Friday, Aug. 07, 2009

San Francisco

Route: Fisherman's Wharf to Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito
Distance: 8 miles (almost 13 km)

In this hilly city, where cyclists use a zigzagging route known as the Wiggle to avoid steep climbs in the city center, the ride from Fisherman's Wharf on the Embarcadero to Sausalito in Marin County is one of the easiest — and the most spectacular. Start at the Wharf, where $7-per-hour bike rentals are available at Bike and Roll, and pick up the bike path that heads north toward the Golden Gate Bridge. The ride along the San Francisco Bay is lined with landmarks: historic, touristy Ghirardelli Square, full of restaurants and shops; the San Francisco Maritime Museum, where the tourist hordes will begin to thin out; Fort Mason, the former Army post that is home to several cultural institutions; the colonnaded Palace of Fine Arts theater, which is the only building remaining from the 1915 World's Fair; and, finally, Crissy Field, the waterfront wetlands within the Presidio, a former military base turned national park.

Before the short climb up to the bridge, take a break at the Warming Hut, at the western end of Crissy Field's promenade; the café has an Alice Waters–designed menu of treats to fortify you. On windy days the ride across the bridge can be dicey, but the views are always glorious. After crossing, it's a 10-min. downhill ride to Sausalito, where you can hop a 30-min., $9.50 ferry back to Fisherman's Wharf. But don't hurry — it's worth lingering a while here. The quaint downtown is full of restaurants, including Fish and the Lighthouse Café for lunch, or Sushi Ran for dinner — all with views of the bay.