Pack your Spandex. From Mission Bay to Oceanside, the roads are chock-full of cyclists, alone and in an impromptu peloton. Weekend warriors, Ironman champions, Olympic hopefuls, and scads of newcomers pedal their way up and down the coast. On some weekend mornings it seems that the only bikers off the road are lounging in front of coffee shops, sipping their mid-ride java.
Besides being a center for the cycling sport, much of San Diego is best seen from a bike. Try riding along the historic waterfront, for instance, for quaint charm and magnificent views. Or cruise through La Jolla or Del Mar. Sport as transportation: Is this Heaven?
Mission Bay: This 4,600-acre aquatic public park is a favorite picnicking, sunbathing and weekend recreation spot with locals, not to mention the home of SeaWorld San Diego. A combination of paved bike paths and roads wind through the park, most of them within yards of the bay. It's a great ride for sightseeing, though it's best done in the morning or evening - the ocean winds tend to kick up a notch in late afternoon. The parking lot north of the Mission Bay Visitor Center is a great place to start. Ride a mile or ride 20, depending on your mood. There are no hills.
Mount Palomar: Unlike Mission Bay, this climb to the world-famous Palomar Observatory is nothing but hill. The 13-mile ascent is for fit cyclists looking for a challenge, an awe-inspiring view from the top, and a screaming downhill. It's something of a San Diego tradition for cyclists to tackle this 6,140-foot peak. The ride will be memorable, especially if you warm up along scenic Route 76 before beginning your summit bid.
PCH: Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH, is the consummate San Diego ride. The road actually stretches all the way up the California coast, but local cyclists like to begin their journey in Del Mar and travel north to the Camp Pendleton Marine Base above Oceanside before turning around and heading south again. The route is flat in places, rolling in others, paralleling the Pacific Ocean throughout.
Pasta is a great way to refuel after a day on the road, and Vigilucci's Ristorante in Coronado serves authentic Italian cuisine. For fresh seafood daily, try Pacifica Del Mar in Del Mar Plaza, for seafood with a Southwestern flair.
The Courtyard by Marriott in Solana Beach is a favorite for San Diego cyclists, both for its proximity to the PCH bike route and because several endurance sports camps use its facilities. For a touch of luxury, try the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad. With its own golf course, and state-of-the-art fitness and spa facilities, this retreat fronting the Batiquitos Lagoon is a great getaway.
Nytro Bike Shop in Encinitas offers two groups of training rides every Saturday morning for bikers at intermediate and elite levels. For the elite-level ride, professional cyclists can frequently be found in the mix.