City Exploration Recap:
The day after the Marin Headlands ride was full of rain, so we took a Zipcar and drove around the city some more. We stopped in Japan town for some crepes from Sophie’s Crepes in Japan town and we spent some time in the Mission District. There’s a lot of history in the Mission – it’s incredible to see the rate of gentrification that’s going on in that part of the city.There are some blocks full of unique restaurants/art and other blocks that are relatively gritty. Nevertheless, the following day was my last day with my Rapha bike hire and the weather was quite sunny! I knew that this would be perfect for a thorough city exploration.
I started off taking 44th avenue in Outer Sunset west towards the ocean. From there, I headed up on the Great Highway towards Point Lobos Avenue near Lands End. It’s incredible how dramatic the views are from that part of the city.
Pro-tip: Be extra cautious around Muni tracks, especially after considerable rain. The grooves between the pavement and the tracks are extremely slippery and honestly, quite dangerous with narrow 23 mm tires.
“Bikeway” Route Signs
After Lands End, I made it up to Presidio Park, where I felt like I was crossing through a forest as opposed to a park within the city limits.
To be honest, I wasn’t following any particular route via my Garmin, I was going wherever “felt right.” The strategic bike route signs were really impressive. Instead of highway 101, you would see Bikeway 90 or Bikeway 65, etc.. The signs also would point towards corresponding landmarks (I.e. left to get to the Golden Gate Bridge, straight ahead to get to downtown).
This is absolutely something that I want to see further developed within NYC. Sure, we have those signs that point towards the Hudson River, or towards the 43rd street bike lane, etc… We also have sporadic signs for the Brooklyn / Queens Greenway which are nice, but in the outer boroughs, you’re often left guessing which way to go and can go several blocks before seeing another sign.
Marina District / Embarcadero
I decided to cross over the Golden Gate Bridge once more and then made my way down to the Marina District where the terrain leveled out, especially by the waterfront. I took this all the way through Fisherman’s Wharf until the route turned into the Embarcadero. The path through the Marina was multi-use, but it was wide enough to accommodate pedestrians walking 3-4 abreast and oncoming cyclist/runner traffic. There were actually two paths near this area – one with packed stone (closer to the water) and one with fresh asphalt (near the car traffic on Mason Street / Marina Boulevard(. I tried out both and soon opted for the asphalt path.
Not surprisingly, the Embarcadero was quite busy. Though I was pleased with the cycling infrastructure in place – the curbside bike lane had plastic posts in place for a considerable portion. For the parts of the bike lane that had no protection from car traffic, I did see multiple signs indicating that vehicles will be towed if they park in the bike lane! We definitely need that in NYC! One aspect I couldn’t understand was why the shape/positioning of the bike lane on the Embarcadero seemed to change every few blocks.
For a stretch it would be a plastic post protected lane, then would move into a typical non-protected lane (like we most commonly see in NYC), and then back to a curbside lane (with no plastic posts protecting it), etc.. Despite the variable shape of the bike lane, I didn’t feel unsafe riding on the busy street. Drivers seemed super respectful of cyclists here, so that was solid.
Hills, Hills, Hills: Filbert / Lombard Street(s)
They weren’t kidding when they name Russian Hill as such. The gradient on Filbert Street, especially between Leavenworth and Hyde streets was outrageous. I had to get off of my bike and walk because I honestly could not do it – this point coming after the preceding steep hill on Filbert between Jones and Leavenworth streets. I took a look down at my Garmin as I was walking the bike and it was showing me a 21% / 22% gradient. After looking it up online later, I learned that:
“The steepest hill on Filbert is the east half of the block between Hyde and Leavenworth… The city map shows a descent of 65 feet, which based on a half-block being 206.25 horizontal feet, makes the grade 31.5% the official figure.“
Compared to what I’ve experienced in/around NYC, this was by far the steepest climb I’ve ever attempted was probably Landing Road by Rockland Lake. Looking it up after the fact, it looks like that has an average gradient of around 11-12.5%. Nothing to sneer at by any means, but it helps to put things into perspective after seeing Filbert Street firsthand. The views from the top were certainly worth it.
I had a general understanding of the topography of SF prior to this trip, but I can now confidently say that I have a better sense of the layout. Remember, while the atmospheric river was pouring down on SF, we took a Zipcar all around the city, exploring the major landmarks and driving through multiple districts.
For those that have been following my blog since the beginning, you’re probably well aware that I like to “paint via bike” and develop my Strava Heatmap. For that reason, I couldn’t miss riding down the famous crooked street (Lombard). To be fair, there were a lot of tourists and cars when I went, so I had to keep on the brakes the entire way down, but it was a neat experience. As I mentioned in my Marin Headlands post, the aerodynamics of the Canyon Aeroad were amazing- making the steep descents in SF feel even steeper – with the saddle to bar drop.
Rapha Cycle Club: SF
After catching my breath from walking the bike the second time up Filbert Street (between Leavenworth and Hyde), I rode down Filbert towards the Rapha Cycle Club. RCC marked the end of my SF exploration on the last day of the bike hire. In theory, I had the bike for a couple more hours before I had to return it, but I wanted to make my way through Golden Gate Park before the sunset.
From there, I put on sweatpants and the cleat covers that I had been carrying in my chrome messenger bag and walked a couple blocks to Umami Burger. I’ve been to their location in NYC at Brookfield Place in the financial district, but an authentic SF burger at this original Bay Area outpost sounded too good to pass up. I brought it back to Rapha to eat and watch some of the Australian bike races on their TV’s. The first bite into the burger was seriously a taste bud overload – especially with the fried egg drizzling onto the medium cooked burger, excellent! From there, I took an Uber back to the Airbnb in Outer Sunset. After taking a shower, I got ready and went for an exploratory walk / hike through Golden Gate Park as well as Lands End (more on that in a future post!)