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Bicycle Getaways: The San Francisco Riviera

07 Jan

When most people think of traveling by bike they think of bicycle touring, where you carry everything you need to be self-sufficient for long distances: clothing, sleeping bag, tent, cookware. Like backpacking on wheels. Or perhaps “credit card” touring, where you skip the camping and stay in motels or hostels. Or supported tours, where guides plan your route and vehicles carry your gear (and you too, if you don’t want to ride that day).

Strawberry

When Dick and I bought our touring bikes last year, we didn’t really have a plan. I suspected we’d set out for credit card type tours, and we still may. But so far, our overnight bike trips don’t fit any of these models. I would call them “bicycle getaways”: 2-4 day trips, more urban than most touring trips, using transit to increase our travel ranges, and with luxury accommodations. Ideally a hotel with a fuzzy robes and great restaurants nearby.

Breakfast in Bed

So far, we’ve done four bicycle getaways: two to Sacramento, one to San Francisco, and one I planned recently for Dick’s birthday. Instead of giving birthday gifts, we have a tradition of going away for a short trips. Dick’s birthday being close to Thanksgiving makes things challenging. Airports and highways are full of holiday travelers and after nine years together we’d already visited all the closer spots. I was running out of ideas.

Then I thought of Tiburon, a small town on the north end of San Francisco Bay that along with neighboring Sausalito and Belvedere Island make up what’s affectionately called the San Francisco Riviera. I was sold.

Like our other bike getaways, the train made it easy to ride from home. Caltrain got us to San Francisco, then it was less than 30 miles across the Golden Gate Bridge and around the bay to Tiburon. We had our bikes available for a Marin day trip the next day, then home was just a ferry ride and train ride away. No holiday traffic like a driving trip would be, and more luxury than a full-on touring trip. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

Where have you ever done loaded toured with your bike? Did you go hardcore with fully-loaded touring or did you “credit card” it for a lighter load?

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Trip Details: Starting from home in Mountain View, we traveled this route for a total 165 miles: 80 miles by train, 75 by bike, 10 by ferry. Transportation costs: $29 ($11 for Dick’s train pass, $18 for ferry, free bike parking at hotel). Hotel: Water’s Edge. Restaurants: Capurro’s (SF), Caprice, Sam’s Cafe and Boathouse (Tiburon).

Tiburon Trip Map

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14 Comments

Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Backroads, Travel

 

14 responses to “Bicycle Getaways: The San Francisco Riviera

  1. georgie

    January 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Lovely to see your beautiful pictures and you got some great weather too!
    For my 30th this year me & my other half stopped in San Francisco and hired bikes for 2 weeks. We did that ride to Tiburon – beautiful, but the fog rolled in thick and fast (we weren’t very lucky with the weather). The other amazing rides we did was a day up onto Sweeny Ridge dropping down into Pacifica for lunch at the diner at Rockaway Beach and most amazingly was the day we got the BART to Oakland (Rockridge) and cycled through beautiful Montclair and up to Chabot Observatory (really amazing place for a whole day trip) – watching the sunset over SF in the distance was perfect and then later that night we descended through the trees – just the moon and bike lights lighting the way back to the BART.

    This year I’m sticking to the UK for our tours and like yourselves, we’ll be doing short trips with the assistance of trains and hostels. Got one in a couple of weeks in the Lake District. Really looking forward to all our mini-tours. Hope your new year is filled with lots of adventures too.

     
    • ladyfleur

      January 8, 2013 at 8:12 am

      We definitely have to do Berkeley and the Oakland hills. My first experience in California was an internship in Berkeley so it’s a special place for me.

       
  2. Martin

    January 7, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    You can do something similar in a very nice one-day outing: Caltrain to San Francisco, pedal the 10 minutes to the ferry building, take the ferry to Larkspur, and then follow your route south through Tiberon, around Belvedere, around Richardson Bay past Sausalito, then across the Golden Gate, ending up at Caltrain for the trip home. Beautiful views of the bay and the city! And many opportunities to stop for lunch and afternoon snacks.

     
    • ladyfleur

      January 8, 2013 at 8:02 am

      But on a one day trip we wouldn’t get breakfast in bed. :)

      I’ve never taken the Larkspur ferry, but we passed its terminal on our way to San Rafael. Have you ever taken the Vallejo or Alameda ferries? I’m wondering where we could go with those as starting points. Ditto for the ACE train and San Joaquin Amtrak.

       
  3. simonnurse

    January 8, 2013 at 1:32 am

    Ahh this brings back memories. San Francisco was my first taste of the US back in 1992. Loved it. We had friends who lived in Sausalito who provided wonderful guides (Tiburon was my favourite place hands down). I’d go back in the blink of an eye.

    Most of my touring is done in the guise of adventure racing or day tours and travelling light (all in the UK). Note to self: Find time for the multi-day trip.

     
    • ladyfleur

      January 8, 2013 at 8:10 am

      We definitely didn’t travel light. We had two complete sets of riding clothes and two sets of street clothes, including dress-up clothes for Thanksgiving dinner. The route was pretty darn flat and we weren’t in a hurry so it worked fine for us.

      Find time to stay overnight for a night or two. It’s very different than a day trip.

       
      • simonnurse

        January 8, 2013 at 8:46 am

        Will do. Aside from commuting my riding tends to fall into two camps; light and fast or bogged down in mud and ‘orrible. Time for something in between!

         
    • georgie

      January 8, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      Where’s that Hills Hurt pic (I want to guess at either Ramsbottom or Calderdale?). Good luck finding the time for some multi-day touring. I’m trying to get my boss to agree my leave so I can start booking YHAs. Fingers crossed for a drier year eh.

       
      • simonnurse

        January 9, 2013 at 12:51 am

        Dry would be good. Very good in fact. I hadn’t realised that you could get trench foot from cycling :)

        That hill is at Hebden bridge in West Yorkshire, so you weren’t far out (well done!). It’s a section on ‘The Ronde Van Oost Lancashire’ a free sportive organised by Alan Dorrington, a team mate at ‘Here Come the Belgians’. As my grimace attests, it’s an evil climb. Strongly recommended if you find yourself in the North of England in mid April (always the same day as the Tour of Flanders).

        Good luck getting the leave sorted.

         
      • simonnurse

        January 9, 2013 at 12:52 am

        Sorry Georgie, just realised that you know the North of England quite well! Anyway….Its Hebden Bridge. Try it from the cobbled path at the bottom, then up the road. It’s a swine.

         
  4. Martin

    January 8, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    @ladyfleur: Yes for the Alameda ferry (one time, but to Jack London Square) and also for the Vallejo ferry. The Vallejo ferry is a nice trip across the bay by itself, worth taking on a nice day even if you don’t tie it together with a bike ride.

    One nice trip is to take the ferry to Vallejo, and then do a round trip around the Carquinez Straight. You can head south and cross the Carquiniz Bridge on a bike lane, then head east through Crockett along a road on the bluff above the straight that’s closed to car traffic, then cross back north on the Benicia Bridge (part of the old bridge has a lane dedicated to peds and cyclists), and then complete the circuit back to the Vallejo ferry. The part above the straight is great! Lunch on the waterfront in Benicia. (The down part though is about 5 ugly miles through Vallejo … I haven’t found a pleasant way through that town.)

    Another nice day trip is to take the Capitol Corridor to Fairfield/Suisun (easier for me, since I live in San Jose, but you could take Caltrain to Diridon to pick up the Capitol Corridor), then bicycle through the hills from Fairfield to Vallejo, then take the ferry back to San Francisco, and then home via Caltrain.

    As you see, I like these rides where I can do the whole thing without using the car.

     
  5. ladyfleur

    January 8, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Hmm. Those are some good ideas. It’s pretty easy for us to take the Capitol Corridor; the Great America station is only 8 miles away. That’s what we did the two times we went to Sacramento.

    How bad is the part in Vallejo? Like riding through Norht/East San Jose?

     
  6. Martin

    January 10, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Going through Vallejo wasn’t bad from the point of view of car traffic — the streets were not all that busy, as I recall. Just ugly — long stretches light industry: car repair, fast food, discount clothing, etc. Somewhat similar to coming into San Jose from the south via Monterrey Highway.

     

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