The remote arid lands of the United States’ West have always called strongly to me – the sandstone canyon country of the Colorado Plateau, the broad detritus-filled valleys and formidable ranges of the Great Basin, and the cactus forests of the Sonoran Desert to name a few. These characteristically dry landscapes all exude a unique, powerful beauty and a particularly intimidating shared aura arising from the scarcity of water. Beyond that, broad swaths of these regions are sparsely inhabited, and that remoteness combined with the aridity can be especially challenging for anyone looking to adventure in the backcountry, whether it’s for single- or multiple-day outings. But in many areas, the water is out there if you know where to find it and plan your route with that in mind, and in this article, I am going to walk through my process for planning out trips in the desert.
Founded in 2016 by Jon Yazzie and Nadine Johnson, DziłTa’ah Adventures runs bike and packraft tours from their home base in the town of Kayenta inside the Navajo Nation. While we’ve documented multiple experiences with the nascent outfitter – including Hunt’s Mesa, John’s Canyon, Yellow Dirt routes, and others – getting the business off the ground hasn’t been easy for John and Nadine. Last winter, Josh Weinberg reconnected with Jon, along with a group of photographers including Chris Burkard, Jeremy Bishop, and Murray Smith for an unforgettable tour along one of DziłTa’ah Adventures’ most popular routes to learn about what’s next for their guiding operation…
“Mojave” is the first layout of the Radavist 2023 Calendar. We’re now in our tenth year of doing calendars! It was shot with a Sony A9ii and a Sony 70-200 lens in California’s Mojave Desert. Photographed by John Watson.
“Spend enough time in dry and arid places and you’ll welcome weather events. As a storm system rolled in where John and Cari were camping for New Years Eve, they received quite the light show…”
For a high-res JPG, suitable for print and desktop wallpaper*, right-click and save link as – The Radavist 2023 – January. Please, this photo is for personal use only!
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The mobile background this month is a vertical crop of this photo. Click here to download January’s Mobile Wallpaper.
My friend Sinuhe Xavier and I have always been “out of context” friends. By that, I mean that we’ve only hung out at coffee shops or lunch spots until a few weeks ago. The contextual slip is that we’re both known for our photographic work in the backcountry. He’s well known in the moto and auto world as always doing shoots deep in remote areas of the American West, and I, too, love those “big country” vistas but with cycling.
When my plans for Sea Otter were shaping up, I dropped him a note, asking if he would be anywhere on the Colorado Plateau in the coming weeks. We hashed out a plan and sent each other options for a campsite meet-up. Precious GPS coordinates were shared, and we settled on a date. The road to Sea Otter had begun…
“Monumental” is the eleventh layout of the Radavist 2021 Calendar. It was shot with a Sony A9ii and the Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 di iii rxd lens outside of Radium Springs, New Mexico.
“With cooler temps on the way, it’s time we migrate to the Southwestern deserts for long and dusty rides. This was our cover image for our Dangerbird gallery. If you missed that, check it out!”
For a high-res JPG, suitable for print and desktop wallpaper*, right-click and save link as – The Radavist 2021 – November. Please, this photo is for personal use only!
(*set background to white and center for optimal coverage)
The mobile background this month comes from Iceland’s Black Sand Beach, Reynisfjara. Click here to download October’s Mobile Wallpaper.
Washboard roads, rocky doubletrack, creosote, cacti, centipedes, tarantulas, and vistas for miles. The Monumental Loop provides it all in a healthy mix, featuring the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, BLM, and state lands surrounding the town of Las Cruces, New Mexico. With the mighty Organ Mountains looming in the background, it’s hard to imagine a better touring or bikepacking route in Southern New Mexico. When you add in the delicious food on the route, you’ve got yourself a winning combination. To help celebrate this monumental achievement (tee hee), Matt Mason, co-founder of the Loop, throws a grand depart each year dubbed the Dangerbird which took a brief hiatus last year due to the Pandemic. With Covid protocols in place and our numbers remaining slightly elevated in New Mexico, Matt made sure the entire weekend’s events took place outdoors, so I felt safe to head down to experience this gem of the Chihuahuan Desert…
On the fringe of the Namib Desert lies the Skeleton Coast. No one has ever completed its entire length in an unbroken line before by their own power. Explorer Kate Leeming sets out to be the first.
Her thousand-mile journey sees her enduring some of the most inhospitable terrains and harshest climates on the planet, in one of Africa’s most remote and spectacular locations. Accompanied by local companions, she battles extreme winds, energy-sapping sand dunes and quicksand, and comes face to face with the endangered but deadly Kunene Lions hidden in the vast desert. Travelling on an all-wheel drive fat-bike, she traverses beautiful landscapes and discovers the region’s hidden secrets and the harsh realities of life in this unforgiving land.
Watch the full documentary at Outside.
In the Navajo Nation town of Kayenta, Arizona, Jon Yazzie runs a guide company called Dzil Ta’ah Adventures. Its intent is to educate visitors on the history of the areas surrounding Kayenta through guided bike trips. This particular route is one he’s been working on for a while which parallels the mighty Comb Ridge before climbing the Sandstone Backbone via an old Mormon dugway, overlooking Kane Valley where the US government drilled into the Earth, uncovering uranium for the Manhattan Project. The result would send waves of radiation through the community for decades to come…
February 28 – March 8, 2021
Arrival in Yuma, Arizona
The Impossible Route team arrived about as prepared for it as a groom to a shotgun wedding.
We planned on paper, but this was the Mojave Desert and Death Valley; and they would definitely hold some big surprises.
You know how a hashtag can fuck you? Well maybe not, but a few years ago my good friend Nic and I had this idea … we’d always been intrigued by the pans – or mud flats – of the Northern Cape here in South Africa. At the time we were really getting into riding fixed gear bikes and one day it hit us – let’s take our fixed gear bikes onto the pan! Why not? Surreal landscapes, super smooth surfaces good enough for world speed records! Sounds like a good adventure right? We did some research and found out that that year there was a South African Speedweek planned in September 2014 on the Hakskeenpan, coinciding with the launch of a planned rocket-propelled car land speed record attempt – the Bloodhound SSC. We decided to travel up in Nic’s old 1963 Porsche 356 – it seemed appropriate. Bikes on the roof, gear in the back.
It’s no secret that for the past few years, we spend a lot of time on the road traveling to bike events. We often spend 7 months on the road, visiting gravel races, MTB events, framebuilder showcases, or just checking out the cycling communities and rides in various towns all over the Western United States. 2020 put a damper on that with Covid-19 but this year I’ve been building out a desert tourer and road trip vehicle of a different sort, an HJ75 Troopcarrier from Australia. This “long van” is one of the most capable and compact RVs in the world and unfortunately, we never got this specific model of Toyota here in the States.
When BF Goodrich caught wind of a recent interview with me where I discussed desert touring… by bicycle. They had to know more. How in the world do you ride in the desert on a bike? So I sat down with them for an interview about the Radavist and what it means to “Shred Lightly.”
Guide books like this are where I get a lot of inspiration for bike rides and tours.
The piece might be common knowledge for a lot of y’all but it’s always nice to push a positive message for outdoor recreation on a large platform like that. Head over to BF Goodrich Garage to check it out.
There seems to exist a set of truisms in mountain biking: your next bike will always be better than your last, my local trails are harder than your local trails, and the fastest local rider isn’t on Strava and humbly rides a singlespeed. Then there’s the local legend, a misfit rider, the slightly anachronistic character that emerges on the trail mid-group-ride on a hardcore hardtail who rides loose and fast and with reckless disregard.
When Kona announced the Honzo ESD earlier this year it came as a great surprise. The original Honzo has remained relatively unchanged since 2012 and this new version looked like a poolhall brawler by comparison. Dominated by modern geometry, BMX inspired frame lines, and a build kit suitable for Bender himself, it was clear this was going to be no ordinary Honzo…
It’s no secret we’re fans of the desert here at the Radavist and so we really wanted to give the 2020 Swift Campout product design a shoutout due to the spectacular illustration work of artist Skyler Elzy. This desert landscape with the Swift fox just melts our hearts.
Check out the full 2020 Swift Campout lineup at Swift Industries and we hope everyone got out on the Autumnal Solstice.
Colt Fetters takes us through his gear list for bikepacking trips in the desert. As you can imagine, the desert is one of the harshest environments to tour through, so check out Colt’s recommendations here.
Before we all realized the great changes that were in store for us due to the increasing spread of COVID-19, six friends and I set out for a 3-day bike ride on the historic El Camino Del Diablo. The El Camino Del Diablo is believed to have started as a series of footpaths used by desert-dwelling Native Americans. Today, the Camino Del Diablo is a road only a lonely few have traveled that runs along Arizona’s southern border in a remote section of the Sonoran Desert. With signatures signed, safety videos watched, permits printed and a shuttle set, the crew was ready to roll out.
With all bike demos being postponed or canceled in the foreseeable future, Revel bikes have decided to sell off their demo fleet. You can contact them for some sweet deals and help keep this small company afloat.
Speaking of floating, check out their latest edit, featuring their newest rider Brady Tweedy ripping a Rascal 130mm 29er which is one of you bikes you can get a screaming deal on.
Up since the break of dawn, all day we’d been rolling on washboard roads. Yet it was hard to complain. We’d just spent a few days hiking around Ikara/Flinders Ranges National Park and it felt good to be headin’ north again. As the sun dropped toward the horizon I stopped for a bit of a feed. Dan rolled up beside me and we began to look for somewhere to camp. It was dead flat aside from the occasional patch of scrub. You could’ve pitched in anywhere but for some reason, it still felt good to choose a spot. It was then, with bikes stationary and no wind to speak of, that we were struck by the immense silence of our surroundings. This was our first proper encounter with the vastness of the Australian desert. The endless horizon. We had made it to the edge of the outback, and thousands of kilometers of dusty track lay in wait.
Join three of Niner’s gravel racers as they embark on a journey throughout the high desert in Nevada, inspired by the tales of an old prospector named Charles Breyfogle…