Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge

20 April 2009
1:44 AM

There is a dedicated lane for cyclists on the west side of the bridge.

I bought a Kona bike last fall, and notwithstanding the incident where someone stole it and I found the thief and stole it back (another story—ask me later), it has lead a provincial life. During the week I ride it a couple of miles to campus and back each day. I put on some extra mileage when I run errands. Every now and then Caitlin and I will ride around town, either along sleepy Bicycle Boulevards, over the I-80 bridge and along the bay, across the Ohlone Greenway, or in the rolling Berkeley Hills. But this weekend, Caitlin and I decided to try out our wheels in the big city.

Our plan was to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. Since we haven’t perfected the ride-across-the-water technique, we boarded BART with our bikes Saturday morning. It’s nice to have the option of taking your bike into San Francisco using public transportation. Once we arrived at the Embarcadero station, we rode along Market to the Ferry Building where we checked out the Saturday farmers’ market. After sampling a tasty blood orange, we barreled down Embarcadero.

At our first stop light, it became apparent that we weren’t the only ones with the idea of a Saturday morning ride: nine other bikers were stopped in the bike lane. They clearly weren’t seasoned pros, though, which I deduced when the guy in front of me turned around and asked, “Are we supposed to stop at the lights?” Every third person we saw was riding a rental from Blazing Saddles. The bikes they rent looked nice enough, but they don’t seem to rent common sense with them. Part of the ensuing challenge was dodging tourist bikers as they decided to (a) stop suddenly, (b) start suddenly, (c) drive towards you head-on in a low-speed but still terrifying game of chicken.

Riding on a cloud
Looking out towards the Pacific from the west side of the bridge.

We followed the Bay Trail along the piers, through Fisherman’s Wharf, down a nameless park, and eventually up to the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Crossing the bridge was almost surreal. Even at midday, a swath of fog wrapped around the structure. It felt like riding on a cloud. It felt like it too: the winds whipped across the bridge and the temperature while crossing was easily 10° cooler than that on either side.

Balancing rocks by the Sausalito shore
Along the main drag, a man began balancing rocks in an impromptu performance.

Once we crossed the bridge we rode down into Sausalito. The road sloped downward steeply which made for an exhilarating descent, diminished only by the thought of climbing back up the hill. As we rode though Sausalito I found myself immediately charmed by the town. After I saw a sign in the town plaza, my opinion was cemented: Sausalito’s sister city is Viña del Mar, Chile, which is just a couple hours away from my one-time home in that slender country.

A ferry connects Sausalito with downtown San Francisco, which provided an attractive alternative to the uphill return. After a thorough discussion of the pros and cons of the ferry (con: it cost money), we opted for the cheaper route home. As we geared up for the ride back, we could see the San Francisco skyline, still blanketed by fog at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

Foggy San Francisco from Sausalito
The fog made it look as if someone had dragged an eraser across the horizon.

A couple hours later, we were back on the BART, headed home.

Google Earth map of ride

I plotted our ride in Google Earth, which makes it fun to explore different views of the path. According to the route, the roundtrip distance was about 20 miles. If you have Google Earth installed, you can download our route.