A few of us are camping and attempting to recreate last year’s Super Bro Weekend, even though the looks less than favorable. We’ll see you later this weekend. If you’re looking for some ride inspiration, check out: Super Bro Weekend.
The Long Road to Titus Canyon
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson
It started for me two years ago when I made my first trip to Death Valley National Park. I was rolling along the road to Ubehebe Crater when I passed a little dirt road named “Titus Canyon” that gradually sloped out of the valley floor until hitting a seemingly impassable rock wall a few miles in the distance. No signs of the road switching back and climbing over it… just abruptly ending.
Fast forward to a year later, I had done a bit of research and found that the road does in fact go through the range and over the Nevada border. It’s a 25 mile stretch of dirt that is a one-way road from the Nevada side into California. Plans were set, and I was going to give it a shot. Only hitch was that I wanted to climb it rather than descend it (on a road bike), so I would be heading up going the “wrong” direction, then looping around over a paved pass back into Death Valley…
Wet and Wild On Mt Lowe
Photos and words by Sean Talkington
There is indeed a stigma attached to Southern California’s weather. Outsiders envision year round palm trees, 80’s style picturesque sunsets, flip-flop sandles, tank tops and oceans of suntan oil being slathered on daily. For the most part that assumption is absolutely true. We have it pretty good! So good in fact that this place will make you soft. Send me your toughest east coast transplant wearing his/her shorts in negative degree weather and put them in a LA’s treacherous “low 50’s” for a few years and I’ll send that person back to you in some Ugg Boots, “Juicy” sweatpants, Dior sunglasses, a fashionable parka and a tiny chihuahua that fits in a purse…because that’s how we do in this city!
Death in the Valley – Team AWOL
Words by Erik Nohlin, Garrett Chow, Dylan Buffington, Sean Estes
Photos by Erik Nohlin and Dylan Buffington
“Let’s ride into the middle of the desert on our bikes.”
It was plain and simple. This was the brief that convinced a few friends to dive into Death Valley head first. We planned the trip in three weeks, the drive took 7 hours, and all of a sudden our feet were planted on the dirt of the Inyo Mountain Range that would lead us into Death Valley. We were set for an adventure but what we found was an epic one.
On long rides, moments and memories start to blend into each other, making it hard to differentiate this mountain from the next, that turn from this bend. As part of the Team AWOL spirit, there is a responsibility to tell a story. Whether that be with photos or reports, every rider will explain the pain of a climb a little differently than the next. This is something that is taken to heart especially when riding with a group. In this report, we are including everyone’s voice as a way to adjust the method of storytelling. We find this to be essential to understand the bigger picture. Not only do we view and take in the photographs, but the style and reflections in each of their writings brings unique perspectives to understanding the truth in the story…
Survival fires, spandex spoon trains, pee tea sipping, mutiny, abandoned bikes, lost and found, etc… Chances are every outdoorsman has experienced one or another or all. 3 years ago Lorde Gaubert brought a group of “Pomeranian city slickers” out to the Chiwawan desert to explore the seemingly endless network of mining and smuggling trails left over from the Republic of Texas days. It was meant to just be a Lycra paced long day ride. Things didn’t turn out so well. Apparently it was Garmin’s fault, or the game trail that could have been a trail, trail, or the empty water bottles with boiling temperatures and tempers….. Either way, they got wicked lost, ditched their bikes, spoon train man piled round a survival fire all night, and found their truck the next day hours before an iconic Texas blue norther elbow dropped the temps into the 30s. It was a harrowing tale, a spandex spectacle all our brüs had heard and laughed about several times. But deep inside, all of us were eager to get shreddy on the 1-trakk monarchy hidden within the 2nd largest desert in North America, and furthermore, to find out if Lorde Gaubert’s curse was merely situational. He does have a reputation, after all…
If you live in Sweden and don’t want to spend a third of the year on a turbo trainer or in spinning classes you have to ride in the freezing cold. There’s no way around it. The last two years I did the 500 kilometers that are required to finish the Rapha Festive 500 between December 24-31 pretty much riding solo. This year I was happy to have a lot more company and I would say that we had some of the most memorable rides of all year over this week.
There are three rough categories of winter riding in these parts of Sweden:
1) Icy rain. Storm winds. Black ice.
2) Piles of snow. Cold as fuck. Super crispy sunshine.
3) Slush puppies. Damp all day fog. Eternal darkness.
For this Festive 500 we got to experience all of them on different days and while there’s at least one terrible factor to each condition I love them all for what they have to offer. With the risk of sounding like a show off these winter rides are some of my favorite riding of the whole year. It’s so much more than just base miles to me.
While you browse through the photos, think of that special mixed feeling of stoke and insanity when you descend a pretty much deserted rough gravel road in the middle of nowhere way too fast. Plus it’s thickly covered with fresh snow and when you look down at your front wheel all you can see when the snow is pushed away is a layer of black ice. Cue endorphins.
On my last day in Los Angeles, Sean from Team Dream and I sat in his living room, listening to the rain dump outside. Normally, a little rain doesn’t bother me, but this was torrential. You’ve heard the expression “raining cats and dogs”, right? Well this was all cats. Their claws hitting the tin awning outside Sean’s guestroom as visibility dropped to inches and the trees swayed in the wind. Dogs wouldn’t cause this much damage. It fell and fell and fell.
Los Angeles needs it.
With the advent of the 1x drivetrain, be it SRAM (who arguably brought the technology to the cycling industry), Race Face, Wolf Tooth or the hundreds of other options, the ‘cross bike lost a bit of its versatility, when compared to having a 34t inner ring. For racing, a 40t front and 11-28t cassette may be fine, but add in a substantial amount of climbing, on dirt roads exceeding 12%, for miles, and you’ll find yourself a bit “knackered” as our British comrades say.
My decision to drop the front derailleur on the Geekhouse came after a few misguided chains that cost me precious placing in a race. Truth: I was already ready for a 1x setup. So I went with a CX1 rear mech and the CX1 11-32t cassette.
The rear range is crucial. Especially when compared to the standard 28t cassette. SRAM’s CX1 made it easy with its 32t cassette and in January, the 36t cassette will be available. Now let me preface this by saying, I’m well-aware that most of you find CX1 sacrilegious due to its pricepoint or whatever, but let’s not steer off path just yet.
My bike feels great with a 40t front and 32t rear in racing, but riding fire roads, not so much. The 40t front ring and 32t max cassette had my legs burning on the first pitch, especially with 40mm tires. Remember, the larger your wheel’s diameter, the longer your gear inches. I couldn’t imagine an 8+ hour ride with the current setup. Maybe a 38t front would help?
After a few jaunts on familiar ground in LA, Sean and Moi offered to take me up into the Verdugos. A mountain range that sits across from the Western ridges in Santa Monica, and only a quick jaunt from South Pasadena, where Sean lives. My decision to carry my camera was the right move, after we crossed the gate. It’s really strikingly beautiful up there.
The plan was to climb up the fire road and bomb the singletrack down, then ascend once again in the dark to take yet another bit of doubletrack down, at night.
Plans < Photos
We were fucking about for hours up there and before we knew it, it was pitch black, save for the glow of the city lights. We all brought lamps and layers, ideal for descending down one track and avoiding rocks on the climbs but that doesn't mean we weren't ready for dinner.
The whole time, I kept thinking I'd love to have a 38t on the front of my drivetrain, as I began tick-tacking up the dirt. 40t x 32t with 40mm tires is no joke on a 15% grade. Especially when you're lugging a DSLR on your back. What doesn't kill you...
Still, at the end of the day, we surpassed expectations of the versatility of these “race bikes”, bombed plenty of steep, rain-rutted tracks, saw a bobcat – Sean freaked out, ate pizza, drank beer and proceeded to be enamored with just how rad cyclocross bikes are.
Now, where is that 38t Wolf Tooth ring I bought at the beginning of the season?
Ryan and I recently planned a ride up Highway 39 to get some “work” done. We needed to shoot some of the Team Dream products in their natural habitat (shameless self promotion #1). We asked our friend Jackie to come along as a lady model. Jackie originally wanted 10K in cash (up front!) to model but settled for a turkey sandwich (also up front!) instead.
This ride is (in our opinion) the absolute hands down best climb in all of Southern California. The road used to be closed to cars a few years back and in those days you could do the bulk of the twisty climb without ever seeing another human. It was really post apocalyptic feeling back then. Now the 39 is open to motor vehicles until just after Crystal Lake, but even with the occasional “Fast And The Furious” car ripping by you every so often, this climb is still easily #1.
Personally, romanticism of intense physical exertion hasn’t been my thing. Probably because as fitness found me like a dog finds the wheel of a moving car, the ability to document rides took precedent over turning myself inside out climbing.
In short, the main motivation for getting fit was being able to ride, shoot photos and not be dying the whole time.
Presenting cycling as something that is excruciating alienates a large potential of thrill seekers, at least according to my opinion – ATMO. Instead, going up that tough climb and stopping along the way to capture a switchback, or redirecting the group back to a technical section for a photo, always lends itself to a more engaging riding experience.
People often ask if it’s possible to get a real ride in while documenting the whole time. The answer is yes, your definition of ride just needs to change.
Introduction aside, there are a lot of people I know who, at least at some capacity, live by this loose mantra of riding. Most of them are really, really, really fucking good at bikes, but even better at fucking around. These dudes live, breathe and eat cycling. Cycling, and tacos.
Yesterday, Sean from Team Dream, Ty from Golden Saddle and myself headed up Brown to El Prieto for a quick and easy MTB ride. We’re all strong in our own ways. Sean can sprint up a fire road and look scared on descents like none other. Ty is a gravity bully on descents, but will always stop to hit a line that no one else sees.
Myself, I’m an ok climber, equally as ok descending and decent at shooting photos. My crowning achievement yesterday, however, was my #RubberSideUp. Party on dudes.