Coming off a week of downtime after one of the most tumultuous years of our lives has brought clarity to this annual retrospective. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect as Covid-19 gripped the global community and changed life as we know it. We looked to our new home in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the surrounding areas for inspiration, pinged our good friends for their penmanship, and listened to communities that have been underrepresented in cycling. What resulted were a lot of articles that tackled some big issues and the realization that we still have a lot of work to do.
I’ve spent the past few weeks mulling over our content and have compiled a list of some of the most meaningful and fun pieces from the past twelve months. Read on below for a selection of memorable moments from 2020, in chronological order…
Madness and Mud: Ruta Del Jefe 2020 by Tenzin Namdol
The Ruta Del Jefe is one of our favorite gravel races but this year’s event was a clear indicator of what to expect for the rest of 2020…
The weather matched the event in challenging the assumptions of what a desert landscape or a gravel race should be for most of the riders of the Ruta Del Jefe this year which was hosted at the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch in Elgin, AZ. The imagination of a desert as a dry and sunny landscape dotted with saguaros, prickly pears, and cholla was expanded for those who held that thinking. Home to the Madrean Sky Islands ecoregion that includes the Santa Ritas, Whetstone, and many other mountain ranges, this area is a treasure trove for those who eat gravel for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sky Islands refers to the unique interplay between the low lying desert grasslands and the dramatic wooded mountains that become islands in the sky for their residents. Natt Dodge introduced this concept as “mountain island in a desert sea” back in 1948 which was then cemented by Weldon Heald’s book Sky Island in 1967. In the lowlands, this area is home to many unique varieties of grasses who abundantly glow their sunshine and straw colors to her visitors.
The Unknown Road to the High Pamir by Ryan Wilson
There’s no denying that Ryan’s work here on the Radavist is some of the best on the web. Here’s one of his many contributions that make this website extra special.
Up to this point, the route-finding came easy in Kyrgyzstan. The North-Eastern zone of the country has seen its fair share of bikepackers floating along its gravel tracks to weed through the wealth of options available. As we made our way south from the small oasis city of Baetov, our direction was less clear. We knew we’d be heading for Northern Tajikistan, but had no real idea about how we’d end up there or what type of riding we’d be in for along the way.
Casey Robertson’s Cool Collages of Cool People
Casey’s work showcased some of the most recognizable faces in the cycling community…
I fell upon a sudden dry spell in my business. Understandably, most of my commercial clients put current and future work on pause. I was kind of sitting around for a few days watching tumbleweeds roll through the house and started to worry about the future of my creativity and viability as an illustrator.
Anchorage GRIT: Girls Riding Into Tomorrow by Lael Wilcox and Rugile Kaladyte
Lael and Rue’s work is always a ten but when you combine local community activation and stoking kids out on bikepacking, you can’t go wrong! The Lael Rides Alaska series was amazing but we loved seeing her work with her hometown girls. See more about this program at GRIT.
Traveling by bike is inspiring and stimulating. From the saddle, you have time to think and dream. It’s dynamic. Pushing the pedals pumps blood. You breathe more air. you are enveloped in nature. There is so much to experience and interpret. If you’re riding with friends, you share ideas and maybe you build dreams together– layers of big ideas, feelings, details, reality, time, reflection and how you can really pull it all off. A great idea is very different from execution. You don’t have to be the best or the most organized to do something good. And you don’t have to know every possible outcome from the start. Adventure is stepping into the unknown. It’s scary and exciting and always requires more work than you really want to put in, but you follow through anyway because you have guts and you care.
To Everyone Who Hoped It Might Be True: A Deep Dive into Spencer Harding’s Film Archive
It’s hard to deny the gravity of this piece by Spencer Harding and impossible to overlook its beauty.
When I went on my first bike tour in the summer of 2009 from Seattle back to California I had a decision to make, take my camera or take a tent. I grabbed my old Hasselblad 501CM and hit the road. I had never gone on a long-distance tour before and I hadn’t much thought about any of it, I had a copy of Bicycling the Pacific Coast and some camping gear, I was gonna be fineeee. I had no plans for what to shoot along the ride, but when I got home I found that about 90% of the images I had shot were of the many people I encountered along the way. That was a moment of clarity for me and one that would define my photographic motivations for almost a decade afterward.
Concrete Road’s Bikepacking Fanzine Number 01
Showcasing artist’s cycling-related content is always an added bonus and Concrete Road’s fanzine was a show-stopper.
A few years ago, when I started posting my bikepacking drawings on the net, I called my Instagram “Concrete Road” in reference to my favorite Japanese Anime series. From then on, I was always unsure if this name was supposed to be an alias, a moniker, or just the name of a project. It took a while to develop my story but I’ve determined my pen name will be Tony Concrete and Concrete Road will be the name of my fanzine, all about bikepacking.
Mount Weather, Black Mathematicians, and Cycling: A Father’s Day Note by Eric Channing Brewer
Black cyclist Eric Channing Brewer shares a childhood story of his father’s secretive work in one of his favorite cycling locales.
For decades, the little mountain overlooking my mother’s childhood home held a massive secret and my dad was in on it.
At just under 2,000 feet, Mount Weather sits along the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the rural Virginia town of Bluemont. It served as the backdrop to my childhood memories of time spent at my grandmother’s house. These days, whenever I visit the area on my bike and ride by the house, I look up at the mountain knowing it’s the reason I’m here.
And what my dad once told me, this mountain might be the reason we are all still here.
Zhaawani-noodin: There is a South Wind – a Response to the Name “Dirty Kanza” by Alexandera Houchin
We tackled a lot of complex issues this year but Alexandera’s piece was pivotal in the renaming of the Dirty Kanza gravel race…
As of today, June 21, 2020, I hold a Bachelors degree in American Indian Studies, a discipline I have invested a great deal of energy in educating myself about. I am even more passionate about understanding Native Nations as governments. As an indigenous woman, I see everything through my very own indigenous lens. My life has been shaped by my enrollment as a citizen of a tribal nation. Have you ever dated someone, fallen in love, thought about having kids, and realized, if you stay with that person, your child won’t be a citizen of the nation that defines your identity? I have learned a great deal about myself, other nations, and how to communicate my thoughts about indigeneity. I also ride my bike, often really, really long distances, alone. When I ride alone, I think about place, I think about identity. It’s only natural though, because it’s in place that I understand my role in this world. I am just a visitor.
Bike Racing, White Privilege and the Corona Virus by Cinthia Pedraza
Everyone misses bike racing but a worldwide pandemic is not the time to get your fix.
Recently USA Cycling has lifted its ban on cycling events starting June 1st. The lifted ban has been followed by announcements from local as well as national race and event promoters about events starting as soon as the first week of June. Some of the events being promoted will bring together hundreds of cyclists. Bike racers in a peloton will be touching elbows, breathing hard, sweating and spitting within inches of each other during an international pandemic. After rubbing elbows with their friends in the peloton bike racers may go grab a beer at their now opened local bar. They will also head to their local grocery store and maybe call their maid to restart the weekly cleaning routine. With these interactions, the cyclist is directly impacting lower-income families who are likely to be from Black or Brown communities.
A Discussion About Wilderness: Backpacking and Fly Fishing in Northern New Mexico by John Watson
Wading into this topic was thicker than tamerisk along a riverbank…
Wilderness, disambiguation aside, as a concept is important, yet it is riddled with a racist history. Yes, these designations protect land for future generations from mineral extraction and development but our dialog surrounding the concept of wilderness must adapt, evolve, and include the voices of those who were the original inhabitants of this land.
Through The Wardrobe: Touring the Oregon Timber Trail’s Anaxshat Passage by Pepper Cook and Gabe Tiller
Autumn touring along the OTT was the backdrop for Pepper’s beautiful words.
Last Autumn, I found myself wondering, “How do I pack for a bike ride through Narnia?”. I had just been asked to sample a small section of the wonderful Oregon Timber Trail by my friend Gabriel. I packed a grocery bag full of Voile straps, my foul weather gear, a laminated local mushroom-foraging pamphlet, and prepared to step through the magic wardrobe.
Crossing the Big Empty: Confessions from Chris Burkard on the Trans-Icelandic Bikepacking Route
Iceland is one of the most unforgiving environments to bicycle tour in. Chris Burkard shared his thoughts on this massive undertaking…
For me, this line through Iceland’s rugged and unforgiving interior started to creep into my mind somewhere during the last 43 trips I have done to the country. Constantly examining the landscape through my camera lens has given me a lot to think about when it comes to raw wilderness and the chance of capturing nature in its purest form. And that was really the inspiration behind the goal. How can you spend the maximum amount of time traversing every major geological feature this place has to offer. It only made sense to go… sideways.
Desert Pack: A Group of Women on a Solo Mission – Bikepacking the San Rafael Swell by Sofia Jaramillo
Sofia and a band of her friends took to the San Rafael Swell for a beautifully-documented story from one of our favorite regions in the American West.
The hot desert sun beats down on us. Sand whips around as the wind picks up speed. We follow a narrow path that hugs the base of prehistoric cliffs with contrasting sandstone layers, each representing a different geological epoch. Birds fly in and out of small “huecos”, holes carved into the rock high above. Glove Mallow flowers sway in the wind. My friends Franny Weikert, Torie Lindskog, Suzy Williams, and I are approaching the steepest climb of our bikepacking trip through the San Rafael Swell in Utah. We’re weekend warriors and set aside a few days to bike the route. We fled to the desert in hopes of a break from the stress of our everyday lives. What we thought would just be a 3-day bikepacking trip and a chance to make some new friends, turned into an unexpected adventure full of memories we’d never forget.
Dzil Ta’ah Adventure’s Navajo Youth Bikepacking Adventure Series: John’s Canyon by Joshua Weinberg and Jon Yazzie
The Pandemic continues to wreak havoc on indigenous communities across the world, yet that didn’t stop Jon Yazzie from getting Navajo kids out on bikes this year.
Recently, the Navajo Nation reinstated a 57-hour weekend lockdown due to the spikes in COVID in several communities. This put a hold on our first official Dzil Ta’ah Adventures youth bikepacking series outing in Nazlini, which was originally slated for September 26th. Once the lockdown is lifted, which we hope will be soon, we will proceed as planned with the Dine Composite participants. With the postponement of our first trip, we felt like this was an opportunity to leverage the extra time and continue to shape our mentorship program and build more of my team’s dexterity with an outing in John’s Canyon, Utah, at the southwestern base of Cedar Mesa.
Film Rolls, Two Burritos, and One Fast Mountain Trout: Bicycle Touring the Northern New Mexico CDT by John Watson
Having fit friends can be intimidating, especially when touring the Continental Divide Trail…
With the autumnal equinox behind us and already one major snow dumping having hit the high country, we felt like our window of opportunity to do a proper bicycle tour was closing. On a Monday afternoon, Bailey texted me, asking if I’d want to do the Northern New Mexico Continental Divide Trail the coming weekend. He proposed to ride from Cumbres Pass in Colorado, down to the quaint little town of El Rito. We’d be riding almost all singletrack and with a majority of the route hovering above 10,000′ elevation, it’d be anything but easy for this recently-converted flatlander.
Super Jambo Grom Pre 200 by Jorja Creighton
As Australia overcame the Pandemic, Jorja looks to the future with an event in the high country…
I’ve had multiple orgasms in this area since that day, the region always giving the best touch and caress. It felt right to bring others to experience the same release. Especially after the undeniable shit-show that has been 2020. To hold a place for calm and carnage for the people I like the most – people who ride bikes.
Cool Breeze in Nutmeg Country: Crust Chapter II by Ronnie Romance
While Crust Bikes is taking a momentary break, the video series by Tin has been some of the best cycling content on the web this year!
Two weeks after moving in we hosted a few fun Cool Breeze members and surrogates for 3 days of riding our local roads and trails. Our friend Tin came out from Long Island and made this short n’ fun video as a follow up to Crust chapter one. Was a great few days to forget the swirling world around us and just go ride bikes in the beautiful weather and talk about tire sizes.
Finding the Fun of Riding in Circles: Connecting Singletrack in Guaymas, Sonora by Daniel Zaid and Karla Robles
Daniel and Karla break into the experience of riding singletrack in one of the most breathtaking backdrops you could ask for…
Up until the beginning of this year, I had barely stepped foot on a proper mountain biking trail. Not because my hometown lacks options to do so, it’s just that my approach to riding bikes as a commuter and tourer is to get places, and trail riding seemed much like riding in circles. This summer, as my long term traveling plans got postponed, a mountain biking trail 15 minutes away from home suddenly seemed interesting and I started to get the hang of riding single track as a temporary substitute for long, open dirt roads; after all, this 5 km trail did a lot for keeping me sane over the summer.
Looking Forward for the Youth: The LA Bike Academy by Alonso Tal and Michael Cedeño
Growing up in the city can be hard but the Los Angeles Bicycle Academy looks to give the youth of LA a positive environment to grow in.
Creating opportunities within cycling and empowering youth are at the core of LA Bike Academy, a Los Angeles based youth cycling team that does far more than coach kids to race bikes.
A HUGE thanks to all the contributors who put themselves out there, shared their work, and helped contribute to our entertainment in 2020. We’d all like to thank you, the readers of this site for your commentary and insight. Here’s to 2021!