For eight years running, around the time of the Summer Solstice, Swift Industries has put out a rallying cry for cyclo-touring enthusiasts the world-over to strap some bags to their bikes, head out for a couple days of pedaling and sleep on the ground. It’s a call to go out and have a memorable experience. The collective Swift Campout was this past weekend, but with some free time surrounding the actual Solstice, my partner Tony and I decided to ring in the best season for bikecamping a little early.
On April 12, 2022, Lael Wilcox set out to ride the 827-mile Arizona Trail faster than anyone had before. She completed her ride in 9 days, 8 hours, and 23 minutes on April 21. This is her story.
Note: Lael’s time is not recognized by the AZT Race administration which prohibits media coverage. The current official records: Men’s – Nate Ginzton – 9:10:44; Women’s – Chase Edwards – 10:18:59
My mom worries about me when I’m out riding my bike, for multiple days at a time, alone. By the way, I turned 30 in March. She says it’s not that she doesn’t trust me, it’s other people she’s worried about. And while she’s never outlined this explicitly, I’m sure the fact that I’m an only daughter—not an only son—also plays a role. But, to her credit, she’s getting more comfortable (or, better at hiding her discomfort) with the idea of me pursuing solo endeavors. This time around, when I called her from the car to let her know I was en route to the Ozarks to attempt an Individual Time Trial on the 380-mile Ozark Gravel Doom route, instead of a flat-lined, “…what?” I heard her pause, then—on the tail-end of an exhale—say, “Okay.”
Ahead of me, the Arizona Trail snaked into the forest, disappearing behind the shadow of ponderosa pines, and re-emerging in a stretch of marsh lit by a sliver of moon. I dismounted my bike and plunged off a muddy bank onto a log submerged in stagnant water. After seven scorching days racing through southern Arizona, this riparian zone on the rugged southeast flank of the Colorado Plateau offered a reprieve from the harsh Sonoran desert, but without the constant pricks and jolts from agave, cholla, and cat’s claw to center on, my mind wandered where I didn’t want it to go.
It was November 2nd, or maybe 3rd, depending on whether or not the clock had struck midnight yet. I didn’t care. This time last year, I was deep in the relentless clutches of psychosis, and moving my body outside, no matter the time of day, made wrangling with grief and humiliation easier.
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.”
In escaping the concrete canyons of New York City, the idea of new horizons, and the promise of unfamiliar faces drew me into what became a 4,112-mile bicycle tour across the deep south and southwestern United States.
Waaseyaa: it is bright, is light (as in the day), is radiant; it is sunny
It’s been a hard couple of years. Compounded self-doubt, emotional and physical abuse and income insecurity had me clinging to any bit of life I had within myself. I hadn’t really comprehended how I had gotten in that position in the first place. I remember years ago talking to someone who confided in me that she was in an abusive relationship. I’d been stone-cold in clarity when I told her to leave the fucker. She revealed that it was more complicated than that and, at that moment, I pitied her. Years later, I found myself in the same predicament; I was ashamed both for the lack of strength I had to leave my boyfriend and for my inability to listen to her. I’ve spent the last two years feeling like a swollen shell of myself.
Earlier this year, Hailey Moore set out with a small group of riders in the first North South Colorado Bikepacking Race, a self-supported race event on mixed terrain – from Fort Collins to Alamosa – through the Rocky Mountains. Continue reading for Hailey’s immersive trip report and photos from along the route.
“An unprecedented number of people are riding mountain bikes as an outlet for exercise and exploration and, as a result, discovering a truth we all eventually come to know: Every ride is an adventure. Freehub’s 12.4 edition is a celebration of this truth and a meditation on how adventure leads to discovery, both of the outside world and within oneself. In our cover story, ultra-endurance racer Alexandera Houchin writes about how her relationship with the bike has instilled a deeper understanding of her identity as a Native woman—and how she’s come to realize the act of racing is a ceremonial expression of her Ojibwe spirit. Transformative adventure pervades this book, with feature stories on a life-changing family bikepacking journey in the Alaskan wilderness and the existential reckonings of a rider attempting to clear a long-neglected trail in central Nevada’s remote Toiyabe Range. Welcome to Issue 12.4—a tribute to self-discovery and embracing the unknown.”
Read on below for Alexandera’s thoughts on this experience…
“Native lands, the places where California Indian tribes had interacted closely with the landscape for generations, were designated as unpopulated ‘wilderness’ areas to conform to Euro-American notions of idealized, pristine conditions that supposedly existed before contact. This assertion was, in part, built upon the idea that Native peoples were not and had not interacted in any meaningful way with significant portions of California. These systematic attempts to attack the very existence of California Indians were a means by which white settlers set out to exterminate, control, and dominate the land, flora, and fauna of Native California.” Baldy 2
I’m here to share my journey toward a better understanding of the context of our public lands with the hope that it will inspire you to learn more as well. As a young bike tourist, I was shocked at the manner in which people were engaging with our public lands and held many ableist and entitled views about enjoying such places. Originally enraged by the almost being killed by rental RVs on the road, I later became enthralled with the vignettes plastered on their sides. As I started to dig into some reading about the origins of wilderness areas and the terrible atrocities committed that created them, I became starkly aware of how little I understood of our county’s history and the formation of our public lands. Much of the writing I was able to find disproportionately deals with our National Park system which is almost unanimously managed as wilderness areas which isn’t something that we encounter much as cyclists, especially if you are trying to ride off-road. Nonetheless, the park system became the archetype for how we manage public lands and thus is important for understanding the rest of our non-NPS lands and our broader definitions of “nature” and “wilderness.”
There it was, carved into the side of the mountain like a serpentine scar, slithering its way up toward a sky riddled with barren peaks; their toothy prominences ripping through the leading edge of a building storm. A keen eye and a pointed finger could trace its path, lurching upward from where we stood at the western edge of the Great Basin Desert, zigzagging all the way up through Pinyon/Juniper woodland, wandering between stands of Ponderosa and getting steeper as the Foxtail pines got shorter. Miles away it could still just barely be seen, emerging atop an alpine ridgeline some four thousand feet above.
The accompanying gallery includes photos from a few of the areas in Arizona burned by wildfire in just the past 15 months.
My friend Joe and I stood atop Spruce Mountain just below the fire tower one last time this past Friday, admiring the surrounding peaks and forests of the Bradshaw Mountains. We both live just a few miles from this summit, and we share a love for big rides in the chunky, challenging backcountry trails deeper in the range. But today’s ride was a short one, first thing in the morning. Up on that vista, my eyes hopped from one patch of brown to the next, each a cluster of dead pines and firs. The ongoing drought is having a devasting impact on these forests. To the north, smoke from the nearby 40,000+ acre Rafael Fire filled Verde Valley with an impenetrable brown haze.
This is the first of a two-part series on how human-caused climate change is affecting the cycling experience, why we as cyclists should care about those impacts, and what we can do as individuals and as a community to combat those impacts. Part I of this series connects cyclists to a few examples of the realities of climate change, and Part II will outline what changes we as cyclists and the cycling community can make to improve the future of our pursuit in a changing climate.
Blow up a balloon, it’s full. Shiny even. More than anything, the balloon reveals your reflection in her taught, shiny facade. You look past the balloon; the balloon reveals your likeness.
Recently, as I was telling the story of this trip, and this moment when, after a hard day of hill climbing in the rain and a miserable night of freezing cold sleep, we finally saw Klickitat punched out against a clear blue sky – Someone responded – “don’t you mean Mt. Adams?”
Since I’ve committed to learning the precolonial names of the outdoor spaces I explore, some understandings have begun to emerge about how we as human beings interact with the natural world. Indeed, Klickitat itself was also named Pahto by the tribes of the region. Later named for a U.S. president who was born and died in Massachusetts. Only the mountain knows what other names it’s been called. ‘Intelligent’ (I’m skeptical of anthropocentric definitions of virtue) hominids may have lived in the area for 15,000 years. What did they call the mountain in 13,000 BC, if anything at all?
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.
Photo by Ryan Vannoy
We’re riding along with the bikes in the bed of a truck eating the fat end of a wedge of dust as it explodes from the back of the vehicle ahead. This is before the Blade Runner light, before that blood rich red captured the sun, and after, no during, the airborne everywhere terror. The most recent one, the one that I’m worried there are not enough of us who believe in it.
HIGH STEEP BROKEN MOUNTAINS: Riding in Threatened Central California Coast Public Land that lost protection to drilling and fracking upon the moratorium lift in December 2019, routing through the Cuyama Valley and Sierra Madre Ridge through Bates Canyon, Santa Barbara Canyon, and Quatal Canyon.