Best Bike for San Francisco

You’ve decided to take the plunge to a greener, cheaper life, and you’ll get a bike to use around San Francisco. Every city has its literal ups and downs, but San Francisco has hills to spare – SF is even considered the second hilliest city in the world – so what bike is best?

The best bike for commuting in San Francisco is one with no less than 7-speed gears for tackling the hills. For good braking in wet conditions, choose hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes, and opt for wider, knobbier tires for grip. The best bikes for SF are hybrid and mountain bikes.

You need to consider other things before splashing out on that new bike. Are you prepared to cycle in the rain, and do you plan to use your bike mainly for commuting or weekend riding? While SF is generally cycle-friendly, it’s not at the same cycling infrastructure level as Holland.

What kind of bike should I get in San Francisco?

The thought of all those steep hills can put off a lot of potential cyclists in San Francisco, but depending on where you live, you might be able to avoid the worst of the hills on your commute. However, hills are a part of life when commuting in the city, and you’ll soon get used to them.

As you get acclimatized to tackling these elevations, your quads, glutes, core, and calves will get stronger, and soon you’ll be flying up hills you initially struggled with. While some riders in SF love their fixed-gear bikes, I’d always recommend new cyclists get a hybrid that’s at least a 7-speed.

If you’ll mainly be using your bike for commuting, focusing on a comfortable ride, good grip and handling on wet roads, and a rack for panniers or work bags, I suggest buying a hybrid bike.

Hybrid bikes are the workhorse of bikes designed to handle streets and dirt tracks. Think of hybrids as an urban cross between a mountain bike and a road bike for racing.

While they won’t have the speed and lightness of the road bike or the MTB’s powerful suspension and angled frame, they are an excellent compromise between the two. I will focus on which hybrid makes for the best bike for San Francisco commuting, though MTBs are a good option too.

Before that, let’s look at whether biking in San Francisco is a good option for you.

Should I Get A Bike In San Francisco?

If you’re planning on commuting to work, you’ll join the ever-growing number of people in San Francisco switching to bikes. San Francisco has a good reputation one of the most bike-friendly cities in America (despite the hills), with a network of dedicated bicycle lanes that web the city.

The bike lanes are so extensive that getting around the city is a snap and keeps cyclists safe by avoiding trying to negotiate heavily-trafficked roads with large vehicles. You can get a copy of San Francisco’s Bike Network Map in PDf from the San Francisco Municipal Transport Agency site.

As said, if you invest in a hybrid bike with decent gears, this will help you when tackling the steeper ascents. Dealing with downhills requires great brakes, and here I’d always recommend disc brakes over rim brakes.

While the city rarely has snow, San Francisco gets most of its rain from November to March, so again, I’d suggest choosing disc brakes for your bike, as they’re less likely to fail in wet weather conditions. However, it can get chilly and windy, and cycling into the wind can be no fun.

If you don’t mind cycling in rain, cold, or fog, you’ll be fine commuting within San Francisco. I suggest buying some quality cycling jackets to deal with any adverse weather.

Is It Possible To Bike In San Francisco?

Not only is it possible, but the transport agency also makes it easy by constantly upgrading their bike paths and installing bike parking racks throughout the city.

There are short-term bike racks on the sidewalks (usually look like an upside-down U-shape and take two bikes) and bike corrals for longer-term bike parking. Currently, there are over 5,000 public use bike racks throughout San Francisco.

As part of San Francisco’s commitment to making biking better and safer in the city, the SFMTA also offers free courses and resources to help new beginner and more experienced cyclists.

The courses are for all ages and aim to help riders improve bike safety, learn bicycle law and security, and how to use transit with a bike.

Is It Easy To Bike In San Francisco?

Thanks to the bike path network, cycling in San Francisco is easy and gets safer with every upgrade. The rain is likely to be your biggest obstacle to biking, thanks to slippery roads, so avoid getting super slick road tires and opt for a tire that’s knobbier and fatter to give you a better grip.

As mentioned, the hills will be the other issue with cycling in San Francisco. Still, depending on your commute route, you will usually be able to avoid the steepest of the hills and eventually become used to cycling them.

Several streets in San Francisco have a reputation for being incredibly steep. The current steepest with a grade of 41% is Bradford above Tomkins, with serval others running grades of 31% to 37.5%.

Mostly, the bike network will use the easiest streets for commuting. Unless you live or work on a very steep hill, you’ll be able to avoid the worst hills while biking.

Which are the Best Bikes for San Francisco

Now that we’ve seen the possible problems you might face as a cyclist in San Francisco, and your options as a bike commuter, let’s look at the best bikes to buy for riding in the city.

These are all hybrid bikes, offering commuters the best option for sturdiness, braking, tire size and width, gears, and ability to carry racks. If you know you’ll need to climb several stairs; you may want to choose a lighter bike from among the suggestions.

Ensure you get a bike that’s the right size to make your ride more comfortable. Bike shops can do fittings to help you get the correct bike for your size and needs. If you are worried about the prevalence of bike theft, you may prefer to buy a used bike.

Kona Dr Dew

Kona makes solid and reliable mountain, road, and hybrid bikes, and you won’t go wrong with the urban hybrid Dr Dew, made with a Cromoly frame, disc brakes, and a comfortable flat bar grip. The Kona Dr Dew is aimed at commuters dealing with big hills and potholes.

  • Frame material: Kona Cromoly Steel
  • Speed: Shimano Deore 10-51t 12s speed cassette
  • Suspension: front fork
  • Brakes: Front and rear hydraulic disc Tektro HD-T275
  • Wheels: WTB Horizon Road Plus Comp with Puncture Protection 650b x 47c
  • Price: $1,649.00

Trek Dual Sport 3 Gen 4

If you’re looking for a hybrid that offers high performance, Trek bikes make solid urban hybrid bikes that can take on hills, deal with wet roads, and still give you some speed. The Dual Sport 3 has a larger tire than the previous two bikes, at 700 rather than 650b.

  • Frame material: alpha-gold aluminum
  • Speed: Shimano Deore M4100, 10 speed
  • Suspension: front fork
  • Brakes: Front and rear hydraulic disc Shimano MT200
  • Wheels: Bontrager GR1 Expert, Hard-Case Lite, wire bead, 60 tpi, 700 x 40c
  • Price: $979.99

Diamondback Division 2

The Diamondback Division 2 offers riders hydraulic disc brakes, giving them more control and power in their braking, especially in inclement weather. The fat tires (650b x 47c) are good for providing cushioning and grip while still giving a smooth ride with low-rolling resistance.

The wide bars are great for shorter commutes but might make you uncomfortable planning a long ride. However, the riding position is comfortable, and the bike offers good value for money.

  • Frame material: heat-treated aluminum
  • Speed: Shimano Acera M3100 9-speed
  • Suspension: front fork
  • Brakes: Front and rear mechanical disc brakes Shimano RT54
  • Wheels: Vee Tire Co. Zilent 650b x 47c
  • Price: $925.00

Liv Alight 2 City Discovery

Built with commuters in mind, the Liv Alight doesn’t have suspension, so it might be less useful on potholed routes. The Liv Alight is a solid commuter bike with a pre-attached rack. This bike is designed for comfort on short commutes and has powerful disc brakes for wet and dry conditions.

  • Frame material: ALUXX-grade aluminum
  • Speed: Shimano HG31, 8 speed
  • Suspension: N/A
  • Brakes: Front and rear hydraulic disc Shimano MT200
  • Wheels: Giant S-X2, 700 x 38c
  • Price: $850.00

Marin Kentfield 2

The Marin Kentfield 2 is a sold-built commuter urban bike, which tackles uphills well, though it doesn’t have quite the speed on the downhills as other similar makes. This affordable bike uses high-quality components to deliver a reliable, retro-style 10-speed commuter bike.

  • Frame material: Series 1 6061 aluminum
  • Speed: SunRace 10-speed, 11-51T
  • Suspension: front fork
  • Brakes: Front and rear mechanical disc Power CX7
  • Wheels: VeeTire GPV, 700c x 40c
  • Price: $769.00

Haro Beasley 27.5

More of a mountain bike designed for urban commutes, the Haro Beasley is a fat-tired, rugged bike perfect for commuting and riding for fun. It does especially well in cold and wet weather and is a great utilitarian bike. Robust, but it might not be great if your commute takes in many steep hills.

  • Frame material: X6 Series aluminum
  • Speed: Shimano Acera 8-speed
  • Suspension: n/a
  • Brakes: Front and rear Jak-7 Mechanical disc brakes
  • Wheels: Kenda Kwick Seven.5 27.5×2.0
  • Price: $749.99

Specialized Roll Sport EQ

The Specialized Roll Sport EQ is a comfort bike meant to take on longer commutes and city hills. It’s a basic 7-speed hybrid at the lower end of the budget range while still a decent bike that will last you a long time. It’s particularly good for hills compared to bikes with similar specs.

  • Frame material: Premium aluminum
  • Speed: Shimano HG200, 7-speed, 12-32t
  • Suspension: front fork
  • Brakes: Front and rear mechanical disc Promax
  • Wheels: Nimbus Sport Reflect, 60 TPI, BlackBelt protection, 650b x 2.3″
  • Price: $730.00


Depending on your commute length and steepness, you’ll want to choose either a hybrid bike or a mountain bike when riding in San Francisco. Hybrid bikes offer the most all-around convenience, are good for comfort, carry your bags on rear racks, have decent braking, and have wider tires than a road bike.

If your commute has a lot of steep inclines and potholes, you might prefer to go for a mountain bike over a hybrid, as the double shocks will help you deal with rougher terrain, and the extra gears will make hill climbs far easier. Some MTBs can be modified to take bike racks and panniers.


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