Going AWOL in the Diablo Range

When Erik and I met at Eurobike last year, we talked about doing a ride to celebrate the Specialized AWOL release. Originally, we talked about Oregon, then LA, but after some research, we realized there were plenty of roads, tracks and trails literally in SF’s backyard.

With the help of Jared from Riv Bike, Erik began to think about a three day route from SF to the Diablo Range, Morgan Territory, Henry Coe and finally, into Morgan Hill where we’d share our story and watch the premier of the Transcontinental film. It seemed like an achievable goal. We’d pack for camping, which included cold nights and mornings and most importantly, we’d take our time.

Rather than actually planning our route, we decided to take trail maps and meander a bit off the beaten path. Digital maps don’t have all the trails marked and some of the current maps of the Diablo range revealed a path none of us had taken. We were set.

Unfortunately, as it tends to go, unexpected elements came into the equation and our plans changed. At first, I was pretty upset about it, seeing as how I was planning on pulling a few stories out of our ride, but after reviewing my photos, I decided it made for a good story…

Part of what the Specialized AWOL project represents is an escape, a desire to get out of your normal ride routine and try something new. Taking a chance if you will. While we didn’t complete our ride, we had fun and saw some incredible displays of color as Mother Nature impressed us all.

Seriously, the sunrise the second day rivals all in my past experiences…

Read on in the Gallery!

There’s more to come, including my review of the AWOL Transcontinental Limited Edition and a Beautiful Bicycle post on Erik’s own bike.

  • hans

    great photos man. the light on those hills is amazing

    • They’re pretty rad. NorCal has some amazing sunsets!

  • This is awesome John, absolutely awesome. Cant wait to get your opinion on the AWOL.

  • bclarson

    Nice. Looks like a great ride!

  • Mike Kimbro

    Beautiful pics. Bummer y’all got cut short, but glad to see Erik is actually human!

  • Keith Gibson

    looks like a great time

  • D.J. Bolles

    Some of your best is in here.

  • So rad, man. I honestly didn’t want that to end as I was going through the gallery. Looking at that final stretch of photos and I practically forgot I was sitting at my desk here at work. I know you hear it a lot, but thanks for letting us live vicariously through your photography/photojournalism.

    • D.J. Bolles

      Seriously, I felt the same way.

    • Thanks a lot man!

  • Adam Miller

    So good. If this is only half of the trip you all planned, the full set would have broken the internet. And Erik is a tank for riding all day with the flu. I’m assuming Jared is vegetarian/vegan because of all the tropical oils he was eating?

    • Jared was vegan for years – now just vegetarian and trying to eat as much high-fat foods as possible. Basically, just dairy.

  • Adam Carter

    can’t wait for the review of that bike!

  • WilliamH’Ford IV LLC

    Glad to see I’m not the only one running a Soma porteur rack with small panniers and a bag on top a la Erik’s ride. Nice photo set, and intro. I look forward to reading more.

    • That’s a Specialized rack. Well, actually a Globe rack with Tubus low-riders.

      • WilliamH’Ford IV LLC

        Well then, may I request a few more photos of Erik’s front rack setup? I would like to explore more options like that for my Vaya. I like that the panniers sit just below the top of the wheel & rack, but still offer a bit more clearance for random things that like to jump and cut/poke panniers when off road. My main concern with true low riders.

        • Yeah, coming up. Here’s the gist: He has Tubus low-riders with adapters for the AWOL proprietary pannier attachment. These bolt onto the rack.

          The Specialized porteur rack is an old Globe product but he’s redesigning it for better integration.

          You can run either a porteur rack, or a rando rack like the Nitto line above most low-rider systems. Or just get the Nitto Campee lowrider rack…

          • WilliamH’Ford IV LLC

            Thank you for responding so quickly, and I hope I am not being annoying in asking, but what allows his panniers to sit so high on the low riders? They line up with the bottom of the hub. Is this due to a lower mount on the back of pannier itself as opposed to near the top on traditional panniers? Thanks again.

          • So, lowriders put the bags low on the front. This keeps the bike much, much more stable than loading high and in the rear, which tends to make the bike sway back and forth when climbing out of the saddle.

        • hans

          i’ve had great success with this:


          it allows either a low ride or higher ride height of your panniers (i actually used a pannier setup i made myself out of kitty litter buckets) and the platform on top is great for a wald basket with a bungee net over the top or a rando type bag.

  • Chris Valente

    Really amazing gallery and one of my all time favorite ride reports. I can’t imagine riding diablo on a semi loaded bike wearing jeans! But to each their own.

    • Oh, we were fully-loaded. The guys had the same gear they used for the Transcontinental. Tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, stoves, etc.

      I wore shorts and a t-shirt. Erik and Jared were on platforms. It was pretty chill.

      • Chris Valente

        Well there you go. Even more reason not to wear jeans but hey, run what brung. Amazing ride and I am now looking up maps for that area as I see that I am seriously missing out on exploring out there…

  • kermitonwheels

    Amazing light!

  • stefanrohner

    the whole AWOL this is great! really great! just the bikes are ugly choppers.

  • PNT

    this is it best story I read and watched on this site.

  • nin

    Great photos as usual.

    Any more close up pics of Recep’s bike? I love it’s rusty/trashy look.

    Do you know what pedals Erik is using?

    • Erik is running the Specialized platforms that come with the AWOL bikes. I didn’t get any photos of Recep’s bike unfortunately. I was planning on shooting portraits and details with the portrait lens on Day 03… but the trip was cut short.

      • nin

        That’s a pity. Maybe next time :)

        • Recep emailed me this…

          • nin

            This…? I think I’m missing something.

          • Sorry, it didn’t attach that time.

          • nin

            Love it.

          • nin


  • nicolebodd

    Absolutely gorgeous. That light, bro!

  • Tyler Howarth

    Really looking forward to the AWOL review. This looks epic.

  • btdubs

    This entire set is SO DOPE. Are those tires available to the public yet? I need them… for science.

    • They’ve actually BEEN available for over a year. I had no idea either! You can order them from your local shop that carries Specialized.

  • Amazing documentation. Truly inspiring.

  • Ian Stone

    Should’ve let Erik sit on your handlebars and finished the rest of the ride.

  • Eric Wang

    Amazing shots of roads I’m lucky to call home. It’s always tough to decide whether to go up Marsh Creek to Morgan Territory or Diablo, or ride the rollers of Pinehurst/Redwood/Skyline…or go south to Palomares, Calaveras and Hamilton.

    Hope Erik is feeling better.

    • Alex Hillis

      I concur! I do a 30 mile Palomares loop every Sunday morning and often MTB over in Morgan Territory. Awesome to see the area through John’s lens.

  • alifrizky

    these are really amazing. so, inspiring.

  • That place is amazing! Do you have the route mapped anywhere? Strava?

  • JLN

    Great set. Couldn’t imagine all that riding in Vans and platform pedals though.

    • You should try it. It’s really not bad. When you’re using SPD or clipless systems on tours, you can generate a lot of knee issues if your fit / cleat position isn’t perfect. Riding platforms allows you to move your feet around a bike while riding, much like how you shift your weight on your saddle.

      The ONLY day on my Portland to SF ride I did where my knees killed me is when my cleats were messed up.

      I’ve done some long, loaded rides on platforms and don’t mind it at all.

      • JLN

        I think I’m just so used to clips and straps or clipless that riding in platforms weirds me out now. Not hatin’ on riding on flats, just surprised.

        • Totally understand! I didn’t take you for hating. Just saying, it’s not bad at all!

          • Back in the days I did all my riding on my MTB’s on platforms. On the trails its just better for your bike handling and real bunny hops are only done with flats anyway ;-) I’ve used old Reebok Classics which had a stiffer sole than vans, just loved it. Clipless is awesome but as soon as I hit the woods I’m back on those flats.

  • BenSchwartz

    Man, was this great. A fittingly poetic display of the beautiful hills here in the East Bay. We really are fortunate to have such a wonderful landscape for riding. Having grown up in New York, and then moved to Berkeley some years ago, it wasn’t until I started riding my bike up and down the hills that I truly appreciated the geography of Northern California. Well done, guys.

  • Alex Hillis

    This only makes me love my hometown even more. Amazing to see all my home roads through your lens. Magical.

  • campirecord

    What kind of shorts is Eric wearing, I see pockets, but it looks lycra like. Amazing views by the way. Always enjoyed the SF cloud wraps in the winter.

  • tim early

    been waiting all weekend to see the photos and you didn’t disappoint. what size awol did you ride? i’ve been to two dealers and neither plan to stock one and i’ve gotten conflicting thoughts on what size i should get. i’m told a med or large. i’m looking forward to you review and maybe that will put me in the right direction.

    • I usually ride a 60cm frame with a 58cm TT – the Large AWOL would be too small for me. XL fit great. I think it’s TT was 60cm + 80mm stock stem (perfect fit) the AWOL’s fit philosophy has you riding a stem that’s 2-3cm shorter because the TT is longer…

  • Nah_man

    What did you shoot with? And what’s with the paint job on Erik’s bike, custom?

    • It’s a special coating, usually reserved for stems and hubs but a factory in Taiwan has machine large enough for a frame.

  • supersonicbang

    Loved everything about this set John. Im contemplating getting me one of these bikes to take an adventure of my own and Im curious as to what kind of hub/crankset that is on the belt drive AWOL?

  • cabbagepatchelvis

    Bravo, sir!

  • Cani Sciolti

    Silly issue, but Mr. Jared is wearing a pair of shoes really similar to those I used to buy years ago here in Itay that I can not find anymore.
    Maybe you or someone in here knows the brand name…
    Thank you.

    • I’ll ask him next time I see him!

    • Joshua Romero-Perry

      they are Teva’s im not sure of the actual model but i believe they are cedar canyons

      • Cani Sciolti

        Thank you!

  • vopop

    Some 150+ persons have seen Recep riding a bike in Cremona, Italy on 5-6 January!

    • Well, he told us he hasn’t been on a ride. The cross race doesn’t count, according to him!

  • Alex Forbes

    Man, this story was truly engrossing, so rad. I definitely cannot wait to hear your opinions on belt drive. Also, I am going to be that guy and ask, what saddle bag is Erik using? It’s not as big as a Relevate, but bigger than most.

  • Kevin Ehman

    beauty set, worth the wait, and some of your best photography imo, chapeau

  • Tristan Holden

    Amazing photoset John! So jealous of the weather you guys get in the winter over there, riding in the UK this time of the year can be pretty miserable

    • We’ve been cold in Texas too. Freezing temperatures. California is just lucky with weather. Also, to be fair, Diablo gets very hot in the summer. Like 40C…

  • Kurtz

    Great looking set and ride. Bummer about the flu. Just over the past year I’ve ridden Diablo several times and love it, but never camped. If you camp there again, you may have a morning volunteer ride up to summit w/ all the bottles for a water refill (bathroom sinks), or the Ranger Station where South / North Gate roads meet on your descent. Still have yet to go out to the Morgan Territory; I imagined a desert wasteland, but your photos show a few shade spots.

    • It’s mostly shaded by trees before the top (coming from Diablo), then it’s wide open on the descent.

  • Jimflip

    Pity you ran out of provisions – especially after the lengthy stop @Wholefoods in Walnut Creek. :-) Silliness aside, great photos and thank you for the reminder to get out & enjoy this wonderful neighborhood. Oh, and next time you need water/assistance with a flat in the Lamorinda/WC Area, feel free to drop me a line – happy to help out where I can.

    • Everyone’s been there before. You don’t buy enough food / etc. I just got too stoned and ate all mine the night before. Water was the main issue and too much coffee that morning. We were expecting at least a spigot on the road.

      • Jimflip

        That’s true. A faucet and drinking fountain can be found behind the Diablo Junction ranger station – a small bit of backtracking from where you were for the night, but perhaps handy to know for next time. Still, great photos – thanks again.

        • Yep that’s were we filled up on the way up – hitting it in the morning would have taken us way out of the way.

  • Manny Acosta

    Jared is the man. Love riding with that guy. You captured the beauty that is Diablo. Dusty and steep. That Rancho is one of my favorite spots to camp at on the whole mountain.

    Curious how were you guys going to connect to Henry Coe via Diablo?
    I can only think of climbing up Hamilton then connecting it through some private fire road someway…

    • Some things are better left off the internet, ya know?

  • AB

    The construction at the pre-summit parking lot on Mt. D wrapped up this past week. It now features about 10 park grills and some shade cover. Throw some frozen patties in the jersey, coolant and lunch. On second thought…

  • Stefan Darlan Boris

    Beautiful stuff!

  • jamie

    hey if you had a choice for bicycle touring / overnighting would you recommend eno hammock + rain tarp or is a tent better ? weight and size wise would you recommend the eno ?

    • I like the ENO – but you have to address a few issues:
      -sleeping pad – get the ENO with the sleeping pad sleeve.
      -warm feet – if it’s going to be cold out (below 35 degrees), then use a sleeping bag with extra down at the feet.
      -use the undersling to keep your bags off the ground, or just hang your panniers from a tree.

      I’d much rather use a hammock over a tent. Especially when it’s warm out…

  • JK

    How do you like the fatboy tires?

  • Paul Paul

    Hey @johnprolly:disqus ,
    do you happen to know which bag Erik has on top of his pizza rack? Thanks in advance and keep up the great work you are doing with this blog.

  • colavitos_ghost

    Which maps did you use for this trip? Do you remember where you picked them up? I am heading to Mt Diablo area next week planning to get lost (but hopefully not too lost if you know what I mean ;) )