South African Dirt and the Karoobaix
Photos and words by Stan Engelbrecht
On the third morning we came across two kudus, dead, and partially eaten. During the intense drought in the area over the last months, many animals had been breaking through fences to get to this dam, only to find it completely dry. In their search for water, these kudus tried to cross the dried dam floor, and got trapped in two mud sinkholes. They must have struggled there for days, before dying of thirst and starvation. And maybe something had started eating them while they were still alive.
It was a stark reminder that the Karoo is a dangerous and remote place. This semi-desert region near the Southern tip of Africa is known for its searing beauty, but also its harsh and unforgiving environment. Get caught out here without water or shelter at the wrong time of year and it can be the end of you. (more…)
Jay Barre’s Bike-In Birthday Bash!
Photos and words by Kyle Kelley
A couple weeks ago I heard that the boys from Topanga Creek Bicycle were heading to Mt. Lowe Trail Camp for their Unpredict Your Wednesday event. In case you aren’t familiar with the event – TCB goes camping every Tuesday night and then does some kind of epic ride wherever they might be on Wednesday. It is basically one of the coolest things that any bike shop has ever done. I am not able to make it to these events very often because of my work schedule and/or the location mixed with my lack of car. So when I found out about the proximity of this particular Unpredict Your Wednesday, along with the fact that my buddy Jay Barre from TCB celebrated his birthday a few days before, I knew I had to be there.
Topanga Creek is open on Tuesday so it made the most sense to meet above Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, off Mt. Wilson Road, and drop down into camp rather than riding from the city. After setting up camp I asked if anyone wanted to head up to Inspiration Point with me and was surprised that so many of the people with us had never been. We took a quick moonlit ride up there before returning to camp to kick back, have a few beers and tell stories until we couldn’t hold our eyes open anymore. (more…)
Oftentimes during trips like this, you just go with the flow and don’t ask questions. When the team at Circles began planning our bicycle tour around Mount Fuji, the only things I asked were what kind of roads we’d be riding and what to expect in terms of weather. This would answer every other question in terms of my gear and bicycle selection. We already got the run down on how this trip was faring on yesterday’s post, so I’ll spare you the re-introduction here but what I will say is, sometimes rides like this present a pleasant surprise when you’d least expect it… (more…)
Visiting countries like Japan, you’re always drawn to hyper-modern cities like Tokyo, or classic, traditional places like Kyoto. While I’ve spent a lot of time here, I’d never spent much time in the countryside, much less the wilderness. I’ve always used a bicycle to explore an urban area. When Circles brought handful of US framebuilders and myself over to Nagoya for the Gourmet Century Asuke, they asked us to bring our own bikes. Not just to display at the Personal Bike Show, but to embark on a week-long bicycle tour with. This influenced what everyone brought greatly and ultimately, was a true test of each builder’s philosophy on touring. (more…)
Japan is wonderful. In the cities like Nagoya, cars zip through intersections, merge with traffic, mamacharis cruise the sidewalks, baskets rattling with groceries and pedestrians swarm cross walks. Yet if you drive or ride a bicycle outside its network of infrastructure for 40km, you’re in the mountains. Many ranging around the 3,500′ height and all covered in a dense forest. These mystical beasts lie in slumber awaiting the rainy season to drench their loamy forest floors and fill their rivers.
The rainy season is at the end of June, so very few people want to throw events this month, at the risk of it being rained out, yet that didn’t stop Shinya and the Circles team from organizing the Chris King Gourmet Century. Now, if you’ve never heard of a Gourmet Century, the format is simple. Chris King works with local bike shops to plan a route in a select city, then they fly out Chris DiMinno, their lead chef to plan food stops along the way, with the event culminating in a feast after the ride. In some cases, like Japan, Chris was able to count on the talented caterers from Nagoya, who’d drive out to Asuke the day prior to prepare food. (more…)
Bikepacking Oregon’s Big Country
Photos and words by Gabe Tiller
Third time’s the charm, right? Taking our combined knowledge from two previous bikepacking trips deep into Southeastern Oregon’s Big Country we had linked up the best features of this stark, vast landscape. We would start by traversing the until-recently occupied Malheur Wildlife Refuge, head up and over Steens Mountain, across the dry Alvord playa, and up into the the unknown Trout Creek Mountains before briefly slipping into Nevada and returning to our car by way of Hart Mountain eight days later. Logistically it’s an intimidating route, so we scheduled short days, therapeutic hot spring soaks, and ample time for sage bush whacking and accidental mud wallowing. (more…)
You’d be surprised how big of a tire you can squeeze into some of the older road bikes. My Merckx fits a plumb 28mm tire with ease and those Campagnolo NR mid-reach brakes can wrap their arms around, reaching the braking surface. Now what happened between the 1980’s and modern bike design is up to anyone to debate. Clearances got tighter, more aero, stiffer and a mentality that a smaller tire is faster took over the pro peloton. Like it always has, the trickle down effect hit store shelves and consumers did what they do best: consume. I know this is a bleak picture of tire clearance on road bikes, but it’s mostly unexaggerated. Mostly…
It seems that now with the whole “adventure / gravel grind / blah blah” trend, companies are designing bikes that fit big tires with the aid of disc brakes. Now we’ve got “all road, road plus” and various other terms to describe these machines, designed for riding off-road.
But what about the classic steel race bikes from back “in the day?”
Enter the All-City Mr. Pink. We’ve reviewed one before here on the site and while I stuck with a moderate 28mm tire, I could clearly see this bike was made for more rubber. With a caveat though. Putting bigger tires on the Mr. Pink means you’ve gotta go for a mid-reach brake, like the Paul Racer, or in this case, the Velo Orange Grand Cru long reach brakes. With those, you can fit a 30mm tire, with ease, making this one capable chubby road bike. (more…)
There’s an old saying: “wherever your relationship is going, it’ll get there faster on a _____ ride.” Whether it’s a bicycle tour, mountain bike, group, or tandem ride, new relationships often encounter stress that can either solidify or deteriorate your bond. Acknowledging this, I planned out Cari’s first bikepacking, or rather bicycle camping trip together with a certain degree of trepidation. Knowing Cari’s background of extensive backpacking, I planned out a quick, but somewhat difficult ride for us to undertake in the Sequoia National Forest.
Let me backpedal a bit here and give you a brief synopsis of Cari’s background. In her 20 years of backpacking, she’s undertaken a series of difficult multi-day trips throughout the Western United States. She’s hiked Whitney, Half Dome, Rae Lakes, Lost Coast and various other undertakings that are far from beginner. When she and I first started dating, she had a commuter bike but other than riding around Los Angeles, she had very little experience, especially on dirt. I explained the premise behind bicycle camping, touring and bikepacking, with the differences in each outlined. “You basically carry everything you need on your bike, rather than your back, and you can cover more ground on various terrain…” She seemed to gravitate towards bikepacking since the idea of dealing with cars isn’t all that appealing to a backcountry explorer. I agreed and began planning.
Initially, I had one ride planned in the Eastern Sierras but this time of year meant it could still be snowing at 10,000′, so I began looking a little further south before landing in the Sequoias – one of my favorite parts of California. (more…)
No Reception in Northern California
Photos by Michael Armenta, words by Brian Larson
There’s never a perfect time to escape. Chores, obligations, monetary deficits, or priorities—it seems the doldrums of the day to day too often take hold with gripping force. We can’t always hop on plane to the backcountry of the Chilcotins or ride ribbons of trails through the Alps; sometimes planning a trip can seem more complicated than landing a rover on Mars.
And in some instances even more so.
But on the rare occasion a trip can manifest itself without a formalized plan or strategy. The right players show up with the right gear and seem to have a rare abundance of time to spare. It’s like watching ripples forming from the wind blasting a sand dune. From a seemingly chaotic environment comes a perfectly organized pattern: from entropy emerges order. We’re not going to pretend to understand it, but that is what happened with this trip. A few emails were sent to a handful of folks and almost magically we were standing speechless in awe of Northern California coastal viewshed. No itinerary, no schedule, no obligations, and no reception. (more…)
Eroica Rolls to South African Soil
Words by Stan Engelbrecht and photos by Tyrone Bradey
When Giancarlo Brocci imagined what would become the now world famous L’Eroica vintage bicycle homage in 1997, he surely never thought that rubber would crunch on gravel all the way at the Southern tip of Africa, in honour of his humble concept. Giancarlo saw the first L’Eroica rides as a way to bring attention to, and thus encourage the preservation of, the beautiful ‘strade bianche’, or white marble gravel roads of the area around Gaiole in Tuscany. At the same time it was a way for him to honour and remind others of the perfect peak of the sport he loves so dearly – the heady, fiery days of Anquetil, Poulidor, Coppi, Bartali, Merckx… (more…)