Shell Ridge, CA.

Long grasses and wizened oak trees, atop manicured knolls so idyllic I’ll forgive them for their ferociously steep inclines. It could be Middle Earth – I can easily picture hobbit holes burrowed into its perfect hillocks. Or Devon without the rain.

Surprisingly, this is Shell Ridge, just a short BART ride away from San Francisco and Oakland, yet laced with as dense a weave of dirt roads and singletrack as any city dweller could dream for. In fact, I’d have been hard-pressed to even imagine such a beautiful and photogenic haven of open space so close to such a seething mass of metal and people.

I could wax on… It’s a place of gentle, subdued colours that fade from one hue to the next, as early morning sunlight floods into every nook and cranny of its ancient oak groves, before crescendoing into baking midday heat, and then retreating into the golden glow of late afternoon.

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So how come I’d never heard of Shell Ridge? Well, I had in a way, but only as the setting to nearby Rivendell, the Grant Peterson-run bicycle builders famed for, amongst other things, their fancy lugwork, wire baskets and pragmatic philosophy of riding. Who knows, the area’s Tolkien-esque echoes may well have played an influence in the naming of the company itself. Hunkered down in a warehouse within Walnut Creek (more suburban that it may sound), this neighbouring patch of land is a fitting backdrop to these purveyors of beautifully crafted bicycles, gleaming Japanese racks and the finest traditional saddlebags.

Watch this video for an insight into the inner workings of Rivendell, crafters of a particular style of cycling poetry – one that, now I’ve visited Shell Ridge, I recognise to be in perfect harmony with their surroundings.

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Thanks to the fine folks at Rivendell for showing me round, and those with whom I shared a couple of night’s surreptitious camping amongst the oaks – Jared, Mark, Jake, Colin, Daniel and Olivia.

The basics: 

There are around 31 miles of trails in Shell Ridge – as can be seen on this downloadable map (though we just explored and got lost, which works too). Shell Ridge flanks Mount Diablo, which also offers a rich vein of dirt road exploration potential.

The closest BART stop is Walnut Creek (half an hour from Embarcadero), then it’s a few miles riding through the ‘burbs to one of the Open Space’s various entry points.

Rivendell Bicycle Works is just a few blocks from the station.

19 thoughts on “Shell Ridge, CA.

  1. Kyle

    Fantastic post! One of my favorite places to ride in the dirt. Thankfully it’s a short ride from my house. Love the photographs!

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      I think it’s about a half hour on the BART, depending on where you’re coming from, then a few miles through the ‘burbs of Walnut Creek. Rivendell had a trail map – there’s some info online too. I’ll add in some details to the post.

      Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      I’m afraid not. The rides took more of a freeform approach on this occasion. The area lends itself nicely to aimless wandering and picnic breaks.

      Reply
  2. Edward

    Are you over there long term now?

    Lovely prose, but wishing your skills were attributed also to our own green land.

    I could understand, if I had the choice, and family I may choose the same. But we need you too.

    Ed

    Reply
  3. Steve Jones

    And, funds permitting, if you were to purchase one of those beautiful bikes from the Rivendell people, which would you plump for?
    Shell Ridge is now on my must visit list! Great post which made my day after a stressful schedule at work….. and excellent video link! thanks for that.

    Reply
  4. MichaelF

    Ha! I recognize the guy in the Rivendell shop picture. He complemented me on the Rivendell water bottle in my cage yesterday while riding down Telegraph.

    Reply
  5. Michael

    Hola Cass,
    I havent been able to check your blog lately. So nice to open it and see so many amazing pictures and rides. Congratulations.
    Iam currently in NZ, also enjoying some good riding and some farming on a cool biodynamic farm. Good life.

    Cheers

    your ecuadorian friend

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Wonderful to hear from you Sr Dammer, as ever. I head back to Peru in August – destination, Argentina…

      Now, I’m going to go and spend some time on your blog. Great pictures!

      Reply
  6. Michael

    thanks compañero, have to say that you inspired me to do something with all those pics.
    Marcela and I will be on Argentina by the end of December. We will be bikepacking there for some weeks. Maybe we can do something together if things work out in terms of timing?

    Reply
  7. Kevin Tweed

    Beautiful photos and such great writing. Your writing, photography and life in general continue to inspire me and I always am looking forward to the next great blog post by you. You have such a great gift in capturing the essence of a place. Congratulations and keep up the good work!

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks Kevin. I must say, I’m a great admirer of your photos – and I’m sure I’d like your pottery too!

      Reply
      1. Kevin Tweed

        Thanks so much Cass,
        Scott and I are talking of building a kiln outside of Porcelain Rocket headquarters so that we can both get back to making some pottery. If you ever find yourself back up north it would be great to meet you and go on a ride through the Canadian Rockies. Take care.

        Reply

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