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.
Whenever I stop riding for a while because of work, or life, or hurting myself (usually while sleeping, etc, etc), I obsess over these big rides that I am going to do once back on the bike. Like many of you, I can easily spend hours looking at maps trying to piece together the “perfect” route. But cycling, like most fitness-based activities, can be fickle. It doesn’t care that you used to do it a lot.
That certainly doesn’t stop a brain like mine from dreaming. So when I saw my 43rd birthday on the calendar, a group text started with some friends. In the past, we’d done some really ambitious rides for my special day, like the ‘Clouds to Cacti’ ride, for example, featured here a few years back.
It has been a little over a year since we relocated Chumba Bikes to our new, bigger, and brighter shop space in South Austin. We have yet to host an open house here due to COVID and trying to keep our staff as safe as possible. I approached Vince about doing a 35mm photography project to share our new shop space along with the hands that have moved Chumba forward. To showcase our new shop I shot a month’s worth of photos and compiled this gallery. I’m excited to give you a peep into our world at Chumba!
Jorge’s high-pitched voice turned serious, still a few octaves higher than you’d expect: “You must have a plan. In life, in travel, in everything! Always, have a plan and always stick to the plan.” My brother, Quinn, and I looked at each other… “Wellll ya, we kind of have a plan.” We continued to bump along the dark streets toward the center of Guatemala City, looking at the empty streets go by through the window. I think we were both starting to wonder if maybe our “plan” was a bad one. Each city zone we passed through Jorge told us to be careful, explaining the dangers of Guatemala City, and warning us to be home before dark. “Two gringos locos, people know,” said Jorge, not so subtly alluding to the fact we stuck out like sore thumbs.
When we arrived at our Airbnb Jorge jumped out of the car and rang the bell of the security door. The guard buzzed him in, and we followed. The guard was young. On his desk, there was a revolver that looked as big as his hand. I wondered if he’d ever even shot it. In some ways, I hoped that he hadn’t. It was around 11:00 pm and, after a day of travel, we could feel the day catching up to us. We thanked Jorge for the ride and turned into the elevator. A few beers on the small terraces sounded good to both of us, but listening to Jorge’s persistent advice against going out past dark we decided to skip the nightcaps and go to bed. The next day we woke up to the streets below our rooms busier than the night before and the memory of Jorge’s warnings faded a bit. With no food in the house, we planned to walk to the market for some groceries and then decided we’d start to track down the key to our trip – bikes.
Not Chaotic, But Like Jazz
“We are all building on what Dario left us.”
On August 23rd, 2018 Italian framebuilder, artist, music aficionado, cancer survivor, and living legend Dario Pegoretti unexpectedly passed away. At only 62 years old he had made an indelible mark on the cycling industry. After building uncredited high-end custom frames for names such as Induran, Cipollini and Pantani he started his own company, Pegoretti Cicli. Both a traditionalist and iconoclast Dario never wavered from his love of steel while also constantly playing with innovations in technique, frame design, and painting. In all of these, he was a renowned master.
I have written, deleted, and rewritten this article several times now. There was the version that leaned in hard to trying to be funny, the version that tried too hard to be philosophical and deep, the version that was a cut and dry day by day account of the trip, and finally this one – some words written less about the trip itself and more about why I am so thankful we approached it the way that we did.
This past fall, my very good friend Kevin and I shipped ourselves and our bikes halfway across the country to New Mexico for what was essentially a repeat of the same trip we’d done 3.5 years prior. Back in spring 2018, with our Tony, we went on a very similar New Mexican grand adventure. We had ridden a serpentine route from Las Cruces in the south – through Truth or Consequences, Magdelena, Mt. Withington, Magdalena, Moriarty, and all of the salty stream crossings, scrublands, savannas, forests, mountains, and mesas in between, to Santa Fe in the north. Now, Kevin and I were repeating the journey – only this time going from north to south in the fall instead of south to north in the spring. With Covid-19 vaccines in arms, three local DC area airports, and the world at our fingertips it did seem like a lot of trouble to repeat our last big trip with only minor variations on a theme.
Sami Sauri’s Into the Atlantic Islands project takes an artistic approach to documenting multi-sport endeavors throughout Macaronesia with episodic videos, analog photography, and physical fanzines. We recently previewed the Madeira Islands installment of the project and, since then, Sami and team released five episodes on YouTube to complete the sequence. Today, to complement the video series, Sami shares some context around the project along with a stunning image gallery that’s only adding to our urge to start traveling internationally again!
As I sit here looking through the rolls of film shot at this year’s Cyclocross Nationals in Chicago, IL, the feeling is bittersweet. Traditionally, Nationals marks the end of the domestic racing season, but as I wandered through the parking lot catching up with old friends, it felt more like the beginning of something. After two years of canceled events, postponements, and isolation, gathering in Chicago for this year’s race almost felt ‘normal.’
On the weekend of October 20, 2021, something came to pass that hadn’t for what seemed like forever: the Red Bull Bay Climb in San Francisco, CA. Done in heats, the Bay Climb is a straight line sprint up Potrero Hill with pitches of up to 21%. Racers have to complete no less than 4 trips up the hill, as fast as they can, for a chance to win.