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The Perfect New Year’s Day Bike Ride

Photo courtesy of Shayne Kaye/Flickr

Chances are, you’re going to wake up on New Year’s Day feeling less than perfect. You’ve had a really big night out and now, on the first of the year, it’s time to sweat out the hangover and start the new year on a healthier note than you ended the old. So, here’s a great, short road ride to sweat out the old, bring in the new—all while reminding you that you live in a gorgeous, amazing city with gorgeous, amazing wilderness just outside its bounds. And this is your year to explore it—starting now.

The Marin Headlands loop is a favorite ride among local roadies. I know racers who pedal the popular route before their workday begins. But for the rest of us mortals, it’s a great one to start out a new year of riding. (If you want to skip the narrative and get to the bare bones directions, scroll to the bottom).

Make your way through the Presidio and to the Golden Gate Bridge. After a wonky year of Bridge closures, the West Span is back open to bikes after 3 p.m. and on weekends. From the Marin side of the bridge, the ride is only 7.6 miles. And it’s 7.6 amazing miles—the kind of ride that will remind you why you pay San Francisco housing prices, and why you’re glad you scarfed down your post New Year’s breakfast to pedal your way to the Headlands.

After the Bridge, make your first left up Conzelman Road. It’s a steep climb, but well worth it. Just put yourself in your granny gear and remember that each rotation of your pedals is helping get rid of last night’s champagne sloshing around in your belly.

Stay on Conzelman all the way to the top. If you’re not at the top, keep going. Take in the incredible vistas of the Bridge, San Francisco, and smile knowing that your friends who opted to stay curled up in bed are missing a great way to start the year.

When you get to the top, take in the sights, stretch a little, and prepare for an incredible, steep, and scenic downhill. With the ocean on your left and the one-way road ahead of you, riding the backside of Conzelman feels like flying.

Keep pedaling past the black sand beach, through the Rodeo Valley (watch out for foxes, who race across the road). Pass the old bunkers and hang a right on Field Road. Ride past the Headlands Institute for the Arts and hang another right at the bottom of the hill on Bunker Road.

Ride past the horses and cyclocross riders who are racing about on the grassy lands, and make your way to McCullough Road, right before the houses. This little windy road will lead you back on to Conzelman Road, where you’ll get one more glorious, scenic downhill before returning to the Bridge.

You’re probably sweating a bit by now, but my guess is the hangover is gone, and in its place, a sense of awe that you live in this amazing city with this amazing ride just on the outskirts. And, who knows, 2012 might be your year for riding the Marin Headlands loop before work—I’m hoping it’s mine.

Play-by-Play Directions:

0.0 miles—From the parking lot on the Marin side of the GG Bridge, turn left up Conzelman Road

1.3 miles—At roundabout at McCullough Road, stay left and continue uphill

4.3 miles—Turn right onto Field Road, before the Headlands Institute

4.8 miles—Turn right onto Bunker Road and pedal past the horses

5.3 miles—Turn right onto McCullough Road and make your way up to Conzelman

6.3 miles—Turn left onto Conzelman Road and back to Golden Gate Bridge

7.6 miles—Ride into the parking lot of the Golden Gate Bridge