The mountain biking in San Diego varies from gentle beach cruises to rugged mountain climbs. But no matter where or what you ride, there is a sensory onslaught: the sharp tang of sea air, the warm gust of an afternoon breeze, the jitter and bump of a rocky singletrack, the nurturing patter of a mountain waterfall, the refreshing spatter of mud after tearing through a puddle. San Diego is alive like that, a rich, vibrant land that fairly begs to be explored.
Riders searching for the most challenging San Diego riding experience will want to head inland, using the convenience of Highway 15 or Interstate 8 to reach the mountain trails of the Cleveland National Forest. The trails are well maintained, and well marked, and riders new to the area will be surprised how alpine San Diego can truly be.
Riders who don't have the time for a drive inland, or who prefer a more coastal riding experience, will revel in the countless public parks and local riding trails. For all its urban accouterments, San Diego has open space galore along the coast. A great ride is never far from your hotel.
Nothing wraps up a day of mountain biking better than Mexican food. Try Old Town Mexican Café y Cantina in San Diego's historic Old Town. The restaurant's specialties includes the most succulent carnitas this side of the border.
The Loews Coronado Bay Resort commands a sweeping view of San Diego Bay, with amenities like children's programs, feng shui bedrooms and meeting rooms, five-star restaurants and lounges, group exercise classes, a phenomenal fitness center, and full spa facilities. After a hard day on the trail, you'll enjoy sitting on your balcony with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc, watching the lights of San Diego twinkle across the bay. Also on Coronado, try the Glorietta Bay Inn. Formerly the Spreckels Mansion, this historic boutique hotel was recently recognized for its outstanding guest service programs. Walk out the front door to the village of Coronado, and revel in its small town charm, or stroll the one block to the beach for a day of sunbathing.
Per capita, it's safe to assume there are more bike shops in San Diego than anywhere else in the world. It is a region of bikes and bike trails, where shaved legs are as common on men as women, and a chain mark on the inside of the calf is de rigueur. The staffs in local shops share that same, laid-back attitude more commonly associated with surf shops, and strong coffee is invariably brewing somewhere in back. To experience San Diego on a bike is to experience San Diego.
With rare exceptions, all the local bike shops cater to cyclists of the road and mountain biking stripe. Which isn't to say that some don't specialize. Two favorites among triathletes and road cyclists are B&L Bike and Sport and Nytro. Both shops cater to the elite athlete and age-group racer, but also offer a wide selection of products for the weekend warrior, and have a reputation for good, fast mechanic service. UC Cyclery is another longtime favorite known for its service and focus on competitive road cycling.
As for shops catering more to the mountain biker, Performance Bikes has locations throughout San Diego.
If you're not fond of lugging your bike through airports, or strapping it to the roof of your car, give Cheap Rentals a try. Located on Mission Boulevard in San Diego, it has bikes for on- and off-road cycling. Another place for rentals is Bikes and Beyond on Coronado, or try Wheel Fun Rentals which features rental outlets at the Hotel del Coronado and San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina.
The trails winding through the eucalyptus forest on the University of California at San Diego are not technically demanding, but the serenity of the thick grove and its soothing aroma makes for a rejuvenating mountain bike ride. Many have compared it to a spa treatment on wheels.