The Best Motorcycle Rides in the San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco is a great city to see from two wheels.
If you think you're seeing more motorcycles on the road in San Francisco, you're right. In fact, a growing number of urban commuters are switching from automobiles to motorcycles for a variety of reasons: fuel economy, sticker price, parking availability and fun! And it's not just the traditional old grizzled men on bikes or up-and-coming professionals who want to add a little spice to their life. Indeed, data from the end of 2018 shows that the number of women who ride has increased a whopping 19%. (That trend has steadily been on the rise since somewhere around 2009.)
Employers have even made daily motorcycle commuting easier in The Bay Area with dedicated parking spots and incentives designed to decrease greenhouse gasses and carbon emissions. But there are more things to do and see on your motorcycle in San Francisco than your daily route to work. San Francisco is the perfect "jumping-off point" for riders who want to escape without actually going too far from home. Within minutes you can be outside the confines of the city and sliding through some of the most pristine and visually appealing scenery in The United States. Indeed, these day trips or short little hours-long interludes can break up an otherwise monotonous day and get your blood pumping.
So break free from that everyday routine and find something truly amazing right in your own backyard!
Below you’ll find some of the best motorcycle rides in the San Francisco Bay Area as recommended by real motorcycle riders from San Francisco. You'll find just about everything from an hour or two away from the city to the perfect "staycation" just a short ride away.
This iconic restaurant is literally hog heaven and has been a hot spot for motorcycle riders for years. Acquired by Alice Taylor in the 1960s, this restaurant once served as a general store at the turn of the century but now serves some of the best comfort food around. On busy weekends you can expect to find 100 or so bikes in the parking lot and riders from all over California and the West Coast enjoying the camaraderie and American favorites like gut-busting burgers and bar-b-q. And don't forget the homemade pies for dessert.
Alice’s sits at the intersection of Skyline Boulevard and Highway 84. Alice's Restaurant is just a short hike up Highway 280 into Woodside. From the heart of San Francisco, the ride takes about 40 minutes (give or take depending on traffic). At just under 40 miles, this ride breaks up the day perfectly and can easily put a fun end to the busy work week.
Not only will you spot dozens of motorcycles in Alice's Restaurant's parking lot, if you’re a total gear head, you can usually spot some excellent antique and classic muscle cars too. Come often and you can pick out antique and restored Shelby’s mixed in with a handful of modern exotics like Lamborghinis.
This quick trip is a cinch for novice motorcyclists living in the San Francisco area and makes a great meeting spot on the way out of the city (or the way back in) for those planning a longer ride out into the wilds of California.
Are you into riding motorcycles for more than just the thrill of the wind rushing through your hair and the throb of the engine between your knees? Are you the type who really enjoys a scenic ride? Try taking the 130 to Mt. Hamilton and on to Patterson. This route takes you out of San Francisco and up into the graceful hills that make the West Coast a destination location for nature lovers around the world. This motorcycle getaway also offers a little bit of history—Mount Hamilton is home to the first permanently occupied observatory in The United States. Sitting at more than 4,000 feet above sea level, Mount Hamilton is just 70 miles outside the heart of San Francisco (roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes by bike).
From Mount Hamilton, follow through and you’ll end up at The Junction Restaurant (a great place to stop for a bite). This sports bar features fan favorites like hot wings, juicy burgers, and more sandwiches than you could eat in a week.
When it’s time to hit the road again, take the Mines Road into Livermore. Once some of California’s most active grazing lands and now home to some top-tier scientific research facilities, this small town has a long history tied intimately in with the Gold Rush that washed over California at the turn of the century. Visitors can still see the impact that glittering madness made on the town by taking the self-guided downtown tour.
After a day of site-seeing and good food, you can hop back on your bike and be home in San Francisco in a little over an hour.
The Marin Headlands offer motorcyclists eye-popping views of the Pacific Ocean below rugged cliffs and bright blue sky. These wonderful geological formations were created by the accretion of rock and sediment from the Pacific Plate as id subsides under the North American Plate that began eons ago and continues to this day. But the Marin Headlines aren't just geologically significant.
Indeed, much of the land is protected within the Golden Gate Recreational Park. This park was created to protect this unique habitat that forms the home for some of the most glorious California wildlife (including the deer, mountain lions, herons and more).
Featuring plenty of opportunities for picnics, sightseeing, and photography, the Marin Headlands are just 8 miles outside the heart of San Francisco making it a wonderful destination if you're looking for something a little wild that's also close to home.
Once you hit the Headlands, take Conzelman Road. It's just 5 miles long but the route it takes offers the most amazingly picturesque shots of The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco beyond all the way up to Point Bonita. Motowhere—the motorcycle ridership forum—calls the ride through the Marin Headlands "scenic, twisty, easy" making it perfect for novice riders or groups of bikers with varying skill levels.
Looking for something a little longer? The West Marin County Loop ride is 50 miles long and will take you about 2 hours in good weather and traffic conditions. The route takes riders through the Marin Headlands and up to Tomales Bay and the town of Marshall then back through farmland that has been worked for generations by the same families.
One favorite spot for bikers to stop along this route is the Station House Café in Point Reyes Station. The perfect jumping-off point, the Station House offers some of the best (and most affordable) breakfasts you'll find anywhere near San Francisco.
But you don't have to keep traveling up the coast to find the best motorcycle rides in San Francisco. In fact, the East Bay has some excellent rides as well. Cross over to the other side of The Bay (or into your backyard if you are an Oakland motorcyclist) an experience some of the curviest roads you’ll ever come across woven through some of the most breath-taking scenery, sweeping vistas, and big hills to climb.
Some of these rides can be a little challenging for novice riders but with a little caution they can be mastered by anyone.
Our pick for the best route along San Francisco's East Bay area? Highway 160. It runs right through the Sacramento River Delta. Along the way you'll spot the delightfully kitschy Rio Vista’s Foster’s Bighorn—the restaurant's decked out with wonderful (and abundant) taxidermy! The ride is about 60 miles and usually takes around an hour to complete one-way. It's also the perfect "first-leg" for a run through to Sacramento or back around to Petaluma or Marin's Golden Gate Recreational Park.
Tired of seaside views and want something a little greener, something a little hillier? Try the rolling greenery of Highway 24 from Berkeley through Lafayette to Bear Creek Road and the Briones Regional Park. Here you can test your bike’s mettle on the 3,800-foot climb up Mount Diablo for some truly breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Indeed, on a clear day, you can see up to 200 miles, a view encompassing 35 of the 58 counties in California. With a true 360-degree panorama from the peak of this nearly 4,000-foot tall mountain, you can look down into San Francisco Bay or even spot the top of Mount Shasta 240 miles away.
So when you're planning your next motorcycle ride out of San Francisco, don't forget The East Bay. It offers a wide range of rides to suit any experience level.
Expand Your Comfort Zone
If you're looking for the best motorcycle ride in San Francisco, it may not be the one you take every day to work and back. While commuting to work on a motorcycle in San Francisco can save you money, increase your daily intake of fun, and maybe even make you a little bit cooler (and the envy of all your coworkers) there's more to riding in San Francisco than getting around this gorgeous (but somewhat overcrowded) City by the Bay.
True motorcycle riders know that half the fun in owning a bike is the pure and simple joy of enjoying the ride. So carve out some time for yourself to enjoy one of the best motorcycle rides in San Francisco we've listed above or take the time to find your own personal favorite getaway.
Break free from the daily grind and take some time to explore the natural and man-made wonders waiting right in your backyard. Motorcycle rides in the San Francisco area offer a wonderful, easy way to get out of the city at a moment's notice. There is so much to do and see here that you'll never get bored. So plan a day trip (or even a long weekend ride) and hit the highway.
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Stay Safe and Be Prepared
As liberating (and exhilarating) as riding can be, you have to know the risks you're facing in order to grow as a rider. Ever good bike owner should beware the dangers these motorcycle rides in San Francisco pose. Riding a bike in the city isn't like riding on the open road. When you're placed in close proximity to automobile traffic, your risk of being in a motorcycle accident dramatically increases. Indeed, as treacherous as some of the mountainous terrain in The Bay Area can be for inexperienced motorcycle riders, it pales in comparison to the carelessness of distracted or reckless drivers.
Statistics show that well over half of all motorcycle accidents in San Francisco that involve automobiles were caused by the car's driver, not the motorcyclist. It’s easy for automobile operators to overlook motorcycle riders—especially when they’re sightseeing too. In fact, one of the most common statements at-fault drivers make to police investigators after a crash is that they failed to see the motorcycle until it was too late to avoid the collision.
So ride safely but take comfort in the fact that if you are involved in a motorcycle accident in San Francisco, we’re here to help. The experienced motorcycle accident lawyer team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers can get your life back on track after a crash and help you get the compensation you deserve. Call (415) 413-0033 today or submit your case information online for a FREE case evaluation by clicking the red button below.