Whether you're occupying a sovereign nation, robbing a bank (we're not advocating for this), or at an awkward party you really want to leave, a solid exit strategy is always in need.
That's especially true if you're a cyclist looking to find some time away from traffic lights, people asking you for change at traffic lights, cars, cranky people, and all the other things that make a city a city.
So we've come up with some pretty good escape routes to help get you out of the city fast without ending up in some ugly office park land.
The best way to go for a real ride in San Francisco is to get out of San Francisco. That said, there are a couple of places to get away from it all by bike inside the 7x7. Golden Gate Park is the most obvious with its plentiful paths and car-free Saturdays and Sundays. If you want to go-fast, get there early to dodge tourists and slower pedestrian and cycling traffic. There are even a few miles of single-track in Golden Gate Park if you're looking to head off-road.
Just south of the city is another urban refuge hidden in plain sight: San Bruno Mountain. With a 1,251 foot summit, San Bruno isn't a peak to be scoffed at, but it's not impossible for even a novice cyclist. It's well worth the look from the top. Grades go as high as 12 percent, so be prepared, and the road isn't in fantastic shape.
Another easy way to escape the city is to head to the sea and ride down the Great Highway along the coast. There's a bike path in the middle of the median between the Great Highway and the Great Highway frontage road that you can take if you'd rather be off the road. That will take you all the way down to Fort Funston, which spells the word fun. Chill on the sand and enjoy the wind and absence of start-up happy hours.
Whether you live on this side of the bay or you're just visiting, there's a few ways to get into the hills that won't kill you.
In Berkeley, head northwest past the UC campus and jump on Spruce Street. This is a nice easy climb past a bevy of boho mansions in the Berkeley Hills. It will dump you at the top of the ridge, where you can either keep going up on to Grizzly Peak, which stands at an imposing 1,758 feet, or take Wildcat Canyon to Inspiration Point. If that's not enough for you, you can go down the other side to the San Pablo Reservoir and feel like you've truly escaped the city.
In Oakland the best way to get out of dodge is to head up. Tunnel Road is probably the easiest. This is a winding climb at an easy grade that turns into Skyline Boulevard. That will take you to Sibley, Joaquin Miller, and Redwoods Parks, where you can get some gravel riding in if that's your thing. Otherwise, Pinehurst and Redwood Road will take you down the other side of the ridge, in gorgeous winding descents. Just remember, whenever you go down you always have to climb back up.
These routes will give you the proper dose of country but you won't be too desolate; especially on the weekends all of these roads are teeming with cyclists.
Maybe the easiest way to escape San Francisco is to head straight across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin. From there you can power around Paradise Loop, and if you get tired jump on the ferry in Tiburon or Sausalito, which will take you right back to the city. Routes and roads on the bay side of the peninsula stay relatively tame, offering easy rolling hills, and varied foliage. There's plenty of rides, but be wary of crosswalks and signals! It's not hard to get a ticket in the little towns on the peninsula.
For a more serious challenge you can tackle Mount Tamalpais. Considered the birthplace of mountain biking, Mount Tam has plenty of paths (many are gravel fire roads) and roads that will lead you up to the 2,474-foot summit. Perhaps the easiest is the Old Railroad Grade Trail, which, as its name suggests, is an old railroad. That means no steep bumps or kickers, just a nice, long, slog up to the top.
There and Back Again
If you're looking for a little relief from the claustrophobic urban prison we all call home, these routes will give you a little blast of country, and help you remember why we have things like wi-fi and bathrooms. Remember, with the BART bike ban going away starting Monday, you can also always jump on the train and start even farther from home -- or jump on a return train if you've bonked and need a bailout.
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He's can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.