Kid Bay Area Bike rides: The Albany Bulb
The Albany Bulb is an area on the San Francisco Bay that bulbs out as a small peninsula in Albany, California. Like a lot of places along the shore, it was built from landfill - construction debris was dumped into the Bay in the 1960s-80s to create more land. There are walkable and bikeable gravel trails there and a lot of interesting informal outdoor art made using found materials. There's also a lot of bird and aquatic life. including a habitat for burrowing owls.
If you're wondering where you can take kids for a bike ride, the Albany Bulb may be a good option.
Albany Bulb Riding Overview (for kids)
The trails at the Albany Bulb are mostly hard-packed dirt with some rocks and gravel. There are not really paved paths, though the Bay Trail that leads to it is all paved. Kids can handle a lot of it, and for other parts they may want to walk. This is fine, because there are a lot of interesting art distractions along the way to play with. We went with a group of 6-9 year old kids. The area is very dog friendly, and there were a lot at the beach.
Albany Bulb: Ride difficulty
There are some narrower sections with terrain steep enough that kids may want to walk. People biking with moderate experience can handle the trails without much issue. There are spur trails that lead away from the "main" trail that are not very bikeable.
Albany Bulb: Ride distance
There are about 2-4 miles of trails that are rideable by bike.
Albany Bulb: Ride duration
We spent about 3-4 hours there, but one can see stuff more quickly if okay with less playing.
Getting to the Albany Bulb
The Albany Bulb is well-served by the Bay Trail connections, and there are a lot of people riding their bikes through on the weekends. There is a parking lot also and families that drove did not have trouble parking.
There are a number of bike racks near the bathrooms, and a few more further up the trail. In the afternoon, most of the bike racks near the bathroom were full. There was a lot more space at the other bike racks though. We didn't need to lock our bikes, as we took them with us along the trail.
(If you do need to lock up your bike and leave it behind, I manufacture and sell this hidden AirTag holder. Proceeds support my bike education work)
What to do while there - what kids end up doing
There was more playing than bike riding, and that was fine for us. Kids enjoyed playing with sand near the beach, looking at seaweed, clams, and barnacles. There are swings near the center of the bulb that the kids played on for a while, and also good trees for climbing. We spent about 3 or 4 hours there in total.
There are rocky areas with large chunks of concrete and exposed rebar. This wasn't a problem for us, but you may want to be aware.
Bike riding itself and what type of bike to use
The trails are not very suitable for road bikes (this is more for the parents, not the kids, as none of the 20" bikes that we had were equipped with skinny tires). Mountain, gravel, or hybrid bikes would be fine here. One parent walked their Urban Arrow front loading electric cargo bike. Another rode a Yuba long-tail "acoustic" cargo bike. The kids bikes were all 20" bikes and equipped with fairly wide tires (2" or so) and they were fine. They walked when they didn't want to or feel comfortable riding. There are enough bumps around the paths to make the bike riding interesting.
The main paths are fairly wide and okay for side-by-side riding. There are other people walking and walking their dogs on the paths, but we didn't have any problems sharing them.
Weather considerations at the Albany Bulb
It was pretty windy for us in areas, and a lot of the area is exposed to the sun. We put sunblock on, but not enough, and were all a little sunburnt after being outside for ~6 hours. We would have been fine if we had reapplied. There are more trees near the center of the bulb that made it comfortable. Towards the later afternoon, the winds picked up again and we started to get a little chilly.
Bathrooms and food logistics
There are 2 bathrooms near the park entrance. They do not have running water and are drop toilets. There are no food options in the immediate vicinity, though the Bulb is about a mile from the Solano Avenue retail strip and other amenities. We brought a lot of snacks and water for ourselves and the kids.
Did the kids enjoy riding their bikes around the Albany Bulb?
Overall, the kids had a blast. They didn't want to leave because there were so many fun things to play with, particularly the swings, the sand and the seaweed. They also enjoyed looking for owls (though we did not see any) The bike riding wasn't the main focus for them. Bikes were just a way to get around to different interesting parts of the park. When we got home, our kid exclaimed, unprompted, "That was SO much fun!"