In the early 1840s, John C. Fremont undertook several exploration missions for the U.S. government. The Oregon Territory was disputed and claimed by both the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. Just to the south, California was still a part of Mexico. Fremont’s mission was to assess the American West and determine how well it was defended by these other nations. Of course, all this land was already—and still is—Indigenous land.
There’s a place to get soup at the halfway point. We’ll stop there. They might have some dried fish and rugbraud to pack for dinner– traditional Icelandic bread; dark, dense, and sweet. In the past, the locals dug holes and used the heat from geothermal water to bake the bread. We pack a sandwich to go, throw a leg over the top tube and let the wind carry us down the way. When the wind is your friend, there’s no feeling like it.
“Oh, shit is that a skunk? I’m pretty sure that’s a skunk”. This sentence can always cause a moment of trepidation on any trip, multiplied in this case by the tough day of pedaling we just had. When my partner Alycia uttered those words, we were already a few hours past the time we both would have preferred to stop for the night, and dinner was a distant memory. Alycia’s DSLR had recently hit the eject-from-bike button and taken an un-dignified crash through the dirt and rocks.
The table has a basket of homemade hot rolls; some with dried fruit, some with seeds, all with a bit of salt. There are two loaves of hot fresh bread, wrapped in towels and a plate of cheese– local paprika and pepper sheep’s cheese, brie, gorgonzola, sliced Havarti with labels for different percentages of fat. There’s sliced ham and salami, hot scrambled eggs with herbs, bacon, and butter. There are sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, red bell pepper and pickled fish, a plate of fresh fruit– slices of melon, pineapple, grapes, apples, and oranges, all perfectly ripe. There’s thick Icelandic yogurt, a carafe of coffee, and containers of juice. There’s cereal and milk and homemade jam.
The Cheerios and fresh-cut strawberries were still swirling around in my mouth as I applied sunscreen. My bike was ready to roll, quietly leaning up against the fence outside the van. My rear brake was rubbing, but I decided that I’d rather ride with a little more resistance than be late. I hate being late for group rides.
A few nights prior, I saw Taylor Phinney post a flyer on Instagram. The plan was simple: a mixed surface adventure ride to an art show. Some of the pieces had never been shown before, but all of them helped him transition out of the world of being a professional athlete. Taylor strolled around the group, chatting with both friends and newcomers. Clad in a cotton t-shirt and denim shorts, you might not think that this is someone who was the world champion in something, let alone competed in the Olympics. But that’s the funny thing about a place like Boulder; you never quite know who you’ll run into.
Wind in your face, wind at your back, pockets of light, sideways rain, hot springs, wild blueberries, glaciers, Arctic fox, sheep laying on the thermally heated roads, waffles and whip cream– this is the Iceland I’ve seen from the bike and we’ve only been here for three days. I’ve heard about a volcano erupting in the past year, polar bears floating on ice from Greenland to the north coast of the Island in the past ten years and a pregnant cow that swam 2km across a fjord to escape the slaughterhouse. The substance of legends, these stories are actually true. This place is dynamic. Volcanoes and lava create new land. The wind and rain create new lakes. This place is constantly changing and you feel it while you ride through it.
On June 11th, 2021, I became the first Tibetan person to race the Tour Divide (if that kind of thing matters, really). Though I didn’t reach my goal of finishing this year, I did bite off a good 1,300-mile chunk of it, offering pieces of myself to the land along the way. Here’s what I experienced.
“We have four kilometers to go with six hundred meters of climbing.” “Well, we can always walk.”
Self-named French “Team Tourist” is sitting cross-legged on a patch of gravel. Regardless of the weather or terrain, Mathias, Sophie, and Elise are smiling and calm, ready to take on anything.
Rue finds a tick behind her knee and Sophie lends us a tiny pair of plastic pliers to get it out. Then, she gives them to us as a gift.
“My hope is that we’ll all regroup here.”
Gaby’s phone rings.
“Okay. Well, that sounds like a good plan. How much is it? Okay. That’ll work.”
It’s day one and Sami is onto her second e-bike of the trip. She burned through the first one near Samoëns. She’s getting ahead and shooting from behind to make a video about our trip. E-bikes are incredible tools for media projects. Ali, the local expert, took her to a bike shop there to see if they could get a new battery and they said for some reason, it was so fried it wouldn’t charge. Instead, she’ll rent a new one with bigger tires, more suspension, and better brakes. With one camera enclosed in a scuba diving protective case, another strapped to a carabiner on her waist, a full backpack, and a drone in her hip pack, she looks like Lara Croft. On the new rig, she’s ready to rip.
The idea of a true-to-form vacation, or holiday, is pretty foreign to me. As someone who’s spent their entire adult life living, breathing, eating, photographing bicycles 24/7, it’s hard to leave work, i.e. a camera, behind. A few years ago, right after Josh posted his Reportage from the Durango to Moab route along the San Juan Huts network, we put a reservation in for the Telluride to Moab route. Then the pandemic hit, delaying the trip indefinitely. We finally agreed upon a week this year and began planning. I hadn’t been on a week-long tour in years and with work seemingly stacking up, I was glad to disconnect with seven other riders touring across the Uncompahgre Plateau from the San Juan to the La Sal mountains. We all began packing, preparing, and the excited chatter resonated through my email inbox daily…
Today we’ve got a special bit of Reportage from the crew at Squid Bikes showcasing their new handmade in Taiwan steel gravel model, the Gravtron. Read on below for a look at the owners’, Chris and Emily, personal Gravtron builds as well as a friend Nick’s bike loaded down for a trip from Reno to Sacramento with a trip report by Emily. Check it out below!
Babad Do’ag, roughly translates to “Frog Mountain” in the O’odham language. This mountain is now commonly referred to as Mt. Lemmon, named after botanist Sara Plummer Lemmon who studied the botany of the mountain in the late 1800s. The imposing profile of the sprawling mountain range that lines the north and east sides of Tucson is impossible to ignore. While the paved road up into the range is the stuff of road biking legend there is a huge spectrum of unpaved roads that circle the mountain as well. While Patagonia, AZ has been an epicenter of gravel cycling in Southern Arizona, I wanted to bring some attention to a route that was more Tucson-focused.
There it was, carved into the side of the mountain like a serpentine scar, slithering its way up toward a sky riddled with barren peaks; their toothy prominences ripping through the leading edge of a building storm. A keen eye and a pointed finger could trace its path, lurching upward from where we stood at the western edge of the Great Basin Desert, zigzagging all the way up through Pinyon/Juniper woodland, wandering between stands of Ponderosa and getting steeper as the Foxtail pines got shorter. Miles away it could still just barely be seen, emerging atop an alpine ridgeline some four thousand feet above.
Karla and I headed to Tijuana when we heard that the local government was giving the covid vaccine to anyone who wanted it. We used a Fabio’s chest as luggage bags because although we didn’t bring our bikes, we had the idea of borrowing some to move around the city and try to fit in an overnighter, so we also brought our sleeping bags and bike touring tool kit. With the Baja Divide being so close the thought of jumping on it crossed our minds but we decided to settle for something that required fewer logistics and that could be started and finished from the place we were staying in.
I don’t consider myself an avid bikepacker. Yet, neither I think nor talk about riding my enduro bike (which I don’t have). Terminology in general has lost meaning for me in the past years in the bike world. I guess at the same time as many of us, I got overwhelmed with all the new kinds of everything, and the speed of development and diversity the market has achieved in such a short time. I tried to back off a little and find a short of safe place from where I can observe it all. And at the same time, the kind of biking I try to practice more is also quite determined by the act of observing.
I like to shoot the first frame on a roll of film no matter how carefully I load the roll I always end up getting something kinda strange and wonderful out of that first exposure – an effect yielded by the film’s interaction with light coming from two separate moments in time and space – the exposure of the film through the camera’s shutter, but also the light leaked onto the frame during the loading of the roll. One of my favorite photos ever is of my 17-year-old beagle/spaniel mix, Bucky, where he looks like he’s peeking out from behind a cascading sheet of liquid sun. The first exposure on this roll is of my friend, podcast co-host, and riding partner, Sarah rifling through overstuffed bikepacking bags outside of a country store in Damascus, Virginia about 15 miles into our 550-mile bikepacking trip through the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. The image of her trying to squeeze a snack bar into a nonexistent empty space in the top tube bag is itself neatly constrained into the 2/3rds of the frame not devoured by light exposure obtained while the roll was being loaded.
La Costa de Hermosillo is the name for a vast expanse of land that covers from the west of the city of Hermosillo all the way to the coast of the Gulf of California, 100 km (60 miles) away. Once part of the territory where the Comca’ac Natives thrived, nowadays it’s mainly used for agriculture; during the 19th century, the Comca’ac, most frequently called “Seri” which means “people of the sand” in Yaqui language, were persecuted and almost wiped out completely by the Mexican army and ranchers who had interest in this territory, and the few survivors of the already dispersed Comca’ac Nation were progressively displaced further and further towards the coast till they reached the land they occupy today, where water is scarce and life conditions are harsh. Rain is not often seen around here, and agriculture is only possible via drilling wells and bringing water from other parts. La Costa de Hermosillo is flat as it is possible for land to be, so making long distances by bike in this region is a matter of keeping your bars straight and moving early, because it’s usually around noon that the wind picks up.
I woke up to the sounds of a struggling motorcycle engine. When I set up my tent the previous night I’d pushed my bike up a tiny double-track offshoot road that steeply climbed to an isolated hilltop. I was perched above the primary road that already gets very little traffic and totally out of sight, but with the sound of that engine, I knew the motorcycle wasn’t simply cruising by on the road below, it was making its way up toward me.
Playing host to road trippers this year is a stark contrast to our efforts to stay local and ride with small, familiar groups last year. New Mexico took Covid-19 seriously and as new citizens to this state, both Cari and I took these precautions seriously. Now with the vaccination efforts building across the country (get vaccinated!) we’re happy to open our doors to friends as they travel across the American West. Just last week alone, I hosted two stellar rides with some familiar faces, so check them out below…