Behold. A steel bicycle that lasts a lifetime and pushes through the trends, accepting new builds and uses with ease, with finesse, and most importantly, with style. Do you remember Erik’s Di2 Alfine 11 Peacock Nuke AWOL? That photoset was fire back in 2014 when we originally posted it. While propped up on a hillside in Bernal Heights, an incredibly scenic neighborhood in the US’ most scenic city, Erik and I lamented how this whole “adventure” stuff was going to take off, big time. The AWOL was the first bike Erik designed for Specialized, which is raced the Transcontinental Race on and little did he know that just five years later, the brand would put a bullet in this peacock project.
When we lost our image server bucket from 2014-2016, it was a devastating blow to the visual catalog of bike portraits, rides, events, and other cycling ephemera. I felt like a piece of my own body was taken away since so much time, energy, and in this case, physical effort was put into making that content.
That era, even though it was only a few years back, was a unique time in cycling. Instagram hadn’t quite caught on yet, not at the capacity it carries today. The whole gravel and bikepacking trend was just ramping up.
Erik Nohlin was working on the now-defunct Specialized Adventure lineup, including the AWOL – he was riding the “secret” Poler edition prototype at the time – and I was just beginning to fine-tune my abilities as both an athlete and photographer. I will admit, resurrecting stories like this is painful, partially because I feel like as a website, we’ve grown to present more refined ride Reportage, and also because it was a different time in my personal life. Yet, so many people request that these galleries get a re-up, so here we are on a Throwback Thursday post, digging up old content and re-presenting it. Rather than just re-inserting the images themselves, I culled the selection down and compiled all three ride reports into one. Enjoy!
So, you might have noticed this already but our server accidentally deleted our 2015 image bucket, including many of my favorite Ride Reportage entries. When possible, I’ll be re-upping these stories and linking it here to the Radar to encourage everyone to revisit the entry. We’ve got a lot of incredible rides back-logged here on the Radavist, so expect some prime throwback entries being brought back to life. Got one you’d like to request? Drop it in the comments.
This week’s entry is Death in the Valley, by team AWOL. I wonder how much these guys have learned since their last attempt?
Rust Never Sleeps on Sofia’s AWOL Touring Bike
Words by Erik Nohlin, photos by John Watson
TRUST ME, I’M A DESIGNER
As a designer of bicycles I try to stay on top of things like material development, new alloys, paint pigment, flakes, pearls, platings and whatnot. It’s in my interest to stay updated in an ever-changing world. What you see on the floor in a bike shop is not just a bicycle with a random color: it’s the result of hundreds or thousands of hours of trial and error behind the scenes at any one man bike shop or huge bike brand with a fleet of designers.
That one color started out as 666 other potential colors and in the end, only one made it. For the one man operation or smaller brand in a well-defined niche it might be easier to do cool and crazy shit to please that one customer with that weird request of a thermochromatic dead matte black that fades to metallic peach with a pride parade pearl to top it off. I design bicycles for a global brand and need to create a bike that pleases a global rider and as you all know, trends and cultural differences around the globe vary, fluctuate and make my day pretty complicated.
I’ll be honest with you: it’s frustrating to rarely ever be able to bring the raddest and weirdest stuff to you. One example is the one off Full Nuke Rainbow AWOL I created for the Transcontinental Race, a bike that almost blew up the internet when John posted it. So much stoke and love was thrown on that bike but the reality is that it would be impossible to produce it, guarantee the surface quality, get a decent price and distribute it to you. Doing rad stuff is easy but mass producing it is a completely different story. So, I try a lot of surface treatments and materials but most often these tryouts, experiments never leave the design studio as more than dirt on my hands, stains on my jeans and once in a while, a painted one off bicycle that I can tell you about.
The Rust AWOL is my wife Sofia’s bike and it used to look quite different. A super glittery rainbow flakey touring bike that was left in the hands of Garrett Chow on a journey to the heart of Death Valley early last winter. The washboard and dirt in Death Valley eat bikes for breakfast and the beat up bike that was returned to her had a couple of scars too many so I promised to bring it back to its “old glory”. The frame is one of the first nickel plated frame samples for the Transcontinental Edition AWOL we did and a perfect canvas to be creative on since the nickel makes it completely sealed for corrosion – ironic isn’t it? Rust is corrosion and in this case impossible to achieve without some chemical magic from a UK paint company called Rustique.
My colleague Barry Gibb had previously used it to create a fantastic surface on a carbon bike and I wanted to try it to, on steel this time. We ordered some paint and decided that Sofia’s nickel plated bike would be the victim for this experiment. The month of June is usually pretty mellow at work (read: not as completely fucking crazy as July and August) and I spent some afternoons in the workshop and paint booth to finish off this creative experiment in an effort to bring real organic life back to a surface that’s dead. In a step by step series on Instagram, I told a transparent story about the process of the #rustawol and here it is and for the first time, a somewhat finished bike. The project was crowned with a Brooks Cambium rust saddle and bar tape where the fabric matches the bike and the vulcanized rubber matches the tan wall tires nicely.
As a last step I gave the Supernova headlamp and the Tubus rack a kiss of iron oxide. The humid and cold San Francisco summer will continue to corrode and oxidize the surface even though it’s been sealed with a clear coat as I surprisingly discovered after picking up the bike today. I learned a ton on this project, got my hands dirty and created a bike that Sofia really seems to like. I love that I sometimes can show you the hands-on process of being a designer at a big brand when 90% of my work never leaves the design studio. Confidentiality keeps us all from sharing what I know a lot of you like seeing and know more about.
Personally, the making-of-dvd in the Indiana Jones DVD box is far superior to the movies themselves and getting dirty is the only way to learn something new.
Follow Erik on Instagram.
Photos by Dylan Buffington
… doing what they love. Erik and Ty on a recent Yonder ride up in the Sierra Mountains. You can check out more behind the scenes looks at Dylan’s Tumblr.
This is the second layout of the Radavist 2015 Calendar, entitled “Outback”. The camera and location are noted on the bottom left of the document.
Out of all the photos shot on last year’s Oregon Outback, this one in particular continues to resonate and with this year’s event coming up soon, hopefully it’ll serve as inspiration to get you out on these roads…
For a high-res JPG, suitable for print and desktop wallpaper*, right click and save link as – The Radavist 2015 Calendar – February. Please, this photo is for personal use only!
(*set background to white and center for optimal coverage)
Death in the Valley – Team AWOL
Words by Erik Nohlin, Garrett Chow, Dylan Buffington, Sean Estes
Photos by Erik Nohlin and Dylan Buffington
“Let’s ride into the middle of the desert on our bikes.”
It was plain and simple. This was the brief that convinced a few friends to dive into Death Valley head first. We planned the trip in three weeks, the drive took 7 hours, and all of a sudden our feet were planted on the dirt of the Inyo Mountain Range that would lead us into Death Valley. We were set for an adventure but what we found was an epic one.
On long rides, moments and memories start to blend into each other, making it hard to differentiate this mountain from the next, that turn from this bend. As part of the Team AWOL spirit, there is a responsibility to tell a story. Whether that be with photos or reports, every rider will explain the pain of a climb a little differently than the next. This is something that is taken to heart especially when riding with a group. In this report, we are including everyone’s voice as a way to adjust the method of storytelling. We find this to be essential to understanding the bigger picture. Not only do we view and take in the photographs, but the style and reflections in each of their writings bring unique perspectives to understanding the truth in the story…
A few months ago, Erik from AWOL and I planned on doing a ride, not just any ride however, we wanted to do the Oregon Outback. 370 miles from Southern, to Northern Oregon, all at altitude desert? Hell yes! Little did we know, that ride would kick our asses. Well, my ass anyway.
Before Interbike, we had a party at the Poler store in Portland, where we launched these zines and patches. If you’re in Portland, you can still buy one at the Poler store, but for those of you who aren’t there, you can now pick one up here. The zine features a pattern drawn by LAND, a selection of photos from the Oregon Outback, words from Erik and illustrations by Chris Conlin.
For $15 shipped in the USA, $20 shipped world wide, each zine comes with a patch and all proceeds will be donated to an organization of my choice…
Check out more previews below but SORRY SOLD OUT!
Well, the AWOL x Poler touring bikes are hitting the shelves of your local Specialized dealers today. Ordering is simple: contact your local dealer and order direct. The bikes will arrive within a week. Select international countries will also be able to order the bikes, call your local dealer to confirm. Poler is selling the panniers in their webshop as well.
See more specs and photos below.
Read the full press-release below.
A couple of people asked about the lamp that’s on Erik’s AWOL x Poler tourer. Earlier this year, when we rode the Outback, it was his sole light source for when the sun set over eastern Oregon. It’s best described as a “super-wide and super-bright beam.”
The Flux uses a Cree LED with a patented reflector for bright and wide light, much like you’d find in the automotive industry.
Powering the Flux are internal rechargeable 5200mAhr Lithium Ion batteries and there are three nighttime modes with power resulting between 1,200 and 400 lumens. You’ll get 1.75 hours at 1,200 and 6 at 400 lumens and it’ll recharge from zero to full in just four hours.
The Flux will hit shelves at your local Specialized dealer shortly.
You’ve seen this bike before, you just thought it was a one-off paint job. Back when Erik rode the Transcontinental Race, he used a Poler Camera Cooler for a bar bag, prompting Benji from Poler to reach out to Erik – Benji pays attention to what’s going on in the cycling world… For instance, these panniers have been in the works for a while.
After a quick visit to Portland, Erik and Benji schemed on something for the AWOL project for Poler. The great thing about these AWOL bikes is their versatility. 1-trakk rippers, around-town, bar bike, touring bike, dirt touring bike, dirt-drop brap machine. They do it all, including the 370 mile trek across Oregon for the Oregon Outback.
We knew we wanted to do a big ride to *shoot the bike, but weren’t sure where, when or how we’d do it.
When the Oregon Outback was announced, Erik reached out to me and I said yes, not knowing what I was getting myself into. It was a hell of a ride and afterwards, we stayed with Benji and began discussing the bike’s launch.
Next week, these bikes hit dealers. On the 6th of September to be exact. MSRP, availability and other information is on the way, or you can just call your local Specialized shop. Prior to the launch, on September 5th, I’ll be having a gallery show at Poler’s new storefront in Portland with an opening reception. Aka, a party. More info on that to come…
For now, check out some details in the Gallery!
*Believe it or not, this is the same bike that Erik rode during the Oregon Outback. I had to painstakingly photoshop out all of the Poler insignia. Front lamp and saddle bag not included! Comes with panniers and front pannier rack.
When Erik and I committed to riding the Oregon Outback, we didn’t want to absolutely kill ourselves, but we wanted it to be tough. On paper, 360 miles is totally doable in three days without crushing your spirit. Hell, I think we could have done it in two and we still would have been ok but that’s not the point.
I had a responsibility. One that I take seriously and that’s documenting this trip. Granted, most of the time, I didn’t want to stop to shoot a photo, or hop off my bike, I just wanted to keep going…
The second day of any big ride is usually the toughest. Your body just assumes it’s going to be on the defensive for an unknown amount of time and begins to push back. Usually, that is. For Erik and I, we awoke in the Silver Lake Community Park f-u-c-k-i-n-g freezing. The weather said it would drop to 45 degrees as the low, so he and I brought hammocks and 40 degree bags in the interest of space and weight.
At 4am, my phone said it was 28 degrees. A cold front had moved in.
I was shivering uncontrollably, had I known it was going to be that cold, I would have brought a sleeping pad and a tarp, both of which I’ve used to alleviate the loss of body heat that happens in hammocks at such low temperatures. But alas, you reap what you sew. We would be cold on this trip.
All our field guide said about mile 120-240 was that we’d be crossing altitude desert and would be without water for up to 80 miles. I brought an Arundel Looney Bin to hold a 48oz Nalgene, which, after making breakfast, I filled up. Along with my two large Purist bottles. We had to get moving. Fast… It was 6:30am.
Continue reading in the Gallery captions.
With the success and failure of Erik and my last AWOL ride on the Diablo range, we started looking for another mission to continue the story. This couldn’t be just any camping trip, it had to be hard. Like, really, really tough and big and stuff.
Then it dawned on Erik (I was too busy to actually look for anything) – we’d do Velo Dirt’s Oregon Outback. Erik contacted me in his Swedish voice “ok mannn, we’re going to do this really fucking tough ride, called the Oregon Outback, are you in?”. Me: “Of course!” – not wanting to sound like a sissy. At the time, I was probably traveling for something and I didn’t even know what the Outback was. I just assumed it was a chill weekend getaway…
28 hours of moving time, 60 elapsed hours, 13mph average, 15,300′ elevation, 368 miles later and Team AWOL is done. We finished the Velodirt Oregon Outback, self-supported, fully loaded on Sunday, 45 minutes ahead of schedule. I rode the last day with a bum knee and a crooked back. It was three days of highs and lows, with a constant headwind.
… but we did it. Expect a whole torrent of photos and posts once I recover and return home to Austin.
Thanks for the support on Instagram and your patience while the site has been inactive.
So I haven’t made a big deal about this for a few reasons. First, I don’t want to jinx myself or my teammate on this ride and second, it’s part of a project that won’t see the light of day for a few months.
That said, I’m doing / racing / riding / surviving the Oregon Outback, a 360 miles MTB trek from Southern Oregon to Northern Oregon. Our plan is to do it in three days. Unsupported. That’s 120 miles a day on dirt.
I do rides like this often enough, maybe not to this degree, but essentially bikepacking or touring. So I thought I’d let you in on my packing list, via knolling. Check out a break-down below.
The AWOL blog has so much good content in it these days. Like these photos of Dylan and Erik’s Swift Ozette randonneur bag!