It’s a well-known fact that San Francisco is a highly ranked destination for travelers from around the world. That also goes for cyclists, who benefit from an area where so many of the sport’s disciplines seamlessly intertwine. Take the Marin Headlands, for example. Lying just across the Golden Gate Bridge as you enter Marin County, the Headlands are part of the spacious Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This is a virtual playground for any cyclist, offering both picturesque paved roads and challenging gravel trails.
Word/Images: James Startt
On this day, our three Wilier ambassadors—Chelsea, Chris and Matt—opt to break out a trio of Cento road bikes for a few loops around the Headlands. Meeting up at the foot of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the three quickly roll out and start climbing the early slopes of Conzelman Road. The road opens up quickly, offering amazing views of both San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean. With the morning sun on their backs, our riders head out as the city skyline, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island melt into the distance.
But soon they have little time to look back as the sinuous road drops downhill past spectacular cliffs and heads toward Point Bonita Lighthouse. Conzelman Road offers a technical descent, but the well-paved roads allow one to really embrace it.
“Riding with that constant view is kind of distracting,” says Chris, who has just come in for the weekend of Bay Area riding. “But having the disc brakes was certainly nice. You feel like you can take a moment longer to glance up and look around without losing control. The roads are really well kept around the area, meaning you can be confident of riding a bit faster than normal.”
Arriving at the foot of the descent, the trio cruises over the rolling roads toward Point Bonita, where the Bay meets the ocean. Chelsea, a local racer, is feeling particularly inspired and goes to the front, eager to test her double-disc Cento10NDR. “I just love the Headlands,” she says. “It’s about great roads, great descending, great everything…. Some of my all-time-favorite descents are in the Headlands. And the bike is great. You can really attack the turns. It may be made for real endurance rides, but it’s also fit for racing. It’s plenty aggressive, plenty fast!”
Coming to the end of the road, our Wilier ambassadors come upon Battery Wallace, the remains of a heavy artillery installation, built during World War I and used well through World War II to protect the entrance to the Bay. Today, of course, the guns are gone but the concrete structures offer a playful detour. Cruising gently around the battery our cyclists enjoy the coastal air, not to mention the neighboring views.
Heading back in the direction of the Golden Gate, they first take Bunker Road, the low road that skirts behind the coastal road. It gives a great opportunity to test their legs with a few sprints before climbing up McCullough Road towards the coast. And, once back on Conzelman Road, they head back down and across the bridge to the city to grab a coffee before heading home.
“It’s just a great ride for anyone from San Francisco as it only takes 20 to 30 minutes to get out your door and over the bridge,” says Chelsea. “Everybody is drawn to the bridge. Everybody wants to ride across it, to run across it…whatever…it’s amazing. But the great thing about the Headlands is that there is just so much you can do. You can easily do 1,200 feet of climbing or hit a gnarly descent. I mean, if you go down then you have to go back up. It’s just the go-to ride for those of us in the city. When in doubt just head to the Headlands!”