This weekend, June 19th – 23rd, is the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder. It’s a point-to-point stage race along the Oregon Trail. For five days and 400 miles, racers and riders will venture into the Cascade Range, get covered in dust, sweat, and then arrive at camp each night, where they can recover and prepare for the next day. If you’re going, we’d love to hear from you, especially if you plan on riding the course and taking photos along the way. Drop a line in the comments and email us.
Last year, Rue propositioned me about helping her document the Tour Divide race in which Lael Wilcox intended to best her previous record, I jumped at the opportunity. Later, Jay Ritchey would be added to the team to help Rue with the film they intended to produce about the race. I was tasked with focusing on photographing her attempt and the race itself. Rue has been flipping between photo and video very deftly and has some incredible images to add to this gallery. Here is the first installment of our ongoing coverage of the 2019 Tour Divide Race.
I was looking at everyone’s legs. The group of 13 included professional and semi professional racers, life-long athletes focused specifically on their relationship to the bicycle. There aren’t six packs; there’s, like, eight to ten pacs. Some even have muscular faces! How is that even possible to accomplish? Seeing my own soft animal body as lesser than their impressive builds. The grass kept getting greener and greener on the other side of my eyeballs and I felt myself getting smaller and smaller. Where in my body is this discomfort living? I had three days and the grand views around beautiful Big Sur to find the site of where this discomfort lived in my body. Aside from physical discomfort from physical exertion, I came up empty. Instead, I found an interstice where feelings of awe grew and that became my saving grace.
Introduction: We pinged Erin Lamb to write about her experience at this year’s Lost & Found with John’s experience told through the gallery captions. We’re trying new models for event Reportage, so please let us know what you think in the comments! Enjoy!
I lost my wallet a couple of weeks ago, and I’m not searching to find Jesus. I’m pretty sure the wallet fell out of my purse in a parking lot when I pulled some shit out to throw into the back seat. And, the Jesus thing, just not interested. If you’re looking for a feel-good story about stumbling upon the light, then maybe this isn’t for you. This is more of a coming-of-age gravel riding tale dispatched straight from a middle of the pack 65-miler on the Sierra Buttes’ Lost & Found.
While I’d already been into the area that is technically considered Patagonia a couple of times by this point, entering towns like Pucón in Chile, and San Martin de Los Andes in Argentina marked a noticeable shift from all of the regions I’d been in previously, which still felt largely unchanged by tourism. It was still quite early in the season for the hordes of travelers to have taken over these places, but the signs are there. Fancy chocolate shops. Overpriced hostels. Cafes on every street corner selling $8 artisanal muffins to a looping soundtrack of Adele and Sam Smith.
The name “California” was first given around 1535 to what’s now Baja California Sur when it was rediscovered by the Spanish conquistadores, and the term didn’t extend to the now USA-California until 85 years later, a territory commonly referred to as New Albion. Some years later for land management purposes the former was then named Antigua (old) or Baja (lower) California, and the latter Nueva (new) or Alta (higher) California; in 1848 as a result of the Mexican-American War, Alta California becomes the American state of California. Then in the 1970s a trend is born: Newcalifornians start calling peninsular California simply “Baja”, as a brand name for investing in commercial, touristic and real estate development.
Throughout the Spring I was unfortunate in that I had to miss all of the El Grupo Bikepacking overnight trips except our final one, the big end of season trip. Colin had devised a modified Craters and Cinder Cones loop so that we could do a half loop as an overnighter. Now, most of our trips are totally self-supported, but as Colin was still recovering from his Achilles injury, he planned to drive the van and meetup to camp with us. Nonetheless, the kids still carried all of their gear, but we were lucky to have a little water and snack angel along the way.
Biking Man Corsica: The Mountain in the Sea
Photos and words by Ryan Le Garrec
Bikingman Corsica is a mere 700 kilometres race, sounds short for an ultra distance race, well, add 14.000 meters to climb, crazy temperature drops, freezing wind gusts, potholes hiding inside the dark, standing cows on the roads and pigs and boars coming along, wandering dogs and all kinds of wildlife. A beautiful tortuous island with no flat road at any point.
It almost feels like a waste to race it.
To help satiate the rapidly-growing bikepacking community’s desire for new long-distance routes, Bikepacking Roots recently released the 2,700-mile-long Wild West Route. This Canada- to-Mexico epic links together dirt roads and rough 4×4 tracks through Montana, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona, showcasing the vast expanses of wild and public lands in the Intermountain West.
Words and Photos by Spencer Harding
It’s easy to get lost in the dreamy imagery of bike tours to exotic far-off lands. I’m always making myself feel like everything has to look like a crazy-ass skid backlight by a Kodachrome sunset at the end of the world…but let’s be real in a world of unreal imagery.
Pepper and Sam came down to Tucson to start their trip on the Sky Island Odyssey. Pepper was in from Australia after being away from the states for many years on her way up to a new job in Seattle. Sam, running from the winter on Prince Edward Island and needed no excuse to come down and get sunburnt. Monique and I had been talking at the shop about going camping for a few weeks without any plan coming to fruition. We decided to take Pepper and Sam on a little shakedown ride into the mountains near Tucson before sending them down south on their odyssey. Colin, fresh off getting an OK from the doctor to do some light pedaling after he tore his Achilles, joined us until the route turned uphill!
The folks at UK-based cycling adventure co. Pannier are doing great things. From before I ever started backpacking and touring, I’d had a romantic vision of touring around the English countryside – stopping into pubs when I needed food and rest, waving at sheep. The “usual stuff” had always prevented me from actually doing it – namely, the logistics of mapping a route and flying a bunch of gear across the pond. So it felt like divine intervention just a few weeks ago when I discovered the Route Beer Ramble – a 200km weekend group ride from London to Bristol, wrapping up with custom-brewed beers (and a brewery tour) at Cocksure Brewing Co.
I was told by Stef and Dave (Pannier head-honchos) that I’d only need to bring a helmet, pedals and cycling shoes – they’d essentially handle everything else. This removed my biggest obstacle – and as the sole international traveler, it made booking this trip last-minute infinitely do-able. Upon arrival, Stef had me fully setup with a beautiful Surly Straggler with fat gravel tires and Ortleib weatherproof bags. All the necessary camping gear (tent, pad and bag) would be ready and waiting for me upon arrival at our first checkpoint. This was really almost a bit too good to be true.
Yesterday a longtime friend, Kevin Sparrow, was in town from Milwaukee so we took him on the classic Strawberry loop but added in the Gabrielino trail for good measure. It totaled 25 miles and 4,000′ and was 99% singletrack. This route is amazing and I highly recommend it.
Unapologetic. Relentless. Persistent. A Machines for Freedom Expedition in Utah
Words by Aimee Gilchrist, photos by John Watson
The Utah desert, or desert in general, does not often offer comfortable accommodations to outsiders. High winds, isolated vegetation, sun-soaked and shadeless valleys, rapid nocturnal cooling and infrequent precipitation. The desert can feel like a bitter and unforgiving stranger. Lucky for us, Utah was well-behaved. Late March riding and a window between April showers painted the varying landscape with fragrant sage and spring blooms. Barren mesas were glowing with red and gold dust. And instead of the reliable, wind-blown silence often found on these remote roads, our Machines for Freedom team shared conversation and laughter that could be heard echoing in the canyons for miles.
A few months earlier, Jenn Kriske from Machines for Freedom gathered a group of ladies to ride an aggressive route mapped by John Watson. Our MFF riding team consisted of seven badass, hilarious, strong athletes from Santa Barbara and LA to Portland by way of Bozeman and Durango: Jessica Baum (Santa Barbara), Gritchelle Fallesgon (Portland), Mason Griffin (Bozeman), Stephanie Ortega (LA), Ginger Boyd (LA), Sarah Swallow (Durango) and I (LA). Heavy winter snow and rain this Spring impeded the original route and last minute adjustments were made exchanging knee-deep mud for pavement. Our goal was to ride 350 miles from Tropic, Utah to Green River, Utah in 4 days. We were well suited for this undertaking.
The EWS (Enduro World Series) and the UCI recently announced The Trophy of Nations. A multi-day enduro race with a team racing component. Since 2013 the EWS has been run independently from the UCI and for good reason. It allowed the EWS to develop and hone the series from track selection to race format and rules without the bureaucratic lethargy and bungling that is typically associated with the UCI. Chris Ball and the rest of the EWS staff deserve high praise for taking the mandate to independently foster the growth of this series.
Baja Divide, La Sierra Norte – Daniel Zaid
Words and photos by Daniel Zaid
In 2016 I rode my bike through the Baja California pennisula on the only paved highway, the Carretera Transpeninsular, and as pretty as it was, having to look over my shoulder all the time prevented me from fully enjoying the ride. I ventured in some dirt roads and after some very bumpy rides I thought I’d also look into getting another bike, something that could put more cushion between the rocks and my bones. Few weeks before finishing I read about the Baja Divide project; I saw a photo of the map and did the Cape Loop and thought “This is what I needed.” Three years later I’m finally able to go back again, this time though on a bike made expressly for dirt road touring: Ultraromance´s #RoseEmojiBikes aka the Warthog Wash Wiper aka “Rosita”. Also I’m joined by my partner Karla on her Surly Krampus, who has been dreaming of doing this route for months.
The world of gravel racing is still very foreign to me. At least the competitive side of things, yet I find myself getting roped into these races, namely the ones where they boast features like timed sections. These enduro-inspired gravel races, like Grinduro, adopt this format in hopes that people will hang out and make the event more casual, rather than an all-out battle for who crosses the finish line. In events like Grinduro, this works perfectly, keeping the pace party-level and the conversations lively. This party vibe isn’t easy to cultivate. You’ve got to convince people it isn’t worth charging ahead, stringing the group out.
So maybe that’s why I felt compelled to try out the Eroica California’s Nova race. It boasted timed segments, chiller riding vibes, and I have ridden in the area, twice before, as well as the Eroica California’s course, back when it began and ended in Paso Robles. With this year’s event starting in the sleepy town of Cambria, it surely would be one to remember. Oh, and it was.
Get Lost and Find Yourself: Cycling to the Breaking Point
Photos and words by Ryan Le Garrec
Long Distance cycling is a mental battle.
For 2019, the WTB Bikexplorers have a new Grassroots Ride Series launching. These rides are a movement toward creating a stronger, more connected WTF Bikexploring community. They are seeking ride leaders to organize multi-day self-supported adventure rides in their local communities and to register their 2019 rides, which are then listed on the Grassroots Ride Series page. Right now, there are rides in Colorado, Pennsylvania, DC, Vermont, TX, and more. If you are a WTF and would like to host a ride in your area – like LA for instance! – head to the Grassroots Ride Series to sign up by May 31st!