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A Day in the City
WORDS: Jeremy Dunn | PHOTOS: Steven Nereo
If you’re planning your spring and summer travel this year, consider the fine city of San Francisco, California. The Rapha Cycle Club serves as a great base for the incredible road riding in this part of the world, serves great coffee, and provides a convenient spot to relax those bones after a day cruising around and beyond one of the most pleasant cities in the world. This past fall, we stopped by the Cycle Club to hang out with Dante and Emily, the brilliant people who run the joint, and then ride out to take in some sights and test out the new Rapha City Riding collection.
The perfect day in San Francisco can, and should, take many forms. In fact, packing them all into an afternoon or two can be a real challenge. There are so many great experiences to be had that getting around to doing them in a limited time is something of an art form. So, in the interests of giving you a head start, here is our account of one such day in and around – and above – the streets of San Francisco.
Rapha Cycle Club - 2198 Filbert (x. Filmore)
Start with the Rapha Cycle Club. If it’s a Friday, then you are in luck because as you roll in with your bicycle you will be greeted by a free cup of French Press coffee as part of their ‘Free Coffee Friday’ program. And with beans supplied by San Francisco's own Four Barrel Coffee that's quite the start to the first day of the weekend.
While you’re there, have a look through some of the new City Riding togs, pause for a minute at the large glass table in the middle of the room to browse an issue of your favourite bicycle rag in between glances of Tirreno-Adriatico on the big screen TVs in front of you. You might also peruse the ephemera that has been neatly placed between the glass and the table top; such as an image of Miguel Indurain and his giant lungs in one corner and a playbill for L’Enfer du Nord in the other.
City Cycle - 3001 Steiner Street
Just around the corner from the Cycle Club, this is the go-to shop for the employees of the Rapha Cycle Club San Francisco. They have helped us many times now with bicycle packing, small parts and anything else you could need. Plus they have a good collection of high end products as well. When Rapha founder Simon Mottram was in town and needed some nice new bidon cages for his Bicycle Collection Independent Fabrication we went straight to City Cycle and they had a plethora of choices.
When you have stocked up on your bike needs — tubes, lube and maybe that fender bolt that went missing last week — then it's time to head out toward the Sunset area. Keep an eye out for the Cliff House on your right as you make the sweeping left-hander on this sweet downhill.
Mollusk Surf Shop - 4500 Irving Street
The ‘original' surf shop in the truest, reclaimed-wood sense of the word. Here you can spot original drawings by Geoff McFetridge on the walls, while admiring some of the best surf clothing this side of the Pacific. And their one-man submarine device that sits in the middle of the shop that looks like something out of The Life Aquatic is certainly worth a peek. Make sure to step into the back room where they may at any time be shaping the new season’s surf offerings. This is their bread and butter at Mollusk and they take it very seriously with their broad offerings of surfboards.
When you have finished at Mollusk and had a cup of coffee and piece of cinnamon toast at nearby Trouble Coffee then make your way back up the beach. This is where you will have a chance to check out the Cliff House and nearby Land's End park which offers some of the most interesting views back on the city itself as well as the Golden Gate Bridge. This was one of the highlights of the trip for us. Watching the dark clouds roll in to the bay is one of the strangest, most thrilling experiences with meteorology that you can have. The clouds that hang and churn over jutting rocks across the bay paint a surreal picture before you.
Biergarten SF - 424 Octavia Street
Sure, it might seem like you haven't done much already, but when you are on vacation, or at the very least an exploratory afternoon, make sure that you start find an adequate location to imbibe some refreshing brews. Nestled neatly in the Hayes Valley area, Biergarten is the younger sister to nearby Suppenkuche restaurant. The German-inspired themes of beer, pretzels and communal drinking that the Hulme brothers have brought to San Francisco is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
The roads adjacent to the Biergarten have recently been given dedicated bike paths and the Hulmes themselves are no strangers to the cycling arena (both boast multiple handmade bicycles) so feel free to stash your bike nearby. Or, if you're riding the Beloved 'Every Day' like we were, take it in with you to have a drink. And when the hunger really starts to take over, make the short trek over to their other location Suppenkuche. This is worth the trip alone if only for the metal sparrows that line the ceiling. They are constantly changing shape and position, especially when the Tour de France comes around and they move about like the riders in the bunch.
And in the sometimes brisk, oftentimes sunny and temperate San Francisco weather the products that came to the fore for riding around this beautiful city were the Rapha Windproof Shirt and the new Rapha City Trousers.
The City by the Bay was the perfect place for putting these impressive pieces through their paces. Not only was the shirt insulating when a light drizzle started and the cold current moved in, but when unzipped near the end of our day’s ride round the city, it did its job of looking good and flapping in the breeze. It felt like we never broke sweat.
Similarly, the new Rapha City Trousers made the entire day traversing the slopes, dips and cross-town traffic of San Francisco comfortable and enjoyable. The light weight of the fabric, its flexibility and its breathability mean that ultimately you don’t notice you are wearing them. Free and easy.
Of course there are other options, but pair the shirt and trousers with merino underwear (e.g. base layer, boxers and socks) and you have the nearest thing to perfection you can find for all day city apparel. Climate control never felt so good.
And there you have it, a brief respite from whatever your life has to offer by way of a few things to check out in the great city of San Francisco. Always make sure to abide by the local cycling laws and restrictions that apply to riding your bicycle in San Francisco. If you so choose, wear a helmet, take lights and wave and smile at your fellow cyclists that you meet on the road. These things are important. Especially the smiles, but you won’t find that difficult in this city.
Rapha’s San Francisco City Guide, written by Jeremy Dunn, will appear later this spring.