As I didn't bring my own bike, I rented an aluminum Cannondale CAAD 10 from Sports Basement in the Presidio. I didn't have a reservation, but at least on a weekday in fall that was no problem at all. The bike fit me reasonably well and was in very good condition.
The route begins with a crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge. I had been warned of the dangers of clueless tourists wobbling around on the ubiquitous rental bikes or on foot, waving around their selfie sticks, but it turned out not to be all that bad.
|Bridge view of Downtown San Francisco|
The bike route on the northern end of the bridge is signed yet not easy to find: You have to do a 170 degree turn onto a sidewalk and then walk your bike down a flight of stairs to pass underneath the bridge. A steep service road then leads down to sea level, providing beautiful vistas. Bike route 5 closely follows the coast line into Sausalito, a pretty, somewhat touristy town that apparently can get very busy on weekends. Continuing on a mix of on-street lanes and shared lanes, I reached the Mill Valley–Sausalito path. The rough chipseal on the path reminded me of that fact that I was on 25mm Continental Gatorskin tires instead of the supple 35–42mm tires I have gotten so used to... At a brand new path roundabout, apparently intended to slow down cyclists, I turned off the path and continued on residential streets.
|View from Pan Toll Road, Panoramic Highway below|
Shortly after that, at the Pantoll Ranger Station, the route forks off on Pan Toll Road. Apologies for the overuse of superlatives, but the views were getting ever better. I was now high up enough to get glimpes of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the foggy ocean all at the same time!
|The view that has it all|
|Climbing, climbing, climbing|
At the next intersection I had to decide if I wanted to take the dead-end road to the eastern summit of Mt. Tam or just continue on the loop. I had plenty of daylight left and was feeling great—so on to the summit I rode. This involved a good bit of up and down, including a mean ramp just before the parking lot at the end of the road. I was happy to see functional water fountains at the parking lot and took a fifteen minute break at a picnic area with yet more great views. I didn't have a lock and therefore skipped the walk to the actual summit.
|At the East Summit parking lot. The couple traveling in this 1970s "Winnie Wagon" later ran into me again and asked me for directions,|
|My laterally stiff yet vertically |
Back at the fork, I now turned right, knowing that from here on the ride would be mostly downhill. My legs certainly appreciated that prospect. However, between lingering memories of my recent crash and, more importantly, the skinny, stiff, overinflated tires on a bumpy road, descending wasn't as much fun as it should be.
|Alpine Lake, seen from the dam|
|One of the switchbacks on Bolinas-Fairfax Road|
As the road left the forest, I was greeted by the view of a big golf course, whose lush green color stood in marked contrast to the brown and yellow tones encountered earlier on the ride. Drought-shmought...
|Indoor bike parking at Gestalt Haus|
A final downhill led me right into the town center of Fairfax, where I made a much needed stop at Gestalt Haus. Gestalt Haus is very much a biker bar, but one catering to bikers of the non-motorized variety. You can roll your bike right in and hang it on a wall rack (which proved immensely convenient given that I didn't have a lock), and there were plenty of fellow cyclists enjoying beers and brats.
|Enjoying a vegan sausage and a Ballast Point Sculpin|
I later realized that the Marin Bike Museum and MTB Hall of Fame was only one block away from the Gestalt Haus, but I guess I wouldn't have had time to visit anyway. To get back to Sausalito, I followed well-signposted bike routes, which weren't particularly exciting but mostly pleasant to ride on. By the time I got back to the Golden Gate Bridge, the sun had started to slowly set, and fog started rolling into the bay. Just amazing, or in the words of the local cyclist who pulled up next to me to also take a picture: “This never gets old!&rdquot;
I returned the bike at the shop after almost exactly 100 kilometers (62 miles) and 1800 meters of climbing. 10/10, highly recommended!