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Your Ultimate Guide to Biking in San Francisco

There are some cities that don’t need a filter; they don’t need an introduction either. Once you experience them for the first time, your heart gives in to their subtle charm, you lose yourself in the city vibes and you’re left longing to return. San Francisco is one of those cities. With beautiful views of the coast, picturesque neighborhoods and tons of world-famous landmarks, San Fran is the perfect playground for anyone who loves exploring a city and its many peculiarities. The best way to experience all that is by hopping on a bike and riding by the myriad of must-visit locations the City by the Bay has to offer.

Below, we have compiled all the information you need to ride around the charming streets and pristine parks of the former Golden State capital, including the best bike rental shops and lowest prices, fun and scenic biking routes, and important safety tips to follow while biking around the bay.

Note: To get the pricing information, we compiled data from the websites of 41 bike rental shops in San Francisco and averaged out the prices of renting each style of bike per day and per hour. We selected the five most popular bike models, which are available at most rental locations in the city.

With many miles of bike lanes and affordable rental prices, you’ll find that cycling in San Francisco is easier than you imagined. Bike-friendly public transportation and the camaraderie of other cyclists in the city makes it easy to get outside and make new friends. From cruising along the coast to climbing up mountains, biking in San Francisco is the perfect adventure for any season!

The Best Bike Rental Shops in San Francisco

Even if you’re not a pro cyclist that travels cross-country with a foldable bike stored with your luggage, you can still find many ways to explore San Francisco on two wheels. Inside the city, there are more than 40 bike rental shops spread across different neighborhoods. The map above includes our favorite rental locations in San Francisco based on selection, price, and their proximity to public transportation.

How much does it cost to rent a bike in San Francisco?

In San Francisco, you’ll find plenty of affordable options for renting a bike. As you can see in the infographic above, the most affordable and versatile bike is the hybrid, praised by city riders, nature explorers and beginners alike.

The average price of renting a hybrid bike in San Francisco is $33.25/day and $7.60/hour. If you’re looking for the cheapest deal out there, this bike is available for $22.40/day at Bike and View, a rental shop located in the Marina District at 1772 Lombard St. Yet, there are many other styles to choose from when renting your wheels.

Using a Grab-and-Go Bike Service

In San Fran, you’ll find 37 bike docking stations operated by Bay Area Bike Share, a service that allows riders to rent a bike anytime of the day and drop it off at another location in town.

This service is a great option if you’re looking to explore the downtown neighborhoods and are willing to make shorter trips rather than one long one. You’ll need to purchase a 24-hour membership, a 3-day pass, or an annual membership.

  • A 24-hour membership costs $9 and it will give you unlimited rides of 30 minutes or less included in the price. After that, for the first 30 minutes, you will pay $4 and then $7 per each additional 30 minutes.
  • A 3-day membership costs $22 and includes unlimited rides of 30 minutes or less during those days. Rates beyond the first 30 minutes are the same as the 24-hour membership.
  • An annual membership costs $88 and the same rates mentioned above apply. This is a good alternative for residents and commuters but not really for visitors.

Best San Francisco Bike Routes

Now that you know where to rent your bike from and how much it would cost, it’s time to get on the road!

From a tour of San Francisco’s most vivid neighborhoods to breathtaking ocean views, we’ve put together four unique cycling routes for all experience levels and interests. Check them out below to figure out which one is the best for you!

Route 1: The Downtown Explorer

Highlights: Chinatown, City Hall, Pier 39, Twin Peaks.
Length: 9.7 miles
Starting point: Golden Gate Tours and Bike Rentals (1816 Haight Street).
End point: San Francisco Bicycle Rentals (425 Jefferson Street)

This route is perfect for a laid-back afternoon touring some of San Francisco’s most charming and historic downtown neighborhoods. The journey starts just east of the Golden Gate Park in the hippie mecca of the world, Haight-Ashbury. Read more >

Route 2: An Instagram-Worthy Stroll

Highlights: Sea Cliff, Presidio, The Palace of Fine Arts, Painted Ladies in Alamo Square Park, Golden Gate Park.
Length: 16.6 miles
Start and end point: 4002 Irving St. (Swell Bicycles)

This is a longer and a little more challenging route than the one above. However, it is certainly worth the workout as it highlights some of the most beautiful views in SF. You’ll even get to see the famous Painted Ladies in the Western Addition neighborhood. Read more >

Route 3: The Seaside Lovers Adventure, featuring the Golden Gate Bridge

Highlights: Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf, Marina District, Fort Point, the Golden Gate Bridge.
Length: 15.8 miles
Start Point: San Francisco Ferry Building at 1 Sausalito.
End point: 425 Jefferson St. (San Francisco Bike Rentals)

Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge is a dream of many and who are we to deny you of that treat?! Our “seaside lovers” route takes you for a ride along San Francisco’s northeastern coast, all the way through the Presidio and on to the Golden Gate Bridge. Read more >

Route 4: The Foodie’s Adventure, a San Francisco Biking & Eating Tour

Highlights: Mission District, the Golden Gate Park, Painted Ladies, Inner Richmond.
Length: 12 miles
Start and end point: CityRide Bike Rentals (370 Linden St.)

For most travelers, millennials especially, a huge part of discovering a new place is taking advantage of the food scene. Our foodie adventure route will take you to some of the greatest hidden foodie gems in the bay. Read more >

If you’re one of those busy cats that only has a few days to vacay this summer, we encourage you to pack your comfy shoes and trendy shorts and head straight to the Fog City for an unforgettable biking adventure. Find cheap tickets for your biking trip to SF on Wanderu when traveling from LA to San Francisco, Seattle to San Francisco, and from San Diego to San Francisco.

You’ll have the ultimate multicultural city experience paired up with some breathtaking natural views, the chance to wander around the acclaimed Pacific Coast and, of course, eat and drink like a true California foodie in one of the coolest cities out there. Plus, you will work your way to having the most perfect calves.

But first, don’t forget to check out the rules of the road before heading out on your San Francisco biking adventure!

Biking FAQs: Rules of the Road

Can I bring my bike on a bus or train when traveling to San Francisco?

  • Many bus companies like Megabus and Greyhound allow you to bring your bike with you. However, they require you to place it inside a bike-specific container that weighs less than 50 pounds and ask you to place it under the bus with the checked luggage.
  • Amtrak trains have a bike-friendly policy, allowing riders to bring their bikes aboard and place them on racks or bike-designated spaces. Accommodation may vary depending on the station you are boarding the train at. You can contact Amtrak in advance and reserve a spot for your bike by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.
  • If you have a foldable bike, you will be able to bring it on most buses and trains, as long as it can fit in the overhead compartment or under your seat.
  • Remember to bring your own lock to secure your bike in the multiple bike parking spots and docking locations around San Francisco.

Are there any discounts available for renting a bike?

Some places like San Francisco Bicycle Rentals, Ferry Building Bike Rentals and Golden Gate Bike Rental will give you 20% off if you book online. Bay City Bike will give you 10% or 20% off if you book online, depending on the bike model you select.

Can I take public transportation with my bike in San Francisco?

All riders can brings their bikes on the MUNI buses, BART subway trains, and Caltrains. Bikes are not allowed on the MUNI Light Rail, the historic streetcars or the cable cars.

  • Bikes can be taken on local MUNI buses, which have racks in the front area. Bikers are responsible to load and unload their own bikes;
  • Bikes can also be taken aboard the BART trains. However, there are some important exceptions to note. Bikes are never allowed on the first car of the train and, during commuting hours, bikes are not allowed on the first three cars. Also, bikers should not board crowded trains. There should be enough space to comfortably accommodate your bike inside the car;
  • Only fully foldable bikes are allowed on MUNI Light Rail Metro, historic streetcars and cable cars;

Bikes are allowed on Caltrains. However, they can only ride on the racks located in specific bike cars (at least one car per train) or in other bike-designated spaces.

Do I need to have my own lock and helmet if I rent a bike?

If you’re a biker at home and have a spare lock, it is recommended that you bring it with you. Most bike rental shops will give you a lock and a helmet to go with your bike. However, not all of them have this service available. In most cases, a lock and a helmet are included in the rental price, but if you do not receive these items with the bike, you can usually rent or purchase them at the shop.

Do I need to wear a helmet while biking in San Francisco?

You should certainly wear a helmet! While California laws mandate that only people under 18 must a helmet at all times, it is highly recommended that every rider does.

Do San Francisco streets have bike-designated areas?

Yes, there are more than 220 miles of bike roads in San Francisco. Some bike-friendly streets like Valencia Street in Mission District have bike-designated areas and the Golden Gate Bridge has a bike path on each side.

What rules and regulations should I know about when biking in San Francisco?

  • It’s illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk if you’re over the age of 13. You will need to remain either in the bike lane or on the street. If you need to get on the sidewalk, please walk your bike.
  • Pedestrians always have the right of way, so regardless of whether you’re at a crosswalk or not, you must yield to them. When you come into an intersection, stop behind the line and wait for the crosswalk to clear.
  • Remember to ride in the same direction as traffic and obey the stop lights and signs, just like other vehicles.
  • In case you decide to go for a ride after sunset, you are required by law to have reflectors and a front white light. You are not required to have a rear light, but it’s certainly a good idea.
  • If you choose to listen to music or speak on the phone using a hands-free device while riding, remember you always need to keep an ear free of headphones.
  • Again, while it is not mandatory to wear a helmet while you ride a bike if you’re older than 18 in California, it is certainly encouraged. Wearing a helmet can protect you and save your life in case you get into an accident.

For more detailed information on how to keep safe while riding a bike, you can check the “Bicycle Rules of the Road” that the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has put together.

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About the author
Karina Barriga Albring

Karina Barriga Albring

I'm a writer, journalist, soccer lover and hot sauce enthusiast born and bred in the mighty Andes. Wanderlust hit me hard at a young age and since then, it keeps me up at night. NYC and Modena, Italy changed my life, but my favorite destination is still Rio de Janeiro – and not only for the 'futebol'!

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