When we decided we would kick off our White Christmas tour of the USA in San Francisco I knew that I wanted to ride a bike over the Golden Gate Bridge. There are a number of companies for Golden Gate Bridge bike hire and we chose Blazing Saddles. When I started researching I couldn’t believe how easy it was going to be to organise. The only thing I couldn’t rely on was the weather and being December, there was a chance it could go either way.
We hired our bikes from Blazing Saddles Bike Hire San Francisco, they are located in a number of different locations around the city but we collected ours from Hyde St just a few streets away from Fisherman’s Wharf near where the Cable Car finishes. This is a good spot for collecting the bikes as it is really close to the bike path and easy to navigate when you have a few kids on unfamiliar bikes on steep hills.
After arriving at Blazing Saddles we were greeted by the lovely Emily who took us through all the formalities and waivers and such. We were then fitted with our helmets which are important for safety should you fall off your bike, especially on some of the steep hills. Now it was time for our bikes, the kids seats were adjusted to match their height and ensure the most comfortable position for riding. They had a short test run before Craig and I were set up.
Emily walked us down to the start of the bike path as the store is located on a steep street, those ones the San Fran is famous for! It was a cracking day weather wise, I couldn’t have asked for more. Sunny, with not a cloud in the sky and about 20 degrees. This was perfect weather for riding, not to hot and not to cold.
We had chosen to ride our bikes over the bridge and on to Sausalito. There is usually a ferry here that will bring you back, including your bike, to Fisherman’s Wharf. On the day that we had elected to do our ride, the Sausalito ferry wasn’t running. This left us with two options, either ride the bikes another 20kms or so to Tiburon or drop them off in Sausalito and make our own way back.
We decided that we would ride on to Tiburon and get the ferry back. We could then have the option to leave the bikes in Sausalito if we ran out of time. You can also just ride over the bridge and back and not ride into Sausalito at all. Riding into Sausalito rates as one of the top things to do in San Francisco on Trip Advisor.
You aren’t allowed to ride on the footpath and seeing as though we didn’t want the kids riding on the road we had to walk our bikes to the trail head, about 320m. Once at the bike trail though we were off and not far into the ride we hit the first of many hills! Mum was first to disembark and push her bike up the hill. It is here that you get your first nice glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s in the distance but I still managed to take a few photos before heading off. You see, the stopping to take photos was our biggest problem. Like seriously how many photos do you need of one bridge? I think I broke the world record on taking photos this day!
The ride is relatively easy with a couple of challenging spots where you might have to get off and walk. I was able to ride a few and a couple I chose to walk up as I really struggle for strength in my legs. All in all I wouldn’t say it’s a difficult ride though. I think the positives hugely outweigh the negatives! If, like us you take loads of breaks for photos, you will find it much easier. There is one very steep incline taking you to the start of the bridge but other than that its a pretty manageable ride. As you can see below, the Golden Gate Bridge is quite a sight and there are a number of great spots to view the bridge and get that ripper shot that will be perfect for Instagram!
It gets busy going across the bridge too, some people are riding across the bridge then riding the back to San Fran without going into Sausalito. This means that many bikes will be travelling in both directions not to mention the people that are walking the Golden Gate Bridge and there are quite a few people that choose to do that. Just take it slow and you’ll be fine. We were lucky the day we were there, the crowd wasn’t huge and we crossed without any issues. On the other side on the bridge, we stopped at Vista Point before riding on to Sausalito. There are toilets here and another great opportunity for more photos. It’s pretty busy here with vehicles coming and going and bikes and pedestrians walking around so watch out for your kids on the bikes.
The ride into Sausalito is mostly downhill for about 2.2miles which is over 4kms. At times its quite steep and you can gather a bit of speed. Craig, Alannah and Caelan took off going quite fast down the hills, Keira and I were more cautious and liked to keep our speed under control. At the entrance to the town there were road works, this road is shared, vehicles and bikes and I was a little nervous with the kids.
Luckily the roadworks meant that traffic controllers were managing the traffic and they let the vehicles through first and us riders last, this meant that we didn’t have cars overtaking us on the way into town. I could then relax and enjoy the ride in at my own pace.
Sausalito is a lovely, quaint seaside town. The views over back to San Francisco are amazing. There are a number of places to stop and have something to eat of varying price range, we chose to stop and have pizza. The restaurants on the waterfront are the more expensive ones but you’ll certainly find something that suits your budget.
If you head into the town towards the ferry terminal, you will find a bike rack where you can safely chain up your bike and go for a look around. The shops here are lovely and we purchased a couple of Christmas decorations from the Christmas shop.
Alannah was first off the mark with US shopping and bought herself a California bomber jacket with her birthday money. There were loads of crafty type shops, souvenir and clothing stores. The homes were beautiful and a lot of them were built into the hill side and would have amazing views across to San Francisco. It would be a nice place to stay if you were looking for something a little different and quieter!
We soon realised after arriving in Sausalito that we wouldn’t have enough time to ride the rest of the way to Tiburon before the last ferry at 5.30pm. We then made the decision to drop the bikes off in Sausalito at the Blazing Saddles drop off point located at the Joinery. The pub is on the other side of Sausalito from where you ride in.
It costs US$10 to drop the bikes there and then US$3 for the bus back to the city. The ferry from Tiburon to San Francisco costs US$12 so it’s much of a muchness. We were advised to get the bus back as the taxis were likely to rip us off. We walked back to the bus stop outside the Fargo Wells bank and waited for the next bus.
We met a Canadian couple who had done the same thing as us and we had a good chat to them about their experience and they had loved it as well. The bus is not at all regular or on time so keep that in mind when waiting. The bus runs every 30 mins and the bus driver will advise you were to get off if you tell him you need assistance. We have found all the employees on public transport to be super helpful.
There are a number of different operators for hiring bikes in San Francisco. I chose Blazing Saddles as there was more choice of bikes and the location for pick up suited me best. Following are the prices:
We had an awesome day riding our Blazing Saddles bikes and better still it was our first day in the USA. We had a nasty case of jet lag so we arrived at pick up 2 hours late which was disappointing because with that 2 hours we might have been able to make it to Tiburon. Never mind, not sure my legs would have made to Tiburon to tell the truth so probably best it happened the way it did.
The level of service at Blazing Saddles was second to none, I couldn’t ask for better. As it was our first day in the country, Emily answered a few questions for me regarding the environment which was great. The team were fantastic with the kids and the bikes were well maintained.
When we changed plans and dropped the bikes off at Sausalito, we fixed the bill over the phone. I could not fault Blazing Saddles on anything. Their maps were clear and information provided was adequate. I would highly recommend any experience with Blazing Saddles and would happily rent bikes from them another time.
While in San Fransisco we stayed at the Hotel Union Square on Powell St. This was a great location in central San Francisco and was located in Powell St, right near the Cable Car turntable. We also took the kids to Alcatraz, I was a bit concerned they wouldn’t find it interesting but boy was I wrong, they loved it. There are so many great things to see and do when visiting San Francisco, I would happily return and spend a few more days there as I feel we didn’t see it all.
Have you ridden over the Golden Gate Bridge? Tell me about your experience below.
Sally, Craig & Our3kids
Disclaimer: We had a mutually beneficial arrangement with Blazing Saddles but as always our opinion is our own.