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LACK OF FOCUS AND ORGANIZATION: BFFs, Bikes, and the Alps

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LACK OF FOCUS AND ORGANIZATION: BFFs, Bikes, and the Alps

The following trip report is also available on Amazon Kindle, for ease of bookmarking…

Day 1: Wienerwald or bust!

JEN: Good decisions can be made on a whim. That’s how I found myself on this spontaneous bike trip in Europe. It all started in Vienna, Austria. My friend Bun Daniel, also from Los Angeles, was there, visiting and working with BBUC (short for Brilli Brilliant Unicorn Club), and had offered for me to stay with him. I had plans to go to Spain 3 weeks later but the space in between was yet to be determined. That space in-between turned out to be a great adventure. My bike partner in crime and fellow California Girl, Erin Lamb, flew out from Santa Barbara to meet me. We had one mission – to satisfy our appetites for some asphalt spaghetti draped on the Alps.

It’s Still Well Below Freezing: Lael Wilcox’s Silk Road Mountain Race 2019 – Part 2

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It’s Still Well Below Freezing: Lael Wilcox’s Silk Road Mountain Race 2019 – Part 2

Read Lael’s first Reportage at You Can’t Win a 1,700km Race in a Day: Lael Wilcox’s Silk Road Mountain Race 2019 – Part I

I open my eyes to daylight, take a couple of puffs of my inhaler, compress the air out of my sleeping pad and get out of my sleeping bag. A rider with bags cruises by waving, a reminder that we’re still in a race. I stuff my whole sleeping kit into a dry bag and strap it to my handlebar harness. I turn on my GPS and put the race track on and on goes my SPOT tracker, pressing the boot print to initiate tracking. I move a pastry from my framebag to my gas tank for breakfast. I chug a full water bottle and put on my socks and shoes. The whole process takes twenty minutes and I resent the time lost. This style of racing is all about economizing time. The valley is cold, even at low elevation. I’m still wearing my down suit and rain jacket and I’m back on my bike, pedaling washboard downriver. I pass a pulled over rider and he passes me back. We don’t talk.

Escape to Santa Catalina Island

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Escape to Santa Catalina Island

It’s not every day you’re presented with an opportunity to step out of the routines of daily life and to reconnect with a couple of old friends in a beautiful, fairly isolated environment; and to get to fully experience that place from the saddle of your bicycle. When a couple of my oldest friends, Josh and Alex, invited me on a bikepacking adventure – and asked me to assist with a video they planned to produce about the trip – help with logistics, carry some gear, etc. – I gave an enthusiastic and immediate, “I’m all in.” Josh and Alex had secured a generous grant from Kitsbow to capture our time on camera, in hopes that our experience would inspire and motivate others to get outside, unplug from life a bit, reconnect with old friends, and explore an exciting and accessible environment within a reasonable window of time. What cyclist wouldn’t want to throw their bike in a travel bag, fly down to Los Angeles for a 3 day weekend, and spend the bulk of that time pedaling around on Santa Catalina Island with a duo of old friends?

Leave it All on the Trail and Go Baroque: the 2019 Downieville Classic

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Leave it All on the Trail and Go Baroque: the 2019 Downieville Classic

[WARNING – please read with enunciations of the Queen’s English spoken with a harsh American accent leached with dry monotone and finished with a slight southern drawl.]

[NOTE – All persons are mixed and mashed conglomerations of friends masked by pseudonyms as to respect their identities.]

[FICTION –It actually may be close enough to nonfiction. Every tale is drenched with truth, maybe not all the truths belong to me, I might not even be the eyes telling this tale.]

With another eight to nine-hour drive ahead of me, this time solo because the polluting toots of my automobile fill me with joy—just kidding, hell, felt like an asshole—I had to figure out a way to fuck with my perception of time in order to maintain some level of sanity. Although being a fellow cyclist, y’all get that the bar is set real low when it comes to sanity. So, to risk sounding like a surface-wannabe-cultured-erudite, I tried hooking myself onto classical music with this grandiose nisus of increasing my attention span. Hear me out: not only would being able to melt into a forty-five-minute score enable me to complete long intervals with ease but enduring an entire classical score would help me get through the long drives to get to the long and arduous races those said and absolutely supposed intervals would prepare one for. Leave it all on the trail and go baroque.

A Brief History of our Federal Public Lands

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A Brief History of our Federal Public Lands

The distribution of federal public lands across the United States.

The vast expanses of America’s public lands, set aside to serve the national interest, have a complex and unlikely history that spans more than two centuries.

In the United States, federally-owned public lands form the tapestry upon which so many recreationists depend, as do agricultural, extractive, tourism, and hunting industries that support local economies. Beyond that, these lands have unquantifiable cultural, scientific, ecological, and scenic values. As cyclists, public lands offer literally endless miles of trails, 4×4 tracks, and gravel roads that can carry us off the pavement, away from crowds, and into landscapes as quiet and remote as we may desire. The United States is globally unique with respect to the vast tracts of lands still remaining in the public domain, lands that are managed for a broad array of uses by various agencies and beneath a dizzying array of special designations and associated acronyms. However, political efforts to eliminate some or all of these public lands serve to highlight how we as recreationists cannot take these lands for granted.

NICA: In league With the Next Generation; an Interview with Oregon’s Heather Wolfgang

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NICA: In league With the Next Generation; an Interview with Oregon’s Heather Wolfgang

Words by Kyle von Hoetzendorff, photos by Gritchelle Fallesgon, Dan Sharp, Lauren Bell, Dylan VanWeelden

I raced mountain bikes as a teenager. It was great, super fun. And I am here now, in this space, in your mind, in a large part because that experience set in motion a long series of events. You get it. Racing or even riding hasn’t been a constant in my life and back then, even before the allure of anodized parts and the thrilling rush of a fast descent was ambushed and summarily executed by the thrumming belligerence of teenage hormones I knew a lot went into racing. There was the obvious, the training and the expense; from equipment to entry fees, cycling is definitely not frisbee cheap.

Team Brooks: a Grassroots Gravel Performance Art Installation Does Kanzaz

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Team Brooks: a Grassroots Gravel Performance Art Installation Does Kanzaz

Words by Coach Ronaldo Romance Jr. and photos by Team Brooks

(Gallery Photos are 95% disposable film cams that I handed out to the team.  Felt like it captured the inner “race” pretty authentically; and the medium was pretty fun in a “trip to the water park” “safe grad night” sorta way)

Booming Billowing Blooping Blurping Gravel.  

Even with DK getting as much coverage as the TDF, I trust the pace of the news these days has left your mind blank of such cognizance once again.  That’s good, as my memory of competing in the event 2 years ago has also been selectively erased, perhaps that’s why I reluctantly agreed to participate in this particular edition.

Fast Friends: Big Thoughts Through Big Sur

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Fast Friends: Big Thoughts Through Big Sur

Words by Tenzin Namdol, photos by Ronnie Romance

I was looking at everyone’s legs. The group of 13 included professional and semi professional racers, life-long athletes focused specifically on their relationship to the bicycle. There aren’t six packs; there’s, like, eight to ten pacs. Some even have muscular faces! How is that even possible to accomplish? Seeing my own soft animal body as lesser than their impressive builds. The grass kept getting greener and greener on the other side of my eyeballs and I felt myself getting smaller and smaller. Where in my body is this discomfort living? I had three days and the grand views around beautiful Big Sur to find the site of where this discomfort lived in my body. Aside from physical discomfort from physical exertion, I came up empty. Instead, I found an interstice where feelings of awe grew and that became my saving grace.

Unapologetic. Relentless. Persistent: A Machines for Freedom Expedition in Utah

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Unapologetic. Relentless. Persistent: A Machines for Freedom Expedition in Utah

Unapologetic. Relentless. Persistent. A Machines for Freedom Expedition in Utah
Words by Aimee Gilchrist, photos by John Watson

The Utah desert, or desert in general, does not often offer comfortable accommodations to outsiders. High winds, isolated vegetation, sun-soaked and shadeless valleys, rapid nocturnal cooling and infrequent precipitation. The desert can feel like a bitter and unforgiving stranger. Lucky for us, Utah was well-behaved. Late March riding and a window between April showers painted the varying landscape with fragrant sage and spring blooms. Barren mesas were glowing with red and gold dust. And instead of the reliable, wind-blown silence often found on these remote roads, our Machines for Freedom team shared conversation and laughter that could be heard echoing in the canyons for miles.

A few months earlier, Jenn Kriske from Machines for Freedom gathered a group of ladies to ride an aggressive route mapped by John Watson. Our MFF riding team consisted of seven badass, hilarious, strong athletes from Santa Barbara and LA to Portland by way of Bozeman and Durango: Jessica Baum (Santa Barbara), Gritchelle Fallesgon (Portland), Mason Griffin (Bozeman), Stephanie Ortega (LA), Ginger Boyd (LA), Sarah Swallow (Durango) and I (LA). Heavy winter snow and rain this Spring impeded the original route and last minute adjustments were made exchanging knee-deep mud for pavement. Our goal was to ride 350 miles from Tropic, Utah to Green River, Utah in 4 days. We were well suited for this undertaking.

Into the Inyo Mountains: Disconnecting in Cerro Gordo

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Into the Inyo Mountains: Disconnecting in Cerro Gordo

Owens Valley, the Mojave, and Death Valley have been the backdrop for many stories here on the Radavist, but there is one region in particular that has interested me in regards to both the terrain and the history. The Inyo Mountains are ripe for adventure-seekers looking to get off the beaten path of Death Valley National Park or the Eastern Sierra. It can be a very isolating place: the roads are rough, rugged, with little to no cell reception or provisions. If you can, however, access this zone safely, you will be rewarded with unsurpassed views of the Eastern Sierra as the backdrop and colorful geological features abound.

I spend my free time exploring this region for routes that are suitable for travel by bicycle and to be honest, very few have proven to be fruitful in such endeavors. The area is plagued by roads so steep that even an equipped 4×4 can overheat, or miles upon miles of rock gardens, and sand traps. Not to mention the complete absence of water. To ride in this zone, you have to be prepared, both mentally and physically. It’s a region that challenged the native tribes as well as the prospectors who were driven by the desire to strike it rich. There’s a bigger tale here before we dive into our story, that needs to be told. One that hits close to home for us at the Radavist.

Dispatch From the Badlands – Carmen Aiken

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Dispatch From the Badlands – Carmen Aiken

Dispatch From the Badlands
Photos and words by Carmen Aiken

On the dotted line to Sheep Mountain Table, I suddenly brake. Something tilts in my nervous system, tugs. The summer’s off-pavement riding has me forgetting the sweetness of an emptiness’s quiet when your contraption and all the nonsense it carries is, for a moment, still. What do you matter? The rocks rest as they wont to do, I suppose, the world ticks to its own endless motion, even as it’s stupidly being timed and quantified on devices it doesn’t give a shit about.

The Devil in a Dress; L’Eroica Celebrates Alfonsina Strada – Tenzin Namdol

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The Devil in a Dress; L’Eroica Celebrates Alfonsina Strada – Tenzin Namdol

The Devil in a Dress; L’Eroica Celebrates Alfonsina Strada
Words and photos by Tenzin Namdol

“The act of remembering is about the future, not the past.” -Dr. Tashi Rabgey

There was a poster on the door of the Jolly Bar in downtown Gaiole In Chianti advertising a one woman play about and dedicated to Alfonsina Strada, the only woman to have competed in the Giro d’Italia way back in 1924. She was called “The Devil in Dress” by the press who sensationalized the story of a woman riding the Giro against pro racers of the time who were very well known and very male. Strada is no doubt a darling of the Italian vintage cycling social scene but completely unbeknownst to me. The play was one of the many official events organized for the L’Eroica weekend of ogling at relics that function as baseline vision for countless daydreams of bike builds, some looking much like the bike Strada rode for the Giro.

The Gods and the Goats: A Free Form Journey Into Crete – Tenzin Namdol and Ultra Romance

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The Gods and the Goats: A Free Form Journey Into Crete – Tenzin Namdol and Ultra Romance

The Gods and the Goats: A Free Form Journey Into Crete
Words by Tenzin Namdol, photos by Ultra Romance and Tenzin Namdol.

“The real interest of the myths is that they lead us back to a time when the world was young and people had a connection with the earth, with trees and seas and flowers and hills… we can retrace the path from civilized [humans] who live far from nature, to [people] who lived in close companionship with nature.” -Edith Hamilton, Mythology

Andreas came to greet us on top of the hill where we had slowed to open a goat gate along our route. We were just a couple of miles outside the city of Heraklion where we landed just a day before. Where we saw Anarchist graffiti enough to fill my whole black heart. Where we ate a meal so sublime that we decided to ditch our plan of ferrying over to the mainland and opted to spend the two weeks we had in Greece right here on this island. Just a few miles up and out of the city sees the landscape change from the graffiti-ed buildings to rural, agricultural hollers. Andreas was checking in on his goats, pigeons, and rabbits when he sees us and approaches with twinkling eyes.

Idahome: Bikepacking in God’s Country – Aimee Gilchrist

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Idahome: Bikepacking in God’s Country – Aimee Gilchrist

Idahome: Bikepacking in God’s Country
Words by Aimee Gilchrist, photos noted in Gallery Captions

God’s Country Day 1:  Captain’s Log

The pain felt like a feathery flame, arriving fierce and lacing itself into the layers of fibers in my quads.  I bend over my bars to stretch and shake the lactic acid bath pooling in my legs. My chest strains to keep air in my lungs when it desperately wants to escape.  I glance around to see if the others show similar conditions to help calm my mind. Although I had fared well earlier in the day when we were sticking to the fire roads, now the steep grade of this narrow, rutted trail has me feeling worked.  I’m barely keeping my inner dialogue silenced. The steeper and higher we climb up the pass, the weaker my mental fortitude becomes.

A Solstice Ballad for My Hometown – Tenzin Namdol

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A Solstice Ballad for My Hometown – Tenzin Namdol

A Solstice Ballad for My Hometown
Words by Tenzin Namdol, photos by Ultra Romance and Thomas Hassler.

While the God-fearing Christians of the lower Connecticut River valley ended their day cleaning off their lawn care equipment, a small group of Wiccan-observing, season-worshipping heathens rolled their tires through the forested glades of the Nutmeg Country triangle in honor of the Swift Campout. We smell of essential oils and the crystals around my neck jingles at each pedal stroke. The leaves on the trees have matured from their Spring-emerged highlighter green to a darker, more robust hue, properly at the ready for the next summer storm. The back-to-back Nor’easters these trails have endured in recent months have left branches and huge fallen trees in the path as we head for the lean to’s in Cockaponsett State Forest- a mouthful, I know, especially paired with the Pattaconk Lake that nests inside. This area is full of names like that: Hammonasset Beach is a rock throw away from Benedict’s home, the Quinnipiac flows into New Haven harbor several miles away. Connecticut is a colonized spelling of the Native Algonquian, Quinnehtukqut, which translates to “place of the long river”.

The Beauty of Fatigue: Slow (SLO) Road to Eroica – Tenzin Namdol

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The Beauty of Fatigue: Slow (SLO) Road to Eroica – Tenzin Namdol

The Beauty of Fatigue: Slow (SLO) Road to Eroica
Words by Tenzin Namdol, photos by Ultra Romance

Something happened to me while I was riding the 90-mile NOVA Coastal Route of Eroica California, I started loving the ride. A bit of a “duhhhh” moment, right? That may have had something to do with the skill and knowledge of the route-maker who has expertly joined some of the most stunning roads of San Luis Obispo County. From wineries to summits to the Oceans’ shore featuring some loosen-your-filling descents. I’m sure we could have easily found a dentist at Eroica to fix that last problem. So, not really a problem. It also helps to have beautifully cheerful people at rest stops handing you wine, chocolate-covered strawberries, and praising your athleticism. I felt so undeserving of such treatment, but that’s for me and my therapist to figure out together. Regardless, treatment like that could make a cyclist out of just about anyone.

I’d Do Reno: An Unsolicited Photo Essay About This Year’s Cyclocross Nationals in Reno, Nevada – Laura Winberry

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I’d Do Reno: An Unsolicited Photo Essay About This Year’s Cyclocross Nationals in Reno, Nevada – Laura Winberry

I’d Do Reno: An Unsolicited Photo Essay About This Year’s Cyclocross Nationals in Reno, Nevada
Words by Laura Winberry, photos by Ian Stowe, Michael Jasinski and Patrick Means

Reno is a shit hole. This is the unsolicited and resounding opinion given to me by friends and strangers alike in the months leading up to this year’s Cyclocross Nationals in Reno, Nevada. More or less, the transaction would play out like this. Other People: Are you going to race through to Nats? Me: Yes. Other People: Cool. Reno is a shit hole. See you there. Me: Vague staring, plus some blinking.

Cycling Through History in Death Valley National Park

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Cycling Through History in Death Valley National Park

The neon hub of the American West is Las Vegas. An oasis for many, plopped just outside the California / Nevada border, in an otherwise inhospitable zone if it weren’t for the constant intravenous drip of water and tourism capital.

As Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi outlined in their manifesto, Learning from Las Vegas, the “ugly and ordinary architecture, or the decorated shed,” epitomizes man’s ruin. My interpretation of this architectural masterpiece is man’s inability to create anything that competes visually with the natural world, just beyond the boundaries of this neon wasteland. This is not a cynical view of development, or architecture in general, rather a point of departure for this particular trip.

“The human argument for setting aside vast stretches of the American desert as parks and preserves and wilderness and plain open space always includes the importance of unspoiled vistas. As the only real difference between Las Vegas and Death Valley is that we made a strategic decision to fill one with casino hotels and insurance company headquarters and neighborhoods while leaving the other more or less intact for the mutual benefit of humanity and the plants and creatures and ecosystems in such a mostly wild place.” Ken Layne, Desert Oracle, #016.

Death Valley prides itself on being the Hottest, Driest, and Lowest National Park. It, along with the deserts of Africa and the Middle East, is one of the hottest places on Earth, with temperatures exceeding 120ºF frequently during the summer months. In fact, the highest temperature ever recorded was 134ºF (56.7ºC) on July 10, 1913, at Furnace Creek. As its name implies, Death Valley is indeed made up of a series of basins, bordered by mountain ranges, of varying geologic characteristics. From the striped strata of the Last Chance Range, to the colorful, mineral-rich Funeral Mountains and the alien-like, almost science fiction-native, Amargosa Range.