Tips For Cycling San Francisco

San Francisco is iconic. If you don’t recognise this hilly and eclectic city from your favourite childhood films, you’ll certainly have heard about it in the hundreds of songs penned in honour of this Californian metropolis. Being the cheesy gals that we are, we had ‘If You’re Going To San Francisco’ playing at full blast as we drove into the city over the Oakland Bay Bridge and it was one of those ‘pinch me’ moments to finally arrive in the city i’d dreamed of visiting for so long.

There’s so much to do in San Francisco, but we unfortunately only had one full day to explore. We tried to visit the Alcatraz prison, but it was fully booked (Travel Tip: Book your Alcatraz experience 3 weeks in advance!) so instead we chose to do a self guided cycle tour around the city.

Cycling San Francisco is an amazing way to see the city and is really easy to navigate. On the front of your bike you have directions clearly written on a flip board and the San Fran’s bike lanes also direct the self guided tours on which way to go with big arrow markings on the road. The aim of the day is to cycle and sight see San Francisco before crossing over the world famous Golden Gate bridge and heading into a small town called Sausalito. You then catch the ferry back over to San Fran at which point you’ll be pretty tired and ready to hand your bike back!


Tips For Cycling San Francisco


We had the most memorable and amazing day cycling San Francisco and I would definitely go back and do it again. Here’s some friendly advice on how to make your day even better:

Take a Rucksack

The bikes don’t have baskets, so you’ll need to have all your belongings in a rucksack you can wear. This is also really handy for keeping your water bottle and snacks cool in.


bike san fran

Pack something warm to put on

Even though the weather in San Francisco is sunny, it’s much cooler than what you’d expect for California. This is because San Francisco’s unique geographical position means it has it’s own micro climate and we found ourselves getting quite chilly at some points. It’s also good to have something warm you can throw on for the boat ride back, as it get’s pretty breezy on board!


san från cycling

Set off Early

This doesn’t mean 7am, but don’t wait until midday to start your cycle tour. There is so much to see and do in San Francisco and the last thing you’ll want to feel is rushed so you don’t miss the last ferry back. Most cycle lenders will have late returns offices (after 6pm) so it’s not the end of the world if you come back later than expected, but I’d hugely recommend you start your day around 9am and make the most of this experience.


architecture san francisco

Have a Picnic!

San Francisco is the second most expensive US city after New York, so if you’re on a traveller budget it’s a good idea to take a packed lunch with you. We had a picnic on the grass near the iconic ‘Painted Ladies’, which are a row of Victorian Houses that you’ll stop by on your tour. You have an amazing view of the city here too.


painted ladies san fran

Be prepared for hills

San Francisco is full of them. They can also be really steep so give it all you’ve got and think of the calories you’re burning in the process! Some of the hills were so steep I didn’t dare ride down them and pushed the bike down instead. The rule of what goes up must come down applies here in full force and there’s no rhyme or reason to how the hills are formed; you basically go up and down a lot, but mostly up.

steep hill san fran

Take Loads Of Photos

Seen something you like? Stop and photograph it. You are only here one time so make the most of your experience and capture your memories. We spent a good 20 minutes taking fun photos in front of the Golden Gate bridge and I love looking back at them all. San Francisco is a really pretty city with incredible Victorian-American architecture that your camera will love.


golden gate bridge


city san francisco


Where we stayed:

Downtown San Fran Hostel (Hostelling International) – this hostel was so cool, with a great location. There’s cheap parking in a garage nearby and you have get wifi and breakfasts too.

Where we rented our bikes:

The Downtown hostel have loads of cheap deals for their customers, so we rented 30% off bikes from a partner of theirs up the road.


Do you have a question? Leave me a comment below and i’ll be happy to help.


Love Sylvie x x