Hilly as Northern California may be, it’s one of the best places in the world for cyclists. (For every steep incline, there’s a giddy descent, right?) And while we applaud every new protected bike lane, sometimes it’s best to pedal out of the city. So here are our picks for the best community rides, history tours, bike parties, and festivals all summer in San Francisco and beyond.
Adults Learn to Ride
A refresher course on the basics is never a bad idea, nor is crossing “learn to ride a bike” off a to-do list at age 40. For those who gaze longingly at cyclists laughing as they cruise down the Panhandle path, here’s the chance to learn those two-wheeled skills.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition hosts an adult biking class on June 10 that’s suitable for just about everyone. Topics covered will include basic balance, turning confidently and smoothly, figure-eights, and shifting gears. Participants who don’t quite master the art of riding will still leave with the guiding information to do so. And once those skills are gained, they’re good for life: Riding a bicycle is something people never quite forget.
Saturday, June 10, 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., at Waller and Stanyan streets in Golden Gate Park. Free. sfbike.org
Cycles of History Bicycle Tour: Labor History
Once those cycling skills have been established, check out one of Cycles of History’s bicycle tours. On July 1, tour guide Chris Carlsson leads a group of cyclists on an exploration of San Francisco’s colorful labor stories of yesteryear. Beginning with Native American slavery, the expedition travels through the working-class years, stretching from the 1870s to the 1940s. Attendees will learn all about the 1934 General Strike, and will eventually reach the near-present-day establishment of the eight-hour work day.
The tour begins at the Eric Quezada Center in the Mission, and ends at Spear and Market streets. Water and a snack are recommended.
Saturday, July 1, noon, at 518 Valencia St. $15-$50 sliding scale. Shapingsf.org
Ever see hundreds of cyclists cruising down San Francisco’s streets in pursuit of a glowing green flag? Welcome to San Francisco Bike Party. This once-a-month celebration is different from Critical Mass — its rules include stopping at stop signs, and rolling past conflict — but it includes the same cheerful energy that emanates from hundreds of people who got on their bikes at the end of a long work day, just for fun.
Each month has a different theme — past rides have included Robin Williams Movies, Flower Power, or Tutus and Tiaras — and although dressing up is optional, it always makes things more fun. The ride meets on the first Friday of each month, and travels along a different route across the city, stopping at pre-planned party locations to dance and socialize. And unlike many other social events in this city, this one draws all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Show up, and you may see a young tech employee shimmying with an elderly construction worker, each wearing tutus in the middle of Crissy Field, lit up by bike lights and LEDs.
Friday, July 7 and Friday, Aug 4, 7:30 p.m., Location TBD. Free. sfbikeparty.wordpress.com
Professional cyclists, recreational riders, and kids on trikes are all welcome at PedalFest, Oakland’s annual event to celebrate all things bike, from a pedal-powered sound stage and bike safety programs to a bicycle rodeo and many kinds of bike races.
This year, an amphibious bike race features machines that can travel through Jack London Square and into the Oakland Estuary. Dress up your ride with streamers, spoke cards, and stickers for the Kids Bicycle Parade. Visitors can learn how to weld bikes, ride a unicycle, test out electric bikes, or watch bike stunt riders. In other words: There is something for absolutely everyone.
Saturday, July 22, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Jack London Square, Oakland. Free. pedalfestjacklondon.com
Tour de Fat
Few events in San Francisco draw the same crowds year after year, but Tour de Fat is one of them. It’s hard to resist New Belgium Brewing’s annual festival of bikes and beer, and even when last year’s ticket price tag skyrocketed from free to $25 for entry, hundreds still rolled up on their bikes to check out the scene.
The event is an eclectic mish-mash of costumes, bike events, and long lines for Fat Tire and other New Belgium beers. Live acts in years past have included live Moth storytelling readings, indie rockers Dr. Dog, and beatboxing comedian Reggie Watts. Food trucks show up in droves, a circus tent offers performances every hour, Frankenstein bikes are available for people to ride — and arguably best of all, the event is kid- and dog-friendly.
Plus, a portion of all proceeds go to local nonprofits, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
Saturday, Aug. 19, 4-9 p.m, Fort Mason Center, $25. newbelgium.com/events/tour-de-fat/city/san-francisco