Trail: WELCOME TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD – Mount Tamalpais Summit

After Paying the Toll, the summit of Mount Tamalpais is almost within reach.  The last stage of the Mt. Tam assent is grueling and sometimes just plain cruel! The steepness of the first mile will push you to your limits before you reach the first of three peaks.  At the summit, take a breath, enjoy the view and brace yourself for a tough climb back to the first peak before you make the descent back to the Bay.

Distance from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail) 27.42 miles; from the Marin Crossroads 12.99 miles; from Somewhere Over the Rainbow 8.91 miles; from A Panoramic View 4.42 miles; from Paying the Toll 2.99 miles

Difficulty: If you’re not prepared for a tough slog back from the summit as well, you might be spending the night on the mountain!

Climbing on Route: 630 feet (192 meters)

Total Elevation Gain from Marin Crossroads: 2641 feet (805 meters)

Download your route sheet here: Directions – Welcome to the Top of the World

Download your route sheet for the entire Mount Tamalpais Route here: Directions – There and Back Again

FOR A MORE DETAILED LOOK click here for the full Geoped Map provided by

Elevation Map for the Route provided by

From the top of Paying the Toll, make a right onto East Ridgecrest Boulevard and follow it all the way to the third peak which is the summit of Mount Tamalpais.

Make a right onto East Ridgecrest Boulevard to Summit Mt. Tam

The first peak is the hardest to reach.  This peak is next to the Doppler Radar station at the top of a 1.25 mile climb.  Though less steep than the climbs on Pan Toll Road, this first climb is lengthy and difficult. By the time you finish the first climb, your legs will be Jello!

View from the top of the first peak

Make sure to pause at this first peak and take in the views of Mill Valley below.  Get some energy back as you take the first descent and start making the climb toward the next peak.

Stand and push up the second climb and take another break at the top of the second peak.

The view from the second peak gives you better views of Tiburon and Sausalito

From the top of the second peak, the views of Tiburon and Sausalito get closer.  One last peak to climb before heading back.

Another short descent and the last peak is all that stands between you and the summit.  The last climb is steep.  Once you make it to the summit, take in the views and know you’ve climbed over 2,500 feet on your way to this point!

View of Tiburon, Belvedere, Strawberry, Mill Valley and Sausaltio from the summit of Mount Tamalpais

On a clear day, you can see San Francisco, East Bay and all over Marin County from the summit of Mount Tamalpais.  At over 2,500 feet in altitude, you can see above the fog as it rolls over San Francisco Bay.

The historic Mt. Tam Fire Lookout and Ranger Station

At the summit, you can lock up your bikes and take a stroll up the stairs to the Fire Lookout and Ranger Station.  On a clear day, you can see not only San Francisco and East Bay, but also out to the Farallon Islands (to the west and 25 miles off-shore in the Pacific Ocean) and it’s even been reported that you can see the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada range 150 miles to the east.  At the parking lot, there are bathrooms and a water fountain at the top so you can relieve and refill.  Enjoy your time at the summit, because once you are ready to go, you have more hill climbing awaiting.

Elevation Map for the Route provided by

Another 300 feet of climbing over two more hills looms once you leave the summit of the third peak.  The return to the second peak is a breeze compared to the climb back to the first peak.  The climb to the west peak is almost a half-mile long and is very steep.  Push through this tough climb and then it’s all down hill from there.

Once you’ve gone there and back again, the summit of Mt. Tam allows you have options of where to go next.  You can continue on Ridgecrest Boulevard and head towards Fairfax-Bolinas Road, or you can turn back down Pan Toll Road and go to Mill Valley or Sausalito. If you’re feeling particularly adventerous that day, you can even head to Stinson Beach from where A Panoramic View and Paying the Toll meet. No matter which way you decide to go, after reaching the summit of Mount Tamalpais, you have entered a club with others who have pushed themselves to conquer this beast! Enjoy the journey, but make sure to stop and enjoy the view as well.

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

Tips & Tricks: A Harsh Reality of Biking – Bike Theft

There is a sinking feeling of walking up to a bike rack and noticing that there seems to be one less seat post in the air and realizing that missing seat post is yours. When it happened at a restaurant only three blocks from home that realization was rattling. In San Francisco the problem isn’t just common it’s an epidemic. According to lock manufacturer Krypotonite, this is the 6th worst city in the US for bike theft.

(The belief that crowded areas deter bike thieves is but a myth. The bustling, preoccupied crowds overlooked the wire cutter on the Embacadero where Jon’s bike was stolen.)

Even though the National Bike Registry estimates that 1.5 million bikes are stolen each year, don’t expect a government task force to clean up the problem any time soon. The threat is real and the only solution is to take precautions to prevent theft and precautions to enable a likelihood of recovery or at least financial recovery should it happen to you.

As the Boy Scout Motto goes: BE PREPARED!

No local bike registry exists, but there is a National Bike Registry. This agency works with police agencies around the country to return stolen bicycles to their rightful owners who have either registered their bike prior to it being stolen, or who register a stolen bicycle. Registration is $10 for 10 years for one bike, or $25 for 10 years for an unlimited number of bicycles in the same household which gets you a thief deterring sticker engineered to be indelible that identifies your bike as listed with the National Bike Registry. Registering a stolen bicycle is $0.99 and it will stay on the list for six months.


1. Save your bike’s information — Your receipt should include:

– Your name and address;

– The serial number of your bike; and

– Bike shop where you purchased it.

Keep a in a hard copy safe place. Also, make a digital copy and store it on your computer or emailed to yourself. Also, take a photo of the serial number on your bike and of the bike itself.

Use this guide from the National Bike Registry to locate the serial number on your bike.

2. Have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance — There’s no such thing as bike insurance in the United States, your bike will only be covered under a homeowner’s or renter’s policy. This especially makes sense for high-end bikes with high value. Or if you rely on your bike for transportation, such as to and from work, and need reimbursement for the bike immediately without the timeliness of having to save for a new one.


We knew a bartender in the market for a bike, so we made suggestions on bikes and shops – the bikexperts that we are. The next time we saw her we asked if she’d found a bike. She had. She’d literally “found” a bike. “It was just sitting there and by the time my friends and I came out again it was still there. So I took it.” And the poor fool that never bothered to lock up their bike had to walk all the way home.

If left unlocked, even if you have insurance on your bike they aren’t required to pay your claim. Like helmets, bike locks are not optional.

1.  Use the lock properly — Place the U-Lock around the frame, at least one wheel and the bike rack.  A cord tying in the other wheel is a good a secondary measure, but the cord alone will not protect your bike by itself…Trust me.  For more information see the National Bike Registry and this awesome article from FunkedUpFixies.

Though cord locks are lighter, they are less effective and can but cut easily.  Here the cord only goes around the frame and does not tie in the wheels. One more thing that can make worse off, even if your bike isn’t stolen, your saddle bags, lights, pumps, etc. can easily be removed and stolen by anyone.

2.  Keep your eyes on the prize — One way to prevent bike theft is to keep your eyes on it whenever it’s locked up – only break or eat where you can see your bike.  In the time it takes to notice an all too curious admirer of your bike with a bolt cutter, you’ll be able to run after the person (while on the phone with the police) and apprehend/report/photograph the thief.

3.  Patronize places that are bike friendly — Bike friendly can mean that they let you bring the bikes into the store or restaurant, provide a secure area to park your bike, or have a bike rack directly in front of the store windows.


1.  CALL THE POLICE RIGHT AWAY! — This DOES NOT mean call 9-1-1, that is for emergencies only.  Find the non-emergency line for the police of the city where your bike was stolen, call in and make a report.  In San Francisco 3-1-1 is the number you can call to report a stolen bike.

2.  Be clear and specific in the report — It will take 10-15 minutes in order to properly report the theft.  Details you will need are:

–  Location of the bike rack or other object your bike was attached to;

–  Time you locked up your bike;

–  Time you found your bike missing;

–  Make, model and year of your bike;

–  Anything that is specific to your bike (i.e. yellow stripes on your tires, a marking on the bike, etc.);

–  The serial number of the bike — you can file “additional loss form” or “report amendment form” after your initial report if you don’t have this handy; and

–  Have a copy of the report sent to you, preferably by email, you will need the report number when reporting the loss to your insurance company.

3.  If you have renters or homeowner’s insurance, file a claim — File this as soon as possible. Have the information from the police report and the report number handy when making the report.  The sooner you report your loss, the quicker you can get a replacement.

4.  Report all of your bike’s upgrades — When you talk with your insurance agent about the loss, make sure to mention anything else of value that was added before it was stolen, like the SPD clips, S-Works tires and Body Geometry saddle on my bike that almost doubled my insurance recovery.

When you first realize your bike is stolen, there is a feeling of being violated.  No matter if it’s your mental escape from everyday life, your exercise, or your commute, it is more than just a material object. It’s fine to grieve about the loss and the unfairness of theft, but when it first happens, you need to act rationally and report the incident quickly.









Reported Missing May 21, 2010 from Pier 1-1/2, San Francisco, California