Motivated by the renewed interest in American manufacturing following the COVID pandemic, Erik Mathy shares part one in a new series where he will document how American makers of fine bicycle parts make a single part from the very start to the finish. At each stage he will ask the person doing the work two questions and take two portraits: One of the part and one of the worker. In his own words, this is a project to “explore both the processes and the people who make some of the most interesting, purpose-driven and—in their own way beautiful—bicycle parts in the world.” Read on for his first installment with a visit to Paragon Machine Works and an in-depth look at how they are making their new SRAM Universal Derailleur Hangar dropout.
The Northern New Mexico Continental Divide Trail, or CDT for short, is a popular route for bicycle touring. Singletrack and overgrown double-track compose most of this true-to-form high-country route, where beautiful campsites and natural water sources abound. Yet, it can be a challenge to pick up the route’s thread season after season, as deadfall and weather-related changes obstruct wayfinding. John and a group of six friends recently rode the 93-mile section, and he documented the scenery with his 35mm rangefinder camera and a 35mm focal length lens.
Find the most current, mostly singletrack route of the Northern NM CDT below, along with route notes and a wonderful gallery that captures the vibe of this stunning section of bike-legal trail below.
As an ode to the artistry of vintage bikes and simple adventure, Eroica events present riders the opportunity to embrace personal challenge on world class routes. Nick McIntyre traveled to Cape Town to ride the Eroica South Africa on a Hansom Track frame where is 25c rubber and single speed setup certainly made for a memorable day…
Meet Your Maker is an ongoing series of rides hosted by the Northern California bike-making community and finally returned to Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa, CA this past May after a nearly eight-year hiatus. Always excited to document cycling culture, Erik Mathy loaded up his touring bike and headed to the event from his home in the Bay Area with his usual eclectic mix of handmade cameras and lenses in tow. Below, Erik shares reflections on a few aspects of the memorable weekend that resonated with him, in addition to a series of interviews, a gallery of uber-creative analog portraits, and scenes from the event.
We’re interrupting our regularly scheduled broadcasting to bring you this story from the World Tour side of our sport, because it’s just too damn inspiring not to! Erik Mathy had the fortuitous opportunity to witness this year’s Paris-Roubaix Femmes race where dark horse and EF Education-Tibco-SVB Team rider, Alison Jackson, took the top step on the podium after a five-up sprint in the velodrome. Erik shares before and after portraits and interviews with Alison and her teammates about her momentous result!
With my camera bag loaded with several boxes of 120 film and a brick of Ilford HP5, I pulled out of the driveway bound for Hartford, CT; I paused, wondering how I arrived at this moment. All of the little moves and influences resulted in me lugging two cameras with a combined age of some 75 years to shoot the season’s most crucial cyclocross race. There is a “Butterfly Effect” moment in our lives that leads us to our current state, and somewhere amongst the mud, dust, and thousands of shutter actuation is mine.
Created by Ernesto Pastor, the Montañas Vacias offers interested bike tourists route options ranging from 100 miles to 430 miles through the Spanish Lapland. Photographer Carlos Blanchard Nerin recently made a second voyage to the country’s southeastern region, remote in nature and characterized by countless miles of forest roads on a high plateau. In the photo essay below, he reflects on connecting to a place you thought you knew more deeply and sharing moments of beauty on the bike with friends.
Four hours into the drive from London to Girona, I began to question my life choices in having decided to drive rather than fly. Eight hours down the road—winding through the mountains with the cruise control set to 140kph with lunatic focus on the pool of tungsten light illuminating a patch of road ahead—I began to see its value. I needed this focus. High beam, dip beam, high beam, dip beam. The solo drive that started off listening to audiobook recommendations from Josh Weinberg had descended into a white knuckle ride against the clock to beat the dawn and shut myself in a dark hotel room to squeeze in a few hours of sleep before my first GiRodeo. It would be, in fact, everyone’s first GiRodeo. The inaugural edition of ENVE and The Service Course’s collaborative framebuilder roundup gravel extravaganza G-Rodeo, but in Girona. The GiRodeo.
Like many events and people in recent times, the Mission Crit came back to life this year after a bit of time off. Call it what you will, a vacation, perhaps. Regardless, for the first time in two years Mission Crit founder/race director James Grady dusted off the bullhorn, timing equipment, cones and barriers to run a race that is currently one of a kind. Since the unfortunate folding of Brooklyn’s Red Hook Criterium in 2019, the Mission Crit has remained as the sole surviving high profile fixed gear criterium race in existence.
Oversized white t-shirts flapping listlessly between a great white softbox Welsh sky and endless hordes of casual, sunbathing daisies. Jersey pockets bulging with hard boiled eggs and gummy bears. Hushed whispers of chain ring print, oil tattooed cyclists entering a bird hide and unzipping Leica binocular cases. Nature’s comfortable chatter pauses incrementally to listen to the doppler shifting cacophony of a freewheeling Hope RS4 flying down a caution signed gradient. The Fforest Gran Ffondo must be, objectively, the finest road cycling event around right now.
When I first started gathering the necessary gear to give bike touring (or “bikepacking” in the parlance of our times) a go, the concept struck me as an opportunity to escape from the predictable, mundane, “rinse-and-repeat” order of everyday life. An opportunity to embrace a new kind of freedom of aimless wandering through paths and tracks out in the near-endless natural landscape. After a couple of trips, though, I found the reality of touring isn’t the carefree meander I had envisioned. It can involve weeks or months of planning, trail markers, GPS tracks, resupply points… Which is not to say that escaping on a multi-day trip isn’t freeing, it is – very much so – but maybe not in the conventional sense of the word. I think author Robert Moor says it best in his written exploration of travel, On Trails:
“But complete freedom, it turned out, is not what the trail offers. Quite the opposite – a trail is a tactful reduction of options. The freedom of the trail is riverine, not oceanic. To put it as simply as possible, a path is a way of making sense of the world. There are infinite ways to cross a landscape; but the options are overwhelming, and pitfalls abound. The function of the path is to reduce this teeming chaos into an intelligible line.”
As a kid, I wanted to fly. Like Superman. The recurring dream never materialized but the fantasy took flight when I met the mountain bike. The history of the early mountain bike is often seen through the lens of a handful of guys who modified their old Schwinns back in the mid-1970s. However, as the lone woman participating in those early riding adventures, I snapped a few photographs along the way, capturing the age of innocence often associated with those seminal days. A small group of trailblazers, pioneering a new course of action riding these old relics, would soon change the future of cycling.
Mega drought. It’s no secret that the southwest US, with its ever-increasing population straining what little resources are available, has found itself in the midst of a great reckoning with a lack of consistent rainfall and snowpack which traditionally sustained its communities for thousands of years. As I began typing this, I could count on one hand the days which have had precipitation this spring, including a brief, but much-celebrated storm the prior afternoon. A combination of normal, historical shifts in climate, anthropogenic climate change, and a booming population have put an increased strain on our delicate ecosystems. This strain is evidenced by a longer, more intense fire season and a rapidly increasing aridification, once mostly evident at lower elevations and now climbing its way into Ponderosa stands; amongst many other examples.
You might recall seeing the half-frame bag from Vernacular Sewn Storage (VRNCLR) on the prototype Super Something gravel bike Adam Sklar had at Ruta del Jefe. VRNCLR is the Oakland, CA – based bag company of maker Tom Gilpatrick. Tom has been working in sew business for some time now, currently focusing on bags for bikes and also Go Fast Campers (GFC). Earlier this summer I was in the Bay Area with filmmaker Justin Balog and we had a slice of time before heading to the airport to catch flights home, so stopped in to visit with Tom and check out his space in the eclectic O2 Artisans Aggregate.
There’s this truly magical culture of bike touring in Europe. You can go town to town and point to point on B roads and double tracks, stopping in at the local pub for a cold beer and a place to lay your head. The same culture doesn’t exist in the same way in the US — towns are too far apart, lots of paved roads, busy traffic thanks to decades of car-centric infrastructure and culture, among other reasons.
But there’s a little-known exception to that rule — northern New England. I moved here from New York in early 2020, along with the rest of Brooklyn, and was instantly taken by what locals call Vermont pavé, or miles and miles of dirt roads and unmaintained town highways that dot the state. It didn’t take long before I was plotting long-distance routes and multi-day bikepacking trips that captured as many of these roads as possible and adding them to the bucket list.
Perhaps you remember Beau? That crazy fella who rode his bike from Boulder, Colorado to Mexico City in the middle of the summer that we profiled last year? Well, John reconnected with Beau after his tour and asked if he had any stories he’d like to share. Little did we know we’d get a tale like this… Also, Beau is doing another postcard project, so read on below for those details as well!
It’s been over a decade since I’d been to Emporia to help establish Unbound Gravel’s Crew For Hire program. The world is a great deal different now. Having spoken at length with Kristi Mohn about things like generational change I was curious to see what, if any, of those changes had taken place in not just Emporia but also in the Unbound Gravel event itself. There was also the tragic passing of Moriah Wilson, the induction of the first class of the Gravel Hall of Fame, and a variety of other things going on that really made this year’s Unbound Gravel more significant than most.
Every day that I spent in Emporia had its own moments that showed me something new and unexpected. There were signs of the massive changes the cycling community, industry, and Emporia itself are going through. I witnessed grief, loss, love, and more. Throughout everything, there was one common theme: People who were doing the best they could.
As much as I think I’ve changed through the years, my objectives are barely different from when I was 18. I nearly dropped out of my senior year of high school to play hardcore punk across North America, shoplifting and dirtbagging mostly through the West, sleeping wherever, and existing willfully at the boundaries of society (or in defiance of them). Reflecting, I sought an antidote to modernity. An alternative to working in the shipyard until my back gave out like the young men in my town were expected to do. I wanted to forfeit that life for something uncomplicated. Set up, play, tear down, eat, sleep, drive, repeat.