San Rafael is the gateway to China Camp and a great way to return to the Larkspur Ferry from Fairfax or San Anselmo. San Rafael is not for the faint of heart! The high traffic environment along 2nd Street requires superb bike handling skills and nerve as there are no bike lanes and the drivers see you as an intruder with no right to the road. If you are not ready for the intense traffic, a slower alternate route through San Rafael is also available.
Starting in San Anselmo a couple of blocks after Marin Coffee Roasters, turn right onto Bridge Avenue toward Route 24 and then make a
Make a right onto Center Boulevard, following Route 24, follow Center Boulevard across Sir Frances Drake Boulevard. Just after crossing Sir France Drake Boulevard, keep following Route 24 and make the jog to the right off of Center Boulevard and on to Greenfield Avenue.
Follow along Greenfield Avenue until just before it reaches the stoplight, make a right along West End Avenue at that point.
Follow the short West End Avenue until it meets with 2nd Street.
At this point you have two options for going through San Rafael. The shorter, more direct route is to merge with 2nd Street and follow along 2nd Street all the way to Lincoln Avenue.
This route has a bit less traffic, but more stop lights. Neither route has a dedicated bike lane, but the traffic is a bit more friendly on 4th Street.
Once you reach Lincoln Avenue, turn right. Follow Lincoln Avenue until it reaches Irwin Street, then make a right on Irwin Street.
The next traffic light is at Anderson Drive, which is your next decision point.
There are distinct options for getting to the Larkspur Ferry from this point, the first is our favorite, while the second is a good option if you are short on time, or have already had a long ride.
OPTION 1: The Dragons Spine
To follow The Dragons Spine, go straight through the light at Andersen Drive and continue to follow Irwin Street.
There is a stop sign at the intersection with Woodland Avenue, follow Irwin Street straight through the stop sign.
You will start a climb along Irwin Street as it winds its way through a residential neighborhood and by Bret Harte Park.
Along the climb Irwin Street becomes Tiburon Boulevard (although you will notice). After 5 to 7 minutes of climbing, it then becomes Via La Cumbre and the fast rolling portion of the ride begins. Via La Cumbre will skirt along the side of a hill with views of Larkspur and US-101 below.
After another short climb you will pass the intersection with Bret Harte Drive.
Stay to the right and stand for the short, but steep climb as Via La Cumbre splits into parallel one way roads.
This narrow residential road has cars parked and driveways to your right, stay in control and watch for cars as you descend the next hill which will roll into another steep climb.
Follow the road as it continues to wind through the neighborhood to the first Stop sign. Go straight through the stop sign and climb the next small, steep hill.
Then when the coast is clear let it rip and see what you can clock on the radar at the bottom!
Stay vigilant though, as cars may start to back out of their driveways around the corner at the bottom of the run.
Then one last climb and a wide open “Wee Fast Fun” hill to go.
Again, wait for it to be clear and then follow the Pink Bomber’s lead and fly down the last of the descents! The next Stop sign is at the bottom of the hill just after the road starts to flatten out.
Be ready to stop at that point as Via La Cumbre intersects the busy Eliseo Drive. Turn left at Eliseo Drive. Eliseo Drive intersects Sir Frances Drake Boulevard at the stoplight.
Keep following Eliseo Drive straight through the intersection to the next stop sign. Make a left onto the sidewalk and follow the path into Niven Park.
Keep following the path through the park, but watch for dogs off leashes. The path will shortly intersect Bike Route 20.
Make a left onto Route 20 and follow it to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, but don’t turn in just yet. Keep going on the path to the stop light where we will meet with Option 2.
OPTION 2: The Dragon’s Belly
Back at the intersection of Irwin Street and Anderson Drive, to follow The Dragon’s Belly, make a left onto Anderson Drive.
Follow Andersen Drive through lower San Rafael until you reach the bike path entrance just before the intersection with Francisco Boulevard.
Turn onto the sidewalk at this point and follow the sidewalk to the path entrance a couple hundred feet (~70 meters) down the way.
Follow Route 5 onto the Cal Park Hill Path and follow it through the Cal Park Hill Tunnel.
The path will drop you off at the parking lot of the Century Theater at Larkspur Landing.
Turn right into the parking lot, then make another right onto Larkspur Landing Circle.
Follow Larkspur Landing Circle to the stoplight at Sir Frances Drake Boulevard.
Cross Sir Frances Drake Boulevard towards the Larkspur Ferry Terminal entrance, but veer left onto the sidewalk and path.
This is where Option 1: The Dragon’s Spine and Option 2: The Dragon’s Belly merge.
FINAL LEG: Beer Here!
From the stoplight at the Ferry Terminal entrance, follow the path under the pedestrian bridge and then make a quick right.
Where the path meets the base of the pedestrian bridge, make a 180 onto the bridge and follow it over Sir Frances Drake Boulevard.
At the other end of the bridge, cross the road into the courtyard.
Just ahead of you is the Marin Brewing Company.
Stop in to have one of the Brewing Company’s microbrews before you catch the ferry back to San Francisco.
We always enjoy a Mt. Tam Pale Ale or a seasonal brew after a long ride. We also bring any of our friends that join us for a ride.
Being able to return to San Francisco via the Larkspur Ferry is a great way to extend a ride deeper into Marin County. Whether you are hungry for a post-ride meal, have time to kill before the next ferry or just feel like a beer, stopping in at Marin Brewing Company is a great way to meet all those needs. Make sure to say “Hi” if you see us there grabbing a beer!
San Anselmo and Fairfax are quaint little towns that loom at the base of the Coastal Range. Both are great spots to start a ride or grab lunch. Restaurants and coffee shops are all along the main drag of each town. Some of our favorite places to eat during a ride are in this area. These towns also hold different festivals throughout the year, so feel free to stop in and find your own favorite spot.
Connecting to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal is one of the easiest ways to return to San Francisco from a ride in Marin County. The route takes you from the end of the Marin Crossroads, through one of our favorite short descents we call “The Chase Scene,” through the town of Larkspur and back along another multi-use path to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal.
Getting the most out of you bike requires a lot of work and effort. Part of that work is performing regular maintenance of your bike like lubing the chain, checking and pumping the tires, washing the bike and having your favorite mechanic check the bike once or twice a year.
Beyond your regular tuning, the best thing you can do to get the most out of your bike and to help prevent injury due to bad form is to get your bike properly fit. A bike fitting is more than just setting your seatpost at the right height, it’s about putting your bike in the correct place for you to get the most efficiency out of each peddle stroke, alleviate any muscle soreness you are experiencing and help to prevent future injury. While bike fittings are important for all types of riders, road bikers benefit the most from a professional fitting.
Riders for top teams like HTC-Highroad, Saxo-Bank and Garmin-Cervelo have their bikes professionally fit by the manufacturers (Specialized using BG Fit for the first two, Cervelo for the latter) for not only power, efficiency and injury prevention, but also for aerodynamics on the time trial bikes.
For those of us not-so-professional riders, the best person to fit your bike is someone trained in the science of bike fitting and skilled in the art.
The many aspects of a true bike fitting include: type of bike (pure racer, endurance, touring or aero), frame size (including top tube length, seat tube height and stand over height), bar width, drop length, stem length, stem angle, bar angle, gear lever placement, type of seat, seat post height, seat position (fore and aft), foot position at mid-stroke and knee angle at the bottom of the peddle stroke. A skilled bike fitter can make all of these angles and interactions not only work for you, but make each peddle stroke more efficient, more powerful and more comfortable for the rider.
When you get your first road bike, you may be uncomfortable with the typical 45 degree angle position, especially if you just transitioned from a hybrid or mountain bike. So the fit of your bike can change depending on your comfort level with a road bike and your skill level. You will notice changes in the seat post height or stem length immediately after they are changed. But as you progress in your riding you will appreciate the subtle changes like fore and aft positioning of the seat and handle bar angle just as much.
Both of us have had our bikes since we began road biking just over a year ago. Miko’s initial bike fitting was designed to make her comfortable in her transition from a hybrid to a road bike. Her seat post was a bit lower, her stem was angled up and the seat was closer to the stem. The design of her endurance road bike allowed it to take on the hybridesq fitting, while still giving her the road bike experience. This was the right fit for her at the time.
After over a year of riding and minor adjustments to her seat height, Miko was ready for an updated fitting. We took Ruby into A Bicycle Odyssey to have Tony perform an updated fitting. He took her measurements on the bike and checked the handlebar width. He started with adjustments to the seat post height, flipped the stem changing it from an upward angle to almost flat, ensured her handle bars and hoods were positioned such that her back made a 45 degree angle with her bike in the hoods and her elbows slightly bent, while ensuring he back was almost flat in the drops.
The positioning change made the saddle uncomfortable, so after trying a few different saddles, a new one that matched her positioned was installed. The seat position from the stem was adjusted to reduce chafing in this new position. Finally, all of the angles were one again checked to ensure maximum efficiency. During the first ride she commented she felt she owned a new bicycle.
Jon purchased his first road bike from A Bicycle Odyssey. Part of the purchase price includes a fit by Tony. Transitioning directly from a hybrid bike is a huge change in position, control and speed. On his test ride, the bike felt like a great fit, except for the reach, which was a bit long. During Jon’s fit, Tony swapped the stem with one 10mm shorter. He then continued with a full fitting of the bike as described above. The Result: an amazing and efficient ride that allows Jon to ride long distances without pain, or go for short, hard rides without his back and knees paying the price the next day. When Jon got his second road bike, he made sure to also have a fit done.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced cyclist, a good fitting can help you improve your cycling, help reduce pain you experience while cycling and make riding a more enjoyable experience.