Dirt Roading in the Bay Area, CA: Part 1

It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful, alluring metropolis than San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area, particularly when the sun is shining in all its glory, and a new season is being ushered in. After 10 days of dirt road meetups, balmy coastal camping and park picnics, I’m now back on the train home, destination New Mexico.

Here’s just a few photos from the trip. More to come soon…


The early bird gets the worm. Sunrise in the Marin Headlands, just a short ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Dirt galore. Jake negotiates the descent down Coastal Trail, south of Pantol Ranger Station.

The biking brotherhood.

The biking brotherhood. These well worn shoes and tattooed emblems belong to Jared, fellow dirt lovin’ amigo.


Loose, off camber tracks are the name of the game in the Headlands, as ridden by generations of dirt road riders, since the dawn of modern mountain biking. 


Shell Ridge, rising steeply from the foothills of Mt Diablo, is a sublime open space area. It’s laced with buff singletrack, meandering its way through tunnels of old and wizened oak groves.

Twin Peaks.

Meanwhile, back in the city: Twin Peaks and its switchback descent. There’s all kinds of riding to be had straight from your front door.


The trail along Bolinas Ridge – one of my favourites – is framed by lush foliage and an austere corridor of redwoods.


Spring time – Californian poppies resplendent in all their neon glory.

Did I mention my bike? It’s a Surly Krampus, nicknamed Brutus, and now fitted with Rohloff Speedhub and tubeless 3in tyres. Seen here with Colin’s Pugsley and Jake’s Marin Eldridge Grade.

Did I mention my bike? It’s a Surly Krampus, nicknamed Brutus, and now complete with Rohloff Speedhub and tubeless 3in tyres. Seen here with Colin’s Pugsley and Jake’s Marin Eldridge Grade.


Shirt fluttering in the coastal breeze, Jarod and his Rivendell Hunqapillar let loose, to an oceanic backdrop and distant rocky bluffs.


Dipping tyres and toes in waters at Muir Beach.


Different strokes for different folks: the bicycle basket, surprisingly capable at hauling all your camping gear, on dirt and pavement alike.


Further explorations around the polished hilltops of Shell Ridge.

The Bay Area: a Mountain Biking and Roadie paradise.

The Bay Area: a Mountain Biking and Roadie paradise.

Training it:

The train from Oakland, CA to Albuquerque NM, costs $130 (booked a few days in advance, and date changeable for no fee). If you have 28 hours to spare, it’s affordable, relaxing, bike-friendly and scenic.

The segment from Oakland to Bakersfield includes free wifi too, which I’m availing myself of right now, as does the bus link from Bakersfield to Union Station, LA.

The bike travels free and unboxed to LA, then it’s $10 to New Mexico – and a further $15 if you need to purchase a bike box. Amtrak boxes are massive, and require very little disassembling of your steed.

19 thoughts on “Dirt Roading in the Bay Area, CA: Part 1

  1. Kellie Stapleton

    Yep, that’s my home. Great photos of the area. I’m still waiting to get to Shell Ridge though it’s only 1/2 hr. from where I live by car. The Rivendell folk stealth camp there. Funny, only wifi as far as Bakersfield?

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Kellie, Mount Diablo was definitely a highlight of the trip, and merits its own blog post… Highly recommended.

      As it happens the bus (which connects Bakersfield to Union Station, LA) has wifi too. Which I’m using right now (-:

      So far, the journey has been smooth and bike-friendly.

  2. Mark_BC

    An Eldridge Grade! That’s been my workhorse for the last 20 years, great for kicking around town. I purposely keep it ugly so no one steals it. I got mine around 1990 or 1991 I think, a great old rigid chromoly frame. I took it on the Sach Pass trip. It’s peppy and fun, I love those old frames. I ended up exploring some singletrack above North Van the other day but it was too technical for the setup and tires I had on. Tomorrow I’m going to try it with my Mukluk, I’ll see how much “suspension” I get from the tires. Then I’ll lower the seat and start carving.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Mark – how are you getting on with the Mukluk? Is it everything you wanted – and more?!

      1. markbc

        Yeah the Mukluk is great. I went back up on the technical trails the other day with it and kept up with some guys on full suspension 29’ers. The big tires just roll over the roots no problem and if I drop them to 5 psi it’s like I have suspension. The bike is good for technical riding.

        The only downside is the small triangle which limits the size of the frame bag. I’ll try to compensate by putting more stuff on top of the tube.

        I’m going to try to see if I can run my Rohloff on the big 170 mm rear. I got the spacers that should make it work, just haven’t tried it yet. I’d have to run an offset rim for that.

        I’m also wondering if they make 135 mm dynamo hubs for the front, it doesn’t make much sense be fiddling around with solar panels when your bike can easily make lots of electricity.

        I think it would be a great touring bike, I really don’t notice the extra bulk from the big tires. It would however attract more attention with the fat tires which may be a bit of a security issue. Maybe go with some smaller tires like Knards.

        1. Cass Gilbert Post author

          Good to hear you’re enjoying the Mukluk. I’d be interesting in hearing about a Rohloff conversion, and if it’s possible.

          The cool thing about solar panels is that you can use them on the bike or while backpacking. And they’re a pretty cheap addition to make. But I expect to go the dynamo route too, especially handy for places where the sun isn’t so reliable.

  3. Justin Goode

    Crackin’ Cass!

    A most excellent adventure.

    And ‘Brutus’ now has the Rohloff installed!

    Wondrous photos, as ever, and what a sunrise shot! (Cycling inspirations notwithstanding, you’ve motivated me to get back into photography).

    Looking forward to Part 2.

    Keep on keepin’ on.


  4. James

    SF looks like it was fun, I look forward for your full write up!
    Also, I was wondering how the tires are holding up on the krampus as you’ve put miles and miles on them? I’m still considering which bike to build up next and whether I ought to make it a fat bike or not. I ask about the tires as they are quite expensive and I am accustomed to not having to spend much on bike maintenance/parts as I tour. I guess i’ve been spoiled by the longevity of schwalbe marathon tires… thoughts?

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Hey James, I trust the Grand Canyon is treating you well! I’d love to come down and hike a few days, soonish.
      The Knard tyres are faring ok – though they’re no Schwalbe Marathon by any means. I’m not sure they’d be my tyre of choice for a really long tour, one that mixes asphalt and dirt. For me, a 2-2.4 would be better for that. The cool thing about the Krampus is that the clearances with such a tyre are massive. The downside is that it doesn’t come with much in the way of water bottle/rack eyelets.
      Schwalbe’s Smart Sam’s come in a 29×2.25. They’re only $30 (non folding) and look to be pretty long lasting.

  5. Daniel

    Damn Cass,

    Your photos really capture how beautiful it is out here. You keep impressing! It was great camping with you, looking forward to more!

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks Daniel. Great to see you, and talk bikes/cameras! Until the next camp out!

  6. Simon G

    Hey Cass…Spring has sprung here too. The trails are crispy dry and nettles aren’t quite big enough to lacerate the shins. The wild garlic is just starting to flower so on a hazy warm evening you get the wafts over garlic as you descend the holloways around us. The lambs are in full bleat and the bluebells are on full show. For some reason this seems to have become the best time of year for riding and trail running around us…when the summer arrives it seems to get cooler and wetter. I have just got back from 10 days in Rio and Sao Paulo with work and there seemed to be loads of people out in Rio on Mountain Bikes…next time I will need to do more investigation.

    Everything is good here with Sarah and the boys…catch you soon.

  7. Valentine

    @Simon G lots of good riding just north of Rio, check out Nova Friburgo, Teresopolis, and Tres Picos. I am on Warm Showers (Duas Barras, RJ).


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