Adventure Local; Marin County

 

Welcome to Adventure Local, a series of Apidura guides designed to help you get the most out of riding in various destinations around the world. In this edition we’re exploring Marin County in Northern California – in the heart of San Francisco Bay – with Chris Holmes from mountain bike specialists Marin Bikes.

 

EssentialsFinding a BikeCulture – Where to Ride – Where to Hang Out

19/08/2019

 

Occupying the headland across the bay from San Francisco, Marin County is one of North America’s most picturesque locations. It’s also a haven for bike riders of all kinds, with excellent road, gravel, and mountain bike options. In fact, the steep slopes of Marin Hills’ highest peak, Mount Tamalpais, are widely regarded as the birthplace of mountain biking as we know it, hatched in the 1970s by a group of thrill-seekers freewheeling down its fire roads on customised ‘klunker’ bikes cobbled together with old parts. 

Given the county’s history, who better to help guide us around its finest roads and trails than Chris Holmes – brand director at mountain bike specialists Marin Bikes. “It’s a riders’ paradise and the options are endless,” says Chris. “You can ride from San Francisco across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to access some amazing (and popular) routes in the Headlands, or duck through Sausalito to access miles and miles of quiet roads.” 

Marin County Essentials

 

Country: U.S.A.

Language: English

Currency: United States Dollar (USD) 

Neighbouring Countries: Canada, Mexico 

Nearest Airport: San Francisco International Airport

Visas required: Find out here 

 

Finding a Bike

 

According to Chris, one of the great things about riding in Marin is that you can have a blast riding virtually any type of bike. But to make the most of the diverse terrain on offer, bringing along a gravel bike is your best bet – as it opens up your access to the fabled fire roads of Mount Tamalpais. 

Find yourself in the area without a ride? You’re in luck – as there are plenty of shops that rent bikes in Marin County, and nearby San Francisco. Blazing Saddles in San Francisco carry everything from city cruisers to high-end MTBs, and handily, have a number of locations dotted around town.

If you’re on the hunt for a forgotten part or are in need of a service, try Above Category Cycling in Sausalito. They’re also stockists of some incredible bike manufacturers, including Boulder-based Mosaic Cycles.

Mapping Marin County

 

This map depicts all of the places of interest mentioned in this Adventure Local guide. From finding local bike shops and cycling cafes, to navigating rides in the surrounding area, use it to unlock the city’s cycling potential.

 

GPX Route Downloads

Point Reyes Road Loop

The ‘UCC’ Gravel Ride

 

 

Iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge are all but guaranteed on clear days

Iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge are all but guaranteed on clear days

The Point Reyes Monterey cypress tree tunnel provides a dramatic backdrop for riding - and Instagram posts!

The Point Reyes Monterey cypress tree tunnel provides a dramatic backdrop for riding - and Instagram posts!

 

Cycling Culture

 

Marin County (and indeed San Francisco) is steeped in cycling culture. “You would be amazed at the number of riders out on the roads and trails on the weekend,” says Chris. “Fairfax specifically is the birthplace of modern mountain biking, with the fabled ‘Repack’ trail ending in the town. Fairfax is also the home of the Marin Museum of Bicycling and the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame – a must-see for cycling enthusiasts.” 

As you would expect, the healthy cycling culture in Marin County means there’s a huge number of clubs and organised rides to get involved in. Local bike shop Studio Velo, based in Mill Valley, hosts a monthly MTB ride to some of the finest terrain on offer – and even invite participants back to their store for post-ride beers. Check for details on their Facebook and Strava pages. 

 

Where to Hang Out

 

Riders in Marin are spoilt for choice when it comes to places to eat, drink, or enjoy a post-ride coffee. Thanks in large part to the sheer numbers of cyclists that either live in or visit the county, most all establishments you’d care to visit are bike and rider-friendly. If you’re riding near Fairfax, try Marin Coffee Roasters in San Anselmo – a favourite of late comedian and Marin County local Robin Williams as he made his way back along the bay to his hometown of Tiburon. 

For some serious cyclist-friendly refreshment, Chris recommends grabbing a beer and a sausage at the local favourite Gestalt Haus in Fairfax. And don’t worry if you’re still in your riding gear – you’ll be in good company: “It’s a beer garden-style bar and grill with indoor bike parking, and you can guarantee the majority of the clientele are going to be in either lycra or baggies.” 

Essential Phrases

Hello: Hi

Goodbye: Bye

Thank you: Thanks

Bicycle: Bike

Yes / No: Yes / No

 

Where to Ride

 

If you’ve just arrived, you could do worse than take a ride out to Tiburon. Close to the tip of the Tiburon Peninsula, the eponymous town was home to late comedian Robin Williams – an avid cyclist and regular sight on the roads around Marin. From here, Paradise Drive will take you right around the bay, offering uninterrupted views of the water, and a good glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. 

For those looking for a little solitude from the rider-friendly roads around Marin, Chris recommends heading out to Point Reyes Station. “You can use it as a base for rides in Point Reyes National Seashore – 71,000 acres of protected lands, with stunning coastline and amazing vistas. But check the weather ahead of time, as it can be cool and foggy out there on an otherwise sunny day further inland.” 

Many famous routes are ‘out-and-backs’ from the quaint towns that abound in Marin, but perhaps the most famous of all is a ride out to the iconic Point Bonita lighthouse on the Marin Headlands, which, in Chris’ words, is “pretty fantastic.” 

If you’re looking for gravel inspiration, try Studio Velo in Mill Valley. Not only do they offer organised rides, their website is a treasure trove of routes that they claim are some of the world’s finest. Our pick would be their 128km UCC Loop; taking in Bolinas Ridge along with redwood groves and cow pastures, it’s allegedly one of Marin County’s best-kept secrets.  

 

With Thanks…

Thanks to our Adventure Local: Marin County ride guide, Chris Holmes – Brand Director at Marin Bikes. Chris is a self-professed bike dork, music lover, beer drinker and car nerd and can often be found exploring the trails around Marin Country.

 

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