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Bicycle Touring Spain’s Montañas Vacias Route: A 35mm Photo Essay

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Bicycle Touring Spain’s Montañas Vacias Route: A 35mm Photo Essay

Created by Ernesto Pastor, the Montañas Vacias offers interested bike tourists route options ranging from 100 miles to 430 miles through the Spanish Lapland. Photographer Carlos Blanchard Nerin recently made a second voyage to the country’s southeastern region, remote in nature and characterized by countless miles of forest roads on a high plateau. In the photo essay below, he reflects on connecting to a place you thought you knew more deeply and sharing moments of beauty on the bike with friends.

Bikes of the 2022 GiRodeo: Argonaut, Battaglin, Belle, ENVE, Mosaic, OPEN, Repete, Rizzo, and Scarab

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Bikes of the 2022 GiRodeo: Argonaut, Battaglin, Belle, ENVE, Mosaic, OPEN, Repete, Rizzo, and Scarab

Aside from pristine days of riding, the GiRodeo was also a semi-nomadic bike show. The Service Course has long-term collaborative relationships with a number of builders, working together to pair builders and customers appropriately. I say “semi-nomadic” because the majority of builders rode their bikes, but also because the bikes that were not being ridden magically popped up in restaurants and breweries or wherever else events were held as part of the show. This is a rundown of my favorite bikes, many of which were part of the GiRodeo, and others were part of The Service Course’s furniture.

My First Rodeo: 2022 GiRodeo with The Service Course

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My First Rodeo: 2022 GiRodeo with The Service Course

Four hours into the drive from London to Girona, I began to question my life choices in having decided to drive rather than fly. Eight hours down the road—winding through the mountains with the cruise control set to 140kph with lunatic focus on the pool of tungsten light illuminating a patch of road ahead—I began to see its value. I needed this focus. High beam, dip beam, high beam, dip beam. The solo drive that started off listening to audiobook recommendations from Josh Weinberg had descended into a white knuckle ride against the clock to beat the dawn and shut myself in a dark hotel room to squeeze in a few hours of sleep before my first GiRodeo. It would be, in fact, everyone’s first GiRodeo. The inaugural edition of ENVE and The Service Course’s collaborative framebuilder roundup gravel extravaganza G-Rodeo, but in Girona. The GiRodeo.

Les Liens: Staying Connected in an Analogue World

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Les Liens: Staying Connected in an Analogue World

In modern society, it seems that many of our connections are made in a world of algorithms, a superficial sphere where swipes and likes have replaced the more tactile world I grew up in. This seems intrinsically wrong; we need to be connected physically but we are increasingly isolated from one another, caught up in a world where our eyes and hands are fixed to our screens.

Radavist x Komoot: The Women’s Montañas Vacías Bikepacking Challenge

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Radavist x Komoot: The Women’s Montañas Vacías Bikepacking Challenge

“I think the big highlight for me was just the energy—the energy shared any time I passed someone, or they passed me—I’d stop and think I was alone, and all of a sudden, I’d turn a corner and see someone I knew. The energy we left echoed through those mountains.”

This past April, in the quiet Spanish town of Teruel, a few hours east of Madrid, 56 riders set out by bike to take on the Komoot Women’s Montañas Vacías Bikepacking Challenge, an eight-day exploration of one of the least-populated regions in Europe. The 57th rider, Josie Fouts, followed along in the media van and recaps the challenge below.

Note: This article is part of a sponsored partnership with Komoot. We’ll always disclose when content is sponsored to ensure our journalistic integrity.

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together: Bikepacking in the Pyrenees

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I Love It When a Plan Comes Together: Bikepacking in the Pyrenees

“I love it when a plan comes together.” That catchphrase that Hannibal Smith used in the eighties sitcom, The A-Team, could perfectly be the motto that has guided my professional career. I’m used to organising shoot productions, managing large teams, and to the volatility of people when working together. In my personal life, I have only recently learned to enjoy changing a route, any last-minute changes, and the excitement of improvisation. Therefore since I am by now used to plans going awry, I’m also well versed in re-routing them. Hence everything that happened on this bike tour around Val d’Aran didn’t lead to frustration.

Fail 8: No Spain, No Gain

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Fail 8: No Spain, No Gain

Fail 8 is the latest installment in Ryan Le Garrec’s multimedia “Fail” series. Check out the related articles below for more of Ryan’s work.

Day 47 – Santo Isidoro, Portugal

My son told me the other day:
“Dad, the trees don’t use their roots only to drink, they also use them to communicate.”
When I saw these two trees, on the way back from Spain somewhere in Alentejo, I thought: “These two must have some kinda romance going on.”

The Lighthouses Route of Spain’s Galician Coast

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The Lighthouses Route of Spain’s Galician Coast

Spain’s Galician coast is extensive, beautiful, wild, abundant and it is feared for its mightiness since  ancient times. The Atlantic Ocean beats the Galician cliffs and rocks with a fascinating strength.  Fishermen and their families are in close contact with this Ocean’s powerful force. The potent  waves often attempt to drag nightmares into these shores, but the coastline is dotted with lights of  hope. One lighthouse after another sends signals to sailors and fishermen alike, these are the  large torches that illuminate the way back to terra firma.

Senderos of the Spanish Pyrenees: Basque Country Singletrack

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Senderos of the Spanish Pyrenees: Basque Country Singletrack

Spain is known for its people and their energy. Dinners at 10:00 p.m. are not unheard of, if not mandatory, in order to fuel the even later “madrugada”—a word used to describe that amorphous and intoxicating time spent in the streets after midnight and before the sunrise with hundreds of other souls savoring every last scrap of their waking hours. When I visited Spain twenty years ago I was a sponge for this lifestyle and spent six months in Madrid soaking up the culture, the clubs, and the calimocho. But this trip would open my eyes to an entirely different Spain, one more suited to my forty-year-old self.

A Preview of the Kromvojoj Event: Road Touring in Catalonia – Stronger than Vinegar

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A Preview of the Kromvojoj Event: Road Touring in Catalonia – Stronger than Vinegar

For me, riding a bike has always meant three things; experience, adventure, and escape. From childhood, it’s given me the opportunity to experience new, it’s given me the freedom to explore, to embark on adventures near and far, and it’s also given me a much-needed escape from my battles with mental health. Cycling has also introduced me to a community of amazing people and this for me is perhaps the greatest benefit of riding because they never fail to enrich the three reasons I love the bike.

The Hypothermics

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The Hypothermics

It was the speed at which it happened that shocked me the most. One minute Tomas and I were laughing hysterically as I tumbled into the snow for the umpteenth time, the next I was genuinely scared my buddy was about to collapse into some awful hypothermic coma. It was terrifying.

Julien’s 2-11 Cycles MR4 Stainless Steel Gravel Bike

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Julien’s 2-11 Cycles MR4 Stainless Steel Gravel Bike

As I drive home to Barcelona from a photoshoot in the South of Spain, I dream about the next three days. They will be calm and tranquil while I worked from home. Then, my phone buzzes with a message from Mike, a friend and owner of a bed and breakfast in the Pyrenees Mountains in France. He needs help with a last-minute photoshoot further north in the Basque Country. By last minute, he means tomorrow. No time for a rest. I live for photoshoots. It’s my job. My passion. The lure of home will have to wait, as the car stays packed and continues northward toward France.

A few hours later I am in the French Basque Country, in the town of Saint Jean de la Luz. Mike has brought me to his friend, Julien’s house. It is like the rest of the neighborhood, an etxea, in typical Basque construction with white walls crossed by solid timber beams, covered with a clay terracotta roofs. And there in this iconic French village sits the subject for the day. It’s a fresh, stainless steel 2-11 Cycles. So fresh that it’s barely been out on the road yet.

Dancing on Fascism’s Grave: Beyond Bike Racing in Euskadi 

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Dancing on Fascism’s Grave: Beyond Bike Racing in Euskadi 

More than a year later, I’m still captivated by the memory, the scene, the moment.

It was a hot autumn day, one of the last of the year before the seasonal chill poured from the Bay of Biscay into the Spanish Basque Country. A young man stepped into the middle of the road. He wore a flapping outfit of white with a red handkerchief and belt. It was the kind of attire that flails down the narrow streets of Basque cities during the annual running of the bulls in Northern Spain.

Campandgoslow Made in Spain Wool Jersey Pre-Order

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Campandgoslow Made in Spain Wool Jersey Pre-Order

Our friends at Campandgoslow have just launched a new olive, wool jersey pre-order at their website. These jerseys are inspired by classic wool kits from cycling’s iconic past and will keep you warm in the coming winter months. The window to order will close on September 5th at noon PST, or when CGS reaches its cap of 85 pieces, whichever comes first so if you’re interested in these, don’t miss out.

We expect to be shipping these to you in late October. Keep in mind that production time will depend on our total order quantity, and shipping times are a little unpredictable these days. We’ll do everything we can to get your jersey to you as soon as possible.

Pre-order one at Campandgoslow.

Jersey Details:
-Retail: $190 + Shipping
-Made in Spain by Cima Coppi
-100% mid-weight 285 gsm merino wool
-Raglan sleeve pattern
-Custom embroidery on chest
-Since we’re riding solo this time, no Crust embroidery on the back pocket and no Crust hi-vis color option. We might make some changes to the rear pocket color layout.
-Hand or machine wash cold with mild detergent and dry flat

1×13 Shifting with Rotor on the Merlin Bikes Sandstone Gravel Bike

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1×13 Shifting with Rotor on the Merlin Bikes Sandstone Gravel Bike

Hydraulic shifting? 13 speeds? What in tarnation?

That’s what was going through my head when I first saw Rotor’s 13-speed drivetrain kit at Sea Otter last year. The 1×13 kit is a follow up to Rotor’s Uno 2x groupset from four years ago. Like the Uno, the 1×13 uses hydraulically-actuated shifting for a groundbreaking industry first. As you might imagine, this tech is pricey, and probably not for everyone, myself included, but over the past few months, I’ve enjoyed riding it on this beautiful titanium chassis by none other than Merlin Bikes. Check out a full review of Rotor’s 1×13 and the Merlin Sandstone Gravel bike below.