Some San Francisco Permanents

Creek crossing

Permanent randonnées, or simply permanents, are sanctioned long-distance bicycle rides along prescribed routes that you can ride at any time, rather than on a specific event date. They are a form of randonneuring, long-distance unsupported endurance cycling. Like other randonneuring events, they have formal time limits that, depending on the terrain, can make them a challenge. You can ride permanents alone or with a group of friends.

You can learn more about randonneuring on the website of RUSA, the governing body of randonneuring in the USA. Permanent-specific information is here.

This page lists several challenging and scenic permanents created by Max Poletto in the San Francisco area. You can find these and many more on the permanents page of the San Francisco Randonneurs, the local randonneuring club.

To register for any of these rides:

There is no registration fee, but please consider a donation to the following reputable land trusts that help preserve the land we so enjoy as cyclists:


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Tamalpais Watershed (#2837). 152 Km, ~2700 m of climbing.

Among the most scenic rides you can do in one (long) morning from San Francisco: the spectacular West Marin coast, bucolic Olema Valley, redwoods along Lagunitas Creek and Alpine Lake. Don't miss coffee and pastries in Point Reyes Station. This is a canonical SF road ride, now available as a RUSA permanent.

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Bonny Doom (#2222). 201 Km, ~2980 m of climbing.

San Francisco to San Jose the long and scenic way. The first half of the ride features spectacular ocean views, rolling hills, and some dirt roads for good measure. The second half is a true mountain stage, with long climbs through stunning forests of oak, bay, fir, and redwood. The course traverses the largest stand of ancient Coast Redwoods south of San Francisco. The name is a play on Bonny Doon, a lung-busting 2500ft-vertical climb at mile 75 that was also featured in the Tour of California. Caltrain offers hourly train service back to San Francisco.

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Peninsula Open Space Tour (#2848). 202 Km, ~4200 m of climbing.

A tour of the magnificent protected natural areas of the San Mateo Peninsula, from Sweeney Ridge in the north to Stevens Creek in the south, passing through such gems as Purisima Creek, Russian Ridge, and Big Basin Redwoods. Riders may find a mountain bike useful to negotiate the 40+ miles of trails. The name is a play on Peninsula Open Space Trust, a land trust instrumental to the preservation of this land. In lieu of a registration fee, consider making a donation to the trust.

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Marin Mountains (#1979). 207 Km, ~3700 m of climbing.

A technical course that visits Mount Tamalpais, Pine Mountain (the birthplace of mountain biking in the 1970s), and Mount Vision, with many miles of dirt and grades sometimes in excess of 30%. Most riders will walk once or twice, but the scenery and sense of immersion in nature more than make up for the occasional difficulty. This ride is based on the corresponding SFR Adventure Series brevet. Note: due to National Park Service permit requirements, please allow extra time to process applications. Maximum group size is limited.

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Dome To Dome (#2620). 218 Km, ~2490 m of climbing.

Connects San Francisco City Hall, whose dome is the fifth-largest in the world, to the similarly impressive California State Capitol in Sacramento, by way of Napa wine country and Mount George. This is among the most direct and least hilly routes between San Francisco and Sacramento that still manages to avoid major highways and suburban stretches.

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Freestone Bread Run (#2198). 220 Km, ~2680 m of climbing.

A scenic and somewhat hilly loop in Marin and southern Sonoma counties that highlights the region's outstanding bakeries and dairy farms. Start and finish are in SF's Cole Valley, also home to several great cafes, bakeries, and a wonderful cheese store. This ride is a good alternative to a more sedentary Sunday breakfast and lunch.

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Davis Trinity (#2179). 246 Km, ~3050 m of climbing.

A less-than-direct route between San Francisco and Davis, two centers of California bike culture. The course packs much variety into a moderate distance: the cliffs and ocean views of southern Marin; rolling dairy country; the vineyards of Sonoma and Napa valleys; Sonoma Mountain, with its astonishing summit redwood grove; Trinity Grade, a notorious Bay Area climb; the rugged chaparral of the southern Mayacama Range; and, finally, the flats of the Central Valley. Amtrak provides convenient transportation back to the Bay Area.

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Fairfax - Old Cazadero (#2829). 259 Km, ~5000 m of climbing.

An abbreviated version of Old Caz, with start and finish in Fairfax, contributed by Jesse Marsh. It eliminates all the traffic of San Francisco's Marin suburbs and adds spectacular Bolinas - Fairfax Road. Pure, distilled awesomeness.

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Gravenstein (#2849). 309 Km, ~3500 m of climbing.

A variation of the traditional SFR Healdsburg 300K that avoids the busy Petaluma - Windsor corridor in favor of quiet roads in Gravenstein apple country. The course takes in the Russian River valley and returns to San Francisco by way of the scenic Sonoma coastline and the redwoods of Samuel Taylor State Park.

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Old Cazadero (#1980). 311 Km, ~5000 m of climbing.

A beautiful and challenging counter-clockwise loop with a dozen miles of dirt roads and a river crossing. Starting in San Francisco, it traces minor roads in Marin and the coastal mountains of Sonoma, then returns to the city via a scenic and hilly 50-mile stretch on CA-1, the Coast Highway. It showcases some of the prettiest countryside north of San Francisco: rolling pastures and farms, redwood forests, fragrant stands of bay and eucalyptus, and spectacular coastal cliffs. It is based on the corresponding SFR Adventure Series brevet.

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Fort Ross Coastal (#2850). 312 Km, ~5300 m of climbing.

Over one hundred miles of California's spectacular Shoreline Highway, punctuated by the challenging and scenic climbs of Seaview Ridge and Mount Tamalpais. Don't let the course's proximity to the ocean deceive you: you may hear the surf, but relentless rollers add up to over 17,000 feet of climbing! Note: consider an early start (5am is good) to minimize traffic on Shoreline Highway and take advantage of prevailing northerly afternoon winds on the return.

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King Ridge (#1981). 408 Km, ~6100 m of climbing.

The big brother of the Old Caz 300. It takes in all the highlights of Old Caz (though in the opposite direction), and adds Panoramic Highway on Mount Tam, Kruse Ranch, King Ridge (of course!), and Sweetwater Springs. Much of this course is mountainous and explores remote, low-traffic roads. It is based on the corresponding SFR Adventure Series brevet.

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Orr Springs (#2194). 625 Km, ~8870 m of climbing.

An epic 389-mile sampler of northern California scenery, from the Sonoma coast to the steep grades of the Mayacama Mountains by way of the Mendocino Range. Many miles of gravel roads, and over 8,800 meters of climbing (as measured by a Garmin GPS). The ride is based on the corresponding SFR Adventure Series brevet.

If this sounds like a bit much, or you would prefer to enjoy all the landscape in daylight, this course is also available as three 200K permanents with convenient intermediate overnight stops. See below.

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Orr Ternion 1 (#2250). 204 Km, ~2950 m of climbing.

This is the first leg of a three-day tour of the Orr Springs 600 course. Leaving San Francisco, it winds its way through scenic West Marin to Occidental, then climbs King Ridge before dropping to the Pacific at Stewarts Point. The overnight stop is in the coastal hamlet of Anchor Bay, where accommodations range from a campground to small cottages to an architecturally significant inn.

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Orr Ternion 2 (#2251). 215 Km, ~3700 m of climbing.

This is the second and most difficult leg of a three-day tour of the Orr Springs 600 course. It connects Anchor Bay on the Pacific coast to Lakeport on Clear Lake, crossing the Outer Coast Range, the Mendocino Range, and the Mayacama Mountains. Highlights include remote Orr Springs Road (unlike on the full 600K, fast riders of this 200K may have time for a quick soak in the hot springs) and two long stretches of gravel (over 40 Km total). At the finish, Lakeport offers a variety of lakefront accommodations.

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Orr Ternion 3 (#2252). 226 Km, ~2500 m of climbing.

This route concludes the three-day tour of the Orr Springs 600 course. It is the longest stage but has the least climbing, despite featuring the course's highest point. The notorious unpaved climb of the eastern shoulder of Mt St Helena (5 Km of loose gravel at 9% average grade), which looms at Km 452 of the 600K event, occurs just 52 Km into this ride—much more civilized! After that, it's miles of only moderately hilly wine and dairy country back to San Francisco.

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Cover photo courtesy of Patrick Herlihy.