The Southeastern Appalachians are filled with a lot of my favorite things. It’s considered the salamander capital of the world. There are more than 160 native tree species (there are only 50 in the state of Colorado), but above all else, my favorite thing in these hills are my friends. Over the winter a few of us came together and reflected on last year. What could we do to help grow our casual cycling community? We figured that these hills have a lot going for them, but there wasn’t a good swap meet, and that’s a problem worth solving.
The East Texas Showdown is a bikepacking event founded last year by Patrick Farnsworth, notoriously known as the host of the Bikes or Death podcast. The event includes two distance options: the 380-mile SHOWdown or the 280-mile SLOWdown. With the event’s theme revolving around the community, the offer of two distances provides intrigue to both seasoned and newer bikepackers.
Tennessee might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about gravel, but the roads west of Nashville will have you saying “gosh” and “darn” more than once over spectacularly challenging and varied terrain. Gosh Darn 5 welcomed over 240 riders and offered four rugged routes ranging from 16 to 100 miles.
Following a hiatus in 2021, Single Speed Arizona (SSAZ) returned earlier this month – over an action-packed weekend – to Cave Creek. We’ll be hosting a full event report and photo gallery soon, but today we’re kicking off our coverage with a pre-ride tour of Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center and a gallery of bikes (and their riders), which is about as eclectic and diverse as it gets.
Sometimes we don’t understand our reasons for doing something until we’ve fully emerged. That was my lesson learned from waffling around the start and finish lines of The Big Lonely with a camera and disconcerted heart. What is this big and lonely thing that I speak of? Described in one word by the riders themselves: it’s “relentless”, “jarring”, “cold”, “delightful” – “resilience.” It’s “incomplete” and it’s “grueling”. It’s “epic”, “stoke” and “go.” For one rider it was “mom.” Most commonly though, it was described as “community” and I found this to be a curious notion. The dichotomous idea that a 350-mile self-supported ultra-endurance bikepacking race called The Big Lonely cultivated the word “community” more than any other is sort of like a metaphor for life and all the funny ways our experiences are everything at once.
A strange sensation grips the mind when a long drive begins in the darkness of predawn. The city remains still, holding onto its final few hours of sleep, and the highway remains virtually empty. There is a promise in the loneliness of the opening hours of long highway travel. Exits flutter by in the darkness; distant lights of tractor-trailers and roadside oasis’ are the only possible signs of life beyond the confines of my car. The falling snow has narrowed my concentration to the reflecting lines on the asphalt as I navigate south and west on my way to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for this year’s Cyclocross World Championships.
Our Radar Roundup compiles products and videos from the ‘net in an easy-to-digest format. Read on below for today’s findings…
Act One: We Can’t Stop Here, This is Nats Country!
In which our anti-hero-TeamLifeLOL-genderwhatever sets the stage with cold takes on Chicago-lite.
What a December it was for The Cyclocross in Chicago. I’ve seen a few different versions of this: rain and sleet off Lake Michigan for Montrose; 60 degrees (and a hot tub at both!), bitter cold and wind at Afterglow; and for USAC CX Nationals in Wheaton, IL, there was a complete fall-to-winter seasonal transition.
The Odyssey of the VOG (Valley of the Giants) is a 350-mile bikepacking event that takes riders through the rural farmland of the Willamette Valley, the rugged and vast Oregon coastal range, and the unrelenting gravel climbs found in the Willamette and Tillamook National Forests. The event name pays respect to the Valley of the Giants forest preserve, 51 acres of old-growth forest that are home to some of the largest Douglas Firs and Western Hemlocks on the Oregon coast range. Many of these towering giants have existed for over 400 years, and have grown to heights of 200 feet or more. While the route does not go through the hiking trails of the forest preserve, riders are still embraced by the dense trees and lush overgrowth that the remote forest provides. The Odyssey of the VOG route consists of bold landscapes, remote forest roads, and unrelenting climbs, all of which invigorate and challenge those who choose to ride it. The grand depart for the 2022 event takes place on May 28, 2022, at 7:00 am PST. Registration is now open here!