Paul de Valera does it all, he’s the mechanic, manager, buyer, PR, HR, ride leader, ride organizer, social media expert, designer, illustrator, coaster brake extraordinaire at Atomic Cycles. Paul doesn’t have a cell phone, still uses a yahoo email address, and hand draws every single one of his flyers. While this may be fine for a shop that puts on a handful of events a year, but Paul’s ride calendar is ridiculous. Atomic Cycles host a weekly BMX Cruiser ride, two Coaster Brake Race Series a year, vintage mountain bike rides, downhill racing on children’s bikes, a few long gravel rides, a winter and summer solstice ride across the Santa Monica Mountains, a SoCal Single Speed Mountain Bike Championship, a ride where everyone dresses like ninjas in the middle of the night and spends most the ride in fear of someone jumping out and attacking them, a BMX Sidehack Race, the S.C.U.M.B.A.G Mountain Bike Weekend, a Turkey Day Ride, and a SanFernando Valley to DTLA ride. Try to say that 10 times fast!
The Salton Sea first appeared to me back in 2016, a couple of days into the Stagecoach 400 bike packing trip with the Borrachos. It appeared to me then as it appeared on this passage, an out of place body of water in the desert landscape, planar and mirage inducing. It could have been the heat exhaustion the first time I saw it, but the sea seemed to bend the horizon. We only saw it in the distance at that time, as our Stagecoach route took us up and away into Anza Borrego. This time around though, we’d pedal straight for it.
“You’re sleeping in a tent out there? Aren’t you worried about them?” a girl from Kyrgyzstan’s capital city who was enjoying a weekend trip to the local favorite Song-Kul lake asked us. I thought to myself wondering what she might be referring to. After a moment she realized our confusion and clarified… “The Wolves”.
Mert Lawwil had already been a legendary motorcycle racer for years and was building and selling Harley Davidson flat-track racing frames with Terry Knight when they got the idea to weld up a batch of BMX bicycle frames. But Don Koski of the Cove Bicycle Shop in Tiburon, California (hangout spot of mountain biking progenitors, The Larkspur Canyon Gang), convinced them to make a production run of “mountain bikes” in batches of 50 at a time instead. Mert and Terry had to label and sell these bikes as “cruisers” because most other bicycle shops didn’t understand or want to sell “mountain bikes”…yet.
The Kosciuszko Alpine Classic is just a name I came up with for a ride I did with my two good mates, Ben and James. We had organised a week off work in late October to go and spend some time in the Australian Alps. The route would see us riding primarily through the Kosciuszko National Park, taking in the wild brumby infested Long Plain, then going up and over the highest rideable trail in Australia, and also along some of the newest and flowiest single track built in the region. It was going to be classic!
Remember last week’s story about the Coaster Brake Challenge? Well, this was the bike that Kyle from Golden Saddle built up post-haste for the last race of the year. At the time, he wanted to save up for something special but with a race rapidly approaching, he had to go quick and easy…
My friend Rebecca Gates once told me, “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” She quickly admitted that this piece of wisdom came from tennis legend Arthur Ashe. Since then it has been at the top of my mind. There is power in this expression “Start where you are” eliminates steps to action. “Use what you have” wrests back agency– doing this engages oneself in action while giving oneself to taking action, or “do what you can.”
Action, especially towards a greater good, is the most salient way to combat the various tentacles of existential dread, whether they are cancer, capitalism, or climate change. No matter where we turn, dread appears. Unavoidable but not unconquerable, we succumb only through inaction. Taking the first step towards action can be difficult, especially in our culture, which seems to perpetually discovering new heights of apathy. The world and our culture can feel like an incredibly heavyweight.
We had quite the coverage of mini velos last year, beginning with this dude’s personal bike. Isao’s Falconer was one of my personal favorites to hit these pages in 2019 because it really embodied the notion of deep custom and something we don’t address a whole lot here on the Radavist; this idea that when you get a wacky, 100% custom bike, you’re essentially getting a working prototype.
It was a rainy afternoon in Sedona. I finished my volunteer shift, and headed into the festival to try and get a demo. I had heard of this new company, Revel Bikes, that was supposed to have some real pretty and real fast carbon full suspensions. I wanted to try one of those bikes as soon as I could. I arrived at the tent about 10 minutes after the event opened to the public.
Every bike was gone.
At first glance, you might see this bike and think “sheesh, another $8,000 commuter bike made by someone in Portland.” Rightfully so! This is a clean bike but Alex spent $500 on this Miyata before adding some crucial details to keep him rolling safe and comfortable on the streets of Los Angeles, to and from work…
Welcome to the beautiful dark twisted world of Paul de Valera and Atomic Cycles‘ Coaster Brake Challenge! A race I have known about for over a decade, a race that my mentor JimC would race religiously, but for some reason, I never made the time to attend. I always made up some kind of excuse, usually, it was about the bike, which is bullshit. Paul and Atomic Cycles have plenty of loaners, and as you can already tell from the title of this story, these bikes are simple, cheap, and easy to build.
Brooklyn’s Johnny Coast knows how to build a classic randonneuring bike. Every year, Johnny brings a classic example of these elegant machines, with so many details from his custom fillet stem, custom fabricated seat cluster lug, bi-lam construction, custom decaluer, an elegant fork, custom front rack, and as always, a paint job to dream about.
Coast’s randonneur takes a different approach with a 700c wheel in a world dominated and encouraged by the 650b platform. He built this beaut with NOS Campy 10 speed, vintage Stronglight crank arms with new TA Pro Vis chainrings.
The lines are the most striking and that’s thanks to Johnny’s use of Japanese KAISEI traditional 1” tubing.
Tajikistan. It’s wild. It’s remote. It’s unforgiving. It’s out there.
Over eight days of breathtaking riding and spectacular scenery, we follow Christian Meier and Peter Gaskill of The Service Course on their adventure through Tajikistan, weaving through the Wakhan Valley, over the Khargush Pass, along the Pamir Highway, into the Bartang Valley and beyond. A journey into the unknown, and one that will live long in the memory. As a result, The Service Course will be hosting their inaugural Tajikistan Gravel Tour in June 2020, limited to six adventurous participants.
Where do we even begin with this post? 2019 was a year that defies all previous efforts here at the Radavist. Never have the pages of this site been graced with more exceptional photography and words! While we’re known for our full-res galleries, we really made a push to include exceptional writing this year. While this isn’t a top ten list, we’ve highlighted some of the exceptional work below. Stories that really stood out from our normal, year-to-year Reportage. Or if you’re a nostalgist, simply flip through the mega-gallery. Keep in mind, this one will take a bit to load!
I speak for everyone here at the Radavist when I say I can’t wait for 2020! Your feedback last week really helped all of us hone our vision and where we should direct our pens and our lens glass.
Wow! What a year it’s been. In the past twelve months, we’ve shot roughly 300 bikes. From gravel races, to NAHBS, the Philly Bike Expo and our normal travels, we really captured some unique builds and we’ve got a good handle on the bikes the readers of the Radavist enjoy checking out based on some key metrics.
Every year we try to do our best to sort through twelve months of archives to narrow down to this list. The first filter is the comment count, which we start at 50 comments. Then comes page views, with the minimum number being 20,000 views. Finally, we look at the social media chatter; including Instagram comments and how many times was the post shared across various platforms.
What we end up with is a list that is filled with a plethora of interesting, versatile, and quirky bikes. The only editorial decision I myself made was to omit reviews of stock bikes. So no Santa Cruz Stigmata or Cannondale Topstone this round!
Check out the full Top Ten Beautiful Bicycles of 2019 below, in no particular order…
Karla and I had planned to explore a route that has been in my books for a while now which would connect Naco at the México-USA border to the city of Hermosillo via mostly dirt roads, as part of a project I tend to call “Ruta Trans-Sonora”, a way to cross the Mexican state of Sonora from north to south offering a continuation from the GDMBR, the AZT, and the most recent Wild West Route. This could, eventually, connect with the also recently released Trans-Mexico Route, which so far assumes you’d do the Baja Divide first. Although I don’t know why anyone would miss the opportunity of doing the Baja Divide, the idea is to put another option in the menu, and well, it’s my home state after all.
Nate from Augusta, Georgia’s Zukas Cycles brought this stunning city singlespeed to the Philly Bike Expo this year, with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a show bike, but with durability for actual wear and tear in mind. Disc brakes, fenders and all the accouterment a gnarly North Eastern all-weather cyclist would demand but with looks and style in mind.
Bryan Hollingsworth from Royal H Bikes has attended every Philly Bike Expo since its inception to display his works of art under the Royal H brand. For the 10th anniversary, he knew he had to make something special, so with that goal in mind he built and displayed this beautiful lugged road bike. Some of the finer details include top-eyes with windows built-in and a very special bottom bracket, that was filed to perfection, but everywhere you look on this bike there’s something special going on.
With a build kit based around Campagnolo Chorus mostly, some nods to the past include the Stronglight Headset, quill stem, Turbo saddle, but Bryan chose to use White Industries hubs for a reliable handbuilt wheelset. Check out more of the images above, and if you got any other questions for Bryan, drop them in the comments.