Ryan Wilson

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A Promising Introduction to Riding in Patagonia

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A Promising Introduction to Riding in Patagonia

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.

What Tent Should Ryan Wilson Use?

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What Tent Should Ryan Wilson Use?

Howdy, you wonderful people. After pushing the limits of his ultralight bikepacking tent, Ryan and I think it’s time to move on to a more rebust platform. Right now, we’re looking at the Hyperlite or the Zpacks tents but wanted to reach out to you, the readers, to see what experiences you have had with tents? High winds, rain, and constant use are the deciding factors we’re concerned with. What thoughts do you have?

Winter is Coming to Lanín of Neuquén

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Winter is Coming to Lanín of Neuquén

Winter is Coming to Lanín of Neuquén
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

The signs are all there. Only a couple of weeks ago the autumn nights were just “a bit chilly”. The rainstorms came and went over a matter of hours. Now they linger on for days as the snow line along the mountain top creeps slowly down the hill. Campsites aren’t picked by the most scenic view to wake up to, the most practical surface, or the most secluded location. Now I’m looking for the spot with the best line-of-site to where the sun will creep over the horizon the next day. Put the tent right next to a road? OK. In direct sight of houses? Sure. A few days of stuffing a still iced-over tent into your bags with numb hands has a way of shifting your priorities.

Autumn Amongst the Araucarias

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Autumn Amongst the Araucarias

Autumn Amongst the Araucarias
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

After committing to spending another winter cruising around South America, I figured I might as well go all-in. With no focus on getting much further south where the weather would be turning toward ‘unpleasant for bike touring’ even sooner, I instead looked to embrace the short window of perfect Autumn riding that was dropped in front of me, and go over Chile’s mountainous Araucanía region with a fine-tooth comb.

This area is often overlooked by folks making a bee-line for Southern Patagonia, but it is a favorite amongst the local Chileans looking to escape the city during the summer, highlighted by a seemingly endless string of volcanoes, lakes, and forests filled with Araucaria trees. These tall and spiky evergreens, sometimes referred to as “monkey puzzle trees” give the region its name, and are often considered sacred to the natives of this area who are known as the Mapuche.

El Camino de Los Huasos: A Ride Through the Central Chilean Andes

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El Camino de Los Huasos: A Ride Through the Central Chilean Andes

El Camino de Los Huasos: A Ride Through the Central Chilean Andes
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

More than anything else, I’ve learned two things in my time in Northern Argentina and Chile. First and foremost, never trust a zipper. Little known fact: over 8.9 million zippers have been destroyed in Argentina’s desert in 2018 alone. OK, so maybe I made that up, but if I owned 8.9 million zippers that would definitely be true. The second lesson? Avoid shipping here at all costs, but if you must, you’d better have it planned out well in advance. Unfortunately, after damaging my derailleur and a number of other pieces of equipment in the harsh northern desert, planning and shipping in advance were not really on the table, so upon arriving in the sprawling urban center of Chile known as Santiago, my trip was in the notoriously slow hands of the Chilean customs offices and postal system.

Two Years In… Packing for a Long-Term Bike Tour

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Two Years In… Packing for a Long-Term Bike Tour

Two Years In… Packing for a Long-Term Bike Tour
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

Packing for a trip that spans multiple years can be a bit daunting.  Especially when you’ll be passing through just about every zone of climate you can possibly imagine, from the humidity and heat of the Peruvian jungle to the bitter cold of winter in the mountains of Patagonia…  Dragging the bike up rugged 16,000ft hiking trails, across remote dirt roads, or even the occasional stretch of asphalt. Walking the fine line between having an excessive amount of stuff or too little is a tricky balance.

My setup has been gradually refined since I first started this trip two years ago, and while it’s far from a “minimal” or “ultralight” setup you might take on a trip that spans a few weeks or less, I think I’ve struck a reasonable balance between having everything I need to live and work on the bike in the long-term, while still being a rig that is fun to ride no matter how rough the terrain gets.

As time has gone on, I’ve found that the overall weight doesn’t really matter as much as how everything is packed.  It’s when bags are bouncing around loosely or swaying back and forth where the size and weight really becomes a burden.  When everything is tight and dialed, it’s just another bike.  “How much does it weigh?” is a question I’ve been asked hundreds of times along the way and to be honest, I don’t have a clue.  Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

There are some things on here that would be overkill for many people (large camera, computer, etc), and some things that would be a bit too minimal for others (clothes, sleeping bag, etc), but this is what works for me at the moment…

Sand Traps and Mishaps in the Argentine Puna

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Sand Traps and Mishaps in the Argentine Puna

Sand Traps and Mishaps in the Argentine Puna
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

There are few things in this world that excite me more than a faint checkered line on a map, meandering through wide open spaces.  As I’ve come to find out over the previous month, Northern Argentina has quite the collection of them.  While my completionist tendencies want to pull me in all directions, down every last trail, there are really more than one could ever explore in just one trip.  Often these tracks are meticulously sculpted into a bone-shattering washboard.  If not, they’re plunging you through pits of ankle-deep sand.  Either way, they’re always filling your eyes with sights unlike any other in the world.

La Ruta Del Diablo

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La Ruta Del Diablo

La Ruta Del Diablo
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

After coming away from my first Puna de Atacama experience with a renewed sense of excitement for the other-worldly landscape and solitude of the high Andean desert, I was really looking forward to what else this region of Northern Argentina had to offer. Once again, there were a few different route options on the menu. One being a rather well-worn affair (for the Atacama at least), with a few extra towns dotting the map to make re-supplying a bit easier, along with rumors of a better riding surface. The other, a rarely used track setting off through a string of Satan-themed canyons, salt flats, and remote mountain passes….

The Forgotten Pass of the Atacama

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The Forgotten Pass of the Atacama

The Forgotten Pass of the Atacama
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

The Atacama Desert can be an intimidating place when you look at it on paper. There’s a certain mystique in the cycle-touring world that comes with being labeled the driest place on Earth. The lack of water also means that populated settlements are rare, which makes the vast 128,000 square kilometers of salty, sandy, and rocky terrain seem all the more inhospitable to someone looking to pedal their way through.

To be honest, the prospect of having to carry more than a week’s worth of food along with 3+ days worth of water at any given time didn’t just seem like a logistical challenge in trying to over-stuff bags and strap things to places where they shouldn’t be strapped… It seemed wholly unappealing. Just the thought of watching those liters disappear while you keep your fingers crossed that the next potential water source actually exists was enough to make me wonder if it would even be worth the stress. Still, I’d heard enough praise about the solitude and beauty of the Puna de Atacama that I just couldn’t pass up the chance to see what the hype was all about.

Once Upon a Time in the Bolivian West

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Once Upon a Time in the Bolivian West

Once Upon a Time in the Bolivian West
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

After spending a year riding the constantly undulating roads in the Cordilleras of Perú and Bolivia, it was time to switch it up just a bit and head out for the altiplano of Bolivia’s volcano-laden western region. This is the area where most cycle tourists head when passing through Bolivia and it’s also the place where the country really earns its reputation of vast open spaces with an endless array of sandy/corrugated roads, and other-worldly landscapes.

12 Pieces Of Gear I Wouldn’t Go Without In The Andes

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12 Pieces Of Gear I Wouldn’t Go Without In The Andes

12 Pieces Of Gear I Wouldn’t Go Without In The Andes
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

In a little over a year’s worth of time on the road in the Andes, I’ve had the chance to really put my gear through some serious torture. Luckily, the vast majority of it has stood the test of time, but there are some pieces that have really stood out as items I’ll have in my setup for a long time to come. Obviously, some of this comes down to personal preference and the type of riding you’re doing, so it’s not one-size-fits-all, but the majority of these would work well with just about any type of bikepacking/touring…

The Endless Fiesta in Bolivia’s Kimsa Cruz

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The Endless Fiesta in Bolivia’s Kimsa Cruz

The Endless Fiesta in Bolivia’s Kimsa Cruz
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

The best part about riding in the Andes of Perú and Bolivia is that finding a great route is about as simple as pointing to a couple of interesting looking spots on the map and connecting the dots.  Chances are good that you’ll end up on a rollercoaster of dirt roads through quiet valleys and over dramatic mountain passes.

While it’s fun to follow the tracks of fellow cyclists that have sought out these remote roads and trails previously, if I see a chance to head through an area with little to no info readily available, there’s definitely an extra element of intrigue.  Is there water?  Anywhere to find food along the way?  Is there actually a bridge over that giant river?  After all, the mystery of what lies around the next bend or over the next pass is what keeps me wanting to turn those pedals.

Out of the Bolivian Yungas and into the Cordillera

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Out of the Bolivian Yungas and into the Cordillera

Out of the Bolivian Yungas and into the Cordillera
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

After plunging into the depths of the Bolivian Yungas, your brain likes to trick you into overlooking the relatively low altitude ups and downs of this area, while focusing in on the inevitable slog back to the thin air of the high mountains. But these Yungas roads have a way of telling you right away that just because you’re not at 16,000ft anymore doesn’t mean you’re getting away unscathed here. What the Yungas lacks in pure altitude, it easily makes up for in relentlessly steep, hot, and dusty roads that zig and zag across the rippled terrain. Make no mistake, the challenge here definitely stacks up with just about anything else in the area.

Taking the “Death Road” to the Edge of the Bolivian Jungle

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Taking the “Death Road” to the Edge of the Bolivian Jungle

Taking the “Death Road” to the Edge of the Bolivian Jungle
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

Coming into Bolivia, it’s hard to know what to expect. Where Peru’s reputation is pretty much all happy people, ancient ruins, and fluffy alpacas, the stories you hear about Bolivia prior to visiting are a bit more of a mixed bag. Some are very positive, but one thing repeated pretty often (other than how bad the food is) is that outsiders aren’t quite as popular with the locals. Rather than the welcome party you get in nearly every village in the Peruvian Andes when you roll in on two wheels, the Boliviano response is a bit more tepid… At least that’s the reputation.

A Goodbye to Perú Through the Ausangate

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A Goodbye to Perú Through the Ausangate

A Goodbye to Perú Through the Ausangate
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

For my final stretch through Perú (for now), I jumped onto the instant-classic route that Cass Gilbert and Michael Dammer founded one year prior (http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/tres-cordilleras-boliva-peru/), with a few tweaks. The highlight of this area is unquestionably the circuit around the 6,384m aka 20,945ft wall of rock and ice known as Apu Ausangate. The majority of which is pure backcountry single track through seemingly endless glacial peaks and pristine lagunas.

Bikepacking Peru’s Valle de los Volcanes – Ryan Wilson

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Bikepacking Peru’s Valle de los Volcanes – Ryan Wilson

Bikepacking Peru’s Valle de los Volcanes
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

After dealing with a dead Garmin and a bricked iPhone (my only GPS devices) for a while during my last stint in Perú, I decided to put the trip on hold for a few months and head back to the States. It was a nice break to sort a few things out, skip a little bit of Peru’s rainy season, and take it easy for the holidays.

Gearing up for Life on the Bike: Camera and Tech – Ryan Wilson

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Gearing up for Life on the Bike: Camera and Tech – Ryan Wilson

Packing for an open-ended bike tour through remote areas of developing countries can be a bit intimidating. You don’t want to get there and realize you’re missing something crucial that you’re going to have trouble finding locally, but you don’t want to overpack and feel required to haul a bunch of stuff that you don’t really need.

With that in mind, I wanted to start a series of posts discussing my personal gear setup and some of the things I’ve learned in my first 7 months of living on the bike in South America. First up I’ll dive into my electronics setup and touch on the question I get asked most frequently… “what camera are you using?”

Traversing the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu – Ryan Wilson

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Traversing the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu – Ryan Wilson

Traversing the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

By far the number one thing people bring up when they find out you’re going to Peru is Machu Picchu. In fact, that’s probably the response at least 95% of the time. To be fair, prior to stumbling upon photos of the Cordillera Blanca on Google Earth one day, Machu Picchu was always the first thing that came to my mind as well, so it’s a hard thing to fault.