The Lazy Person’s Way to Bike the Golden Gate Bridge

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I had quite a few things on my San Francisco “to-do” list — visit Alcatraz, explore Chinatown, find the “Full House” house… and, of course, bike the Golden Gate Bridge.

The 1.7-mile Golden Gate Bridge is the shining icon of San Francisco. It's international orange towers and cables are known the world over, and it is said to be one of the most-photographed and well-known bridges in the world.

I knew simply seeing it from afar was not going to cut it.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

But as I wandered around San Francisco for 5 days and watched tourists struggling with their rental bikes on San Francisco's infamously steep hills, I began to have second thoughts. Those people's calf muscles sure looked tired…

Yes, I COULD bike the bridge physically. I'm not THAT out of shape (okay, maybe I am, but shh). But the thought of sweating and panting and suffering just to say “I did it” didn't really seem very appealing. After all, this was MY trip. Why should I be miserable during any part of it?

I was almost ready to scrap the biking altogether. But then I heard about the Electric Tour Company.

Electric Tour Company, San Francisco

The company began as the first to offer Segway tours in San Francisco. Since then, they have expanded to also offer electric bike tours across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.

Yes, electric bikes. Bikes with little motors on the back. Bikes that you barely even have to pedal. Bikes for lazy people like me.

I immediately decided that THIS was how I was going to experience the Golden Gate Bridge, and called and booked a spot on a tour for my last morning in the city.

Electric Tour Company, San Francisco

An electric bike tour across the Golden Gate Bridge

The morning dawned cool and cloudy — perfect biking weather — and I eagerly made my way to the EBC's training spot near the corner of Beach and Hyde just before 10 a.m. After being fitted for helmets and getting a quick how-to lesson on using the electric bikes, my group was ready for its ride. My tour group contained 3 Brazilians, myself, two Segway tour leaders who wanted to give the bike tour a try, and our enthusiastic guide Christian.

The bikes, it turns out, are even more fun in practice than they sound on paper.

Bigger and more sturdy that your average road or mountain bike, the electric bikes are also fitted with a small battery-powered motor behind the padded seat. The “juice” is given via a throttle on the right handlebar, and the bikes really do get up to a good speed, especially if you pedal at the same time.

Biking
Photo taken by guide Christian

Our route took us up a few hilly streets, with quick photo stops in Fort Mason, in front of the Palace of Fine Arts, and on Crissy Field. Here, on the flat ground near the Bay, we were told to “let ‘er rip” to see just how fast the bikes could go.

Pedaling as fast as my legs could take me and maxing out the throttle, I couldn't help but smile as I zipped across the pavement. It was like flying. I could get used to this.

Crissy Field, San Francisco
Look at that smile!

Electric Tour Company, San Francisco

Our final stop before crossing the bridge was at Fort Point, right under the giant orange suspension bridge. This was the first time all week that I was actually seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in its natural, fog-shrouded state, and it definitely had a certain majesty to it that wasn't present on previous sunny days.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

And then, at last, it was time to hit the bridge.

Riding over the bridge on an electric bike is slightly tricky. Since there aren't any bike lanes on the Golden Gate Bridge, cyclists must share space with pedestrians. And since we were technically riding motorized vehicles — which aren't allowed on the pedestrian parts of the bridge — we had to keep our hands off those ever-so-tempting throttles as we made our way across, lest we draw the angry attention of Bridge police (yes, they exist!).

So yes, I DID bike the 1.7-mile length of the Golden Gate Bridge!

Biking
Photo taken by guide Christian

We stopped halfway across for photos and to learn some fun facts about the Bridge from Christian (for example, did you know the Bridge is named after the body of water it spans? The “Golden Gate” refers to the stretch of water that separates San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean).

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

We stopped again once across the bridge in Marin County at a great lookout point, creatively named Vista Point. It was sunny there, even though San Francisco was still cloud-covered across the Bay. Those microclimates are no joke…

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Sausalito

From there, it was downhill all the way to the little town of Sausalito. This sun-drenched town is full of cafes and expensive houses, and often has a rolling fog bank threatening to descend — though it rarely does. This used to be one of the cheapest areas to live outside the city, but now is one of the priciest thanks to its nice weather and close proximity to San Francisco.

Sausalito, California

The Brazilians in my group went off to get burgers, while I was invited to tag along with Christian and the Segway girls as they rode a few more blocks into town to grab lunch-to-go at Cibo, a popular local spot.

You have the option to keep your electric bike for the afternoon to explore Sausalito, but since it was my last day and I still had a few places I wanted to visit before leaving San Francisco, I opted to catch the ferry back with the rest of the group.

Sausalito would be great to explore by bike, though.

I grabbed the “Seafood Combo” from Cibo (one shrimp taco and one fish taco on homemade tortillas, and some gazpacho), along with some grape wine soda that Christian recommended. We ate our lunches on the ferry ride back to San Francisco, the sun following us back to the city.

Sausalito Ferry, California

Cibo

The whole electric bike tour lasted just under 4 hours, and I found myself loving every minute of it. It was nice not to be huffing and puffing up hills, and yet I still felt accomplished at having biked the bridge. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

IF YOU GO

Want to do an electric bike tour yourself? Sadly, the specific tour I took is not longer available in San Francisco.

But you can check out these electric bike tours in other parts of the city:

 

Electric Tour Company, San Francisco

So what do you think? Would you try out an electric bike tour in San Francisco?

 

*Note: I did receive a complimentary tour from the Electric Tour Company, but, as always, opinions are completely my own and based on my personal lazy tendencies.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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42 Comments on “The Lazy Person’s Way to Bike the Golden Gate Bridge

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  1. This looks like lots of fun and electric bikes seems like a more relaxing way to go, ha ha 🙂

      It was TONS of fun! And yes, so much more relaxing. You could actually enjoy the ride instead of struggling with it!

    I loved taking photos with your camera! With my Cannon S90 I rarely get camera envy, but the glass in your lens really makes for some nice images. It’s too bad lunches moved around a little in the to-go box before the photo. It really was yummy! Cibo always makes such good food. I hope you got a chance to try some other fun neighborhoods in San Francisco after our tour. I love it when people visiting find the places I like to hang out in. This is such a great city to explore.
    🙂
    -Christian

      I’m in love with this camera. Seriously in love with it. I guess I’m lucky you didn’t run off with it! 😛

      I’m going to eventually do a “neighborhoods of San Francisco” post in which I’ll talk about all the awesome neighborhoods I explored while there! So stay tuned!

    That sure sounds better than pedaling to me.

      Haha, glad to know I’m not alone in thinking that!

    I cycled across the GG Bridge in 2004 and it was such an amazing experience. I would recommend it to anyone!

      Crossing the bridge either by bike or on foot is a must-do in SF, for sure!

    That does look like fun. I never knew there were electric bicycles.

      I think I sort of vaguely knew they existed… but I never really considered renting one to see a city before! It’s a great idea, and so much fun!

    Using an electric bike is not a bad idea. However, I would rather get myself in shape and do all the pedaling myself.

    I’ve never seen the draw the biking the Golden Gate bridge as others have – but with lazy person motorized bike – I think I could consider it! Looks fun.

      I’m not positive what the draw is either, really, except that it’s such an iconic bridge that people want to say they crossed it. And yes, these bikes were very fun!

    Omg, you cheated! Lol. I’m just jealous I had to walk my bike up that hill. Haha. Hope you had at least a few days of good weather. Great pics! We miss SF!

      Haha, yes I cheated and I’m not ashamed! 😛

      And yes, I had 7 days of AMAZING weather! Blue skies and sun just about every day!

    I’d probably decide I wanted to challenge myself by doing a non-motorized bike then totally regret it, and end up walking next to it while longingly looking at the motorized bikes pass me by.

    How cute is Sausalito? Love that area.

      I had that same fear! I knew, of course, that people will tell me I cheated by renting an electric bike in San Francisco… but I really don’t care! It was much more fun not to be struggling up hills.

      And Sausalito is freaking adorable!!

    One of my favorite things to do is ride across the bridge and lunch in Sausalito! I usually do it on a normal 2 wheeler but may have to look into this one. Can never get enough of those gorgeous San Fransicso views, can you?

      Definitely look into this one, Debbie! I love that they let you keep the bike for free all day if you want to. I would definitely do that next time!

    I could be tempted by an electric bike for such a excursion. Nothing better than relaxed sightseeing, and at least you CAN say you did cycle the bridge itself! 🙂

    This looks like such a fun way to spend a few hours, and what a great opportunity to ride on the bridge and still leave energies for other city explorations.

      I definitely recommend it! Next time, I’d probably want to spend the rest of the day exploring Sausalito.

    This sounds awesome! Glad you had fun! I wish I had known about it when I was there 2 years ago. Maybe next time…

      I feel like the electric bikes are probably a new thing… I have a feeling they’ll catch on, though!

    I love the photos of your ride. And yes, it wouldn’t be SF without the fog rolling in. At least you got some sunshine. But come on, you aren’t in that bad of shape. You could have done a real bike! 🙂

    I am sure the tour was fun though! 🙂

      Yes yes, I could have done a “real” bike. But this was so much more fun!

    I visited San Francisco in September 2010 and did the Bike over Bridge thing on labour day – which happened to be the warmest and sunniest day. I got a bit sunburned but it was totally worth it. I actually did the whole SF to Tiburon track and back with the ferry, with a quick bypass of Old Mill Park. I was quite sore afterwards – I did not know that there was a more efficient way to do this tour 😀
    Anyway, it was a great experience and a perfect day!

      Sounds like an awesome adventure! And lucky you that it was warm and sunny!

    Now your talking my language! I always tell people I’d ride my bike everywhere if it was electric. What a way to see the bridge! I’ve only ever driven over it on my way to San Francisco but never stopped to see the view. Lucky for you guys that fog bank stayed at bay for your visit. Great photos!

      Haha, I think I’d bike everywhere if I had an electric bike!

    Great , Thanks for sharing your experience with all.. Renting a bike and riding across the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the best outings when visiting San Francisco. I know what it feels like.. Thanks .

    Hi Amanda, great idea! Sometimes a little extra help gets us to more places to enjoy the views =)

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