After 2+ years worth of miles on Tailfin’s 10L mini panniers, Ryan Wilson has been putting their new 16L Mini Panniers to the test while out in the Chilean Desert. Utilizing the same attachment system as the rest of Tailfin’s range of panniers, the new 16L version brings added versatility for commuters and long-distance tourers alike. Let’s check it out below.
After extensive touring through Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, the only remaining “missing link” in Ryan Wilson‘s Andean traverse was Ecuador. Last year, he met up with fellow cyclo-tourist Joe Sasada to share miles on the dirt-road variation of the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route, an 850-mile mountainous traverse through the country’s volcanic corridor. Read on for Ryan’s introduction to Ecuador…
When Ryan Wilson made his first trip to Colombia in 2022, there was one region of the country that was high on his list to ride, but after getting distracted by the abundant opportunities for exploration, he somehow found his visa days dwindling. Naturally, when he was able to return for a lengthier trip the following year, heading to Boyacá—birthplace of Colombian road cycling legends like Nairo Quintana—was a top priority…
Over the years I’ve slowly tinkered with my touring setup to really nail down which pieces of kit work best for the type of riding I do and where I’m heading next. I’m always looking for new products that are versatile in terms of the climate and terrain they can be used on, and most importantly I want them to last, as this stuff can be difficult to replace while on the road. Most of the items on this list are things I’ve started to use over the last year or two, but there are also a couple of items that have been a staple of my setup for the last 7 years.
Ryan Wilson has been putting the new Tailfin Fork Pack system to the test while out in Peru. Utilizing the same attachment design as the Tailfin’s Mini Panniers system, the Fork Pack has proven to be quite the ally for long-distance, self-supported touring. Let’s check it out below.
With warning signs that sandal season has officially closed in Mongolia, Ryan Wilson high-tails it through a 600-kilometer leg of riding to reach his last stop of the journey. But while much of this trip has found him wondering at the vastness of the steppe, this closing section shows a different side of the country. Read on for Ryan’s final (for now) account of riding in Mongolia…
After getting acquainted with Mongolia during a big loop through the Altai Mountains to start his trip, Ryan Wilson was intent on riding as far east as he could, with the ultimate goal of reaching the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. A 550-kilometer track from Brigitte & Ivo over at bikepackground.com looked like a promising guide. After enjoying the luxuries of Khovd for a few days, Ryan set off into the arid expanse toward the Zavkhan province, retracing their steps through the land that connects the Gobi Desert with the Khangai Mountains.
After finishing the route up from Bulgan, I arrived in the largest city I’d come across in the entire trip outside of Ulaanbaatar. Yet, with a shade under 30,000 inhabitants, it’s not exactly a metropolis. Still, after so many days out in the middle of nowhere, it was nice to have a hot shower and a couple of restaurants to choose from. A serious upgrade from settling for boiling instant noodles in a hotel’s electric kettle in some of the smaller villages.
I intended to come here to visit the military guard post, which is responsible for issuing permits to reach the Altai Tavan-Bogd region at the border with China. In the past, one was allowed to simply use their satellite tracker as a means to be allowed entry or higher a guide on a horse right at the park entrance to obtain a permit, but since Covid, they changed the rules up and tourists could no longer go to the region without a local jeep tour guide straight from the city of Ölgii.
Being tailed by a jeep for a week in the countryside isn’t exactly my idea of a great time, so I started looking for alternatives to fill that gap in my route. A quick glance over some satellite maps showed a small cluster of snowy peaks that were only about 50km away as the crow flies, and there was a little white-checkered line crossing them on the map, so this seemed like a nice plan B, no chaperon required.
This is a continuation of Ryan Wilson’s Altai Traverse Reportage. Read part one here: The Altai Traverse: Finding Tracks in the Mongolian Countryside
In a remote corner of the Mongolian Altai, about 40 kilometers from the border with China, I set off toward a desolate valley from the small, windswept, and dusty village of Bulgan. My next resupply point, about 125km down the road, was, confusingly, another town named Bulgan. I never quite got the hang of the Mongolian naming schemes in my time there, as it was quite common to find a handful of towns and villages across the country with identical names on any given map, and sometimes each town had two or three names they might be referred to by depending on which map you’re looking it, which sometimes makes it tricky getting reliable information.
It was back in 2020, during my first bike tour through southern Turkey, that I first became aware of Soulrider Frameworks via Instagram. Based in the heart of Istanbul, just a stone’s throw from the Bosphorus Strait that separates Europe and Asia, Yasin Bingöl runs a one-man show, building custom bikes from the first design ideas to the final build and everything in between.
Traveling to Mongolia has been a dream for Ryan Wilson since he first got into bike touring. Vast open spaces dotted with interesting geographical features, dirt tracks as far as the eye can see, and a history and culture that runs incredibly deep all contribute to making this east Asian country a dynamic experience. Sandwiched between Russia and China though, Mongolia can be tricky to access and, as a result, it often seemed to get pushed down the list of places for Ryan to visit, but when he finally had a chance to spend a summer there, he jumped on it…
It’s always great to get a chance to cross paths with internet acquaintances on the road and there are very few places like the Boyacá region of Colombia that enable that, thanks to Dean and Dang’s classic “Oh Boyacá!” route. I was heading north along the track while most are aimed southbound, which found me crossing with long and short-distance tourers on a daily basis while grinding up these infamous Colombian mountain passes. I spent some miles with two UK riders and, of course, we talked gear. Read on for a recap of our overnighter around the El Cocuy National Park and a closer look at Joe’s Mason Cycles RAW Andean Tourer.
I don’t get new bikes very often these days. I’m pretty much a one-bike kinda guy. So, when the one complete bike I had in my possession (a Tumbleweed Prospector) got stranded in Nepal for an indefinite amount of time in March of 2020, I hit up Sean over at The Cub House to see what kind of bike I could get my hands on at the very beginning of the pandemic bike boom.
I was looking for something versatile enough that would be fun for day rides on dirt roads, multi-use paths, and some singe-track. I was leaning toward a steel frame and wanted it to fit a healthy-sized 27.5” tire along with having all of the necessary accoutrements to mount up racks and bags just in case the need would arise. A SRAM 1x setup would be a nice bonus since I had some spare parts lying around. But most importantly, I wanted something that wouldn’t obliterate my bank account. After all, I didn’t know if I’d be back to my trusty T’weed in a matter of months.
When looking at all of the options, the Surly Bridge Club seemed to tick more of those boxes than any other, and it turned out that I could get my grubby mitts on a size XL, so I went for it. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I’d end up spending more than two years riding and touring on the BC in Michigan, Turkey, Peru, and Colombia. It was never meant to be my full-time touring rig, but it just happened that way.
It isn’t often that I have a chance to stop by a custom frame-building shop in places where I typically like to tour, but upon arriving in Colombia, it was clear that cycling culture in this country is on another level. During weekends in Bogotá, it was not uncommon to see large herds of spandex-clad riders hanging out at coffee shops with fancy gravel bikes or amongst a sea of other riders, dancing on the pedals up to “Patios”, the local roadie hotspot.
Walk into a random bakery in any town throughout the country and it would be no shock to see some obscure (to me) bike race on TV, with a group of abuelas keenly following the action as they enjoy an almojabana and hot chocolate. Catch yourself cruising down one of the many cycle paths in Bogotá and you might just get dropped by a dude in jeans with a backpack heading to work. When it comes to cycling, Colombians are built differently. Read on for a behind the scenes look at my visit to the Colombian builder Scarab Cycles.
Building on the “V-mount” system used in their downtube bike bags, Tailfin introduces their new Top Tube Pack in an array of sizes. Available in a traditional zippered or a “flip lid” design, Ryan Wilson reviews both versions while weighing their respective pros and cons.
Looking for a touring route in South America? Ryan Wilson‘s your guy. How about Central Asia? Yep, he’s been there too. If you’re stewing on a trip, or just looking for a little visual inspiration, check out this greatest hits round up from Ryan’s travels featuring his eight favorite bike touring routes around the world.
Living off the bike brings a new level of attunement to product testing and during his tenure as a bikepacking nomad these past few years, Ryan Wilson has certainly vetted a lot of gear. Today he reviews Tailfin‘s Aeropack and Mini Panniers.
Not everything goes how you imagine it will when you set out on a trip across the world. In my experience, the majority of the time it doesn’t. It was around three years ago, in February 2020, I was packing up some things in Kathmandu to hit the pause button on endlessly riding and head home for a couple of months to visit family after a long series of tours through southern Patagonia and Asia. I’d booked a round trip flight and left my trusty Tumbleweed Prospector behind in Nepal, with my plans set to return to the Himalayas in April of 2020 to make a route through India and the rugged peaks of Pakistan… But, as we all know, plans changed.
A couple of years later, as Nepal began loosening up its restrictions on tourism, I started eyeing my return to the Himalayas, to finally retrieve my bike and follow through with the riding plans I’d set into motion years before…