Things I Wish I Would Have Known About the San Francisco / Tiburon Route Before I Did it the First Time.
The Tiburon ride has a lot: If you've never cycled the Golden Gate Bridge, you have to do it at least once for the unique experience. For climbers, there's a stunning cinematic view if the day is clear. For the Lites and others who so choose, there's a sweet ferry ride across the Bay.
Three versions of the ride are Lite, Humane, and Intermediate/Advanced. But a lot of people prefer to some hybrid combination of the three.
- The climb up Conzelman is a steep little sucker, so this is on the Intermediate/Advanced Route only. However, a lot of folks, including me, love the view from the Marin Headlands back over the bridge and city—on a clear day, it's a cinematic event that reminds you of any number of movies. And it's not that long a climb.
- Only the Lite route calls for taking the ferry back to the City ... But in the past a lot folks like taking the Ferry, often after lunch at one of the outdoor cafes at the Tiburon ferry building. Some folks like to wait and then grab some of the gormet street fair at the farmers markets or cafes at the SF Ferry Building at the end of the trip.
San Francisco is always (or at least seems to be) 10 degrees colder than Oakland. And the Golden Gate Bridge is always (or at least it seems to be) the coldest and windiest place in the city. Unless it's scheduled to broil, I'll just about always bring a wind-jacket that I can later remove and stash.
San Francisco is a lesson in the necessity of paying attention to everything: especially the auto traffic, the pedestrians (especially the glassy eyed tourists), and the trolly and train tracks. I don't mean to thrash the glassy-eyed tourists, I've been one myself ... but you have to watch for people paying so much attention to the sights that they don't see you ...
The rail tracks can be particularly troublesome in the City because so many of them are parallel to the street, so you can not only slip your wheels on the smooth steel, but you can get your wheel caught in the rut, which is a guaranteed fall. Stay away from tracks in the centers of the streets, and when you cross tracks, take them at as close to a right angle as you can, and with your bike straight up as you can ... that is, don't cross the tracks when you're leaning in the middle of a sharp turn if you can avoid it.
The route sheet points to the rest rooms in the Marina/Yacht harbor area as rest stops, but some folks prefer to stop at the giant Sports Basement a little further ahead, where they can use the restrooms, buy cycling refreshments ... heck, buy a water bottle or new jacket or a wheel if you want to.
The approach to the Golden Gate Bridge ... Cyclists take the ocean-side (West side of the bridge bikeway/walkway) I've not been on it since it's been re-opened, but if it's like what it used to be: you do a tight little circle, crossing under the bridge and circling around to a steep tiny small section on to the bridge itself ... At that place, you have to watch for clueless walkers and cyclists who couldn't or chose not to stay on their bikes going either up or down.
The bridge itself. Wow. The view and the experience is astonishing and so are the seemingly clueless pedestrians and tourist cyclists who are also interested primarily in the view and not in getting out of your way. Whatever chaos you find in the morning, multiply that by 10-fold if you return that way in the afternoon. The afternoon ride is an exercise of nerves ...
The Marin side of the bridge. This is where the routes splits ... the climbers go left up the Marin Headlands where we can stand with jaws agape for a while on the top, looking back over the bridge and the City...before looping back down to Sausalito. Those who don't climb Conzelman drop down to the right and sweep into Sausalito ... where you cruise along the waterfront.
Sausalito is your second lesson in on West Bay tourist season if the weather is nice. The street is narrow and will probably be loaded with cars, and bikes. Stay to the right, stay in the bike lane when you can. Sausalito is one of the few places I have more than once witnessed traffic cops issuing tickets to cylists who ride in the car lane, sometimes 3 abreast, blocking the cars behind.
Tiburon—is where some of the 1% live—up on the hill, anyway ... The Tiburon Ferry Building area has some pleasant outdoor cafes where you can watch your bikes and have a sandwich while waiting for the ferry. I like to the buy the ticket and confirm the time before I settle down. Some people prefer to wait until they get back to SF and...
When you get back to the city, some people like to go to the market at the SF Ferry Building ... huge, lots of shops and restaurants ... a couple of blocks from the BART...
For all the sights and variety ... from the Embarcadero past the wharf and the marina, the GG Bridge, the headlands, Sausalito, Tiberon and the ferry if you take it ... If these areas are not already your stomping grounds, this is an experience-rich and intense route ...