Panoramic Highway ride

Venturing north of the Golden Gate
Published November 2, 2008

I’ve always taken my just for fun rides south of where I live, but last weekend got to wondering what sort of roads run north of the Golden Gate. A quick Google Map survey answered the question: good ones.

I’d take the familiar Highway 1 across the Golden Gate, out toward Stinson Beach (I’ve heard about it, never been) and then enjoy the Panoramic Highway back to 1 for the return leg. I use Highway 1 to get to the fun roads south of me and usually treat it as the warm-up and cool-down section of my ride. South of me, Highway 1 is very tame, taking a scenic, relatively quick (45-60 mph) route straight down the coast.

But the Highway 1 north of the Golden Gate isn’t the same docile road. Despite not looking as curvaceous on a map as other roads I’ve traveled, the stretch of 1 between the 101 and Stinson Beach is some very demanding tarmac. Lots of blind corners, narrow lanes, and even some spilled gravel encroaching on the roadway from the imminently close hillsides. A very fun ride for sure, but not a fast one.

The view grows increasingly picturesque as the road winds down toward the ocean

With speed out of the question, the best part of the ride toward Stinson is the view, which grows increasingly picturesque as the road winds down toward the ocean. The mountainside attack I’d planned before I left San Francisco was defeated before it could launch–the treacherous roads and inspiring vistas were enough to put aggressive riding on hold.

Just before pulling up to Stinson Beach proper, I veered west onto the Panoramic Highway. The road winds just a little bit more sharply, the curves decreasing in radius with more elevation change, and the rough texture of the road gives it enough of an edge that I, instead of speeding up, let an aggressive Saab driver pass me from behind.

Taking a brief pit stop on the roadside to give respite to my head, throbbing from a newly-discovered pressure point in my Scorpion helmet, I witnessed the first and only few sport bikes I saw on the ride. I’m not sure if it’s the time of year, but I expected to see more bikers on roads like those. Had I ventured south toward Alice’s, I doubt I’d’ve been so alone.