I was an architect in my previous life. Before I began documenting cycling culture. One of my favorite architectural theorists is a fella named Rem Koolhaas. In his book, Delirious New York, he claims that “A city is a plane of tarmac with some red hot spots of urban intensity”. While the book is an examination of New York City, many have applied this observation to the sprawling city of Los Angeles.
LA Tourist Race 1: Hope Y’all Come Back Now?
Photos and words by Kyle Kelley
The LA Tourist Race Series is a triptych of grassroots, self-supported mixed terrain rides/races in Los Angels using some of LA’s most iconic bike routes. Each race is pieced together using multiple rides throughout Los Angeles and the surrounding mountains that many Angelenos would never imagine doing on the same day. While there is a route provided for participants, in these races someone replicates the world’s wackiest ultramarathon, the Barkley Marathon! In the Barkley Marathon, if you complete 60 miles of the entire 100-mile course it’s called the “Fun Run”, this is what most people are able to do before the full retreat. There are checkpoints where books have been left, as racers arrive they rip their race number out of the book and are on their way to the next checkpoint. And if you were wondering, only even or odd numbers are given out for each particular race. The books are just random ones found at thrift stores, so it would be very difficult to cheat. There is no right or wrong way to complete this race, if you know of a six-mile hike-a-bike that cuts off 15 miles, take it! The Barkley Marathons are extremely challenging, they usually require bushwacking and many other obstacles not usually associated with a running race. So the LA Tourist Race series has translated many of these ideas to modern day gravel or adventure racing.
The Verdugos are a staple of my weekly riding routine. With access points from every cardinal direction, your route up is often times determined by how much spunk you’ve got in your legs. There’s something for everyone including mountain bikers, dirt jumpers, roadies, dirt road riders, and a ragtag group of ex and current skaters, as evident in today’s story.
Every Friday morning, the guys at Golden Saddle organize a TGSCIF ride, leaving from Intelligentsia on Sunset Avenue and pedaling from Silver Lake to any number of road, dirt, and singletrack rides. Oftentimes, these 2-3 hour group rides venture into the surrounding hills, never really leaving the neighborhood, yet sometimes I rally to do a ride in the Verdugo Mountains. It just so happens that this week, we got to bring a lot of people up to this magical place for the first time.
We had a rippin’ TGSCIF ride today, which we’ll tell you all about tomorrow. For now, I hope this gets you amped up for the weekend!
Themes are very prevalent in a photographer’s work, whether intentional or not. My personal approach could be summed up in a number of ways, although I try to go into each situation with perspective. Whether or not that perspective is something I’m either re-visiting or looking to hone depends on a number of parameters. The moments in which I’m most comfortable experimenting are the ones that are most familiar to me and where the experimentation occurs usually falls into any number of challenging parameters.
Over the past week, nature flipped a switch. Suddenly, like migrating birds, the 100º weather had flown to the southern hemisphere, leaving behind clouds, cooler temperatures and even traces of precipitation. Basically, the perfect ingredients for successful dirt bike rides. All summer, I’d stuck to shorter, partially shaded rides, or banked on getting in my mileage before the heat of the day and now I felt comfortable taking off up my favorite dirt climbs.
Over the years, Mission Workshop has made a handful of staples in my cycling apparel wardrobe and without a doubt, the Merino Core collection has been a game changer. I wear the long sleeve merino Perimeter shirts every time I hit the dirt and oftentimes, I’ll continue wearing them all day after the ride. They’re my camping staples, my touring staples and I’ll throw one in my camera bag if I’m going to be out after the sun sets. These shirts are durable, moth-hole resistant due to the nylon weave and best of all, look damn good in a plethora of earth tones. Head to Mission to see the full Merino Core lineup and if you’re in LA or SF, you can swing through one of their storefronts.
Los Angeles is no stranger when it comes to wildfires, even in the short time I’ve lived here and while most of the fires over the years have been in the San Gabriel mountains, I never expected to have a fire ravage my favorite place to ride, the Verdugo Mountains. You’ve probably heard of these mountains before, we post a lot of photos here on the site from their peaks, fireroads and singletrack. To give you some perspective, the dirt roads are 7 miles from my front door, with the first saddle being exactly 10 miles. The peak, at least on the road, tops out at 3,100′ and it’s a long, steep way up, with climbs averaging between 10 and 18%.
Weekends this time of year require special planning. As the temperatures rise, the National and local parks will be littered with people, making escapism difficult and privacy impossible. Luckily for us in Southern California, there are enough spots within a couple hours, both by bike and by car, where you can partake in a little R&R, without being overly crowded.
After slicing a 6-month old WTB Nano wide open on a sharp rock during a ride last week, I swapped my tires back over to the Bruce Gordon Rock N Roads. Once I got them set up tubeless, I was immediately reminded how much I love these damn beautiful tires but as we all know, looks aren’t everything.
A 43mm tire with a decent amount of tread can’t fit in most frames, but I had my Firefly designed to specifically accommodate the Rock N Roads. After a few inner-city dirt rides, with a few photos, I felt compelled to share some thoughts…
Every Wednesday morning brings about the Los Angeles River Camp Coffee meet-up and this week, I was finally in town so my morning began there, around 7:30am. After dining on one of Nils’ delicious tacos (yes, he brought that stove on his cargo bike…) I headed out for a ride with Nick from Golden Saddle.
It was a pretty loosely planned morning with the Verdugos on our agenda. The problem with the Verdugos is, they’re so big that you can spend all day going up and down the fireroads and singletrack. Which is exactly what we did.
I didn’t think this was enough for a whole gallery, but I really wanted to share a few of these, so enjoy!
If you can’t tell, life has been complicated over here. All last week, I was packing up my belongings, selling or giving away the excess and planning for the final move from Austin to Los Angeles. Both the emotional and physical baggage I left Austin with is now in LA, still boxed up awaiting to be opened and placed in their home.
It’s been a busy, stressful, overwhelming few days and as a cyclist, that means I can only relax by pedaling my bike, preferably with friends and on some dirt. Luckily, there’s a lot of both in my new city.
We’ve seen photos from these trails before. Cherry Canyon is like a mini-Verdugos. It’s what can be best described as a cross-country park with fireroads going up the hills and singletrack offshoots bombing down. You pedal up for about 10 minutes and rip down for 5. When you realize that a trail system is a little boring on a mountain bike, you take out your cyclocross bike and try to go as fast as possible down… If you’re still losing interest, do so at night.
I’ve been using the Bontrager Ion700t lights for trail riding, paired with the Bluetooth switch. One on the bars and one on the helmet. 700 lumens has proven to be more than enough to illuminate the trails in a city like LA, with its excessive light pollution. Expect a more thorough review soon.
Last night, Cherry Canyon provided a great sunset and a perfect way to reduce the overpowering and crippling stress of a move. Things will pick up full speed next week… thanks for your patience.
Going Just Because: Three Months of the Sierra Nevada
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson
Every year fall rolls around and the itch hits me. I know the days of many of the high mountain passes throughout California’s Sierra Nevada mountains are numbered. If we’re lucky they’d be buried in feet of snow for almost half of the year. It turned out this year was yet another unlucky one, but still I feel that push to go and explore the roads in my favorite mountain range while I know I can…
This year was a whirlwind. I think I traveled somewhere around 220 days, jumping the pond a few times and yes, spending lots of time in California. But what was the pinnacle of the year was the rebrand from PiNP to the Radavist. The pinnacle because it meant more contributors, more photos and ultimately, more, good content.
Without the contributors to this site, it wouldn’t have been such a successful year. Those guys really killed it.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start from Day 01…
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?