The pandemic has us in the throes of deep wanderlust. While travel has been momentarily halted, stories such as this get our minds whirling into a spiral of possibilities. Paulo LaBerge and Heather Plewes toured throughout Tanzania and Eastern Africa, penning a journal of sorts for Esker Cycles, filled with short stories. Today, we’re sharing those tales…
I first met Elliot a few years back while I was leading a bikepacking trip with El Grupo, a Tucson based youth cycling organization. Since then I had seen Elliot tinkering with all manner of frankenbikes, which are a regular, at the Grupo clubhouse. Discarded and mismatched components of yesteryear handed down from the large cycling community here. Their low-pro pursuit fixed gear with a 24″ bmx fork caught my eye awhile ago and I knew Elliot had that special eye for janky but fun clashing of parts.
Since we posted Two Wheel Drive yesterday, we thought it’d be nice to feature one of the shop employee’s personal bikes. Bryan is a mechanic and his Mash track bike is too slick, laced with Albuquerque’s own DOOM bars and some other nice details. Check out our friend Nick’s photos below with words by Bryan himself…
Pandemic life means a lot of the normal, day-to-day coverage we cherished has gotten put on hold. One of which are Shop Visits. While I’ve been sticking local to Santa Fe over the past twelve months, my friend Nick was able to submit a Shop Visit to his local digs, Two Wheel Drive down in Albuquerque. Read on for Nick’s photos and words by Zach, Two Wheel Drive’s manager…
On November 1st, 2018 I rolled out to cover 1200 miles of the old Butterfield Overland Mail Route from San Francisco to Tucson, AZ. For almost a year prior the headlines had been dominated by news of things happening along America’s southern border. Child Separations. Immigration Caravans. National Guard deployments. On social media channels the rhetoric from all sides, which had already been getting increasingly strident, ramped up to a fever pitch. Normal conversations spiraled completely out of control. I found myself caught up in it all, furious at family members, friends, and strangers alike.
As though they’d joined a cult and made some kind of suicide pact, having seen none during the five hours of driving previous, perhaps thirty pheasants lay dead in the road over a quarter-mile3 stretch. What had happened on this quarter-mile stretch? Why here? It made me regret buying the rabbit, but without screeching to a halt on a frozen dual carriageway it wouldn’t have been practical to stop and collect them. Even at 70mph I could tell some were past their best and it’s rude to turn up empty-handed. I was on my way to visit Ted, so turning up with roadkill seemed to make sense. I was running late though and didn’t want to rely on road gifts so I picked up a wild rabbit wrapped in paper from our local butchers. It was a relief they had it because plan B was the pet shop.
I’d debated not going to visit Ted of Ted James Design and just compiling the stories people tell about him. The chronicles of SuperTed! The stories people tell can seem fairly fantastic, however, worryingly most of the time they’re true. I sometimes wonder how Ted is even alive? If I were more superstitious, I’d say his spirit was too big for his body and so it spends all of its time trying to get out. There’s something in his eyes like the sort of superintelligence and frustration a sheepdog has about being domesticated, as though any room that he’s in is somehow too small, so his eyes dance about searching for exits.
This Reportage took place a year prior to the pandemic… please be considerate and avoid traveling to small towns during the pandemic.
Some trips stay with you more than others, and this trip is one of those. Nebraska isn’t often touted (read: never) as a cycling destination, but the truly unique and varied geography we encountered offered some of the most quality riding I’ve had the opportunity to experience. The state’s remoteness—a combination of the incredibly low population density and vast, often exposed, landscapes—was initially a concern but in actuality lent a heightened sense of adventure to our days. This is also still the longest tour I’ve taken and being able to fully settle into the rhythm of passing the days—sun up to sun down—on the bike for a week straight was a pretty intoxicating experience.
Send it Safely? What’s that? Nick lives in Albuquerque, where he’s got a good group of riding buddies that enjoy taking to the local trails on their singlespeeds. When he first moved to town, he was jarred by the lack of trail etiquette, mostly by cyclists. Mountain bikers would plow downhill, hardly even yielding for hikers or other riders. For those unaware, uphill traffic always has the right of way. That’s when Nick thought of the phrase “send it safely” and started making stickers.
It was through these stickers that I first got to know Nick. Well, as well as you can know someone on the internet. Admittedly, I haven’t been to ABQ once since moving here, as we’re trying to play it safe during the pandemic, so Nick and I had never met before the afternoon I shot his Rivendell Sam Hillborne…
You know how a hashtag can fuck you? Well maybe not, but a few years ago my good friend Nic and I had this idea … we’d always been intrigued by the pans – or mud flats – of the Northern Cape here in South Africa. At the time we were really getting into riding fixed gear bikes and one day it hit us – let’s take our fixed gear bikes onto the pan! Why not? Surreal landscapes, super smooth surfaces good enough for world speed records! Sounds like a good adventure right? We did some research and found out that that year there was a South African Speedweek planned in September 2014 on the Hakskeenpan, coinciding with the launch of a planned rocket-propelled car land speed record attempt – the Bloodhound SSC. We decided to travel up in Nic’s old 1963 Porsche 356 – it seemed appropriate. Bikes on the roof, gear in the back.
It was the speed at which it happened that shocked me the most. One minute Tomas and I were laughing hysterically as I tumbled into the snow for the umpteenth time, the next I was genuinely scared my buddy was about to collapse into some awful hypothermic coma. It was terrifying.
You ever cross someone’s path and roll away feeling like they changed something in you forever, simply by existing as they are? I am Katie Sox, a freelance visual media maker, a professional massage therapist, and proponent of platonic love. I ride bikes, see people beyond their costumes, own my awkwardness and giggle a whole bunch, too. I grew up racing BMX and doing ballet then got into mountain biking in my early 20’s. For me, the privilege to ride is of the utmost value.
A bike can be a liberating tool for a youngster. I got the first bike that I could travel distances on when I was 14. Granted it was a beach cruiser but hey, we lived at the beach. I’d carry my skateboard and even a surfboard to spots after school and on the weekends. It was a vessel of adolescent liberation.
For Jonah, a local of Santa Fe, and an employee at Mellow Velo, the bicycle has helped develop his independence as well as a vehicle to meander around his homeland. His family is one of the deeply embedded heritage households and have been in the area for hundreds of years. Just north of Santa Fe is the town of Chimayo where his family has been weaving for generations under the brand Ortega.
When you become a parent you start to ask the really hard questions, like what kind of amazing bike am I going to build to haul my little kiddo around? Ben was lucky enough to snag this Rivendell Rosco Bubbe from Alex at Yellow Haus Bicycles when he was clearing out some inventory. This may look like your average Clem Smith, but nay, this is a Rosco Bubbe experiment. This frame was designed to have a longer top tube to accommodate kid carrier as we see here. The longer space makes room for the carrier and the rider to fit in the space between the saddle and bars. This bike is technically Chelsea, Ben’s wife’s rig but it luckily fits them both so they can both take Marcel out for a spin.
Reasons to go on a bike trip have different origins; this one, in particular, originated when I saw a photo of several rock pillars lined together and I wanted to see them in person. Located in the heart of the Guarijío/Makurawe Native’s land in the southeast of my home state Sonora, “Los Pilares de San Bernardo” have witnessed the centuries that the Guarijío have made of this place their home, and in the last decade, the construction of a controversial megaproject by the federal government. Promoted with the idea of building a dam to prevent floodings further down the Mayo Valley and provide the local communities with water all year long, this project was given a fast forward before being fully evaluated and is also splattered with shady agreements between the government, big agricultural and mining companies and “local authorities” that some of the Guarijío don’t recognize as such.
The profound scale of geologic formations is a driving force in what brings people to the Western United States. It’s why Utah’s landscapes played a crucial role in the visual catalog of mountain biking in the 90s. Moab, Sedona, and other desert cities have become destinations for two-wheeled adrenaline junkies due to their proximity of technical riding and vast landscapes. Iconic Navajo Sandstone ripples through these towns and within it lie a myriad of mountain bike trails.
Typically, I’ll spend my winter riding in these landscapes but due to the pandemic, we’ve put our desert ramblings on hold until it’s safe to travel. Periodically, I pause and wonder had Covid-19 not gripped the world as it did, I might not have spent so much time looking local in 2020 and from the way things are projected, well into 2021.
I think I speak for my riding buddies – who are die-hard Canyon Country visitors – that we’ve got it pretty good in New Mexico. While the backdrops aren’t filled with arches and endless sandstone formations, there’s plenty to keep your senses sated. If you know where to look.
One such zone that I’ve come to love is the White Ridge Mountain Bike Trails, just southwest of San Ysidro and 70 miles from Santa Fe…
I don’t know about you all but personally, I miss seeing off-the-wall crazy custom bikes at the various tradeshows. With the pandemic canceling the 2020 and most likely 2021 dates for various open houses and NAHBS, I’ve just accepted the fact that those balleur bicycle gallery shoots will have to wait. That said, when projects like this fall into my lap, I’m more than excited to take some extra time documenting them.
ENVE launched their Foundation Gravel wheels last week and in a perfect world, a press-camp was supposed to happen in Arizona to test out those wheels. ENVE planned on pinging various builders to fabricate the chassis for their full gravel lineup. One of those builders was Retrotec and Curtis went overboard for the event, building a handful of titanium frames alongside Oscar Camarena of Simple Bike Company. When the press camp wasn’t happening, Curtis decided he’d send this bike out for me to document. He needed photos for his website and I won’t say no to content like this…
I love well-used 26” rigid MTBs from yesteryears, you love them, everyone loves them, they are the best. Liam’s steed is no different with its glorious mane of tattered Newbaum’s tape flowing in the wind is something to see. At first, when I saw it, I thought, “oh rad an updated Rock Hopper” to which I was quickly corrected that, “It was a Rock COMBO.” How could I make such a mistake, this was no run of the mill 1980s 26er. This was a Rock Combo, the first gravel bike? First performance Hybrid? Since there were only 500 made I guess it’s not so bad that I didn’t recognize it.
Note: This story took place before the pandemic
The wheels hadn’t even touched the runway on our flight from Kyrgyzstan to Nepal and I already knew we were in for something completely different than the summer and fall we spent in the quiet and remote regions of Central Asia. As we began our descent, I could see the rolling hills that separate the lowlands from the high Himalayan mountains. This area, known as the “mid-hills”, was where we’d spend the bulk of our first couple of weeks in Nepal.
From the air, I watched an endless sea of zig-zagging roads, villages, and terraced hillsides that stretched as far as the eye could see. This tangled web of life came to a dramatic crescendo of tightly-packed buildings and chaos as Kathmandu finally came into view. These were certainly not going to be the untouched and sparsely populated valleys you might find while roaming the countryside in Kyrgyzstan, but change is a good thing. Being thrust into new and sometimes even uncomfortable situations is what makes bike touring so rewarding.