10 Tips for Biking Across the Golden Gate Bridge
As an avid Bay Area cyclist, I think it's great that travelers can bike the Golden Gate Bridge (GG Bridge). At the same time, biking across the Golden Gate Bridge isn't the same as a weekend bike ride on a suburban bike path. It's just as much a route and a road as it is an iconic tourist attraction.
So, if you'd like to bike the Golden Gate Bridge on your next trip to San Francisco, take these tips from someone who crosses the bridge almost every weekend -- and has seen her fair share of bridge-bike blunders.
1. How Long Will it Take to Bike the Golden Gate Bridge?
The short answer: you'll be biking 2.1 miles from side to side.
For me, it usually takes about 11 minutes. When there's lots of bike traffic, 17 minutes. On the long side, it could take you 20-25 minutes. For the few serious cyclists out there, I've heard of folks doing it 2 - 6 minutes (um, not me though...).
Also worth noting that there's no emergency exit on the GG Bridge. Plan to bike it all or nothing.
2. It Gets Super Windy on the Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is suspended over the Pacific Ocean and, as such, it gets super windy up there. I say this because when I biked across the bridge for the first time, I was startled by it. I also didn't wear a top layer, and was pretty cold the whole way across.
On particularly windy days, you'll also be faced with a wall of wind at certain points of the bridge -- brace for them, since they're strong enough to stop / stall you. These walls of wind always pop up in the same spots... as I've attempted to draw here:
It's also a popular selfie spot -- so, heads up. You might get behind someone who stops suddenly here.
3. Go Early or On a Weekday
Yesterday, I overslept and ended up biking across the Golden Gate Bridge at noon on a Saturday... in June. I don't ever think I've seen it that crowded. It took me almost twice as long to cross than normal, and there was a bike traffic jam.
This is a bit of an extreme example, but if you want to avoid the crowds on the GG bridge, go early in the morning -- like, 8/9am early -- or on a weekday. However, on weekdays, they usually close off the biker side of the bridge, so you'll be sharing a lane with pedestrians.
4. Wear a Helmet, Y'all
Before you even get on the bridge, you have to get there. This usually means biking from whichever rent-a-bike stand you've chosen, through the park, and to the Golden Gate Bridge (sample bike route to the Golden Gate Bridge is at the end of the post).
You'll encounter roads shared by cars on this route. So please, wear a helmet. I can't tell you how often I see rent-a-bikers with no helmets, and I wish it would change -- especially after I saw an ambulance close to the turn off from Golden Gate Park to the Golden Gate Bridge taking away an injured biker (who was fortunately wearing a helmet) two months ago.
5. Stay to the Right, Ride Single File
The Golden Gate Bridge is biked by tourists, distance cyclists, and commuters alike (if you're into distance cycling, getting across the bridge into the North Bay is the first step to hopping on some pretty amazing bike rides).
To be respectful to the bikers who are using this as a way to get to/from work, it helps to stay to the right and ride single file. It's also safer this way, since the bridge supports two-way traffic and no one wants a head on collision (yikes!)
6. Pull Over to Stop
You're at one of the most iconic tourist destinations in the nation, so, naturally, you want to take a photo. You want to stop and enjoy the view, look over the Pacific Ocean, and admire Karl the Fog in his full glory.
That's fine, but to stay safe, pull over fully and try to signal that you're stopping (most cyclists will place an open palm behind their back -- palm facing the cyclist behind them -- to signal that they're stopping)
It's also super dangerous to stop at the entrance to the bridge since it's a blind spot for cyclists coming off it. I've seen a few collisions here, so to be safe, try and go a little ways away to pull over and watch for others coming around the bend.
7. People Will Try to Pass You
Folks on rental bikes seem to get passed a lot. That's cool, but be prepared for it. Some local cyclists won't always stop, and I've almost collided with a couple of cyclists unexpectedly swerving in front of me. Not good for either of us!
I guess just generally try to be respectful and aware. Some of the worst accidents happen simply because bikers aren't paying attention.
8. When You're Coming Back on the Bridge, Go Uphill
A lot of tourists like to bike across the bridge and down into Sausalito, then take the ferry home. It makes for a pleasant ride, but you can also return back by bike if you want to make your ride a little longer and more challenging.
My biggest tip here: when you're coming out from the tunnel and about to get back on the bridge, make sure you take a right and go uphill towards Hawk Hill. If you go straight, you'll end up on the highway with the cars (eek!).
9. Selfie Sticks... Never a Good Idea While Biking
Um. Please don't take photos while biking... or else I'll photobomb you.
10. Once You're Across, Keep Exploring!
As I mentioned before, most people will continue downhill to Sausalito after biking across the bridge. Sausalito is super cute and has some great views of the city. Just continue alllll the way down he hill until you see water on your right hand side (and watch for cars / pedestrians).
If you're up for it, go a little further to Fish for lunch (which I highly recommend) or down the Sausalito bike path to Tiberon to take the ferry back to SF from there (this ferry is less crowded than the Sausalito one as well).
In the end, biking across the Golden Gate Bridge is a wonderful experience, and even on the crowded days, I think it's so cool that Bay Area cyclists get to cross it so often. Just, pay attention, wear a helmet, and have fun! Now for some helpful resources:
Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge by Bike
Most rent a bike spots will be along the water. If you're renting from somewhere not on this route, use Google Maps to plot your route -- its bike directions are almost always spot on, and will even give you an idea of elevation (re: hills) in advance.
If you're biking from within the city, go through Golden Gate Park for a scenic, redwood-filled ride before you reach the bridge.
Golden Gate Bridge Bike Rentals
- Blazing Saddles - Probably the biggest bike outfitter in SF, bike rentals are $8 / hour or $32 for the day.
- City Ride Bike Rentals - Bikes run from $8 - $12 / hour (more for a road bike) and $32 - $48 for the day. However, they offer 20% discounts to riders booking online.
- The San Francisco Bike Hut - Located at Pier 40, this outfitter has cheaper bikes at $6 - $7.50 / hour and $24 - $30 for the day.
- Sports Basement - Support this local mom-and-pop shop.