San Diego Bike Rides – Experiencing San Diego on Two Wheels

categories: Southern California
Lake Hodges

Lake Hodges

With temperate weather and lots to see and do, San Diego is a fantastic city to explore on two wheels. Whether you’re interested in historic sites like Cabrillo National Monument, or you’re looking to experience nature at La Jolla Cove, you’re just a bike ride away from all of it.

With almost 1,800 miles of bikeway connecting the city, you are in control of your destination. There are myriad options for those who want a good workout and those who want to stop along the way for a bite to eat. San Diego is definitely at the top of my list of places to explore by bike!

Staying Local

Whether you’re in San Diego for a weekend or the foreseeable future, you’ll never tire of the history, nature, and community. Biking is a great way to have an adventure in your hometown or a town that’s a world away from yours. If you have the means, I recommend making a vacation or staycation out of biking. Choose two or three rides, and pick an accommodation that’s central to them.

During one of my first trips to San Diego, I stayed at a short-term rental that specifically noted bike storage as an amenity. As we all know, however, such rentals can be a bit touch and go when it comes to security, privacy, and even cleanliness issues like bedbugs. If you’d rather not chance it, San Diego is filled with boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts that offer a unique and charming experience. Some hotels – like the Fairmont Del Mar – even have bike rentals on the property.

San Diego biking

Getting a Bike

Unless you’re local and an avid cyclist already, you may be unsure how to even get a bike to have this great biking adventure. The good news: it’s easy here in San Diego. You will find bike rental shops throughout the city. All of the major parks and beach areas have a bike shop, so all you have to do is start with a quick internet search. I recommend reserving a bike online so you know they will have what you want the day of your adventure.

If you’re looking to explore the North Inland region or Mission Trails Regional Park, you’ll want a mountain bike. These areas are designed for recreation, and you’ll want a bike that stands up to the task. Anyone at a local bike shop can help you figure out just what will work best for you.

Most other parts of the city, including Mission Bay and Silver Strand, are suited to road bikes. You can rent a traditional road bike or opt for one with e-assist. E-assist bikes offer an easier ride as an electric drive system works alongside your pedaling to help you go farther and faster with less effort. I don’t care if you call it cheating – I love e-bikes!

While it isn’t always the coolest, I certainly recommend wearing a helmet – especially if you’re going to ride in areas with car traffic or on unpaved sections of terrain. A helmet should fit snugly without pinching. You can rent a helmet along with your bike, and the shop will be able to help you choose a properly fitting and suitable helmet.

[Editor: By law, any bicyclist 18 years of age or older is not required to wear a helmet when riding. Any bicyclist under the age of 18 is required to wear a bicycle helmet when riding. The fine for not wearing a bicycle helmet when required to do so is $25. I always wear a helmet.]

Bike on Ocean Beach

Bike on Ocean Beach

Planning a Route

Many local organizations and companies offer pre-planned routes for free. The San Diego County Bike Coalition is one of my favorite resources for biking around America’s Finest City. You can find all sorts of resources, including routes and events, on their website. They are also very honest about the quality of bike lanes. Additionally, a lot of bike companies provide free maps and itineraries organized by the difficulty of the route.

Online mapping sites are a great tool to help you get from point A to point B (and C, D, E, and F…). Many sites allow you to choose biking as a mode of transportation and will even warn you if your desired route lacks bike lanes or sidewalks. If you know that you want to start from where you’re staying and then end the day at a particular restaurant, allow a mapping site to help you figure out the best way to see San Diego by bike.

However, in my opinion, one of the best ways to explore any city is to see where the day takes you. Head over to Old Town or Mission Bay Park and just ride. All you need are two wheels and an adventurous spirit to enjoy everything San Diego has to offer.

Tips for a Successful Biking Adventure

If you’re thinking about a day trip, you need to be mindful of restrooms. Not all places have public bathrooms available, and not all trails are equipped with facilities. Plan for this and consider stopping for a snack or meal. This allows you to try a new café or restaurant and take a break. In this case, you will want to bring along a quality bike lock.

While the temps in San Diego are usually around the ideal 70-degree mark, you are still likely to work up a sweat. For this reason, be sure to take plenty of water with you. You also want to protect yourself from the sun – especially if you’re visiting from a less sunny region. Sunscreen, sunglasses, loose-fitting light-colored long-sleeve shirts, and hats are all advisable to ensure an enjoyable adventure. Depending on the type of ride you have planned, you may also want to pack some bug repellant. Nothing ruins an adventure quite like a bunch of itchy bug bites!

Places to Go

Once you have your bike and gear, you’re ready to ride. There is no shortage of destinations in San Diego. There are trails for bikers seeking stunning views, rides for adventurous souls, and routes specifically for history lovers. I can’t possibly list all of the places to see and things to do, but here are a few fan favorites to help inspire your next ride.

Carlsbad History Tour

Carlsbad History Tour

With two dozen points of interest, the Carlsbad Historical Society has laid out a fantastic self-guided tour for history fanatics. The Carlsbad Historic Sites Bicycle Tour takes you through nearly 150 years of history and includes everything from houses and restaurants to a theater and an Army Navy academy. The ride is relatively flat and paved, and offers a lot of opportunity for impromptu discoveries. Do keep in mind, however, that bathrooms may not be readily available on your adventure.

Balboa Park

Even if you’ve been before, exploring Balboa Park’s vast grounds and attractions by bike is a worthwhile experience. You can ride through the park’s gardens, visit museums like the San Diego Museum of Art or the San Diego Air and Space Museum, and admire the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Perhaps best of all is the scavenger hunt known as the Joy Ride! About a 2.5-mile ride, this afternoon activity is great for all ages. I’ve also had the good fortune of hearing the

Spreckels Organ played on a beautiful summer afternoon. You can hear the organ every Sunday afternoon at 2 pm. If you keep an eye on the park’s events calendar, you can catch other free concerts throughout the year, too.

Hillcrest Pride Ride

Designed to highlight past and current places of significance, the Hillcrest Pride Ride traverses through 14 spots of importance to the LGBTQI+ community and allies. A joint effort of various San Diego organizations, the Pride Ride is ever-evolving. The Guild Theater, located on 5th Avenue, was a highlight of my ride. Traversing through Balboa Park and through the surrounding neighborhoods, you’ll find plenty of places to stop and enjoy a snack or meal. My friends and I happened upon Sunnyboy Buiscot Company, located right on Park Blvd., and I’ve been dreaming of the breakfast sandwiches ever since.

Mission Beach and Pacific Beach Boardwalks

Riding along Ocean Front Walk, you can spend the entire day riding, dining, and listening to the ocean. Explore both Mission Beach Boardwalk and Pacific Beach Boardwalk, taking in the beach culture and lively atmosphere. There are various shops along the boardwalk where you can rent bikes if needed. You can take a picnic lunch or enjoy ice cream at one of the many shops along the way. If you’re up early enough, head farther north along the coast to watch the sunrise and see some talented surfers catch waves at Tourmaline Surf Park.

Kearny Mesa Seaside Loop

Kearny Mesa Seaside Loop

This ride is for those of you who want a workout alongside your sightseeing. With an elevation variance of about 2,000 feet, you’ll put your calves to work. However, you’ll be well rewarded with sights of the Pacific Ocean from La Jolla all the way down to Pacific Beach.

One of the loveliest places along this route is the La Jolla Tide Pools. You’ll be able to spot sea anemones, fish, and crabs in these natural seawater pools. The entire 37-mile loop is paved, so you don’t need a specialty bike for this trek but you may want to break it up over a couple of days or choose to ride only a section of it. When riding along the coast, I recommend stopping at Kono’s Café for breakfast any time of day – the Cafe Moto coffee alone is worth stopping for.

Coronado Island

Coronado Island

While not technically an island, this charming peninsula is known as Coronado Island and sits just 2 miles from downtown San Diego. Though it is in proximity to the hustle and bustle, Coronado Island feels a world away. The Crown City is home to the historic Hotel del Coronado, which opened in 1888 and boasts several beachfront dining options. You can take a ride through downtown and to Ferry Landing, and explore various shops, or take a break in Centennial Park and enjoy the skyline view of San Diego. To be frank: the views from Coronado Island cannot be beat. It is absolutely a bucket-list type of adventure.

Barrio Logan

Barrio Logan

Part of the Bayshore Bikeway passes through Barrio Logan, a largely Latino neighborhood of San Diego. While the scenery along Harbor Drive is more industrial, you can easily explore the rich culture of Barrio Logan by bike. Depending on what you’re looking to do, you will find great food, coffee, and beer, as well as galleries and public art exhibitions. Chicano Park, which can be explored on two feet or two wheels, is home to stunning murals paying homage to the area’s Chicano history. Riders beware, however: some of the biking paths through Barrio Logan are shared with street parking, so this is a route for attentive riders only.

Silver Strand

This is a 9-mile ride, but you don’t have to do the entire length to enjoy San Diego. Silver Strand is a section of the Bayshore Bikeway built along the former Coronado Beltline Railroad. There is an entry point and parking lot at Ferry Landing Marketplace, where you can start your ride with tap kombucha at Crown Town Deli. You can then end your ride at Imperial Beach and take a break on the sand. The entire ride is paved and there is no elevation gain, so this is great for riders looking for a more relaxed adventure without all the uphill huffing and puffing.

Mt. Soledad

Mt. Soledad offers stunning views of La Jolla, San Diego, and the Pacific. Many argue this is the best view in the region. You can take a relatively easy 3.4-mile ride from Pacific Beach along Soledad Mountain Road, stopping along the way for a bite to eat and to enjoy the views. You can also see the controversial Soledad Cross, Dr. Seuss’ last home, and the Veterans War Memorial. If you’re looking for a more challenging ride, check out the steep Torrey Pines Road that heads up along Hidden Valley Road. Either way, you’ll be treated to incredible panoramic views.

Like most cities, there’s so much more to San Diego than can be explored in a weekend, week, or season. For me, when I plan a trip, I always start with the things that speak to me the loudest. Personally, I’m all about architecture and food. From there, I pick the city’s best places recommended by locals. If I have the joy of returning, I will move on to my next favorite things: views and coffee shops. The good news is that with a place like San Diego, you really can’t miss it. Start with a ride that encompasses your favorite things to do, and make note of what you want to do next. Regardless of your itinerary, always save time to be spontaneous!

San Diego Bike Rides - Experiencing San Diego on Two Wheels #california #sandiego #biking

Alison Hoover

by Alison Hoover

Alison is a world traveler who loves to spend her time writing and reading. When she’s home, you can find her playing with her pet rabbit and baking.

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