Active City Spotlight: Cycling in San Diego

If you're visiting San Diego with a bike, chances are you're interested in seeing a lot of gorgeous coastline. Here are some of the best places to ride in Southern California.

With that in mind, you can take the Coast Highway from Torrey Pines all the way up to Oceanside, riding through each of San Diego's coastal suburbs. You will also pass legendary surfing spots like Swami's and Black's, and watching the surfers as you ride is always fun.

Torrey Pines to Oceanside is about 20 miles one way, with a bike lane almost the entire way. You could keep going through Camp Pendleton all the way to San Clemente and double the distance.

Other routes include:

  • Coronado Island (which is actually a peninsula) has 15 miles of bike paths with great views of the Pacific Ocean, San Diego Bay and the downtown San Diego skyline. Stretch the ride out by going south to Imperial Beach.
  • The most challenging climb in San Diego County is Palomar Mountain in the northern outskirts of the county. The mountain is 6,142 feet above sea level, and the typical route has about 4,000 feet of climbing over 12 miles with plenty of switchbacks to maximize suffering. The Tour of California has climbed Palomar Mountain multiple times, and the ride is a favorite of local cyclists.

Events to Remember

The San Diego Century Bike Tour takes riders through everything that's great about the San Diego scenery. The ride starts and finishes in Encinitas, a classic beach town a few miles north of San Diego. It then goes inland and tackles San Diego's hilly terrain, including the Three Witches Hill (mile 29) and the Purple Monster Hill (mile 47).

The second half of the ride is mostly downhill and the last couple miles have stunning views of the vast Pacific Ocean.

In short, this is becoming one of San Diego's most popular cycling events, and with good reason.

Other events include:

  • Bike the Bay in August is a 25-mile ride that starts at the Embarcadero. It's best known as being the only chance to bike across the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, the 2-mile behemoth that's a charming part of the San Diego skyline.
  • The Campagnolo Gran Fondo San Diego in April has routes of 34, 56 and 105 miles. The mass start is in the Little Italy section of downtown San Diego and the longer routes take cyclists into the hills of East County.
  • Bike the Coast in November has rides of ranging from 7 to 100 miles that starts at Oceanside Pier in San Diego's northernmost suburb. If beach scenery is what you need, this ride is a must-do.

Stores to Check Out

There's about a 3-mile stretch of coastline in North County—mostly Solana Beach, Cardiff and Encinitas—that is stuffed full of great bike shops.

It's hard to go wrong with any of them, whether it's Revolution Bike Shop (235 S. Highway 101, Solana Beach) or Cardiff Bike Shop (2141 Newcastle Avenue in Cardiff) or Velo Hangar (637 Valley Avenue in Solana Beach) or Leucadia Cyclery (823 N. Vulcan Avenue, Encinitas).

One Last Tip

If you're without a rental car and need a bike mechanic to come to you, a couple businesses in San Diego have you covered. Check out Tom's Mobile Bike Service or Anywhere Bicycle Repair, for starters.

More: Packing Tips for Traveling With a Bike

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