Trails: RIDIN’ DIRTY – Cycling San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito and Marin A Preview of Great Things to Come from

Do you wonder what it’s like to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge? Ride down Alexander Avenue into Sausalito? Or experience the sweeping curves and final descent in the back of Tiburon? Or are you looking to rent a bike on your San Francisco vacation, but don’t know what to expect?

Well look no further! No matter your interest or experience level, takes you along for the ride! has stepped up to bring you videos shot on GoPro HERO HD helmet cam of the trails we like to bike best!

Watch us RIDIN’ DIRTY down our favorite descents, expertly navigating through tourist traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge and along the Embarcadero with cars, vans, buses, bikes and the like and other great things to come.

CHECK BACK FOR MORE! As we post more videos of the best in California cycling.

Tips & Tricks: Bike Buying for Smarties

Family Portrait

Buying a bicycle is about more than just dishing out the dough. It’s also making an emotional commitment to riding it for what it’s worth: making time for it in your life and space for it in your garage or even studio apartment. We determined its worth based on planned frequency of use and the cost per rental over time. We became bike fanatics and made bank on our investment. But we had no idea what we were doing, where to even buy a bike or what kind of bike to buy when we got there. Things were not as simple as they used to be.

As a kid, buying a new bike meant you had outgrown your last.  Whether it was finally dropping the training wheels, a growth spurt or crashing your BMX one too many times, your next bike was a minor iteration from your last and usually came from the same local big-box store, where the selection and prices were the same.  Single-speeds were the name of the game and the most you’d pay for a bike as a kid (back then) was $60-$100.

BMX bike from Wal-Mart $100

Women's City Cruiser from Wal-Mart $100

For the beginner, these early bike purchasing experiences are as much knowledge as most people have. So seeing a $600 price tag on a low-end hybrid could just blow your mind! When you’ve outgrown the bikes at Wal-Mart, how do you know you’re getting what you pay for?

After the fortune and misfortune of having to purchase four bikes in the past eight months ranging from commuter oriented hybrids, a women’s specific full carbon fiber road bike, to an aluminum frame road bike on a budget, we’ve earned our stripes in bike buying expertise. Here’s what you should know.

Think Before You Buy

Critical Mass in San Francisco

Buying a bike and buying a car have a lot in common.  The range of bicycles on the market is as diverse as the people who ride them (see above).  From purpose driven bikes like single-speed commuters and comfortable hybrids, to recreational ones like hard tail and dual suspension mountain bikes, to competitive sports bikes like the road, cyclocross and triathlon bikes. A premium bike can easily cost as much as a car!  Knowing where and how you plan to use your bike and how often will determine the type of bike you need and how much you should spend. Spending some time online at sites like those for SpecializedGiantCannondaleScott or Trek to familiarize yourself with your options before visiting bike retailers so you know what to expect. These sites can also direct you to their dealers in your area.

Giant Cyclocross Bike

Here are some quick questions to ask yourself as you get started.  Don’t worry if your answers change during the purchasing experience, our answers changed as we both saw more and more bikes. (You may want more than one. Our friend Mark and his wife own 16 each.)

1.     Determine the purpose of your bike: Commuting, recreation, racing, training, etc.

This helps you to know which type of bikes to rule out and which to test. If you have no specific preference try test riding a hybrid, mountain and road bike. You may find they can be used interchangeably for some purposes and used based on preference.

Cannondale Road Bike

2.      Identify your terrain: Where you ride will determine what you ride.

-For a hilly city like San Francisco, a multi-geared hybrid might be the best solution for a daily commuter, though some fit locals still manage on their single-speeds.

-For a flat city like New York City, the single-speed bikes might be all you need to cover flat pavement.

-Dirt trails? Both mountain bikes and comfort hybrids can use wide, low-pressure tires that easily tackle this terrain. Cyclocross bikes combine the competitive nature of a road bike with the off-road capabilities of the mountain for the die hard.

-Mountain trails? You can find hard tail mountain bikes with front-suspension only for moderate trail riding or a dual suspension bike for extreme off-roading.

-Pavement and paved paths? A speedy road bike is calling your name!

Single-Speed Hybrid

Show me the money! 

Just so you’re perfectly aware . . .

2010 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador’s Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3 LTD racing road bike (available for purchase!) costs $9400.


2010 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador's $9,400 Specialized S-Works Tarmac

The same manufacturer, Specialized, makes an entry level road bike for a tenth the price.

$900 Specialized Secteur

Their recreational hybrids run as low as $440.  

Used bikes can be found on the cheap on sites like Craig’s List but without knowing how (or whether) the bike has been maintained, you could be looking at high costs in refurbishments, a short life span or a total lemon. New bikes cost more, but there’s a certain satisfaction knowing no one’s ridden in that saddle but you.

The Search for the Perfect Bike Shop – Purchase AND Maintenance

The store with the cheapest advertised prices or largest selection on display may seem obvious but not necessarily be the best place. Smaller bike stores frequently keep their inventory in basements, so don’t be fooled! New bikes have an adolescent-like growth spurt and require attention and maintenance shortly after putting on mileage, especially for cable stretch. Friendly advice from the mechanic working on your bike could also save you additional repairs, parts and trips to the shop. As important as it is to love your bike, it’s equally important to find some loving hands to care for it.

American Cyclery, San Francisco, Ca

American Cyclery Too, San Francisco, Ca

Like cars, good mechanical work doesn’t (nor should it) come cheap, which is why time specific (i.e. 3 month or 1 year long) unlimited service plans are highly desirable and sometimes come free with purchase. A service plan is only as good as the technicians who execute it. Make sure you like the people you’re dealing with. To find a maintenance location more convenient to where you live, work or ride, check out reviews from bike savvy Yelpers on

We purchased our hybrids from American Cyclery Too, Miko’s Ruby from American Cyclery and Jon’s Speedster from A Bicycle Odyssey.

Inside American Cyclery

Inside A Bicycle Odyssey, Sausalito, Ca

Never settle for less.
YOUR bike is out there. 

Don’t let another person convince you that a bike that just feels wrong is the right bike for you. If you feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied on your test ride (a MUST) just think how unhappy you’ll feel riding it after you’ve paid for it. MINOR modifications to adjust the saddle, stem and handlebars can enhance a bike you already like, but don’t count on them to fix a bike that just doesn’t fit. Move on.

Finding the right bike is equivalent to the avatar selecting its banshee (winged dragon/ mode of transportation) you select it as much as it selects you. Out there was a bike manufacturer who created a bike with you in mind and it’s waiting to meet you. And when you make contact, you’ll know. If you saw the movie ‘Avatar’ you’ll know that this process wasn’t easy for them either.

Finding the perfect bike is an exercise in frustration.

We plowed through five stores before finding a bicycle that other stores said could not even be manufactured in my size. I contacted 12 stores in the Bay Area to locate a road bike to accommodate Jon’s size, specifications and price range.

Jon's Scott Speedster S20 at the Golden Gate Bridge geared up with all you need to ride: Cannondale Saddle Bag, Bulldog U-Lock, Camelback Water Bottles, Cats Eye Strada Wireless Bike Meter, Morph Road G Master Blaster Bike Pump, RAVX Bar End LED Lights

I fell in love with a road bike and had to put a down payment to secure one of the last four left in the world.
But all that’s another story . . .

The birth of Miko's Specialized Ruby Expert at American Cyclery, born April 3rd 2010

Our Stories: DOG GONE IT! What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know About Cycling

Getting hit by a car was one thing. For starters, I felt like I could claim membership to that group of hardcore, veteran, city cyclists who ride-on in spite of motorist madness – just to get their bike on. It was different trying to explain why my bike needed repairs after getting run down by a couple of dogs. A car is one thing, but dogs?

As I watched Stage One of the Tour de France, where an off-leash dog attacked the entire pelaton (def.: main group of cyclists in a race) and wiped out some of the major contenders, I realized I was NOT alone.


Stage One Tour de France : Dog Takes Out The Pack

Read more about it . . . Stage 1 Dog Incident Article

Perhaps it was just me and that one dumb dog? But no, in fact there have been numerous accidents on the Tour de France caused by dogs. Apparently the paw extended as MAN’s best friend doesn’t apply to cyclists.


Note the crushed wheel . . . and the unscathed dog.


Signs lining the multi-use path in Marin where I was struck by dogs alone include . . .



And Elsewhere . . .



Alas, but what? The owners with their dogs off leashes can’t claim to be blind – blind people need their dogs on leashes! Perhaps dog owners without bike riding experience don’t understand the severity of a dog-on-bike collision. 

Kindly pass this on to any dog owner you know. They may have no idea.

Even though Tour de France riders are professionals with “falling experience” common accidents include fractured collar bones, broken or dislocated limbs, along with yards of bloody road rash – injuries all within the realm of possibility in any bike crash. While riders on the tour have access to immediate medical attention, an ambulance costs upwards of two thousand dollars with emergency medical care ranging in the thousands as well. If the accident was caused by your dog, your legal obligation may exceed a ticket and fine. An egregiously injured cyclist could sue you for negligence for not retaining control of your dog – especially if the sign was right there.

Another thing unbeknownst to dog owners is the ridiculous amount of money road cyclists will spend on their precious steeds. The cost of Lance’s Armsrtong’s Trek bike is $8714.99 – roughly the price of this used 2008 Chevy Cobalt. Unless your dog has excellent personal liability insurance, you could be looking at some hefty repair or replacement costs if your pooch is responsible for crashing a bike. The cost of the time honored dog accessory, the leash, is $12.77.

Even if you can live guilt-free for causing grievous bodily harm and scoff at the destruction of personal property . . . how will you explain yourself to your dependent, unprotected pet when they get run over by a bike? You gave your dog some freedom and now it walks around on three legs. “Thanks man!”

So, until your dog SPEAKS to me in English I will not believe they understand your verbal commands well enough to protect us both. Would you take a cab if the cabbie didn’t speak your language? Exactly. Cyclists have thrown everything from water bottles to bike pumps at attacking dogs. Bicycling Magazine suggests yelling “Get off the couch!”, a unanimously familiar command that when used totally out of context will baffle the dog and stop it in it’s tracks.

Not all animals are necessarily out to get us. Some believe they are just like us cyclists. The following clip shows just how far a horse will go when he identifies with a stampede of cyclists on the Tour de France.

Animals are clearly fascinated with something about our spinning wheels the world over. They may come at us because they want in on the action. But until they build bicycles for dogs we’d prefer pet owners to have them admire us from a distance. PLEASE keep your dog on a leash! 

Golden Gate Bridge Sidewalk Closed — May 31, 2011

On May 31, 2011 the West Side of the Golden Gate Bridge closed for renovations.  The renovations are scheduled to last thru September 2011.  For more information, see the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District information page here.

The West Side is known as the “bike side” of the bridge.  Typically, this side is open for cyclists from 3:30 pm to sunset Monday through Friday and 5am to sunset on the weekends.

But now, cyclists at all times of day will have to deal with the pedestrians and tourists present on the East Side of the bridge.


The interaction between pedestrians and cyclists is tenuous at best and hostile at worst. On a typical weekend, over 5,000 bicyclists cross the Golden Gate Bridge. The next four months are high season for tourists and for cyclists who are training for tours and competitions.

The hardest part of crossing on the pedestrian side of the bridge is inattentive tourists who don’t think bikes belong on their side.  Or the teenagers with headphones in who don’t hear the bikes announcing their presence over their music. To experience what it is like to bike across the pedestrian side of the bridge, check out Ridin’ Dirty below.

Over the next four months, the pedestrians will need to be aware of how crowded the bridge will be.  Hopefully, signs will be posted to make the pedestrians more aware of the bikes and hopefully they will pay attention.

These next four months will require lots and lots of patience from the bicyclists and understanding from pedestrians.  Let’s hope this occurs.

Until then, be careful crossing the bridge.