The Cheese Factory Century
This 100+ mile ride features a broad variety of terrain and microclimates, and a midway stop at The Cheese Factory in Marin for sandwiches and relaxation. The intermediate ride could be an easy advanced ride. The beginner’s ride is a popular circuit around the outskirts of San Francisco, through Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. Traffic varies from light to heavy; the civilization level is fairly high. There aren’t a lot of possible centuries around here which are easier and more enjoyable than this one. (Harder is possible).
John Daly/Lake Merced/John Muir/Skyline Boulevard (all rides)
These roads are mostly wide and trafficky. John Daly goes downhill fast. John Muir is a quieter ride near Lake Merced (turn left just before you get to the lake). The left turns on John Muir and The Great Highway are a bit tricky (crossing two lanes of traffic to a left turn lane).
The Great Highway (all rides)
The Great Highway is a blast if the weather is right. There’s a short, somewhat steep hill, then a longer descent on the other side that brings you out to the ocean. After the first light it’s rail-straight and fast; there’s usually a nice tailwind on this section, and it’s pretty and often closed to motor traffic. There’s sometimes drifting sand on the road but usually not on the northbound side. There are traffic lights placed periodically but they’re only to let pedestrians cross to the beach so they’re usually ignorable. At the windmill, turn into Golden Gate Park.
Golden Gate Park (all rides)
Golden Gate Park is relatively quiet and pretty. All the roads are wide and well-paved. Most of them have rolling hills. The west side of the park often has a lot of cars parked on the road. Note: The left turn onto Crossover Drive may not be marked; it’s just before JFK Drive goes underneath Highway 1/19th Ave.
25th Avenue (all rides)
A fairly busy connector road through residential and commercial districts. 24th Ave. is also usable, marginally less busy.
Lincoln Boulevard/McDowell Ave/Mason Street (all rides)
Lincoln is a wide road with moderate traffic through the Presidio. There’s a good climb up towards the bridge, then a descent back towards it; to get to the bridge, turn left just after going underneath the freeway. After the bridge, there’s a wide, fast descent, then a left turn on McDowell (still downhill) takes you underneath the freeway again; two right turns put you on Mason Street by Crissy Field. Mason often has a blasting tailwind through the Golden Gate, and it has a long straight section to try out your big ring.
Marina/Cervantes/Bay Street/Embarcadero (all rides)
After leaving the Presidio we end up on busy residential streets in the Marina District. They’re wide but there’s a lot of parking and cross traffic. There are options to go through Fort Mason, but the pedestrians, dogs, and Blazing Saddles riders are probably worse than the cars. Bay Street has a steep descent towards Columbus, then goes through a bit of Fisherman’s Wharf. Embarcadero has a decent bike lane and takes you to the Ferry Building, where you make a right to get to Embarcadero BART.
Golden Gate Bridge (intermediate/advanced rides)
I usually don’t enjoy riding on the bridge; it’s narrow, shared by two-way bike traffic (much of which is inexperienced tourists), it’s noisy, and there’s often strong winds and fog. That being said, it can be spectacular on a good day. Pay attention to what you’re doing; stop at one of the notches if you want to look at the view.
Conzelman Road/Sausalito Lateral/Bridgeway (intermediate/advanced ride)
A twisty, fun descent under the bridge takes you down to East Fort Baker, then a climb brings you up to a wide, busy road into and through Sausalito. The descent into town is twisty and fairly narrow; you probably should take the lane. Once in town, there are usually large crowds of pedestrians and slow-moving cars; keep an eye out. After leaving downtown it’s more reasonable. Where the road goes onto the freeway, get onto the bike path on your right.
Mill Valley-Sausalito bike path (advanced ride)
On weekends the traffic on this path can be out of control; watch out for dogs and people wobbling all over the place. Other than that it’s reasonably pleasant.
East Blithedale/Greenwood Cove/bike path/Tiburon Boulevard (advanced ride)
East Blithedale is wide and busy. After crossing the freeway you can get off it on a parallel set of roads and paths on the bay side. The paths go almost all the way into downtown Tiburon, but where they get narrow I usually hop back on Tiburon Boulevard, which is wide and a bit less busy. Stop in town for a snack, or to grab the ferry back.
Paradise Drive/Trestle Glen (intermediate/advanced ride)
Paradise Drive starts with a climb, then rolls through quiet, beautiful woodland by the bay. There’s very little traffic. The pavement is often not great. At the fire station, the intermediate ride turns left on Trestle Glen, which climbs a short hill and then descends back to East Blithedale to complete the loop.
San Clemente/Tamalpais (advanced ride)
These roads head into Corte Madera, with gradually increasing traffic levels. The left turn off San Clemente onto Corte Madera is tricky, with steady traffic trying to get on 101. After that it heads into downtown; go around the park and turn right.
Corte Madera/Magnolia/Bon Air (advanced ride)
These are decent residential/commercial roads, narrow in parts but mostly fine. There’s a water fountain shortly after the bridge over Corte Madera Creek on Bon Air.
Sir Francis Drake/Wolfe Grade (advanced ride)
Sir Francis Drake is the main artery through these towns; it’s wide but very busy. Wolfe Grade is a mostly quiet road with a good climb through the trees, and a fun descent into San Rafael on the other side.
D street/1st/C/4th (advanced ride)
Heading through downtown San Rafael, you have to jog right to get around a one-way section on D street. These roads have a lot of low-speed traffic and parking.
Lincoln/Los Ranchitos/bike path/Merrydale/Las Gallinas/Miller Creek/bike path/Alameda Del prado (advanced ride)
This set of roads and bike paths parallels the freeway. The roads are mostly wide, with moderate traffic. One tricky bit is to find the short bike path at the top of a small hill on a curve on Los Ranchitos; not totally required, but it’s nicer than the road.
Ignacio/Sunset (advanced ride)
These are quiet roads through residential areas and the old air force base housing.
Novato Boulevard (advanced ride)
Novato Boulevard starts as a fairly busy commerical street as it goes through town. Traffic gradually drops off as it heads into the pastures to the west, where the climb up into central Marin begins. The climb is long and hot but mostly not steep; there are a few downhill sections to break it up. There’s often a headwind as you go up.
Pt. Reyes/Petaluma Road (advanced ride)
Shortly after the left turn onto this road, take a break at the Marin French Cheese Company on your right. There’s a small store where you can buy sandwiches, beverages, cheese and crackers. After the stop, the road continues through the fields, gradually climbing. This section is narrow and has a fair bit of high-speed traffic; be careful.
Nicasio Valley/Lucas Valley Road (advanced ride)
These are pleasant, quiet roads through the pastures. The Lucas the valley was named for is not related to George Lucas, but Skywalker Ranch is located along the road.
Red Hill/San Antonio/Bolinas/Shady/Lagunitas/Ross Common/Poplar/Kent (advanced ride)
The town of Ross doesn’t like people from out of town. Most of the bicyclists through here come from out of town. So instead of making Sir Francis Drake safe for bikes by widening it, they created this convoluted “bike” route, and the cops often sit around and ticket bicyclists who roll through the many stop signs. (Not like there’s anything else for cops to do in Ross). You can avoid this silliness by staying on Sir Francis Drake, but it’s narrow and busy.
Corte Madera Ave (advanced ride)
After passing through town, there’s one more decent climb and a fast descent back towards Mill Valley and the bike path.