Think San Francisco and you’ll picture the city’s most famous landmark The Golden Gate Bridge. ‘The bridge that couldn’t be built’ stretches majestically for 1.7 miles crossing the Strait of The Golden Gate which links San Francisco Bay with Marin County.
Completed in 1937 the iconic suspension bridge took four years to build and weighs in at 887,000 tons. The roadway sits 225 ft above the water and it can sway up to 27 ft in bad weather. It was cold, it was grey and it was windy the day we were biking The Golden Gate Bridge and that sway was playing on my mind…
Foggy in San Francisco
San Francisco was the first stop on our South West US road trip, but we didn’t actually set eyes on The Golden Gate Bridge until our third day in the city. Even from the 46th floor of our San Francisco hotel the iconic bridge was shrouded in swathes of swirling Pacific mist – San Francisco is well-known for the fog. But that didn’t matter because on our final day in the city we were set to ‘bike the bridge’ and see it properly. Up close and personal.
Biking the Bridge with Blazing Saddles
We’d booked the eight-mile bike tour over the bridge to Sausalito with Blazing Saddles. After arriving at their Hyde Street depot, we watched a short introductory film and got sized up for bikes and cycle helmets. For someone who’s only ridden a bike about three times in the last ten years, I was a tad nervous. Actually, very nervous.
We were to meet our tour guide, Ken, and the rest of our group at The Aquatic Park near the cable car turnaround. There were around 18 of us altogether. Although it was a chilly, grey day, hanging around for the rest of our group wasn’t a bad thing because we got to meet Freddie Flintoff and Jamie Redknapp! They were filming on the beach for the next series of ‘A League of their Own’. They were happy to pose for pics with us but, sadly, we didn’t have time to remove our geeky cycle helmets.
Fort Mason, The Marina and Crissy Field
When everyone had arrived, we set off and after a few wobbles and a steep hill I got going and managed to enjoy the views as we cruised the footpaths alongside the bay. I even started to warm up a bit! We passed Fort Mason, a former US army post, and the marina before stopping for a while at Crissy Field, a former airfield, for photos. This is where you’ll get the best views of the full length of the bridge. On Golden Gate Promenade we stopped at the Warming Hut where you can buy drinks, sandwiches and pastries. At each stop Ken would wait until all the group were together and told us fascinating facts about San Francisco and the bridge and answered any questions we had.
At The Warming Hut the bridge was looming over us moody and brooding – even the colour seemed darker than usual. The bridge is painted in ‘International Orange’ a colour similar to the red lead coating that the steel was covered in when it arrived from the foundry. Consulting architect, Morrow, thought the colour blended well with the sky, ocean and landscape and would work well with the changing seasons. And so it stuck.
Golden Gate Bridge Facts and Figures
The bridge is dauntingly huge up close. The twin pylons, which anchor it, are a neck-craning 746 feet high with around 600,000 rivets in each. The suspended roadway is supported by two cables, each one more than 7,000 feet long and containing 80,000 miles of wire. The cables stretch over the towers and are anchored in concrete on the shore. That was reassuring to hear because there was quite a headwind that day!
After a pretty steep, winding hill we arrived panting at the top for our first view at bridge level. Stretching out along the length of the bridge were the towering pylons, suspension cables and touches of art deco along the way. The time had come to bike the bridge so it was best foot forward and into the foray of oncoming cyclists and pedestrians. I’ll admit it got a bit hairy at times, those cycle lanes are skinny.
We stopped part-way across the bridge for views of the bay and city. The sight of the city through the mist was fabulous but my gaze was constantly drawn upwards to the massive steel pylons and the chunky suspension cables. The Golden Gate Bridge is a beauty to look at but the real wonder for me is in how this amazing bridge was actually constructed.
It didn’t seem long before we’d cycled the 1.7 miles and had arrived at the north side of the bridge with a whoop, a high five and a massive sense of relief on my part! There’s a vista point here where the sidewalk widens looking across the bay to the city – a great spot for photos.
The Ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco
We’d decided to take the ferry back to the city from the pretty little town of Sausalito and the ride there was fabulously all downhill! Bikes safely stowed on board we had a hot coffee and warmed up as we sailed across the bay and past Alcatraz to pier 41. It was just a five-minute ride back with our bikes and as we arrived at the depot we were cheered in by the Blazing Saddle staff – such a lovely welcome back!
Golden Gate Bridge in Sunshine
It was impossible to take any photos of the bridge while we were on it as we were on the move most of the time and if I’d tried I’d have probably caused an accident so I don’t have many of the actual day we biked the bridge. I’ve visited San Francisco before in the sunshine and walked part-way across the bridge. Here are some shots taken then – doesn’t it look totally different in the sunshine with a blue-sky backdrop. Which do you prefer?
Need to Know
The bridge is open to pedestrians and cyclists 24 hours daily. There are two sidewalks on the bridge, east and west. At weekends or after 3pm on a weekday bikes travel on the west side which is for bikes only. At all other times you’ll need to be on the east side which is for both bikes and pedestrians. You can check times and which lane to use here
You don’t need to join a tour to bike the bridge with Blazing Saddles. There is a 24 hour bike hire option so that you can explore the bridge and the city at your own pace. Maps, directions, various trails and ferry times are provided and the route to Sausalito is straightforward.
Blazing Saddles hire doesn’t include ferry tickets as the ferry is operated by another company but you can buy your ferry ticket for $11.50 when you pay for your bike hire which saves you queuing at the ferry terminal. Get off at Pier 41 and it’s just a short ride back to drop off your bike.
Many thanks to Blazing Saddles who very kindly gave us discounted rates for our Bike the Bridge tour. They were extremely helpful and friendly and the bikes were in excellent condition. You can check rates for bike hire and tours and other information at www.blazingsaddles.com
Have you been to San Francisco? Did you ‘Bike the Bridge’? Or any other bridge in any other city?