the bridge on Golden Gate Promenade we prepare for a steep climb.
Some of us, having figured out the gear system and zigzag method to ease the climb, cycle up the hill to the bridge. The rest of us, well me, gets off and pushes the bike up.
Golden Gate Bridge
There is a reward at the top. There before me stretches the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m about to ride across one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
This technical masterpiece, spanning three kilometres, opened in 1937 after a four-year struggle against relentless winds, fog, rock and tides.
The single suspension span, anchored by art deco twin towers, crosses the Golden Gate strait from San Francisco to Marin County. From the path, shared by cyclists and pedestrians, the view is spectacular all the way.
As we look across the Bay, I’m convinced that San Francisco is indeed, the most beautiful city in the world.
Across the bridge, we coast our way down hill to the little Mediterranean style seaside town, Sausalito. Its up-to-the-minute dining, galleries, boutiques and laid-back spirit have long attracted international travellers and locals.
We browse around before choosing a sidewalk café to lunch in the sun. Sausalito is also the gateway to Californian wine country, redwoods and the wild northern coast.
To return we load our bikes on to a ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf, cruising right past Alcatraz, the former prison island. Alcatraz Island is 2.4km offshore and often referred to as ‘The Rock.’
It was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a prison in 1868 and a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and an historic landmark in 1986.
The island is now managed by National Parks and open for tours. You can catch a ferry to Alcatraz from Pier 33, near Fisherman’s Wharf.
We ride our bikes back to the hire shop. Tired, sunburnt and euphoric we catch a tram back to our apartment after an incredible day of cycling the Bay.