Biking the Golden Gate
Biking the 8-mile route across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito was the highlight of a weeklong late September girl’s getaway with my sister, Shelagh. I hesitated when, weeks before the trip, she suggested the ride, but stubborn pride trumped a paralyzing fear of heights, and I agreed to go.
Fast forward to day three of our trip. We rise that day in our cozy Marina District rental apartment and head over to lively Chestnut Street, where we catch a bus to nearby Fisherman’s Wharf. The weather? Impossibly perfect. Stretchy yoga capris, a t-shirt, and a light running jacket (for the purported winds crossing the bridge) feels perfect.
We stop at Bay City Bike Rentals to pick up our bikes. Performance bikes are available, but we opt for the less expensive “comfort bikes”. They are admittedly a little dorky, but feel solid and ride smoothly. The bikes come equipped with a helmet, map, lock, and water bottle holder.
Just a few blocks on the road in light traffic and then we begin to wind through the bike trails that begin at Fort Mason and continue along through the Marina Green and The Presidio. The Golden Gate looms at an unmistakably higher elevation, so there’s no denying the workout ahead.
San Francisco’s reputation for monstrous hills could prove discouraging to some, but this particular route is surprisingly flat, except for one short hill at Fort Mason and a longer steep stretch immediately before the bridge. The ride from the north side of the bridge into Sausalito is completely downhill and quite fun. Those leery of tackling hills should consider taking the ferry back to San Francisco after exploring Sausalito, to avoid ascending aforementioned fun hill.
As we pedal toward the Golden Gate, I try to squelch my anxiety, afraid I’ll turn back in a panic and ruin Shelagh’s well-planned adventure. There’s only one way to find out, though, so I pedal on. The bridge is busy, and dodging pedestrians slowed us down, but the view of the San Franciso skyline and the shimmering bay is exhilarating. So is the thrill of conquering a fear. I feel safe enough to suggest we stop to snap some photos. Dismounting my bike, however, nausea hits as I feel the shaking from the continual stream of commuter traffic. I manage to keep panic at bay, but irrationally, only if I look down. I can’t bring myself to look up at the bridge’s immense orange towers.
Back on our bikes we can’t feel the shaking anymore, and my calm returns. We soon reach the north side the bridge, and wind down the road that leads to Sausalito. We’re rewarded by a brightly painted seaside village with a Spanish vibe, the main stretch lined with shops and restaurants. We lock our bikes at the nearby ferry terminal, shop for a while, and then feast on fish tacos and crab cake burgers at waterfront Scoma’s.
Another stroll through shops teeming with local art, unique jewelry, and souvenirs, and we are ready to catch the ferry. There, we’re faced with our blatant lack of originality as we take our place in line with dozens of other helmeted, yoga-pant clad tourists with dorky rental touring bikes.
We have no trouble boarding the first ferry that arrives after we take our place in line, but apparently, that’s not always the case. It may be advisable to check with the two ferry companies that run this route – Blue and Gold Fleet and Golden Gate Ferry to check current wait times.
Back in San Francisco, we’re left with enough time to return our bikes in daylight. We grab a bus back to the Marina District, pick up veggie burgers and sweet potato fries from a place called Super Duper Burgers (reminiscent of Shake Shack in New York) and head back to the apartment to crack open a well-deserved bottle of wine.