City Guide: San Francisco
Words Erica Schwanke, Intro Anna Maria
So much has been said about cycling in San Francisco, still, few people know the city like our friend Erica Schwanke does. From racing multiple disciplines, designing an awesome kit for her team at State Bicycles, to DJing the hippest soirees in town, and chronicling her adventures for @seekandenjoy, Erica is the woman to know. This fall she'll be joining the MothattackCX Team (which from here on out we'll be calling "super group"), but before then she has a packed calendar of races and epic travel. We were so happy she had the time to share these insights into the city she calls home.
How long have you have you been riding in SF?
I moved to San Francisco about two and half years ago and have been riding ever since. It was really big adjustment from other cities I’ve lived since they were all pretty flat in comparison and I had to learn how to climb (and quickly)!
What do you wish people knew about cycling in SF? What makes it different than other places you’ve cycled in.
It's easier than you think! Don’t let the hills scare you - just get a local to show you the ways around them or the easiest way up. All types of people ride here from professional roadies to couriers to commuters so, while there are certainly exceptions, most traffic is aware of cyclists. Plus our weather is pretty mild so most days are a great day to ride your bike.
Whats the best part about riding in SF? What’s the worst part?
You can ride anything! From mountain bike trails in Sutro, to a good leg warming spin up to Twin Peaks, or even an easy cruise to the Marina for Irish Coffees, we’ve got it all and it's all within the 7x7. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin and its a cyclists’ playground complete with challenging climbs, winding fire roads, and kick-ass singletrack.
The worst part is getting across the bridge - I swore I’d never become one of the San Francisicans who complains about this, but the tourists on the bridge are definitely a bummer — especially since the invention of the selfie stick!
What is your favorite long distance route?
Highway One out to Point Reyes Station for a coffee stop and then back through the dirt in Samuel P Taylor. That or the classic Alpine Dam loop. Both can be challenging but the lack of cars, breathtaking views, and tall trees make you forget about your burning legs and lungs.
What is your favorite route for short distance?
Dirt loops in Golden Gate Park on a cx bike with a stop for toast at Trouble Coffee. I like to ride with different people each time I go because everyone has a favorite cut and I get to see more of the park each time. Doing this at night with lights adds another fun dimension! Or, if I'm trying to get out of the city, then Radio Road to the summit of San Bruno Mountain. The views up there are A++.
What’s the best part of commuting by bikes in SF?
There are lots of places to stop for a mid-commute coffee and a good amount of bike lanes.
Whats your favorite bike shop?
Fresh Air Cycles has that nice-punks-running-a-shop vibe that got me into cycling. Solid mechanics and amazing humans. Its nowhere near my house and I still pop in regularly for everything from bicycle tune-ups to VHS loans.
Favorite pre/post ride coffee shop or meet up spot?
Four Barrel for pre-ride coffee, City + County Cycles for a post-ride coke. (Hot tip: City + County is right near the bridge and Jon always has complimentary hot coffee or cold cokes for those in kit. He’ll also fix that squeak/click/etc you picked up mid-ride while you wait.)
What’s the most practical insider tip you’d give anyone visiting and cycling in your city?
Learn the wiggle - its a mile-long zig-zag that will get you from Market Street to Golden Gate Park with a chill 3% average grade. It’ll save your legs for all the other climbs.