The 1st of July marks the start date for the most awaited cycling event of the year. Tens of cyclists from different origins gather to dedicate the next weeks of their lives to riding a different route every day, with a rest day every week. Those who manage to finish the route will have over 4000 kilometers under their legs. We’re not talking about the Tour de France here, this is La Ruta Chichimeca!
When I first started gathering the necessary gear to give bike touring (or “bikepacking” in the parlance of our times) a go, the concept struck me as an opportunity to escape from the predictable, mundane, “rinse-and-repeat” order of everyday life. An opportunity to embrace a new kind of freedom of aimless wandering through paths and tracks out in the near-endless natural landscape. After a couple of trips, though, I found the reality of touring isn’t the carefree meander I had envisioned. It can involve weeks or months of planning, trail markers, GPS tracks, resupply points… Which is not to say that escaping on a multi-day trip isn’t freeing, it is – very much so – but maybe not in the conventional sense of the word. I think author Robert Moor says it best in his written exploration of travel, On Trails:
“But complete freedom, it turned out, is not what the trail offers. Quite the opposite – a trail is a tactful reduction of options. The freedom of the trail is riverine, not oceanic. To put it as simply as possible, a path is a way of making sense of the world. There are infinite ways to cross a landscape; but the options are overwhelming, and pitfalls abound. The function of the path is to reduce this teeming chaos into an intelligible line.”
For the final installment of our coverage documenting the Forgotten Coast Route – a bikerafting trip connecting all of Iceland’s southern coast – expedition photographer Ryan Hill writes a series of short stories recounting some memorable moments from the media team’s point of view. Follow along with Ryan and the rest of the team which includes videographers Bryan “Bobcat” Davis, Jeremy Bishop, and Icelander Sigurdur “Sigi’ Petur.
Less than thirty miles from one of the most populous areas in North America, lies the remote eastern reaches of the Los Padres National Forest. With its seemingly endless layers of pinyon, ponderosa and fir-studded peaks that stand sentinel over a tangled labyrinth of deep, rugged valleys, it’s hard to believe that such a wild oasis exists merely a stone’s throw from the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area and its nineteen million residence. And, in unbelievably stark contrast to the concrete-laden hustle and bustle of neighboring LA, this portion of the Los Padres remains almost entirely devoid of human presence for much of the year. For the months that motorized access is prohibited, one must hike or pedal their way into these wild and untamed canyons. Getting back there can be a rigorous effort indeed, but more than worth it for the unhampered solitude one can find.
April is typically a shoulder season here; heavy snow years and lallygagging winters can render the month bitterly cold, the trails can remain unrideable, and the streams too cold and icy for any desirable form of fishing. This winter was different however…the snow never really fell, and unseasonably warm and dry weather persisted through the once-rainy winter season and on into spring. So here we were, the first weekend in April, baking under an angry sun as we loaded bikes and prepared to set off deep into the Los Padres in search of wild campsites and native fish.
I was just starting to get into the flow of life in Colombia. Waking up in the morning in a small village to seek out whichever local bakery had the most people flowing in and out to grab breakfast. Hitting the road while the air was still cool.
The evening before, I had rolled into the tiny old town of Toche to a chorus of agitated dogs looking to announce my arrival. Back 10+ years ago this town used to be a particularly dangerous place due to its remote location making it attractive to folks trying to avoid the law, but these days it’s mostly just home to a small number of Llaneros (cowboys) and their animals.
Early the next morning, I rode through the town’s totally empty streets. I stopped to take a photo as a friendly pup that I’d seen the evening before came running up toward me with a lot of excitement in its step, though she never came too close. Just watching what I was doing from a safe distance.
After a stop in the shop, I pedaled my way up the start of the day’s long and steep climb to “Alto de La Línea”. This was a stretch of road I’d been looking forward to for a very long time.
My Garmin reads 113 degrees. With smoke blowing into Idaho from the seemingly continuous California fires, the air quality index is almost double the temperature. A brown haze obscures the landscape. Soot mixes with dust and sweat forming a dry crust on my face. In the dirt, on either side of me, lay my two companions—my younger brother and my hardtail mountain bike, fully loaded with camping gear. Forty miles into a four hundred-mile unsupported mountain biking trip through the Idaho backcountry, we take reprieve in a sliver of shade.
“Classic Mike Dillon trip,” my brother mutters, his voice thick with melted trail mix. Mike Dillon is our dad. Mike Dillon died eight months ago.
For almost an entire calendar year, I watched as the business I worked for tracked record profits, month after month, while I toiled away at the kitchen table of my studio apartment amidst the onset of a global pandemic.
Outlook pings governed my daily life; recurring meetings and phone calls structured my weekdays ‘to-the-hour.’ Most interactions were conducted in real-time Brady Bunch video cubes. With a cell phone and 13-inch computer screen acting as bridges to all of humanity, I was overwhelmingly connected, yet incredibly distant at the same time.
I questioned my own existence and sense of purpose. I felt both disposable and in-demand; exhausted, but left with a permeating fear of upsetting an operational chain. My manager had quit without replacement and I floated along an aimless trajectory, making up additional job responsibilities as I went. With so much unpredictability, I struggled to do real, meaningful “work.” Feeling a constant pressure to compose emails and tap away at computer keys, home life seamlessly meshed into work life. I grew tired and weary and craving fulfillment. So I quit.
For eight years running, around the Summer Solstice, Swift Industries has put out a rallying cry for cyclo-touring enthusiasts the world over to strap some bags to their bikes, head out for a couple of days of pedaling, and sleep on the ground. For this year’s Campout, we partnered with Swift to host the Radavist Swift Campout Photo Shootout, which called on campers to document their SCO experience through photography for a chance to win a load of prizes. The esteemed jury made up of representatives from The Radavist, and Swift Industries judged over 100 entries on their merits, including but not limited to technical considerations, composition, lighting, and impact, as well as the raw emotional power of the images (aka STOKE FACTOR!). We’re pleased to announce that Rifqi Akbar has been selected as this year’s winner and, below, he shares about the campout he and his friends embarked on near Bandung, Indonesia! Congrats, Rifqi!
The longest mountain bike trail in the world: OROGENESIS. It’s an idea now, but with your help we’re going to make it real. Ever since the early days of the Repack riders, mountain bikers have dreamed about a trail that spans the mountain ranges of the North American continent. Now, 40 years later, we’re building it. In 2016, the instantly popular Baja Divide bikepacking route landed on maps and, shortly afterward, the Oregon Timber Trail appeared as well. It was obvious that we needed to connect the two. Five years and five thousand miles later, here we are. A new way on old ground.
“I think the big highlight for me was just the energy—the energy shared any time I passed someone, or they passed me—I’d stop and think I was alone, and all of a sudden, I’d turn a corner and see someone I knew. The energy we left echoed through those mountains.”
This past April, in the quiet Spanish town of Teruel, a few hours east of Madrid, 56 riders set out by bike to take on the Komoot Women’s Montañas Vacías Bikepacking Challenge, an eight-day exploration of one of the least-populated regions in Europe. The 57th rider, Josie Fouts, followed along in the media van and recaps the challenge below.
Note: This article is part of a sponsored partnership with Komoot. We’ll always disclose when content is sponsored to ensure our journalistic integrity.
The Forgotten Coast Route starts in the small eastern Iceland town of Djúpivogur and traverses 300 miles over mostly continuous beaches, spits, ocean islands, and sandbars, to the town of Thorlakshofn. Using a combination of fatbikes and packrafts Chris Burkard, Steve “Doom” Fassbender, and Cameron Lawson navigated a portion of Iceland’s coast seldom seen. With over 40 river crossings and covering some of the windiest and weather-riddled parts of Iceland’s coastlines, the route presented serious challenges for the team.
Below are a series of daily, first-hand accounts of the expedition. These daily journals are based on interviews with Chris Burkard and written by trip photographer Ryan Hill.
After almost 6 years on the road, maybe I let my guard down just a little bit too much. Maybe I’d grown too comfortable mapping out routes in any direction my heart desired and hitting the road without much concern for my safety beyond steering clear of roads with lots of traffic. I’d take notes from locals on places to avoid, wouldn’t ride at night, and I always considered myself careful, but 6 years is a long time, so there’s no doubt that I slipped just a little.
When I first met Erick Cedeño (aka Bicycle Nomad) I had no inkling that a day we spent together shooting lifestyle photos as part of his new role as an ambassador for the outdoor apparel company swrve would blossom into a deep friendship. Nor did I realize at the time that our friendship would take me halfway across the country to help document his ride to honor the 125th anniversary of the monumental expedition of the volunteer Bicycle Corps of the Buffalo Soldiers who rode from Missoula, MT to St. Louis, MO.
On the second day of a four-day tour in the remote Little Belt mountain range in Montana, I suddenly felt that I jettisoned some of my baggage on a long descent. Panic set in…
In the 1980s, Queenstown was a small lakeside community with just a couple thousand residents. Perched on the foreshores of the majestic Lake Wakatipu; its unique mix of snowy-topped mountains, roaring rivers and stunning vistas made it the perfect summer holiday destination for nature-loving Kiwis. However, the mid-90s brought adrenaline junkies and stoke seekers to Queenstown’s shores and soon enough, the town got an ‘Xtreme’ makeover!
Iceland’s South Coast is one of the island’s most visited zones, but its beaches are seldom seen. It sounds like an audacious claim, but with 49 rivers strewn across the island’s southern beaches, this famous stretch boasts hundreds of miles of rarely explored coastline, with access being its biggest challenge. The goal of Chris Burkard’s “Forgotten Coast” trip is to link them all in one route, using a combination of fatbikes, to travel across its black sands and pack-rafts, to cross the rivers that break up these stretches of sand.
It is true in cycling and in life, that unique combinations make for unexpected outcomes. Equal parts scientific and spiritual, exhaustive and reactive- planning an epic bike ride starts with finding contradiction. Modern rigid mountain bikes meets old-school singletrack. Pedaling meets snorkeling. Average Joe’s meets filmmaking pros. Cold beer meets used-to-be-frozen pizza. Skid meets lizards.
Adventure is the alchemy of people and place. Get these right and the story will write itself. Get one right and you can always make the best of it. Get ‘em wrong and you might as well have eaten that frozen pizza alone on your couch. Luckily, we got all the chemistry just right for one magical summer weekend that we get to share forever through the wonders of streaming cinema.
It was in the back of my mind for about a year. Take a bicycle, load it up with camping gear and a surfboard, and tour every coastline around the world looking for waves. I figured it would be a trip of a lifetime. Get in shape, surf incredible waves, take photographs and pursue a dream I thought about every night before I went to sleep.
However, I had a problem. I knew nothing about bicycles. So I needed a warm-up trip. A trip to test my knowledge and see if I really wanted to pursue this idea.