Ryan Wilson

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El Camino de Cotahuasi: Riding the Deepest Canyon in the Americas

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El Camino de Cotahuasi: Riding the Deepest Canyon in the Americas

Rocks slid from above, along a loose slope, showering the dirt road in front of me with a fresh layer. While treacherous in the rain, the locals warned that even an early afternoon breeze was enough to turn this road into a nightmare of falling debris. “Keep your ears and eyes open at all times,” a man in the nearby town of Huambo said as he made a motion imitating someone frantically pedaling a bike as fast as they could spin their legs.

A Year with the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo

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A Year with the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo

Finding the right tent for a bike trip is always tricky. It’s all about striking the balance of size, weight, livability, storm-worthiness, and durability that fits you and your plans.  

Before heading to Turkey, I knew I wanted to try to eliminate full-sized panniers from my setup, which meant leaving a few things back home and downsizing a few other pieces of gear to make that possible. The tent was one of the first items I looked at since my Tarptent Stratospire 2, while super bomber and massively spacious, is not the smallest option when packed, and probably a little overkill for this trip.

That’s when I landed on the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo. On paper, at $250 (minus stakes, pole, and seam sealer) and sub-1kg all-in, the Lunar Solo ticked an awful lot of boxes in terms of size, space, and cost, so I gave it a shot.  After a year and countless nights in the mountains of Turkey, the Andean Puna, and the forests of Michigan, I’ve come away impressed.

Cactus y Cañones: A Return to the Peruvian Andes

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Cactus y Cañones: A Return to the Peruvian Andes

After some indecision over where I’d go following my tour through Southern Turkey, I landed back on familiar territory. I’d originally planned to head for Ecuador or the Western Wildlands route in the US, but once my plans got pushed later into the year, I decided that a trip back to Southern Peru would be more enjoyable than trudging through Ecuador’s rainy season or dealing with the seemingly constant fires in the western US. Plus I’d get a chance to see if the months of Duolingo to shake off my rusty Spanish would pay off in any meaningful way.

One Last Trip Through Kangal Country on Turkey’s Elmalı Plateau

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One Last Trip Through Kangal Country on Turkey’s Elmalı Plateau

One of my favorite aspects of traveling to a new place is discovering the local music. Inevitably, I’ll be at a restaurant or shop and a song over the radio will catch my ear. In my experience, there’s very little that will bring the enthusiasm out of a local like a tourist showing an interest in their favorite local classics, so asking about the song will often open up a whole conversation and a slew of other recommendations. With that in mind, here’s a short playlist of Turkish classics from the ’70s and ’80s that folks turned me onto along the way:

Touring Turkey’s Lycian Coast

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Touring Turkey’s Lycian Coast

From the comforts of the coastal city of Antalya, I took to the surrounding hills for short rides between the abundant days of rain that come with the wet season in this region. Turkey had imposed significant covid restrictions for the first time since I was in the country, including full weekend curfews, so this gave me plenty of time to plan out what kind of route would still be possible when the situation improved.  Accepting sudden changes in plans and having some patience has always been important for bike touring and that is especially true these days.

Improvising in the Aladağlar

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Improvising in the Aladağlar

I rolled into the small village of Çamalan. There was a lone shop at the main intersection of town that had a steady flow of locals driving up in their cars. Typically they’d grab bread from the cupboard outside, maybe some Ayran from the fridge, and (most likely) a few packs of cigarettes. These are the Turkish staples.

It was almost dark and I had no clue where I would spend the night.  This is a fairly typical situation for me at this point. I’ve grown comfortable with the feeling.  That’s not to say it can’t be stressful, but when you’ve felt that uncertainty dozens of times before, it gives you more confidence that you’ll be able to make it work out somehow.

The Goat Road to Göğeri: Bikepacking Turkey

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The Goat Road to Göğeri: Bikepacking Turkey

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.

Everything Ryan Wilson Packed for His Turkish Bike Tour and Six New Favorite Pieces of Gear

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Everything Ryan Wilson Packed for His Turkish Bike Tour and Six New Favorite Pieces of Gear

Narrowing down my setup for Turkey was a bit tricky compared to some of my previous trips. In particular, because half of my gear that I was using in Central Asia was stranded in Nepal on lockdown, I’d have to try to piece together a rig using older equipment I had lying around as well as a handful of new additions to round it out.

To start, I picked up a Surly Bridge Club.  I originally had intended only to have it as a do-it-all bike while I was home, but when I found out I was heading to Turkey, I was intrigued to see how an off-the-shelf $1150 bike with entry-level components would fare compared to higher-end setups like my 44 Bikes Marauder and Tumbleweed Prospector. I’ll post my full thoughts on the Bridge Club soon, but in the meantime, here is my full kit list along with six pieces of gear that stood out in the Taurus Mountains.

The Taurus Mountain Traverse: An Unexpected Introduction to Turkey

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The Taurus Mountain Traverse: An Unexpected Introduction to Turkey

The world works in mysterious ways. Until 2020 hit hard and crashed my plans to return to Nepal (and beyond), I never really had Turkey too high on my radar. Off the top of my head, I could have probably listed at least ten or fifteen countries that I was clamoring to ride in before I’d mention the Mediterranean nation that hugs the border between Europe and Asia. Then a series of events kicked off that resulted in me booking a last-minute flight to the Turkish seaside city of Antalya.

The Frozen Trail to Thorong-La

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The Frozen Trail to Thorong-La

(note: this story took place before the pandemic)

The Annapurna circuit has been around as an established trekking route for over 40 years, but parts have existed for trade between the Tibetan plateau and the Manang and Muktinath valleys for far longer. Today it’s one of the most famous places to hike in the world, and one of Nepal’s primary tourist draws. Over the last decade or so it has become famous for the herds of backpackers and yaks that often fill the trail during the peak seasons (spring and fall), and slowly the trail is being replaced by roads to make it easier to bring supplies to these tourist-filled villages.

Out of the Comfort Zone and into the Nepali Mid-Hills

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Out of the Comfort Zone and into the Nepali Mid-Hills

Note: This story took place before the pandemic

The wheels hadn’t even touched the runway on our flight from Kyrgyzstan to Nepal and I already knew we were in for something completely different than the summer and fall we spent in the quiet and remote regions of Central Asia. As we began our descent, I could see the rolling hills that separate the lowlands from the high Himalayan mountains. This area, known as the “mid-hills”, was where we’d spend the bulk of our first couple of weeks in Nepal.

From the air, I watched an endless sea of zig-zagging roads, villages, and terraced hillsides that stretched as far as the eye could see. This tangled web of life came to a dramatic crescendo of tightly-packed buildings and chaos as Kathmandu finally came into view. These were certainly not going to be the untouched and sparsely populated valleys you might find while roaming the countryside in Kyrgyzstan, but change is a good thing. Being thrust into new and sometimes even uncomfortable situations is what makes bike touring so rewarding.

In the Shadow of the Fann Mountains

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In the Shadow of the Fann Mountains

(Note: This story took place before the pandemic)

Following our ride along the Tajik/Afghan border, Chrissa and I paused for a few days in Tajikistan’s capital city of Dushanbe to soak up the local culture and stock up at the grand bazaar. Even in the biggest city in the country, the outgoing personality of the Tajik people comes through. Where in a typical city of this size the locals would mostly keep to themselves, here it was very common for people to stop and chat with us on the street, asking what brought us to their country and giving us tips about places to visit in the city.

Tumbleweed Bikes: Tumbleweed Prospector Review, 8 Months in Asia

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Tumbleweed Bikes: Tumbleweed Prospector Review, 8 Months in Asia

I’ll be honest, the thought of a new bike is not something that really gets me terribly excited these days.  The places it can take me and the people I will meet along the way?  Definitely!  But when a post pops up on this site or any of the other bike-related sites I visit that starts getting into new-fangled hub spacings or microscopic geometry tweaks and angles, my brain tends to glaze over and forcibly pushes my hand toward clicking on the next article.  The things I look for when selecting a bike for my next big trip are based almost entirely on practicality and reliability.  I just want a bike that I don’t have to think about.

Bike-Camping Along Michigan’s North Country Trail on the Bombtrack Beyond+ ADV

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Bike-Camping Along Michigan’s North Country Trail on the Bombtrack Beyond+ ADV

The North Country Trail

Way back in the mid-80’s I was born about 30 minutes outside of Detroit, Michigan. The area I was in did not exactly lend itself to cycling becoming a hobby at the time, so I really never became interested in bikes and the outdoors until I moved to California and found the mountains as an adult. Fast forward to 2020 when my plans to ride through far-flung mountains in Asia all summer came grinding to a halt along with everyone else’s lives, I found myself back in Michigan for an unknown period of time.

Frozen in Time: Riding Tajikistan’s Bartang Valley

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Frozen in Time: Riding Tajikistan’s Bartang Valley

2019. It feels like an entirely different timeline at this point. For months as the Coronavirus has shifted the focus of our lives, I sat on these articles covering the rest of my time in Asia, wondering if they felt relevant at a time like this. Or when the next time would be that I’d see a photo that reminds me of when kind-hearted villagers would invite a random weirdo like me into their homes with open arms and not find it as bitter as it is sweet.

The Unknown Road to the High Pamir

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The Unknown Road to the High Pamir

Up to this point, the route-finding came easy in Kyrgyzstan. The North-Eastern zone of the country has seen its fair share of bikepackers floating along its gravel tracks to weed through the wealth of options available. As we made our way south from the small oasis city of Baetov, our direction was less clear. We knew we’d be heading for Northern Tajikistan, but had no real idea about how we’d end up there or what type of riding we’d be in for along the way.