The idea for a WTF Bikexplorers Gravel Program sprouted in 2019 as I spun back into the gravel race scene. I saw the same deficit in diversity that bike-touring had (and still has) when five friends and I decided to organize the first WTF Bikexplorers Summit in 2018. Despite gravel racing as a rapidly growing sport within cycling, it is still very grassroots. It is not controlled by the UCI – yet – or any other sanctioning bodies and therefore it has the opportunity to mold and change to be the way we want it to be.
Author’s Note: This article was originally written almost 4 years ago, but was shelved after thinking I had lost a majority of the photos to a failed drive. After I managed to find many of the lost photos on an old SD card, I figured it was still worth sharing the last trip that inspired me to quit my job and travel the world by bike…
Up since the break of dawn, all day we’d been rolling on washboard roads. Yet it was hard to complain. We’d just spent a few days hiking around Ikara/Flinders Ranges National Park and it felt good to be headin’ north again. As the sun dropped toward the horizon I stopped for a bit of a feed. Dan rolled up beside me and we began to look for somewhere to camp. It was dead flat aside from the occasional patch of scrub. You could’ve pitched in anywhere but for some reason, it still felt good to choose a spot. It was then, with bikes stationary and no wind to speak of, that we were struck by the immense silence of our surroundings. This was our first proper encounter with the vastness of the Australian desert. The endless horizon. We had made it to the edge of the outback, and thousands of kilometers of dusty track lay in wait.
I know this is a cycling site but over the years, we’ve covered so many events where car camping is a theme and have spent many a weekend in the wilds of the Southwest with MTBs in tow. I get a lot of questions about our setup, so I’m tackling a big part of it with this article. If you don’t like cars and think they have no place on a cycling website, no worries, you don’t have to read this…
For the past few years – since moving to California – I’ve traded the jet-set life for road trips. I used to fly two or three times a month out of Austin, Texas, all over the world. These days, I like to make longer, meandering road trips out of assignments, or events and spend the summer months almost exclusively living out of our truck, sleeping in the Go Fast Camper Roof Top Tent.
Not wanting to limit our traveling experience, we’ve tried a number of sleeping arrangements in the Cruiser, but the Go Fast Camper has really been the best overall. These rooftop tents are the best on the market and while it comes at a hefty pricetag, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Read on below for our in-depth look at these unique campers.
The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship knows how to throw races. There’s a reason we cover each and every one, year after year! The proof is in the puddin’. Every year, 1000+ racers show up for Lost & Found, even more for the Downieville Classic and with Grinduro leaving Quincy, the SBTS decided to up the ante and continue throwing a weekend event of racing and partying, dubbed Mountains to Meadows. The location is too good to not pick up where Grinduro left off. Mark your calendars for September 24-27, 2020 and read on below.
Riding through a landscape gives you a deeper appreciation for that place. It’s sensory. You breathe the air and you feel the sun and the wind and the weather. You muscle over the hills and your tires surf through the sand and over the rocks. You learn why roads exist and where they lead and who lives among them and what grows there. Sometimes you meet the people and the animals. Sometimes you share the space with fellow travelers and sometimes you ride alone. The farther you pedal, the more your mind becomes part of that space– the space between your body and your bike and the earth. Your mind is in the sky and the tall golden grass. When your body and mind relinquish control over expectations and judgments and find connection to your surroundings, you enter the spirit world, a place of truth and acceptance.
The cold. Oh, the cold. Never before had I experienced 10º temperatures at night and 70º during the day. There I lay, in chrysalis, asleep in my bivy thinking to myself, “this is miserable.” That was two years ago, at the foot of the second tallest sand dunes in North America, nestled between the Last Chance and Amargosa Mountains in Death Valley National Park. Needless to say, it took a while for me to want to tour this unforgiving place again. There’s something transformative about touring in the Mojave Desert. The dryness, the elevation, the sand, the silt, the wind, the washboard roads; insurmountable obstacles really bring out the truest human condition, that Lovecraftian urge to get out and test one’s limits. Push it a little bit further and come out the other side. Had I known that this love for the deserted, the dusted, and that grandiose dolomite was merely biding its time as I shivered uncontrollably in my bivy sack two years ago, I might not have been so absolute in my cynicism. It was time for emergence.
Nevada City is located in the western Sierra foothills in California. If you were to drive from San Francisco to the sleepy little mountain bike destination town of Downieville, chances are you’d roll right through Nevada City. It’s this gateway location that prompted Jay Barre to open a new bike shop, named You Bet.
I was always insecure about the fact that I was “uneducated” before I entered academia. Growing up in a trailer park and as the first person in my family to have ever attended a university, I was certain that I was something less than my entire life. The apple never falls far from the tree. And in attending University, I’ve learned that everything I was taught whilst growing up was lessons in obedience. I, an Anishinaabe woman, celebrated the Pilgrims at Thanksgiving time and Columbus on Columbus day. I always thought that I wasn’t Indian enough because I didn’t grow up on my reservation, I didn’t know my tribal language, and I didn’t look Indian. Tell me, what does an Indian look like? How could I trust a system that denied the lived history of my ancestors?
The redwoods hit me with that kind of awe those quixotic transcendentalists describe as, well, awe. It was like this – the trance state incurred by the tree-lined road was jostled by the excitement of entering an amalgam of friends, acquaintances, and randos held together by the common love for the physical-meets-mental journey of a bike race.
The following trip report is also available on Amazon Kindle, for ease of bookmarking…
Day 1: Wienerwald or bust!
JEN: Good decisions can be made on a whim. That’s how I found myself on this spontaneous bike trip in Europe. It all started in Vienna, Austria. My friend Bun Daniel, also from Los Angeles, was there, visiting and working with BBUC (short for Brilli Brilliant Unicorn Club), and had offered for me to stay with him. I had plans to go to Spain 3 weeks later but the space in between was yet to be determined. That space in-between turned out to be a great adventure. My bike partner in crime and fellow California Girl, Erin Lamb, flew out from Santa Barbara to meet me. We had one mission – to satisfy our appetites for some asphalt spaghetti draped on the Alps.
[WARNING – please read with enunciations of the Queen’s English spoken with a harsh American accent leached with dry monotone and finished with a slight southern drawl.]
[NOTE – All persons are mixed and mashed conglomerations of friends masked by pseudonyms as to respect their identities.]
[FICTION –It actually may be close enough to nonfiction. Every tale is drenched with truth, maybe not all the truths belong to me, I might not even be the eyes telling this tale.]
With another eight to nine-hour drive ahead of me, this time solo because the polluting toots of my automobile fill me with joy—just kidding, hell, felt like an asshole—I had to figure out a way to fuck with my perception of time in order to maintain some level of sanity. Although being a fellow cyclist, y’all get that the bar is set real low when it comes to sanity. So, to risk sounding like a surface-wannabe-cultured-erudite, I tried hooking myself onto classical music with this grandiose nisus of increasing my attention span. Hear me out: not only would being able to melt into a forty-five-minute score enable me to complete long intervals with ease but enduring an entire classical score would help me get through the long drives to get to the long and arduous races those said and absolutely supposed intervals would prepare one for. Leave it all on the trail and go baroque.
Long before July’s sweltering heat, we were enjoying the pleasant month of March. I had been sitting on my porch sipping coffee when my friend Todd texted me, “I’m going to email you about the thing, so look out.” We’ve collaborated on many wild ideas, and Todd’s been a good friend for over a decade. I usually perk up when he reaches out about “things” because he’s a great adventure planner, so I kept a close eye on the inbox. Lucky for me, it was an email saying that all the plans were coming together for an idea we had been tossing around for quite a while; a multi-day bike camping trip to uncover the inspiration for the Coal x Swift collaboration project with artist and illustrator, Chris McNally in the Marin Headlands of California.
May 22nd Phounkhoun outskirts 01435 am
The jungle can be the darkest place on Earth,
at night with just a moonbeam through thick clouds,
vaguely dislocating from the smoke of the melting tarmac,
the broken road,
it doesnʼt break this man,
the sounds came up a little more,
screams and songs from the sleepless jungle,
the law of Laos…
Grinduro Frame Builder Event Format
The Bicycle Academy (TBA) put the Grinduro Scotland frame builder competition format together 3 years ago as a way of creating a platform for frame builders to showcase what they do. It’s an opportunity for builders to work to a tight brief, but at the same time to be playful and creative with bike design. They get to make their own idea of a perfect bike, to keep for themselves, something that doesn’t happen as often as you might think.
The distribution of federal public lands across the United States.
The vast expanses of America’s public lands, set aside to serve the national interest, have a complex and unlikely history that spans more than two centuries.
In the United States, federally-owned public lands form the tapestry upon which so many recreationists depend, as do agricultural, extractive, tourism, and hunting industries that support local economies. Beyond that, these lands have unquantifiable cultural, scientific, ecological, and scenic values. As cyclists, public lands offer literally endless miles of trails, 4×4 tracks, and gravel roads that can carry us off the pavement, away from crowds, and into landscapes as quiet and remote as we may desire. The United States is globally unique with respect to the vast tracts of lands still remaining in the public domain, lands that are managed for a broad array of uses by various agencies and beneath a dizzying array of special designations and associated acronyms. However, political efforts to eliminate some or all of these public lands serve to highlight how we as recreationists cannot take these lands for granted.
Introduction: We pinged Erin Lamb to write about her experience at this year’s Lost & Found with John’s experience told through the gallery captions. We’re trying new models for event Reportage, so please let us know what you think in the comments! Enjoy!
I lost my wallet a couple of weeks ago, and I’m not searching to find Jesus. I’m pretty sure the wallet fell out of my purse in a parking lot when I pulled some shit out to throw into the back seat. And, the Jesus thing, just not interested. If you’re looking for a feel-good story about stumbling upon the light, then maybe this isn’t for you. This is more of a coming-of-age gravel riding tale dispatched straight from a middle of the pack 65-miler on the Sierra Buttes’ Lost & Found.
One Arm Bandit: Little Wings, Big Things
Photos and words by Ryan Le Garrec
François is what you would call in French a “fonceur”.
Literally, the word means “fast guy” but it’s more of an expression.
It evokes enthusiasm, determination, well, a lot of will and positivity,
and I couldn’t think of a better way to define this guy.
He won’t take no for an answer. From anyone. He is driven.
At the beginning, he was the first messenger working for Hush Rush, that another François created. He soon took the project by himself and managed to develop it into a real company.