I first met Elliot a few years back while I was leading a bikepacking trip with El Grupo, a Tucson based youth cycling organization. Since then I had seen Elliot tinkering with all manner of frankenbikes, which are a regular, at the Grupo clubhouse. Discarded and mismatched components of yesteryear handed down from the large cycling community here. Their low-pro pursuit fixed gear with a 24″ bmx fork caught my eye awhile ago and I knew Elliot had that special eye for janky but fun clashing of parts.
We embedded this feature in today’s Reportage but are posting it in our Radar as well…
Cyclist Erik Mathy rides from San Francisco to Tucson along the historic Butterfield Overland Trail. Lugging his large-format camera, handmade ‘dollar bill’ lenses, and shooting on X-Ray film, Erik documents his interactions with a variety of people — from artists and activists to the border patrol — as he explores the subject of migration against the landscape of a politically divided American southwest.
Reasons to go on a bike trip have different origins; this one, in particular, originated when I saw a photo of several rock pillars lined together and I wanted to see them in person. Located in the heart of the Guarijío/Makurawe Native’s land in the southeast of my home state Sonora, “Los Pilares de San Bernardo” have witnessed the centuries that the Guarijío have made of this place their home, and in the last decade, the construction of a controversial megaproject by the federal government. Promoted with the idea of building a dam to prevent floodings further down the Mayo Valley and provide the local communities with water all year long, this project was given a fast forward before being fully evaluated and is also splattered with shady agreements between the government, big agricultural and mining companies and “local authorities” that some of the Guarijío don’t recognize as such.
I got my first bike in 2010 and a few years later I was moving around four different cities, racing alleycats, road, cyclocross, MTB. I rode ultra distances along Route 66 and Translabrador Highway – the bike took me so many places, yet I began to realize I was looking for something I couldn’t find.
Álamos is a town in the southeast of the Mexican state of Sonora popular for its colonial architecture and for hosting an annual art and music festival and is also part of the network of “Pueblos Mágicos” in the country. After taking the long way from the nearest city which took me and my friend Javo five days instead of the 65 km on the main road, we arrived looking for the commodities of a town with full services. As we ride on the cobbled streets and alleys that give this town part of its essence, the fresh memories from the days that brought us here are slowly replaced by the blurry, drunken memories from my college days coming to the biggest music festival in the state. I recognize porches where I slept or found my friends sleeping, and the house where an old man invited me for a morning sip of lechuguilla, a distilled liquor made from a local species of agave, which he was drinking from a repurposed coca-cola bottle.
In years past, we’ve often found ourselves meandering through the deserts of the Western United States. The Colorado, Mojave, Sonoran, and Great Basin all have provided ample inspiration to my tired body and mind. While many of these ecoregions feel familiar, by far the Chihuahuan is the most mysterious to me. It’s the one region we haven’t spent much time in and with our relocation to Santa Fe, I was looking forward to spending days meandering through the various public lands in southern New Mexico.
The story of this bike starts before it entered my life. It starts with a place, a center of creativity and bike culture. It starts with Citizens warehouse. In 2007 my sister Cailin joined a newly formed youth cycling club called El Grupo through her high school. The club centered around a DIY ethic and she built herself a bike at a then 18-year-old bike collective called BICAS. BICAS lived in the basement of a haggard old warehouse called The Citizens Transfer Warehouse affectionately known as Citizens. Cailin quickly fell in love with cycling and being my best friend she built me a single-speed road bike and encouraged me to come to see what El Grupo and BICAS were all about.
The first time I found my way across the train tracks and into the strange little courtyard parking lot of Citizens I was awestruck. It was full of rusty old sculptures of flowers and birds and beautiful strange shapes welded out of discarded bike parts. I knew that I had found something that felt right in that deep way that feels like home and an adventure all at once. It was love at first sight and it only got better as I walked down a makeshift concrete ramp into the dark basement. It took my eyes a few moments to adjust and focus on the chaos that surrounded me. There were folks with bicycles in all states of disrepair and disassembly. There were piles of wheels, rusty frames, milk crates full of thousands of derailleurs and brakes, and every bike part you could possibly imagine. Every surface was covered in murals and the bright colors were dimmed by the shadows of sparse fluorescent lighting. The staff was indistinguishable from the crowd and everyone seemed like they would be just as comfortable in a post-apocalyptic wasteland as in a basement in the center of Tucson Arizona, which come to think of it often resembles a scene from a dystopian novel.
What a year it’s been. To be honest, as the editor/owner/curator of this website, I was very nervous about how we would survive the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. So much of my work that goes into this site is about traveling to other communities, documenting shops, group rides, races, and yeah, people’s bikes. All that was put on hold and we had to resort to more bike galleries and reviews than I’m used to.
My passion comes from the aforementioned activities and while I love bikes, I love what they create and enable even more. All year, I’ve been personally battling a pendulum of moods but one thing that has been the great equalizer is a jaunt into our mountains, the Sangre de Cristo Range, the southernmost tip of the Rocky Mountains. Living on the last stop on the Colorado Plateau has its perks I suppose and a simple hour or two-long pedal in the foothills often gives me perspective that is much-needed in this year of uncertainty. It’s something I have to remind myself daily. Yesterday was a perfect example.
Of Crank & Chain: Cyclocross is a 240 page photographic and written expression of domestic cyclocross in 2019. Both black and white and color images captured locally in the Pacific Northwest as well as at UCI events around the nation, the book is not organized by the events themselves, but rather by parts of a race day from the events spanning the season, blended together and presented as one continuous event. None of the images contain captions of the who and the where, because, in a way, a season is a singular event and also features images of amateurs and professionals and doesn’t draw a distinction between them. In the U.S., we are all just ‘cross racers suffering on the same track. In that respect, American cyclocross paints amateurs and pros with essentially the same brush. More than anything the book is about what it is to race cyclocross and what goes into it, as opposed to a year in review.
We have all been on rides that, at some point, require us to dig deep. But we still find a way to get that last bit of energy out of our bodies. We fight, we endure. And on the other side of these rides, we emerge stronger. We need to make the same commitment to anti-racism that we do to become stronger on the bike.
Inside Line Equipment, or ILE for short, makes one of my personal favorite camera bags, and just today they announced it has been updated! The Photo Bag Mini is designed to haul your full-frame camera with a 24-70mm lens, along with a few extra pockets for filters, SD cards, and other accessories. Seriously, this camera bag has traveled the world with me, and is my go-to favorite for city bike photo rides and hikes alike. New for this model is an upgraded COBRA buckle option as well to really up the resilience factor.
The ILE Photo Bag Mini comes in a variety of colors and is in stock now. I just bought one and can’t wait to see these updates in person!
Years ago, after finishing the slowest-known-time attempt on the Oregon Outback during its 2nd annual ride, I wound up in Seattle. Just to clarify for those familiar with our rolling squad of rodeo clowns from that year, we didn’t shit in that dudes yard, we were drunk in the woods 40 miles behind because we couldn’t even make it to most peoples 1st night camp on our 2nd day.
Since no one is out riding the Tour Divide this year and I’m locked away in a lake house in Wisconsin, why don’t we take a trip down memory lane? Like, I found a backup of these images on my iPod kinda trip down memory lane, back to 2014 baby. This was my first proper “bikepacking” or off-road touring trip. I borrowed my dad’s 90s hybrid and put a Surly fork and some racks on it and hightailed it to Missoula after finishing my first few weeks working as a tour guide in Oregon. I met Kurt and Sam as they were working their way down the Tour Divide as the inaugural Blackburn Rangers, which I had applied for too, but didn’t get, so why not just crash their party anyway?
I had been holding back on these notes for about a year now because I felt that calling it a “review” sounded like too much. The audience here is used to deep comprehension reviews and it’s very intimidating to put it in the same category when my experience with bicycles is reduced to the five I’ve owned in my adult life, this one included. So instead this is more of a short story about a bicycle, with hints of technical information where it feels required.
For anyone as uninitiated as myself in Minnesotan lore and legend, the Boundary Waters is a immaculate sprawling maze of lakes in Northern Minnesota that share a border with Canada. I can’t remember who, but someone a few beers deep around a campfire eulogized about the boundary waters for quite some time, since then its hung in the back of my mind to check it out if the chance ever arose.
It’s the quarantine and perhaps it’s a by-product of all your new-found free time, or perhaps it’s a lifelong goal you’ve always wanted to pursue. For whatever reason, you want to become a MTB photographer…