#Ryan-Wilson

tag

The Forgotten Pass of the Atacama

Reportage

The Forgotten Pass of the Atacama

The Forgotten Pass of the Atacama
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

The Atacama Desert can be an intimidating place when you look at it on paper. There’s a certain mystique in the cycle-touring world that comes with being labeled the driest place on Earth. The lack of water also means that populated settlements are rare, which makes the vast 128,000 square kilometers of salty, sandy, and rocky terrain seem all the more inhospitable to someone looking to pedal their way through.

To be honest, the prospect of having to carry more than a week’s worth of food along with 3+ days worth of water at any given time didn’t just seem like a logistical challenge in trying to over-stuff bags and strap things to places where they shouldn’t be strapped… It seemed wholly unappealing. Just the thought of watching those liters disappear while you keep your fingers crossed that the next potential water source actually exists was enough to make me wonder if it would even be worth the stress. Still, I’d heard enough praise about the solitude and beauty of the Puna de Atacama that I just couldn’t pass up the chance to see what the hype was all about.

Once Upon a Time in the Bolivian West

Reportage

Once Upon a Time in the Bolivian West

Once Upon a Time in the Bolivian West
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

After spending a year riding the constantly undulating roads in the Cordilleras of Perú and Bolivia, it was time to switch it up just a bit and head out for the altiplano of Bolivia’s volcano-laden western region. This is the area where most cycle tourists head when passing through Bolivia and it’s also the place where the country really earns its reputation of vast open spaces with an endless array of sandy/corrugated roads, and other-worldly landscapes.

12 Pieces Of Gear I Wouldn’t Go Without In The Andes

Reportage

12 Pieces Of Gear I Wouldn’t Go Without In The Andes

12 Pieces Of Gear I Wouldn’t Go Without In The Andes
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

In a little over a year’s worth of time on the road in the Andes, I’ve had the chance to really put my gear through some serious torture. Luckily, the vast majority of it has stood the test of time, but there are some pieces that have really stood out as items I’ll have in my setup for a long time to come. Obviously, some of this comes down to personal preference and the type of riding you’re doing, so it’s not one-size-fits-all, but the majority of these would work well with just about any type of bikepacking/touring…

The Endless Fiesta in Bolivia’s Kimsa Cruz

Reportage

The Endless Fiesta in Bolivia’s Kimsa Cruz

The Endless Fiesta in Bolivia’s Kimsa Cruz
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

The best part about riding in the Andes of Perú and Bolivia is that finding a great route is about as simple as pointing to a couple of interesting looking spots on the map and connecting the dots.  Chances are good that you’ll end up on a rollercoaster of dirt roads through quiet valleys and over dramatic mountain passes.

While it’s fun to follow the tracks of fellow cyclists that have sought out these remote roads and trails previously, if I see a chance to head through an area with little to no info readily available, there’s definitely an extra element of intrigue.  Is there water?  Anywhere to find food along the way?  Is there actually a bridge over that giant river?  After all, the mystery of what lies around the next bend or over the next pass is what keeps me wanting to turn those pedals.

Out of the Bolivian Yungas and into the Cordillera

Reportage

Out of the Bolivian Yungas and into the Cordillera

Out of the Bolivian Yungas and into the Cordillera
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

After plunging into the depths of the Bolivian Yungas, your brain likes to trick you into overlooking the relatively low altitude ups and downs of this area, while focusing in on the inevitable slog back to the thin air of the high mountains. But these Yungas roads have a way of telling you right away that just because you’re not at 16,000ft anymore doesn’t mean you’re getting away unscathed here. What the Yungas lacks in pure altitude, it easily makes up for in relentlessly steep, hot, and dusty roads that zig and zag across the rippled terrain. Make no mistake, the challenge here definitely stacks up with just about anything else in the area.

Taking the “Death Road” to the Edge of the Bolivian Jungle

Reportage

Taking the “Death Road” to the Edge of the Bolivian Jungle

Taking the “Death Road” to the Edge of the Bolivian Jungle
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

Coming into Bolivia, it’s hard to know what to expect. Where Peru’s reputation is pretty much all happy people, ancient ruins, and fluffy alpacas, the stories you hear about Bolivia prior to visiting are a bit more of a mixed bag. Some are very positive, but one thing repeated pretty often (other than how bad the food is) is that outsiders aren’t quite as popular with the locals. Rather than the welcome party you get in nearly every village in the Peruvian Andes when you roll in on two wheels, the Boliviano response is a bit more tepid… At least that’s the reputation.

A Goodbye to Perú Through the Ausangate

Reportage

A Goodbye to Perú Through the Ausangate

A Goodbye to Perú Through the Ausangate
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

For my final stretch through Perú (for now), I jumped onto the instant-classic route that Cass Gilbert and Michael Dammer founded one year prior (http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/tres-cordilleras-boliva-peru/), with a few tweaks. The highlight of this area is unquestionably the circuit around the 6,384m aka 20,945ft wall of rock and ice known as Apu Ausangate. The majority of which is pure backcountry single track through seemingly endless glacial peaks and pristine lagunas.

Gearing up for Life on the Bike: Camera and Tech – Ryan Wilson

Radar

Gearing up for Life on the Bike: Camera and Tech – Ryan Wilson

Packing for an open-ended bike tour through remote areas of developing countries can be a bit intimidating. You don’t want to get there and realize you’re missing something crucial that you’re going to have trouble finding locally, but you don’t want to overpack and feel required to haul a bunch of stuff that you don’t really need.

With that in mind, I wanted to start a series of posts discussing my personal gear setup and some of the things I’ve learned in my first 7 months of living on the bike in South America. First up I’ll dive into my electronics setup and touch on the question I get asked most frequently… “what camera are you using?”

Traversing the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu – Ryan Wilson

Reportage

Traversing the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu – Ryan Wilson

Traversing the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

By far the number one thing people bring up when they find out you’re going to Peru is Machu Picchu. In fact, that’s probably the response at least 95% of the time. To be fair, prior to stumbling upon photos of the Cordillera Blanca on Google Earth one day, Machu Picchu was always the first thing that came to my mind as well, so it’s a hard thing to fault.

A Sudden Shift of Seasons in the Peruvian Andes – Ryan Wilson

Reportage

A Sudden Shift of Seasons in the Peruvian Andes – Ryan Wilson

A Sudden Shift of Seasons in the Peruvian Andes
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

Continued from “Taking the Scenic Route to Peru’s Great Divide

It happens without notice in the Andes. One day it’s mostly clear skies as far back as you can remember, then one good thunderstorm rolls in and with it seems to come the daily barrage of rain, hail, and snow. This marks the true beginning of the “shoulder season”, nestled in the southern hemisphere’s spring. For me, this timed out exactly on the first day of starting this section of the Peruvian Divide, following a quick re-supply detour to Lima*.

*As a side note regarding life in Peru… the majority of people here do not own cars. This is especially true in the quiet areas that are the most interesting for riding. As a result, many of the villages have small vans (called colectivos) coming and going at least once or twice per day toward the larger towns, and they’re typically only the equivalent of a few bucks even for a trip that lasts a few hours. This is quite helpful if you want to check out a bigger city that is a ways off-route and have a chance to pick up a few things that might be tough to come by in small villages. It’s also helpful if you’re running low on dinero and need to find an ATM, which can occasionally be tough to locate in remote areas. With the divide route intersecting the main road toward Lima, it was a perfect opportunity for a trip to the city.

An Unexpected Glimpse into Peruvian Culture – Ryan Wilson

Reportage

An Unexpected Glimpse into Peruvian Culture – Ryan Wilson

An Unexpected Glimpse into Peruvian Culture
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

EDITOR’S WARNING: This gallery contains content that may offend the lovers of fluffy animals. There are slides in the gallery which give you plenty of warning to turn back. Keep in mind, this is part of the Peruvian culture, so please maintain an open mind.

My final stretch on the Peruvian Divide Route started like much of the rest. Incredibly quiet roads lined with as much spectacular scenery and as many furry friends as one can possibly handle. Bobbing and weaving between storms (without much success), and drifting in and out of the occasional small village filled with welcoming locals.

As far as bikepacking/dirt touring routes go, I can’t really think of a more complete experience. Where the Cordillera Blanca to the north wins on pure scenery, the Divide easily wins on way-off-the-beaten-path dirt road riding (if that is your thing). This makes for easier wild camping, and even more interesting interactions with locals who simply don’t see tourists around with any kind of frequency.

Taking the Scenic Route to Peru’s Great Divide – Ryan Wilson

Reportage

Taking the Scenic Route to Peru’s Great Divide – Ryan Wilson

Taking the Scenic Route to Peru’s Great Divide
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

Continued from “Beasts of the Southern Blanca

Following my trips through the Cordillera Blanca, I knew I would be heading for the Peruvian Great Divide Route. This route was established fairly recently by the masters of all things cycling related in the Andes, Neil and Harriet Pike (andesbybike.com). Their website and books are absolutely invaluable resources if you have any interest in riding in the Andes, so I would highly recommend checking them out.

The divide route is almost entirely along quiet dirt roads that endlessly undulate between 10,000′ and 16,500′. It also passes through many remote villages that are far off the tourist trail, where the locals are always excited to see you (and probably welcome you into their home for a hot meal and coca tea).

Beasts of the Southern Blanca – Ryan Wilson

Reportage

Beasts of the Southern Blanca – Ryan Wilson

Beasts of the Southern Blanca
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

After finishing up the circuit around Huascarán, I landed in Huaraz. This is the capital of the Ancash region of Perú and the central hub for all activities related to the big snow and ice capped mountains that dominate the landscape. While Huaraz is not totally flooded with tourists, it is certainly the most visited town in the area, and a “gringo” barely gets a second look there when compared to the surrounding villages. Most importantly, Huaraz has pizza, so it makes for an obvious place to spend a few days taking it easy and swapping stories and routes with fellow cyclists and trekkers passing through the area.

Bikepacking the Huascarán Circuit – Ryan Wilson

Reportage

Bikepacking the Huascarán Circuit – Ryan Wilson

Bikepacking the Huascarán Circuit
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

Last time I was in Peru, the main focus of the trip was centered around circling the highest mountain in the country, Nevado Huascarán. The route has that perfect combination of spectacular scenery, challenge, and culture, so I knew I’d have a hard time resisting going for it again on my way south this time. The fact that the forecast called for clear skies the whole time sealed the deal. Last time I was here, the mountains were engulfed in rain clouds virtually the entire time, so I never really got to see many of the massive glacial peaks that dominate the route.

Urgent but Rad! Kris Henry of 44 Bikes on Ryan Wilson’s 27.5+ Tourer

Reportage

Urgent but Rad! Kris Henry of 44 Bikes on Ryan Wilson’s 27.5+ Tourer

Urgent but Rad! Kris Henry of 44 Bikes on Ryan Wilson’s 27.5+ Tourer
Words by Kris Henry, photos by Kris Henry and Ryan Wilson

Urgent but RAD! That was the start of John’s email this past April of 2016. Coffee fresh in hand, what followed was a request for commission that instantly caught my attention: A 27.5+ bikepacking frame and fork with all the trimmings for a Mr. Ryan Wilson. Was I interested? Now, I know John. He’s always up to something rad. And I’ve seen a few images here and there of what Ryan’s been up to… More radness. What followed were a series of emails and phone calls with Ryan as we put our heads together, hammered out the details discussing his set up, riding style and terrain he’d be tackling. It would be my job to listen to what Ryan wanted and distill that into what he needed. This wasn’t just any bikepacking trip. This was something different. He’d quit his job of 10 years. Pack this bike with the bare essentials. Point it south and head for an extended stay in Peru. This bike needed to be designed and built to handle the rigors that lay ahead. Of course I was in!

Golden Saddle Rides: 44 Bikes 27.5+ Rigid MTB – Ryan Wilson

Reportage

Golden Saddle Rides: 44 Bikes 27.5+ Rigid MTB – Ryan Wilson

Golden Saddle Rides: 44 Bikes 27.5+ Rigid MTB
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

As I was planning for this trip to South America I started thinking about what bike would be ideal to tackle a broad range of terrain and would be comfortable over the long haul. I went back and forth through a number of options, but I never quite found a stock option that fit all of my criteria (and fit me). I knew I wanted a rigid steel frame that could fit a plus sized tire, have loads of mounts, thru-axles, ample mud clearances, and a good amount of space for a frame bag. I started to focus in on B+ as the happy medium between 29 and 29+. I also liked the versatility of being able to put on a standard 29er wheelset at some point in the future without it throwing the geometry way out of whack.

Farewell For Now, California – Ryan Wilson

Reportage

Farewell For Now, California – Ryan Wilson

Farewell For Now, California
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

A little over a month ago I left my job of ten years and was in the final stages of moving out of my Los Angeles apartment. I was putting together the final pieces of the puzzle that would eventually result in me riding through South America for 10 months or so (more on that soon).

As luck would have it, a tiny hitch in my setup resulted in me having about 9 days without a job or home in California. So, I did the first thing that came to mind (the thing that typically comes to mind)… Road trip.