There are at least a half dozen bike rental and bike tour outlets along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf. All of them offer guided and/or self-guided trips along the bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito, with a ferry ride back to the city. If you’ve never been to San Francisco, it’s not a bad choice. Except that Sausalito is pretty touristy.
I was in San Francisco recently, primarily to check out the East Bay Punk History Rock Bike Tour. I’ve always wanted to bike over the Golden Gate Bridge. But, having been to Sausalito ONCE, I didn’t really want to do that again, Plus, there are other ways to ferry around the bay (tip, check out downtown Oakland or Alameda).
So, do ride the touristy San Francisco side (especially if it’s your first time in the city). And do ride across the Golden Gate bridge. But, then, come back and take in another side of San Francisco.
Here’s how this ride breaks down:
Embarcadero to the Golden Gate Bridge, passing through all of the most touristed areas, including the Exploratorium, Pier 39 (don’t miss the sea lions!), Fisherman’s Wharf, the USS Pampanito and SS Jeremiah O’Brien, the Maritime National Historic Park, views of Alcatraz, Fort Mason, and Crissy Fields. Finally climb up to and on the Golden Gate Bridge. Approx. 6.5 miles. Consider which side of the bridge to ride.
SOMA back to the Ferry Building. The mapped route is pretty direct back to the Ferry Building, but this area is dead flat and pretty bike friendly. If you’re interested in craft beer, there are several brewpubs noted on the map. Approx. 3.5 to 5 miles depending on detours.
Need a bike? You can’t walk 50 feet along the bay without running into bike rentals. But consider treating yourself to an upgrade from Golden Gate Rides, Bike Hut, or Dandyhorse. Tell ’em BeenThereBikeTours sent you.
“Punk rock” and “bike tour” are two phrases you don’t expect to see together. Throw in “history” and you’ve got the East Bay Punk Rock History Bike Tour. When I saw this in my news feed a few weeks back, I knew that I had to make the trip. The ride was co-sponsored by Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) and the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). So I cashed in some frequent flyer miles and began looking for a rental bike that wouldn’t make me look like a tourist who’d escaped from Fisherman’s Wharf. Shout out to Golden Gate Rides who set me up with a Cannondale Quick flat bar road bike that was perfectly suited to a long weekend in the Bay Area.
The sellout ride began at the museum in downtown Oakland. The 30 or so riders mingled prior to a welcome and pre-ride briefing from the WOBO board president, Chris. CBGB and Dead Kennedy T-shirts replaced the typical cyclist kit. And there was a bit of minor incredulity that someone would fly 1500 miles to participate. Each rider received a pocket-sized Powerpoint deck detailing each stop of the tour.
We rolled out under clear blue skies to the first stop at the former site of the Practice Pad, in downtown Oakland. Our guides were Kamala and Kate, pioneers of the punk rock scene in the East Bay.
Here, and at each of the eight following stops, Kamala and Kate related stories “from the day”. Stories of starting bands, communal living, and less-than-normal rental practice spaces shared with semi-legal tattoo parlors and offbeat print shops.
More than half of the nine stops no longer resembled their punk rock roots, due to gentrification, remodeling, and new construction. This ride was not about sightseeing as much as about the stories. After each stop’s story, the guides played a song from one of the associated bands. There’s nothing like a punk rock soundtrack on a bike ride.
Here’s a quick video of the music portion at one of the stops:
One particularly interesting detail about gentrification stuck with me. Most of these neighborhoods were, at one time, inexpensive warehouse spaces or housing. They were often very ethnic and dubious of the punk squatters. Gentrification in the early 90’s hadn’t started, but Kate expressed regret that they didn’t try harder to build bridges with the existing neighborhoods.
The final stop on the tour was 924 Gilman which is a:
DIY and nonprofit venue for music, art, and community events
Cultural landmark since 1986 that continues to inspire similar spaces globally
Volunteer-run, all-ages, drug and alcohol-free safe space
Multi-generational, independent collective
Place for young people to work cooperatively
The route from OMCA to 924 Gilman was just under nine miles:
Stretching to Berkeley, the ride also provided a quick glimpse of some of the exceptional Bay Area cycling infrastructure, e.g. bicycle boulevards.
To top off the post ride, WOBO sent a playlist of the tracks played at the stops and during the ride:
01_TheGr’ups_RRHood.mp3 02_Special Forces_South Africa.mp3 03_StarFuckingHipsters_Immigrants_Hypocrites.mp3 04_Neurosis_Double Edged Sword.mp3 05_Christ on Parade_Just Pretend.mp3 06_Tilt_Berkeley Pier.mp3 07_Econochrist_Withdrawl.mp3 08_Spitboy_Sexism Impressed.mp3 09_NoMeansNo_Dad.mp3 10_Fang_Berkeley Heathen Scum.mp3 12_SocialUnrest_GeneralEnemy.mp3 13_Isocracy-2 Blocks Away.mp3 14_Crimpshrine_Tomorrow.mp3 15_Operation Ivy_Junkies Running Dry.mp3 16_Mr. T Experience_Gilman Street.mp3 17_Blatz_Berkeley is my Baby.mp3 18_Filth-The List.mp3 19_Lookouts_Big Green Monster.mp3 20_Screeching Weasel_Ashtray Song.mp3
Most of these titles seem to be available on Youtube.
Although this wasn’t a commercial bike tour, I’m including the usual:
What We Liked
It was a well organized, well run, well thought out event. Kudos to WOBO and OMCA.
The pocket guide and music samples were a great idea.
Tim from WOBO even brought water along in his panniers.
Follow up emails with the route information and downloadable MP3s.
BCO is “Houston’s event, adventure, and social club”. They sponsor a number of cycling oriented events in and around H-town. This was the second Graffiti Ride, with more likely in the future.
Sixty or so riders started at Market Square Park and focused on East Downtown (“EaDo“) and the 2nd Ward/East End districts. The first mural stop at the Houston Graffiti Building featured a dozen or so murals on several buildings (near the intersection of St. Emanuel and Bell):
We rode east from here and made use of two excellent bits of cycling infrastructure, the Columbia Tap and Harrisburg Hike & Bike Trail. This part of town provided some great cycling conditions (especially on a Sunday) and offered a handful more mural sightings:
We eventually looped back toward the start, but not before a brief stop for refreshments at the 8th Wonder Brewery. The ride took right at three hours and was 11 miles or so. As you can see the weather was nothing short of ideal. Especially for Houston.
And, another three hours and 175 mile drive later and my day was done.
Since this is a DIY ride, you’ll need a bike. If you don’t have one, we suggest B-Cycle’s bike share. Better yet, why not rent a bike at Blue Star Bicycling Company, conveniently located next to the third stop at Blue Star? Start the tour in the middle and cycle both ways — that’ll add a few more miles to the beer/mile ratio!
You’ll also need a map. For now, here’s a Google Map to try. We’ll get busy on getting back to the Alamo City and riding this in person.
They have a paragraph or so for New York, Boston, Chicago, D.C., San Francisco, Columbus, Toronto, Chattanooga, and Portland.
It’s a great idea, particularly for the “accidental” tourist who may have a very limited time window to explore. We’d definitely add BTBT’s San Antonio ride to the list. For that matter, any city with bike share is a candidate. If you have an hour or two free in a new city, check it out!
In the afternoon, we took a little break from the show and I set out again to explore a bit beyond the Trinity Strand Trail. First stop, though, was the now open Noble Rey Brewing. After a quick pint of bike fuel, I rode a short distance on the trail to Sylvan Avenue. One block south is the new Sylvan Avenue Bridge featuring “an elevated, six lane bridge with two six foot sidewalks on either shoulder. The ramp from the roadway down to the floodway, will allow both vehicular and pedestrian access to Trammell Crow Park and its soccer fields and pond.”
Each side of the massive bridge has both a dedicated sidewalk as well as a bike lane.
And, most notably, very few cars. I continued on down the “Floodway Access Ramp” to the aptly named Trinity Skyline Trail:
In spite of the view, however, the trail runs along the Trinity River basin. I was planning to ride to the Continental Avenue Pedestrian Bridge. However, once I arrived and was looking up at the bridge, I discovered that there is no connection between them. This, in spite of the bridge’s webpage that encourages: “We hope you will walk or bike by using the City trail system including the Trinity Skyline Trail!.” In fact, there’s no way out of the river basin here. It appears that the next street access is at W. Commerce. However, time was short and I portaged my bike up and over a giant flood berm and through an already trodden down chainlink fence to reach the bridge.
The northeast half of the bridge was actively being set up for some event, with tents, tables/chairs, and people actively stocking bars. I rode slowly through the commotion expecting to be ejected at any point. Once I reached the temporary fence, I encountered a security guy:
Me: “You aren’t going to let me through this gate, are you?”
S.G: “Sure I will. But I won’t let you back. Those guys should never have let you get this far.”
And on I rode to discover:
And not just one Quinceañera, but at least a half dozen. The lesson here is that the bridge is pretty much about pedestrians and lots of activities (their webpage has tons of activities…Yoga on a bridge, sure, why not?) Anyhow, it’s a nice bridge with a great view, but I wouldn’t always count on being able to cycle across it.
Climbing berms, crashing parties, and Quinceañeras all tend to make me thirsty. Happily, I was only two blocks from Four Corners Brewing Company.
After a quick stop for an IPA and a couple of handfuls of peanuts, I started the return ride. In spite of the somewhat circuitous route so far, the Sylvan Avenue Bridge was only a few blocks to the north.
It was a quick ride over the largely deserted bridge to the Trinity Strand Trail and back to the hotel.
As a postscript, it turns out that this area, just west of downtown, is also home to two more breweries, Peticolas Brewing Company and the aforementioned Community Beer Company. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about a DIY bike/brewery tour and why some clever entrepreneur should jump on this idea.
A couple of weekends ago, we loaded the BTBT staff car and decamped for a couple of days in Big D. The Old 97’s County Fair was the primary destination, but I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to explore a bit of Dallas bike infrastructure.
We stayed in the Market Center area, right on I-35 west of downtown and just a couple of blocks from the Trinity Strand Trail. Other than having mapped a possible ride to the show in downtown Dallas, I hadn’t done any research about the area. Taking a quick exploratory ride on Saturday morning, I stumbled into Noble Rey Brewing at the west end of the trail (seen at the right side of the photo):
Hmm, that was unexpected, although I was aware that Community Beer Company is not far away. I continued onto the trail and quickly discovered murals:
This initial 2.5 miles of the Trinity Strand Trail opened last fall with another 5+ miles planned. There is already a viable cycling connection to the Trinity Skyline Trail (more on this in Part 2).
For a beautiful Saturday morning, the trail was remarkably empty. For a ride lasting about 40 minutes, I didn’t see more than a couple of bicycles and a half dozen walkers/runners. That’s a shame, it’s a wonderful piece of bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure, with wide concrete swathes, bridges, and even emergency signage. The trail is relatively new, and will be expanded to at least 7.5 miles
Ft. Worth, on the other hand, has a B-cycle operation and a mayor who conducts “rolling town hall meetings” by bicycle. If you’re unfamiliar with the metroplex (a portmanteau originally coined by the NTC) , it’s more than just the big D and Cowtown…there’s Arlington, Grapevine, Coppell, Lewisville, Plano, Garland, Irving, Richardardson, and a handful more. Mix in a dozen or so municipalities and a crazy pickup truck/luxury car mashup culture and it’s hard to believe anything involving bikes gets done.
Nevertheless, a 60+ mile network of trails is nearing completion that connects “D” to “FW” along and near the Trinity River.
So, what of bike tours? Until recently, Dallas sadly had no bike tours. But we recently discovered this video that shows a DallasCityTour bike tour. No sign of biks on the website, but we’ll keep an eye out.
As we mentioned, trail infrastructure looks to be Dallas’s primary investment strategy. Spinlister has a couple of rides using these urban trails.
Things are looking up in Fort Worth too. Until recently there was only one, running once per month. CowTown Electric Bikes has recently started several tours, running a few times per week. Progress in the Metroplex!
We think there’s room for more…C’mon bike entrepreneurs, where are ya?
City Bike Tour Database & Reviews — Urban Ride Ideas