Road bikes. We don’t really talk about them so much over here at the Radavist – anymore. There was a time however where we’d post galleries from road adventures and still to this day, one of my favorite rides I did in California was on all pavement. Still, there have been a few defining reasons for the wane of the road bike’s popularity and it wasn’t until I accepted the offer to review the lightweight Aethos road bike that I began to mull over these reasons. A 16lb road bike is both terrifying (am I going to break this thing?!) and a joy (WOW! this is incredible) to ride but what does the state of road cycling look for me, personally, and how did this review shape my perspective of drop bars after a long hiatus from enjoying the pleasures of road riding? Read on to find out.
You ever have a bike that was super rad, but you just didn’t ride it? My Velo Orange Polyvalent was that bike for the past few years. Beautiful, capable, and yet, neglected. This past winter, during a bout of organization, I wondered about this bike that sparked joy aesthetically but didn’t really get ridden. What’s the point in keeping something around that doesn’t get used? I committed to riding it to work for a week to see if I could get at that very question – and I ended up riding it daily for the next four months.
Drop bars have always had a special place in my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I love mountain bikes. That feeling of flying down swoopy singletrack and rowdy trails on a mountain bike is truly hard to beat. But there is one thing that can beat it… Flying down flowy singletrack and rowdy trails on a drop-bar bike. Now that can get exciting!
At roughly the size of a 1000ML Nalgene bottle, with a fill-up time of fewer than 30 seconds, the MSR Guardian Purifier water filter might just be the best filter on the market for all bicycle-related outings, yet it will cost ya… Let’s take a look at this game-changing filter in detail below.
When one thinks of Esker Cycles, the Hayduke 27.5+ hardtail (reviewed here by Locke Hassett) quickly comes to mind – and in many ways, the Hayduke served as the launchpad for the design of Esker’s latest model, the Japhy.
While the Japhy looks like considerably “less bike” than the 140mm Hayduke with its 120mm fork and 29″ wheels, don’t count it out yet: the Japhy is scrappy and is willing to claw its way through just about anything!
Over the past few months I’ve been riding the Japhy all over our local trails here in Santa Fe and while at first I was hesitant about taking it out on some of the more technical terrain, I found it to be an exceptional climber and a surprisingly fun descender.
So, let’s get into it!
It’s inundating to keep up with cycling’s technological advancements yet if one development has shifted the paradigm for drivetrains in the past few years, it’s SRAM’s AXS system. While the kit is a dreamy riding experience, the price can be daunting, and that alone is a major reason why many people haven’t had the chance to ride it. Yet, as with all cycling tech, it tends to trickle down like alluvium in the desert.
The new GX Eagle AXS rolled downhill and right into my lap recently, so I decided to put it on the Sklar touring bike because why not? Check out the unveiling below with some initial thoughts on the system and a component breakdown with pricing/availability…
A few weeks ago, Adidas announced the new Velosamba “commuter” shoes. I jumped on them as soon as the press release hit our inbox and I must say, I’m impressed. Read on for a more detailed look as well as some initial impressions…
Why do some bikes get up to speed with seemingly less effort than others? Why do some bikes leave me less fatigued after long rides? My idea of the ultimate road and adventure bike is one that has all the wonderful vertical compliance that we know can be built into a bicycle as a system, but that also responds to and rewards its rider by flexing just right in the lateral axis as well.
We all know custom steel bikes have the potential to be a rider’s one and only. And that leads us to Wake Robin Cycles and the subject of this review. The Wake Robin is a low trail, rim brake randonneuring bike, custom built for Chip over at What Bars. If there’s one kind of bike that’s revered to ride smooth over long distances, rim brake rando bikes are it. But, not all custom bikes are equal, particularly those built for someone who isn’t you – so this one’s got plenty for us to talk about.
I’ve got this bike. It’s a touring bike. So when it’s loaded down with gear, it can get quite heavy. To remedy this, I built it up with an Eagle GX rear derailleur and cassette, giving me a whopping 10-50t range (the new GX goes to 52t even). To shift this range, I used a barcon shifter from Microshift because as you are well aware, SRAM doesn’t make a cable-actuated road shifter that’s compatible with their MTB mech lineup.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Microshift barcon. I was and have been more than pleased with this option but then Ratio, a small startup out of the UK announced a 11-speed road to 12-speed mountain upgrade kit.
I think this is one time when we can ignore that old Eddy Merckx adage “Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades…” Sorry Eddy, Johnnie’s bike needs this.
We posted about Ratio’s kit back in October. I ordered a kit the day the post went up but didn’t get motivated to do the install until I felt like I had a reason to. A few friends here in Santa Fe are taking on an all-road tour in April, and I wanted to get this bike dialed in before that trip, so last week, I swung by Sincere Cycles with the Dreamer and Ratio’s kit with hopes of rolling around on an 11-speed road shifter working with a 12-speed mountain…
In my opinion, you don’t need racing shoes to do rides. Back when we started riding ‘cross bikes on singletrack and fire roads, the only real options were stiff ‘cross racing shoes. Footwear tech and ideologies have come a long way since with the case in point being the latest from the Rapha apparel line, the Powerweave Explore Gravel Shoes. I’ve been lucky enough to get my grubby hands on a pair to check out and post up a quick first impressions review of these beautiful shoes.
I’m going to nerd out here. Fair warning. When I see a bike like the Kona Sutra ULTD hit the internet, I feel mixed emotions. Part of that has to do with my love of the now-dead “adventure” category Specialized launched a few years back, beginning with the AWOL. I had some good memories on that bike and it feels like eons ago. If you remember, this was around the time people started calling bicycle touring “bikepacking”.
The AWOL was a touring bike in the sense that it had rack mounts, clearances for, at the time, big tires and it came specced in both its Poler and Trans-Continental limited-edition build kits with racks and panniers. Sounds like a touring bike to me! While this isn’t an article about the AWOL, I can’t help but see the face-value similarities between it and the Sutra Unlimited, or ULTD for short.
Now, the AWOL came out in 2014, and in these past six years, a lot has changed in the touring or bikepacking world for me but one thing remains constant: I love fat tire tourers, and the Sutra ULTD really impressed me. It pulled at all the heartstrings…
Today on the Radavist, we’re featuring a bit of unobtainium. Those of you who might have heard about this brand before know that the first batch of frames already sold out. For those of you unfamiliar with Rangefinder, it’s a collaboration be Adam Sklar of Sklar Bikes, Hubert d’Autremont from Madrean Fabrication, and the painter Jonathan Pucci from Cicli Pucci. While the frames are gone, the process is what’s important and that process was documented with 35mm rangefinder cameras. We’re featuring the Mystic Project book which has over 100 images, slides, project text from Nicholas Haig-Arack, and final bike photos in a really special Reportage, so enjoy.
Modern beings are swimming in a self-destructive bath of distraction and doubt. “What is our usefulness?” we ask. What are we missing out on? Obviously something way better than what’s presently available to us. Is there a possible transaction of labor and capital that will permanently remove our doubts and self-diagnosed shortcomings? Is loving our own being possible? What is the best lifestyle accessory for our feelings of inadequacy? Such is our cruel method of measure, our search for moments of ease. This pernicious dance is as tedious as it is destructive. In this mindset, we will never be enough, never feel whole. It’s a zombie game that eats the possibility for our own contentment and moments of equanimity. This seeking is a cruel grift.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a lot of negative internet chatter when bike brands release hardtail trail bikes that are not overly slack, steep, or otherwise geometrically boundary-pushing in some way. My suspicion is that many of these comments come from riders that prefer lifts over pedaling uphill but nonetheless cast a shadow on mid-travel hardtails that are intended for folks that aren’t spending their days in terrain parks.
Over the years, having had the chance to ride a lot of different bikes, I’ve whittled my personal preferences down to a few assumptions about geometry and materials. Based on these preconceptions, I wasn’t sure I’d be into the Ritchey Outback.
Gravel bikes with carbon forks are pretty predictable in my experience: more capable and adaptable than the ‘cross bikes they evolved from, but too stiff to be enjoyable on rough terrain or long days in the saddle. Gravel bikes have also evolved to have longer rear ends than ‘cross bikes, and yet the Outback has the longest rear end of any performance-oriented drop-bar bike I’ve ridden.
I will also say that I’ve learned to keep an open mind about this stuff, and in the past couple of years I’m finding myself excited to ride bikes that don’t fit into neat and predictable categories. The chance to review oddball bikes helps me expand my experience and therefore become a better bike reviewer. I’m open to being surprised!
Well, there must be exceptions to rules and there must be challenges to preconceptions, and the Ritchey Outback fits into both of those categories for me.
I had heard of Guthook Guides as great companions for many of the longer thru-hikes around the world but I never knew they made Bikepacking Guides as well. About a year ago Brenda and Monique were bikepacking in the Gila NF when they ran into Dahn who was hiking the CDT at the time. They gave him some water and exchanged contact info as he was planning to stop in Tucson after his hike. A few weeks later I came home to Dahn and the largest fruit salad you could ever imagine in my kitchen. We swapped stories of hiking and shenanigans. Not long after he sent me an email with an offer to check out a Bikepacking Guide for the Arizona Trail.
Since moving to Santa Fe, I’ve ridden my mountain bikes almost exclusively, which is a stark contrast to how much time I would spend on my drop bar bikes in Los Angeles. It’s not that there isn’t gravel in our area, it’s just that mountain biking is so accessible, so remote, and so sheltered from the wind and the sun, it’s a no-brainer.
Another major difference is whereas I’d drive to the trailhead in LA, I find myself riding to the trails here 99.9% of the time, even on my Starling Cycles Murmur, which is a really big bike to pedal across town, up the foothills, and into the mountains.
These miles spent on my full suspension had me spending a lot of time adjusting the coil system this bike was built on. Some days, I’d pedal with only a hip bag, while others, I’d lug a heavy camera bag around. This 10+ pound differential made it somewhat awkward to adjust the coil shocks as I found myself smack dab in the middle of the two coil weight zones. While the ride quality of the coil system is undeniably noticeable, it felt like I needed something less finicky.
So, when Fox reached out, asking if I wanted to try out their new fork and rear shock, I jumped on the opportunity. Little did I know I’d gravitate back towards air after vibing so hard on the coil shocks’ ride quality…
Let’s just say I didn’t expect any less than greatness from Moots when it came to the Womble, the latest creation from their shop in Steamboat Springs. From previous experiences, I knew how well Moots’ titanium bikes rode and was looking forward to trying out their take on a modern 29er.
A few years back, I put the Baxter 29er through the wringer on the Steamboat to Fort Collins Ramble Ride, and during my project with SRAM in the Inyo Mountains, I pedaled it high up in the Mojave Desert and through Death Valley, across miles of washboard roads.
If I learned anything from those experiences it’s that titanium is the greatest frame material, especially when it’s wielded by the Masters of Metal. I’ve had the Womble 29er for a few months now, throughout the dusty ‘n’ dry end of summer, well into the snow-filled fall, and am finally ready to make my thoughts official, so read on below.