Last year, Rue propositioned me about helping her document the Tour Divide race in which Lael Wilcox intended to best her previous record, I jumped at the opportunity. Later, Jay Ritchey would be added to the team to help Rue with the film they intended to produce about the race. I was tasked with focusing on photographing her attempt and the race itself. Rue has been flipping between photo and video very deftly and has some incredible images to add to this gallery. Here is the third installment of our ongoing coverage of the 2019 Tour Divide Race.
If you have ever ridden with Lael you know that she would ride a rusted beach cruiser until both tires were flat and the wheels imploded and would still be smiling bigger than anyone about it, but if Specialized is sponsoring you with bikes for races, you might as well indulge in some cool shit.
Throughout the Spring I was unfortunate in that I had to miss all of the El Grupo Bikepacking overnight trips except our final one, the big end of season trip. Colin had devised a modified Craters and Cinder Cones loop so that we could do a half loop as an overnighter. Now, most of our trips are totally self-supported, but as Colin was still recovering from his Achilles injury, he planned to drive the van and meetup to camp with us. Nonetheless, the kids still carried all of their gear, but we were lucky to have a little water and snack angel along the way.
Words and Photos by Spencer Harding
It’s easy to get lost in the dreamy imagery of bike tours to exotic far-off lands. I’m always making myself feel like everything has to look like a crazy-ass skid backlight by a Kodachrome sunset at the end of the world…but let’s be real in a world of unreal imagery.
Pepper and Sam came down to Tucson to start their trip on the Sky Island Odyssey. Pepper was in from Australia after being away from the states for many years on her way up to a new job in Seattle. Sam, running from the winter on Prince Edward Island and needed no excuse to come down and get sunburnt. Monique and I had been talking at the shop about going camping for a few weeks without any plan coming to fruition. We decided to take Pepper and Sam on a little shakedown ride into the mountains near Tucson before sending them down south on their odyssey. Colin, fresh off getting an OK from the doctor to do some light pedaling after he tore his Achilles, joined us until the route turned uphill!
Time Trial on the Arizona Trail 300: The Trail is Always Available
I started thinking about riding the Arizona Trail again while Rue and I were hiking it in November. We took a $5 FlixBus from Tucson to Flagstaff, walked one mile down Historic Route 66 and got on the trail. It took us a month to walk to the Mexican border. Walking was my mental recovery from a summer of racing. The Arizona Trail is a 789 mile hiking trail across the state. With a bike, it’s a hybrid– mostly riding, but a considerable amount of pushing too. It’s hard. It took me 270 miles of walking to start dreaming about getting back on the bike. I remember the moment– we were hiking the Gila River section and my mind started tracing the curves of the trail with bicycle wheels. And it hit me, what if I rode the Arizona Trail with a bigger, more capable bike?
Baja Divide, La Sierra Norte – Daniel Zaid
Words and photos by Daniel Zaid
In 2016 I rode my bike through the Baja California pennisula on the only paved highway, the Carretera Transpeninsular, and as pretty as it was, having to look over my shoulder all the time prevented me from fully enjoying the ride. I ventured in some dirt roads and after some very bumpy rides I thought I’d also look into getting another bike, something that could put more cushion between the rocks and my bones. Few weeks before finishing I read about the Baja Divide project; I saw a photo of the map and did the Cape Loop and thought “This is what I needed.” Three years later I’m finally able to go back again, this time though on a bike made expressly for dirt road touring: Ultraromance´s #RoseEmojiBikes aka the Warthog Wash Wiper aka “Rosita”. Also I’m joined by my partner Karla on her Surly Krampus, who has been dreaming of doing this route for months.
Salsa hasn’t had a true road bike in their lineup for some time now. Sure, they have the Warbird, which is a gravel racing road bike, but with that, comes a more stable geometry with a longer wheelbase. The Warroad is a straight up endurance road bike, with two wheel sizes and multiple build kit options. Warroad is a new platform for Salsa, designed to take on chunky, imperfect asphalt, with what Salsa is calling their “Endurance Road Geometry.”
The Sandal Boiyz do Mallorca: Toros De Gravel
Words by Benedict Wheeler, photos by Kyle Kelley
Note: this article contains NSFW imagery. Blame Benedict!
Mallorca was a place that every true fan of pro road racing knows about. Especially if you are into the DEEPly nuanced euro trash aspects of the sport…
Mallorca is where the professional teams come to train and party in the winter months. Scores of doping scandals, both performance and party enhancing, have clumsily unfolded with the spanning mountains and electric blue waters of Mallorca as a scenicback drop. Would simply going to Mallorca allow me to be immersed in cycling scandal like all of my heroes of the golden doping age? Would Michelle Ferrari notice my talents on the beach and pump me full of ox blood in his secret lab/discotheque??
Over the years, we’ve featured many of Benedict‘s bikes here on the site. They’re always a lil bit of weird with a dash of kooky but the result of a lot of ‘pondering over a wooden pipe’ functional. For the latest build, which we dubbed the Warthog Wash Wiper, all the above applies.
In short, this bike is a desert bulldozer, yet not one you’d find Hayduke underneath with a 3′ wrench and a cheater bar. This is a bicycle, not a machine for destruction. The Warthog Wash Wiper, aka WWW, is an all-rounder dirt tourer, and it comes alive when the sand gets deep, where normal bikes become less than ideal trekking poles.
Pottery, Stickers, and the Eastern Sierra Dream with Casey Clark
Words and Photography by Spencer J Harding
In an all too familiar series of small world events, I ended up at a small property about an hour north of Reno with Casey Clark. Casey is more known in this bike world for his side hustle of “Camp and Go Slow” stickers and patches, a visual play on the famous Campagnolo logo. Think of this as a Behind the Music if you will, well behind the sticker at least…
When I heard that Revelate Designs was planning to release some new bags featuring fancy Dyneema fabrics, I was drooling. For those in the back that remember that pedestrian activity called backpacking, which was my background before bikepacking, you will remember salivating over gram-saving Cuben Fiber everything! I hope our new Dyneema overlords can forgive the reference to the previous name of the fabric, I just get a little sentimental. If you are curious about the name change, you can check this article or fall down a rabbit hole of the many applications of Dyneema fibers here. The most important takeaway is this: Dyneema is the world’s strongest fiber with superior strength to weight ratio, and for a set of bags designed for the express purpose of achieving a FKT (fastest known time) on endurance mountain bike routes, every ounce counts.
The Kids are Alright Y’all – Spencer Harding
Words and Photos by Spencer Harding
The Grupetto is a group of riders that have formed at the rear of the race, having either been dropped or having done their job for the team that day.
About a year ago, I was picking Colin Holmes’ brain about what he had in store for El Grupo in the future and he mentioned a youth bikepacking program. He needed not to say more, I was in. This was even before my partner and I decided to move to Tucson. Once we moved down to the desert one of my first orders of business was to sign up to volunteer with El Grupo!
The kids we have in the El Grupo program, they ride their bikes every day, across town, into the mountains, and now even on bikepacking trips. I can’t imagine where I’d be if I had known such a world of possibility in middle school instead of my late 20s. Well, I now have the privilege to pass such knowledge and power onto the next generation of bikepackers.
Happy is the Messenger
Photos and words by Ryan Le Garrec
HAPPY IS THE MESSENGER
NO GPS, NO DEVICES
No GPS, no Strava, no smartphone, no device if only an old Nokia burner. No Macbook in the bag but a map book that rarely makes it out. After ten years on the streets, Karadama a.k.a. Karl Heinz Pohl knows the client list and all their locations well enough. He knows enough shortcuts and safe ways to make his day smooth rolling, dodging delays, anticipating complications, chasing any trouble out of his way. You’ll rarely see him hammer but when he does it’s with this emergency motto in his head “it had to be done yesterday”, that kind of speed.
The Road to Delcie’s Cup Cake
Words and Photos by Spencer Harding
This past summer I was lucky enough to meet to some truly amazing people in Minneapolis. I noticed a common thread connecting these wonderful humans. It all culminated in getting to ride with Delcie on her über custom Cup Cake…
Erik Noren is a bit of mythical beast in the world of framebuilding. His bikes are outlandish, sparkly, and painstakingly detailed. With his newer venture, Cake Bikes, he seeks to build proportionally-sized, high-performance bikes for shorter riders. Cake partnered with Minneapolis Wheel masters HED cycling to offer fat-bikes built around a 24 x 4” platform and has since moved into building cross and gravel/adventure bikes built around a 650b platform, and some yet smaller wheeled bikes which we will get to at the end. While the bikes’ geometries are focused on smaller humans regardless of gender, the cake race and adventure team is compromised entirely of women/trans/femme/non-binary riders.
Love Letter to a Velodrome
I had heard much lore about the NSC velodrome over the years leading up to me spending last summer in Minneapolis. It is truly a spectacle in physicality and community alike. Until you have taken a lap on those old boards you don’t truly understand what it takes to drop into those turns every Thursday night. After just a few months in this community, I was brought to tears as we left the velodrome to move to Arizona, Brenda and I literally drove our fully packed truck to the velodrome for one last night of racing. I lack the words to describe my sorrow imagining how everyone in this community will feel when this place is torn down next summer.
We met on a cold Saturday in April. Winter had worn on you, rotted your core. My job, along with other volunteers, was to strengthen your weak points; a job you would reciprocate months later. You creaked and moaned as we pulled up your boards to expose your insides. Afzalia had become endangered and so we patched you with lesser wood. Rotten next to the new, but “well-loved” was the word I chose to use when talking about you to friends and family.
Summer meant I spent every Thursday I could spare with you. My body leading up to that day reacted as it does before a first date: sleepless nights, unbridled giddiness, overthinking, and trying on my skinsuit countless times. Instead of butterflies in my stomach, my lower region decided to nervously poop for 24 hours leading up to our meeting. Was this love?
Once a week for three months, my weaknesses were unapologetically put on display. Dark truths of my life that I had done well to ignore were spoken so clearly from an inanimate and seemingly voiceless object. “Eat more. Or you will not be able to ride.” And so I ate because being away from you meant my body would wither. “Leave him and be free.” And so I left because the three hours I spent with you were more joyful than the past three years of my life. I always thought it was a cliche when I overheard folks saying bicycles changed their life. But there I was, truly living on two wheels without brakes and without fear, speaking a sentence over and over that had never felt comfortable coming from my mouth: “I am strong.” What was supposed to be a casual hobby quickly turned into therapy while my competition soon became family.
Unfortunately, your time is coming to an end. And I can’t save you the way you have saved me and countless others. The space you occupied, which was dedicated to bikes and their humans, will ironically become a place for cars to park. Your soft green grass once littered with grandma quilts that were occupied by sweaty bodies of exhaustion and elation will turn to hard concrete. Silence will replace the sounds of rumbling boards, cheers from dedicated fans, and ridiculous infield dance parties. The bright lights will go dark and no longer illuminate faces of determination and defeat. We’ve seen this finale before. Dorais. Olympic. Stone Mountain. Fallowfield. Meadowbank. Dieppe. Your name will be added to the long list on a Wikipedia page titled “Velodromes No Longer in Use,” followed by a short description that does your story no justice.
I started this relationship knowing there was an expiration date, and that awareness has not softened the heartbreak. I refuse to accept that the only narrative told of you will be two sentences, one of them including the word “demolished.” You deserve better than that because you are magic incarnate. Each board possessing the ability to not just call out my fragileness, but also my strengths. The pieces of you that will stay with myself and others, outside of the literal splinters under our skin, are in the form of lifelong friends and a passion to preserve the freedom and power we all felt pedaling in circles at the NSC Velodrome.
The NSC Velodrome in Blaine, Minnesota is being torn down after the 2019 season. It has hosted countless Thursday Night Light competitions, Fixed Gear Classic, Track Cycling Championships, and Olympic Trials. One of the largest WTF fields in the country called the boards home, and numerous racers from around the country were able to experience riding what can only be described as a wooden roller coaster. The track community in Minneapolis is currently working hard to contact legislators to find a location and funding for an indoor cycling center that will not only benefit athletes but the community as well through youth job training programs and a variety of learn-to-ride cycling classes for children and adults.
Quicksand, Camaraderie, and Existential Optimism in Canyon Country
Words and photos by Spencer Harding
Sometimes you plan a trip months in advance and mother nature decides that the normally dry ground you planned to ride your bike will now be a raging soupy brown milkshake of a river.
Sometimes you help a random couple push a broken down vintage Jaguar in the middle of nowhere in the rain.
Sometimes you get stuck in waist-deep quicksand in said raging soupy brown milkshake river and have to yell for help until your friends come to rescue you covered in cockle burrs.
Sometimes you ride your bike even though the map says you are underwater in Lake Powell.
Sometimes you decide to drag your bike and raft upstream for some damn reason.
Sometimes your overnighter was shorter mileage-wise than an average grocery run.
Sometimes in desperation, you make a pipe out of the darndest things and then eat it.
Sometimes you realize maybe you should have left the damn bike at home this time.
Sometimes you decide to go for a leisurely ride to see pretty fall colors on the way home, which turns into a two hour long hike-a-bike ending with Y’all running from a snowstorm.
And finally, sometimes none of these things matter because the people and places around you are so dang beautiful…
Yes, I know you don’t need the reminder, I just like using this as an excuse to share random riding photos… ;-)
Tyler wanted to get a limited slip differential installed in his Volvo 142. The problem is, Tyler lives in Santa Cruz where he works for Santa Cruz Bicycles in the design department, and the Volvo experts were down in Long Beach. No one wants to drive from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles on the weekend, and the shop was closed then anyway, so what’s a dude with a slick Volvo to do? The genius of this whole ordeal was that Tyler, and David – two design department dudes at Santa Cruz Bicycles – were able to convince their bosses to let them ride the newest bike models down in Los Angeles, allowing Tyler’s car to get worked on while we shredded some of the area’s best trails. I’m sure it didn’t hurt to have me offer to show them around, ride the new bikes and obviously tell a story about the whole shindig. Sure, this is about the bikes, as much as it is about showing Tyler and David Los Angeles’ best trails in a condensed, two-day experience.
Playing host in Los Angeles is as much fun as it is hard work. Hard in the sense that these are my local trails that I ride quite frequently, so seeing the “new” in the familiar can be photographically challenging. Add to that, technically I’m injured. I found out right before the guys rolled into town that my pinky was indeed broken from a collision with a Prius’ side view mirror one day while I was riding home. That incident happened almost a month prior. Bummer for me, my bike control, and the potential to have a full-on shred fest, but I was so excited to ride the new 5010, so I sucked it up, taped my finger, and clipped in…