The 2014 Schwarzwald Giro – Kevin Sparrow
Photos and Words by Kevin Sparrow
Most of us got a good night sleep in our camper. The nights in Freiburg are chilly and it doesn’t start to warm up until the sun peeks over the tree line later in the morning. Everyone met at Biosk at 9:30, for a planned roll out at 10. It would have been nice to get a decent breakfast but Josh and I downed a bowl of cereal and I took a nutrition bar for a reserve. Others stuffed their jerseys full of snacks. We all knew we had a long day ahead of us…
When Erik and I committed to riding the Oregon Outback, we didn’t want to absolutely kill ourselves, but we wanted it to be tough. On paper, 360 miles is totally doable in three days without crushing your spirit. Hell, I think we could have done it in two and we still would have been ok but that’s not the point.
I had a responsibility. One that I take seriously and that’s documenting this trip. Granted, most of the time, I didn’t want to stop to shoot a photo, or hop off my bike, I just wanted to keep going…
The second day of any big ride is usually the toughest. Your body just assumes it’s going to be on the defensive for an unknown amount of time and begins to push back. Usually, that is. For Erik and I, we awoke in the Silver Lake Community Park f-u-c-k-i-n-g freezing. The weather said it would drop to 45 degrees as the low, so he and I brought hammocks and 40 degree bags in the interest of space and weight.
At 4am, my phone said it was 28 degrees. A cold front had moved in.
I was shivering uncontrollably, had I known it was going to be that cold, I would have brought a sleeping pad and a tarp, both of which I’ve used to alleviate the loss of body heat that happens in hammocks at such low temperatures. But alas, you reap what you sew. We would be cold on this trip.
All our field guide said about mile 120-240 was that we’d be crossing altitude desert and would be without water for up to 80 miles. I brought an Arundel Looney Bin to hold a 48oz Nalgene, which, after making breakfast, I filled up. Along with my two large Purist bottles. We had to get moving. Fast… It was 6:30am.
Continue reading in the Gallery captions.
I had no idea Matt from Ornot was taking video with his RX100 the whole time we were riding Up the Devil’s Ass. You’ll see all the party boyz and girlz of cycling in this one.
And if you missed my ride photos from this rad day, check them out at Riding Dirty Up the Devil’s Ass.
With the success and failure of Erik and my last AWOL ride on the Diablo range, we started looking for another mission to continue the story. This couldn’t be just any camping trip, it had to be hard. Like, really, really tough and big and stuff.
Then it dawned on Erik (I was too busy to actually look for anything) – we’d do Velo Dirt’s Oregon Outback. Erik contacted me in his Swedish voice “ok mannn, we’re going to do this really fucking tough ride, called the Oregon Outback, are you in?”. Me: “Of course!” – not wanting to sound like a sissy. At the time, I was probably traveling for something and I didn’t even know what the Outback was. I just assumed it was a chill weekend getaway…
Dissecting my Oregon Outback photos has taken two full days and rather than dumping everything into one huge gallery, I thought I’d break it up a bit into something that everyone can discuss separately: bikes.
People obsess over setups for rides like this. From frame material, to geometry and wheel size, I saw everything.
Erik and I were on stock, straight out of the box, AWOL Comps. Erik painted his to look all crazy. Mine was just black. I had bikepacking bags and my Swift Ozette rando bag, Erik used panniers and the new AWOL rack. Most people used Porcelain Rocket or Revelate bags on their flat bar MTB.
Personally, I felt like a drop bar bicycle offered more riding options and were inherently faster than a rigid or a hardtail MTB. That said, most of the field were on MTB rigs of some sort. There was one fatbike, a few 29+ but for the most part, the rigid 29r ‘adventure’ bike platform ruled all.
A lot of these bikes were built specifically for the Outback, which is insane!
As I began sorting through all of my photos, I realized that my favorite thing about this ride was getting to know complete strangers. Watching their struggles unfold and seeing how they coped with the incredible feat that was upon us.
These Bikes and Faces of the Oregon Outback will forever remain engrained in my riding psyche. The rest of the story will unfold shortly. Until then, enjoy this Gallery.
28 hours of moving time, 60 elapsed hours, 13mph average, 15,300′ elevation, 368 miles later and Team AWOL is done. We finished the Velodirt Oregon Outback, self-supported, fully loaded on Sunday, 45 minutes ahead of schedule. I rode the last day with a bum knee and a crooked back. It was three days of highs and lows, with a constant headwind.
… but we did it. Expect a whole torrent of photos and posts once I recover and return home to Austin.
Thanks for the support on Instagram and your patience while the site has been inactive.
Photo by Craig Lindner
As I’m packing for the Oregon Outback, I just looked over Craig’s photos from this year’s Almanzo and suddenly, I got stoked for some dirt… See the full set at Craig’s Flickr!
It should come as no surprise that when David Wilcox plans a Rapha group ride, it’s going to be tough. When he showed me the route we’d take for Stage 03 of the Amgen Tour of California, I knew we were in for a big, bad day…
Dogriver Super D
Words and photos by Kyle Von Hoetzendorff
I have my rituals you see, and they must be respected. Coffee, breakfast burritos, a Porta-John in that order, my body demands it, directs me. As long as I have been racing in the Pacific NW it has always been the same. I expect it, settles the nerves. Forget about going to bed early, having a protein shake, or sitting in a bath of ice cubes while there is perfectly good hot water pulsing just beyond the walls. Take the shower, have some pizza, stay up all night. I know who I want to beat and we were out drinking last night.
This is amateur racing in your 30s, this is beer at the starting line, long-range intimidation practices, strategic heckles, head games. Fitness at this stage isn’t just about VO2 Max or lactic thresholds, its about the rest of it, throwing life’s little chosen challenges into the mix, try whiskey soaked sleep deprivation giving you the shakes in the starting gate. Not that everything requires a debauched approach; it’s just that it also doesn’t, so why not?
Super D racing, like all types of racing, fits this program perfectly. In this particular case, the Mountain Man Challenge Dogriver Super D, the extended descent is punctuated mid race with a ball buster climb. This would be the decisive section, whoever could make it through the climb the fastest with a modicum of energy in reserve would rule the day. Alex “KrunkShox” McGuiness would take first place in just over 22 minutes, followed closely by all-pro Matt Slaven and Team Robots very own “Chaz” Sponsel. I would finish in just over 25 minutes, mid-pack, I would be tired, I would want sleep.
Take a survey and the vast majority of cyclists who haven’t spent a day descending don’t have any idea who strenuous it can be. It’s “cheating” they say as if descending is the unfortunate outcome of so many arduous minutes spent slowly suffering on the cranks while climbing the nearest crucible. In fact, as our frozen water cousins found out years ago, the descent presents its own unique challenge that once appreciated can be developed and refined. Time passes differently here, we don’t chat, life, outside life, must be put on hold, clear your schedule, erase the board, we are talking undivided attention. Your nerves not to mention your legs, butt, back, arms, neck, chest, and abs are constantly on high alert, think Gorbachev and Regan white knuckling their red phones. This race is after all an act that is antithetical to our biological imperative, you are challenging gravity, and gravity has, and will, ALWAYS win.
Why do it then? Take away the wolves, the lions, the tribal warfare and your left with an egregious surplus of need-to-survive. Chemicals man, chemicals bend reason, chemicals create their own logic, and this is how I find myself hurtling down the side of a mountain, oxygen deprived, on the edge of control, in a race for no money and no fame. Chemicals.
I am not saying that this is better than that, than something, anything else. If you are reading this lovely site then you probably like bikes, and if you like bikes, have the time to like bikes, then your life is pretty good. Sometimes it’s nice to know that it’s good for someone else too. Its chemical man.
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