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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, all.
I will be traveling to San Francisco in late April/early May, and will take the opportunity to explore the roads north of the bridge, possibly going up to Fairfax and back. Any suggestions for a good rental shop near the Financial district? From what I have found, Blazing Saddles and Bike and Roll (both on Columbus Ave.) seem like ok options, but local knowledge would be nice.

Tips on choice of route(s) would be appreciated. I will be staying in SF for a week, so any group rides open to an experienced Norwegian rider (cat 3, approx) would be of great interest.
 

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Blazing Saddles is terrible except for the Columbus Street branch,
Blazing Saddles - Columbus Street

Columbus street is a small, specialized branch of BS. When we rent bikes for visitors we go there. The total number of bikes that they have is relatively small but they're much better bikes and the guys who run the shop are knowledgable, they know the area and they ride.

The other BS locations are somewhere between awful, terrible, and Jesus-Oh-My-God-RUN. We've made the mistake of renting bikes from there (for visitors who hardly ever ride). The bikes were terrible quality and they were in poor repair. The people running the shops had no clue about the area and gave very poor advice.

Bike and Roll is much better than BS but the only decent road bike they have is a TREK 2.1 -- not exactly a high end bike. I don't have much direct experience with them but I meet lots of tourists who have rented from them. From what I can tell B&R employees give poor advice.

I've posted a number of good rides here,
Bike Routes by User BuenosAires

Strongly recommend the Hawk Hill Loop. It's a good starting point. It has some of the best know (and most spetacular) views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Next on the list is Mt-Tamalpais. Great riding through the redwoods and excellent views. You can add the loop out past Alpine Dam to that if you like.

Paradise Loop is a popular ride with lot's of good views, gentle rollers, no real climbs.

If you cross bay, Mount Diablo is a great ride. You can take BART from San Francisco to there.

Lots of good riding south of San Francisco. Check out the Kings Mountain loop.

Tunitas Creek is a great ride. It's part of the Tour of California.

The last three stages of the Tour of California are in the Bay Area May-17, 18, and 19.

See if you can hook up with either Mission Cycling or Roaring Mouse. They sponsor several local teams and do some serious group rides.

The Mission Cycling Club \\ San Francisco

Roaring Mouse Cycles -- San Francisco

From what I'm told, Northern California is very competative. Cat 1, 2, and 3 are brutal. So there a lot of people riding Cat4/5 who 'should be' Cat 3 or above.

I ride Hawk Hill most every day (unless it rains). I see people doing hill repeats at twice my pace,

Strava Segment | Hawk Hill

Strava Segment | King's Mountain between stop signs

FWIW, #14 on the King's Mountain list is Fast Freddy Rodriguez

Send me a message or respond to this posting if you'd like to know more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, slow.climber, that is a lot of very relevant information!
I'll assess the rentals at Columbus Ave, and decide when I get there. I have ridden my share of rental bikes, and sort of know what to expect: anything!

From what I see and read, the SF-Fairfax-Mount Tam. and back loop looks just right to me. Good length, decent climbing, and some pretty great scenery to keep the mind occupied. Will be going out on a weekday morning, so hopefully traffic won't be to heavy on the way out. Anything in particular I should look out for?
 

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Rethinking this post...

I just got back from a ride through the Headlands. It got me to thinking about this post.

April can be spetacular weather. In general, April and October are the best months.

It was a spetacularly clear afternoon. The descent west off of Hawk Hill, the ride out to the beach, the climb up to Battery Townsley -- just spetacular.

Parts of the Mt. Tam ride are not to be missed. But a big part of that ride is what I consider 'junk miles'. The ride from Sausalito to Mill Valley, the ride after Alpine dam around to Fairfax and then down to Sausalito -- I find all of those miles very unrewarding.

When I do Mt. Tam I do it as an out and back. I ride the spine of the mountain out to the east peak. I've done the Alpine dam loop but I can't really recommend it.

Some people ride up Mt. Tam, turn left at Ridgecrest (right takes you out to east peak), continue past the turn off for Alpine dam, and descend down to Stinson Beach (about 700m).

If it's a quite day, they'll ride back along the pacific on Hwy-1. Some people prefer to do it as an out and back -- i.e. climb back up Ridgecrest and descend back to Mill Valley.

I would avoid using Hwy-1. There is no bike lane on Hwy-1. It's narrow, the traffic moves fast, the climbing can be slow. OTOH, the scenery is great.

FWIW, in general the SF Bay Area is very bike friendly but that can change fast when you get away from the cities. Sadly Marin is not imune to this. I've had some unplesant experiences with motorists on Hwy-1.

The weather may be awful in San Francisco but teriffic as soon as you cross the Golden Gate bridge into Marin. Don't talk yourself out of doing the ride based on what you see out your window. This web cam has frequent updates,

Mt. Tam Cam - Mount Tamalpais Webcam trail maps

On the way out, we take Alexander Ave from the north side of the Golden Gate bridge down into Sausalito. It's fast but you miss some cool stuff. On the way back, we exit Alexander Avenue just south of Sausalito and take East Avenue through the park. That's much nicer. It takes you to the foot of the Golden Gate bridge, where the pier is in this picture,

Fort Baker Mine Depot at Horseshoe Cove | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

From there it's a quick 70m climb back up to the bridge. The grade is 10-12% in some places. Not bad.

From the bridge, we often continue the climb up to the top of Hawk Hill. It's only and additional 3 Km and ~200 meters of climbing with no grades of more than 8.5%.

There are so many postcard views on the way up it's hard to resist. At the top, you can pass through a short tunnel (at the turn around point in the parking area). That tunnel takes you to the west side of Hawk Hill. From there the park is layed out at your feet. The views up and down the coast can be spetacular.

The descent going west from Hawk Hill is my favorite. It starts off at 22% but it flattens out after the 3rd of 4th curve. It comes at you fast, so take it easy and enjoy the view. Unfortunately I've been first responder on at least half a dozen crashes on that part of the descent. Some of those were very not pretty. Often it was an experienced rider who just didn't know the route.

The ride out to Rodeo beach is well worth it. The surf breaking on the ciffs can be very impressive. From there you can either turn back or take a fast loop up into the hills

Google Maps

If you continue up the hill, the first part of the loop runs along the edge of the cliffs. It's about 1 Km with some 10-14% pitches. At the top, like Hawk Hill, there's a very short tunnel that takes you to the west side of the hill. The view from there is well worth the short detour.

There's some interestingly quirky stuff in the headlands, like this blue whale skeleton,

Google Maps

The Marine Mammal Center is also kind of cool, if you're interested in natural history stuff. You'll see it on the map. It's very close to the blue whale.

The whole 'detour' through the Marin Headlands is only about 10 Km. Compared to the 'junk miles' on the rest of the ride, it's like being in a different world.

Anyway, the temperature in SF can be 30 degrees (F) cooler than Mt. Tam. Check my cue sheet for info on where to find water on the climb. There's a park half way up (just before Pan Toll Road) and there's water at the top.

If you're going to ride that loop I suggest doing it in the clockwise direction -- Mill Valley, Mt. Tam, Alpine Dam, Fairfax.

The road surface is not very good between the descent from Mt. Tam -> Alpine Dam -> Fairfax.

I get fatigued from the jostling.

The scenery out of Mill Valley, up Mt. Tam, and out to Alpine dam is excellent. From that point on it gets dull. Just suburban Marin county.

The cafe's in Mill Valley are good. Or stop at Cibo in Sausalito. They're very casual and bike friendly,

Cibo of Sausalito

Cibo is the one exception that I have to my rule for where to eat in Sausalito. Bridgeway is the road where all the tourists stop. There's almost nothing that that I'd recommend on Bridgeway other than Cibo. Locals generaly don't eat at places on Bridgeway. They tend to eat one block in on Caledonia.

One other thing. The rules about crossing the Golden Gate bridge are a bit strange. On week days, all bike traffic is on the east side (city side) except for between 3:30 PM and sundown.

All of the pedestrians are also on the east side. It's a bit of a zoo. The bridge crew uses the west side and they get off work at 3:30 PM. So at that point all of the bike traffic moves to the west side. And that is so much better than the east side.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Guys (and slow.climber in particular), thank you so much for sharing this. I should be all set now, and provided nothing unexpected happens, I will have to try out several of the options provided on my weeklong stay. I forgot to ask about what weather to prepare for, but you even got that one covered! I will definitively report back!
 

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I checked the rate from bike and roll. Is 110 Dollar per day normal in US?
So far me is inured europe prices, there i pay 110 Dollar per week. :idea:
Seems high. In Utah, $40/day gets you a high end bike (Pro Level Tarmac with Dura Ace) from the shop in town that is notoriously known for being expensive.

However...it is San Francisco. I'm guessing your hotel there costs more than in Europe too, right? ;)
 

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I checked the rate from bike and roll. Is 110 Dollar per day normal in US?
So far me is inured europe prices, there i pay 110 Dollar per week. :idea:
$110 per day for a Trek Madone 5.9 does seem high. OTOH, that bike retails for over $5,000.

Contact the Columbus Avenue location of Blazing Saddles. They'll have a much larger selection that what's shown on line. It's been a few years since we've rented from them. But I expect the price to be closer to $70 per day.

High Performance 1095 Columbus Ave Location | Blazing Saddles
 

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I just rented a super-nice Trek Madone w ultegra, from Summit bicycles in Los Gatos, for $30/ day. Great shop to rent from in my opinion! The bike rides and shifts like new, and was dialed-in to fit me just right. Very helpful and friendly people working in the shop, too. They gave m a few good ride routes from San Jose as well. I'll definitely rent from them again!
 

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Good tip but FWIW, Trek uses the 'Madone' model for a wide range of bikes.

They're all rather good but the low end Madone is several thousand less than a mid/upper end Madone.
Ooookaaaay.......
and how does that pertain to a nice $30 bike rental? Is the low-end model not worth his $30?
the one I rented was a 5.2, but didn't think it would be a deal-breaker, regardless of which model it was. Ultegra still shifts the same.
 

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Calm down. No one is bad mouthing your rental.

OP said that the price in SF was $110.

I pointed out that this was for a Madone 5.9

I said that sounded high. I would have expected about $70 (based on prices that I've paid to rent similar bikes in SF in the past).

The bike that you describe retails for 1/2 the price of the Madone 5.9.

Obviously, rental cost scales with price of the bike.

Doing the math, this supports my $70 estimate.
 
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