A Death Valley Prospector’s Pack Mule: Dylan’s Obsidian Fatboy

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A Death Valley Prospector’s Pack Mule: Dylan’s Obsidian Fatboy

The most straightforward definition of Obsidian comes from Wikipedia: “Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock. It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimal crystal growth.” In parts Owens Valley and Death Valley, Obsidian is just another ground substrate. As lava fields collide with alluvial fans, causing the land to spill out over and through roads, this mineral litters the landscape, capturing sunlight and distracting even the most focused eye.

During numerous points on our trip, Obsidian fields distracted us from our pains, our cold hands, and hungry stomachs. We scoured the grounds, finding unique pieces, to hold up to the light and gaze in awe, only to place them back where they had decided to fall in the first place. Dylan took this practice very seriously, and in return, often wandering out into the depths of a shrub field only to shout out “check this piece out!” I felt it the perfect mineral to represent his murdered out S-Works Fatboy.

So, what’s so special about this bike? Honestly, not much. It’s bone stock, features a manual-shifting “bail out” chainring and was the lightest “fully-loaded” bike on the trip. Dylan borrowed the bike from a friend, upon realizing that fatter was just simply better for the terrain. He packed it out with the essentials, along with a few choice creature comforts – like walkie-talkies – and the entire time, rode it like it had an e-battery…

A Death Valley Prospector’s Pack Mule: My 44 Bikes Creosote Cruiser

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A Death Valley Prospector’s Pack Mule: My 44 Bikes Creosote Cruiser

Continuing our documentation of these high desert Pack Mules, is my 44 Bikes rigid mtb tourer, decked out in desert bikepacking mode, with a few key adjustments to its normal build we’ve seen before.

This bike proved itself on our 100 mile Prospector’s Tour of Death Valley but initially, I was worried. Worried for a few reasons, but mostly because of the tire size. While riding in the desert is not new to me, doing it fully loaded, for four days, in Death Valley is. Everything in my mind told me to track down a fat bike for the route. After driving it last month, I was aware of every change in ground substrate; the Eureka Valley presented sand and loose tuff. Steel Pass was gravely, with corners suddenly sinking into inches of loose rocks and the climbs out of Saline Valley are washboarded, rocky and can take a toll on your hands.

A Death Valley Prospector’s Pack Mule: Erik’s Desert Sand Fatboy

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A Death Valley Prospector’s Pack Mule: Erik’s Desert Sand Fatboy

On this expedition, we – Erik, Dylan and myself – were prospectors… For over a hundred years, Death Valley has had its minerals extracted by machine and mule. Not just for gold and silver, either. Prospectors scoured the mountains for antimony, copper, lead, zinc, and tungsten, packing out their load by mule. We are modern day Prospectors, however, we are not seeking riches, yet experiences, of which will be beaten into our soul by miles of washboarded and rocky roads. Our mules are our bicycles and we’ll take only photos, leaving no trace, taking nothing from this land. It’s given enough over the decades and its scars are still visible on the surface.

Last Friday we embarked on a 100 mile journey through Death Valley National Park. The route was familiar to Erik, who attempted it years ago, but in reverse, with a band of other explorers, who fell victim to this great desert. Returning this round, Erik had a new found respect for this land, as well as much-needed reconnaissance by yours truly. My report: we should ride the biggest tires we have access to. This would soften the blow from the rugged roads and allow us to move with elegance through deep sand.

On top of that, literally, would be our provisions for four day’s worth of riding in the High Desert. This meant we’d need lots of water, lots of food, and warm apparel, on top of the standard backcountry emergency items. Packing all this in on a bike that’s destined to climb well over 10,000′ in its journey is no easy matter, yet the three of us took our own unique approach to outfitting our Pack Mules.

Three Mule Team: Bikepacking in Northern Death Valley – A Prospector’s Tale

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Three Mule Team: Bikepacking in Northern Death Valley – A Prospector’s Tale

We are three prospectors and this is our creed:

For over a hundred years, Death Valley has had its minerals extracted by machine and mule. Not just for gold and silver, either. Prospectors scoured the mountains for borax, antimony, copper, lead, zinc, and tungsten, packing out their load by mule. We are modern day Prospectors, however, we are not seeking riches, yet experiences, of which will be beaten into our soul by miles of washboarded and rocky roads. Our mules are our bicycles and we’ll take only photos, leaving no trace, taking nothing from this land. It’s given enough over the decades and its scars are still visible on the surface.

There’s no death in this valley, but life, at a micro scale, so nuanced that without the pace of the bicycle, might be passed over, unnoticed.

Bikepacking the Huascarán Circuit – Ryan Wilson

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Bikepacking the Huascarán Circuit – Ryan Wilson

Bikepacking the Huascarán Circuit
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

Last time I was in Peru, the main focus of the trip was centered around circling the highest mountain in the country, Nevado Huascarán. The route has that perfect combination of spectacular scenery, challenge, and culture, so I knew I’d have a hard time resisting going for it again on my way south this time. The fact that the forecast called for clear skies the whole time sealed the deal. Last time I was here, the mountains were engulfed in rain clouds virtually the entire time, so I never really got to see many of the massive glacial peaks that dominate the route.

What Almost Was: the Mystic Alluvium 27.5+ Hardtail MTB

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What Almost Was: the Mystic Alluvium 27.5+ Hardtail MTB

Over the years, I’ve had the honor to throw my leg over many bikes, try them out, write a review, and then send them back. While the bikes return to their companies, the experience stays with me, and in the time I’ve been running this website, I’ve developed my own belief for what the perfect geometry for a hardtail mountain bike is. About a year ago, I began talking with Adam Sklar and Colin Frazer, who were about to launch a new production, US-made frame company called Mystic. We wanted to test the waters with a Radavist edition frame, dubbed the Alluvium. After chatting about numbers and branding, we felt like we were getting closer to releasing this frame. Then the reality of such an undertaking took hold and we killed the project.

Salsa Cycles: Titanium Fargo Frameset

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Salsa Cycles: Titanium Fargo Frameset

Out of the blue, Salsa Cycles announced the arrival of the new and improved titanium Fargo, with a Firestarter 110 fork. These frames are veritable do-it-all pack mules, offering a variety of cargo solutions for just about any excursion you could throw at it. See more details at Salsa.

A Solo MTB Outing on Papoose Flat in the Inyo National Forest

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A Solo MTB Outing on Papoose Flat in the Inyo National Forest

Inyo County. Home to the lowest and highest point in the contiguous United States. Home to Death Valley, the White Mountains and parts of the Eastern Sierra. When I think about Inyo County, I think of a certain sense of exploration, of all-day, or week-long excursions into the unknown. I think of the very thing that motivates myself and many others to drop everything, pack up the truck, and just go.

This sense of exploration has fueled so much of the content of this website over the years and when I look at just last year’s best stories, most came from Inyo County. From our Triple Header out of Lone Pine to the Prospector’s Pack Mule bikepacking trip, and countless other stories from the region, this beautiful place has inspired me, and others, hopefully, to take full advantage of our beautiful public lands.

All this goes without saying, but there is an obvious underlying message in much of this content; be smart, be safe, and be kind, to the animals, the land, and other humans.

Nick Was High in LA on His Purple Haze 160mm Sklar Hardtail

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Nick Was High in LA on His Purple Haze 160mm Sklar Hardtail

Nick Was High in LA on His Purple Haze 160mm Sklar Hardtail
Photos by Kyle Kelley, words by Nicholas Haig-Arack

I first met Adam Sklar a few years ago while riding bikes with a bunch of frame builder friends in Santa Cruz. I was impressed by the character of Sklar’s bikes – those flattened swoops are pretty sweet, can’t deny it – but it was Adam’s personality and lighthearted approach to riding that made me really appreciate his brand. Our paths crossed again in Moab for the most fun week ever and I was convinced that I wanted a bike from Adam. Fast-forward a few months and imagine my stoke when he asked me to do drawings for Sklar Bikes! Since then we’ve been cultivating a cross-country creative partnership, one that emphasizes creativity, exploration, and good times.

Cycling Through History in Death Valley National Park

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Cycling Through History in Death Valley National Park

The neon hub of the American West is Las Vegas. An oasis for many, plopped just outside the California / Nevada border, in an otherwise inhospitable zone if it weren’t for the constant intravenous drip of water and tourism capital.

As Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi outlined in their manifesto, Learning from Las Vegas, the “ugly and ordinary architecture, or the decorated shed,” epitomizes man’s ruin. My interpretation of this architectural masterpiece is man’s inability to create anything that competes visually with the natural world, just beyond the boundaries of this neon wasteland. This is not a cynical view of development, or architecture in general, rather a point of departure for this particular trip.

“The human argument for setting aside vast stretches of the American desert as parks and preserves and wilderness and plain open space always includes the importance of unspoiled vistas. As the only real difference between Las Vegas and Death Valley is that we made a strategic decision to fill one with casino hotels and insurance company headquarters and neighborhoods while leaving the other more or less intact for the mutual benefit of humanity and the plants and creatures and ecosystems in such a mostly wild place.” Ken Layne, Desert Oracle, #016.

Death Valley prides itself on being the Hottest, Driest, and Lowest National Park. It, along with the deserts of Africa and the Middle East, is one of the hottest places on Earth, with temperatures exceeding 120ºF frequently during the summer months. In fact, the highest temperature ever recorded was 134ºF (56.7ºC) on July 10, 1913, at Furnace Creek. As its name implies, Death Valley is indeed made up of a series of basins, bordered by mountain ranges, of varying geologic characteristics. From the striped strata of the Last Chance Range, to the colorful, mineral-rich Funeral Mountains and the alien-like, almost science fiction-native, Amargosa Range.

REload Bags: MOLLE Collection

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REload Bags: MOLLE Collection

When I received my ILE Mark II prototype, I was stoked to see Eric using the military-designed MOLLE system. MOLLE is an acronym for MOdular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment and it looks like Eric isn’t the only cycling bag maker to re-appropriate it for his portage line. Roland at REload has a forthcoming MOLLE Collection in the works. Soon you’ll be able to purchase any of the REload bags with a completely integrated MOLLE system. What does that mean though?

Check out more below.

In Stock Now: The Radavist Road and Mountain Horizon Jerseys

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In Stock Now: The Radavist Road and Mountain Horizon Jerseys

Horizon is our fall/winter jersey line, inspired by the tonality of the deserts, forests, and plains. For this drop, we worked exclusively with Endo Customs who selected a quick-drying Italian fabric with built-in SPF and the uncanny ability to maintain vibrant colors after heavy use. We’re currently holding stock of a unisex MTB jersey, as well our exclusive design in women’s and men’s road jerseys. The mountain jersey is made from an ultralight Italian fabric, with long sleeves for cooler rides and built-in sun protection during the summer months. We’ve put these through hell over the past few months, dialing in the fit and testing their durability. For our road jerseys, we worked with Endo to design a two-fabric design, offering more flexibility and breathability in the side paneling, for a more comfortable on and off-the-bike fit.

The Horizon road features our Rune Amulet, Pack it In Pack it Out reminder, and Jackal on the jersey pockets, while the MTB jersey uses the RADAVIST Rune text across the tail.

The Horizon jerseys were designed by color enthusiast Cari Carmean and made here in Los Angeles by Endo Customs. For sizing reference, I’m 6’2″ and 190lbs wearing the size large.

When these sell out, we’ll be taking pre-orders for an early January 2020 delivery, so act fast if you want one this year! All jerseys are in stock now at our Web Shop.

Makin’ Moves with the Suunto Traverse GPS Watch

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Makin’ Moves with the Suunto Traverse GPS Watch

Wearable tech doesn’t have to be techy. Apple, Garmin, and many others make watches that can be linked to various ride tracking apps, yet I found myself drawn to the Suunto line, a lesser-known GPS watch brand. Part of my interest in Suunto was due to that they design and manufacture their watches in Finland, a country that seems to specialize in GPS watches and devices. For me, switching a computer from bike to bike, and managing the mounts for each, was too big of a pain in the ass. Convenience is king when your life revolves around riding, reviewing, and documenting bikes and bike rides. I’ve been making moves with the Suunto Traverse for three years now and truly believe these watches are worth their hefty price tag.

Into the Inyo Mountains: Disconnecting in Cerro Gordo

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Into the Inyo Mountains: Disconnecting in Cerro Gordo

Owens Valley, the Mojave, and Death Valley have been the backdrop for many stories here on the Radavist, but there is one region in particular that has interested me in regards to both the terrain and the history. The Inyo Mountains are ripe for adventure-seekers looking to get off the beaten path of Death Valley National Park or the Eastern Sierra. It can be a very isolating place: the roads are rough, rugged, with little to no cell reception or provisions. If you can, however, access this zone safely, you will be rewarded with unsurpassed views of the Eastern Sierra as the backdrop and colorful geological features abound.

I spend my free time exploring this region for routes that are suitable for travel by bicycle and to be honest, very few have proven to be fruitful in such endeavors. The area is plagued by roads so steep that even an equipped 4×4 can overheat, or miles upon miles of rock gardens, and sand traps. Not to mention the complete absence of water. To ride in this zone, you have to be prepared, both mentally and physically. It’s a region that challenged the native tribes as well as the prospectors who were driven by the desire to strike it rich. There’s a bigger tale here before we dive into our story, that needs to be told. One that hits close to home for us at the Radavist.

Enjoy the Weekend!

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Enjoy the Weekend!

Some people will think this image looks like hell, others heaven, and for them, this winter’s content here on the site has a high bar to reach after last year’s desert exploits. Regardless of the outcome, I’m looking forward to it! Out of curiosity, has anyone taken on this loop after seeing our post from December? Over the next few weeks, the temps will be dropping even more!

Anyway, ENJOY THE WEEKEND!

Get Deserted: A Photographic Essay of Shoulder Season Mojave Desert Exploration

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Get Deserted: A Photographic Essay of Shoulder Season Mojave Desert Exploration

Intent. In my design school education, we were taught that design without intent was vapid, lifeless, disposable, “junk space.” Yet, in the same breath, we were taught that intent should be interpreted without excessive explanation. That the work itself should stand on its own and most importantly, have meaning. Now, that’s design school and this is the real world. I look at college as highly concentrated cold brew coffee. Sure, you can drink it, but it’s going to wreak havoc on your day, or you can water it down a bit and enjoy the soft, edgeless buzz of caffeine. Not that I’m implying intent should be watered down, I’m just saying this is the real world and in a digital era, I’ve come to terms with the fact that people just want to look at pretty photos. Mostly…

Deserted’s definition means a place void of people and that’s good and all, but in this age, that’s almost impossible to achieve and in fact, many people don’t like solitude, instead, they organize caravans of their friends or like-minded individuals to explore with them. Spend enough time in the desert and you’re sure to see trains of 4×4 vehicles slowly careening through the landscape, HAM radios buzzing in the still air. There’s a lot to be said about the inherent safety of such a weekend trip. If someone gets stuck, or something breaks, it’s nice to have other people around to help. But the tedium of slow-moving exploration isn’t for everyone. In fact, having an agenda greatly alters the Lovecraftian intent of exploration; the unknown, the unplanned, and the inevitable “oh shit” moment. The latter keeps us feeling alive, as it strikes a balance between the “what if,” the “what it could have been,” and the denial of either potential outcome. Go explore, but be prepared for the inevitable.

Widefoot’s LiterCage Helps You Carry A Lotta Water

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Widefoot’s LiterCage Helps You Carry A Lotta Water

When you need all the water you can haul, products like the Widefoot LiterCage really come in handy. These steel bottle cages utilize the same mounting hole pattern as an “Anything” mount or traditional bottle cage boss spacing and are designed to carry larger bottles like Nalgene’s products in a unique 5-hole bolt pattern. Their sturdy construction (each cage weighs 168g) will hold a bottle in place inside the front triangle of your bike, while fork-mounted, or a third location like under your downtube greatly benefits from the use of a Voile ski strap, especially when using the 1.5 liter Nalgene bottles, especially when the going gets rough.

I’ve been using Nalgene bottles of various sizes with the LiterCage, mostly in the desert over the past few months, but have migrated this platform onto my bikes when bigger day rides require maximum water carrying capacity. For me, it’s nice having the bulk of the water weight as low as possible on the bike and off my back, where I usually carry my camera. Transferring the weight to under the downtube, or on the fork blades makes for a more stable riding experience.

The LiterCage is made in Nebraska, comes in two finishes; silver and black, and are in stock now at Widefoot Design, as well as select retailers. If you want your shop to carry Widefoot, ask them politely!

Trying out the Sycip JJJBars on my 44 Bikes Ute Tourer

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Trying out the Sycip JJJBars on my 44 Bikes Ute Tourer

Bicycles. They’re a work in progress, especially ones that are derivative of a particular activity which in itself is evolving. Take bikepacking and touring for example. It seems just about every month, a company makes a new product which therein makes the act of touring eaiser or at least more enjoyable. When I first began talks with Kris Henry of 44 Bikes for this rigid mountain tourer, which I’ve come to call my “Ute” – an Aussie term, short for a utility vehicle – I had a vision for what touring meant and means to me. Leaving pavement and accessing trail, both in double and single track variety, means a fully loaded bike needs to be stable, comfortable and still maneuverable. Since this bikes inception, I’ve been sold on the Jones Bar, mostly due to the amazing leverage, riding position and varying riding positions. The thing, however, that didn’t work so well for me was the very thing that makes the Jones so unique: the hoop design and lack of rise. Also, the Jones bar has proven to be problematic with bikepacking and touring bags, which was slightly evident on my Death Valley tour. That Fabio’s Chest wanted to sag a bit too much with that setup.

Check out more below.