Category

Adventures

Of Bikes, Photos, and Adventure, and Oregon

By Adventures One Comment

Rodeo is a company driven along by photographs. Documenting rides with a camera started a few years before we got going and was for me motivated by the fact that I didn’t have enough time to be a stand-alone hobbyist photographer and also a cyclist, so I merged the two by always having some sort of camera in my right rear jersey pocket no matter what sort of ride I was on. It started with just my phone and the Instagram app. Then I added external lenses to the phone, then I got a gopro, then I got tired of the gopro so I experimented with various point and shoot cameras. Eventually I sometimes even lugged around a full size DSLR on a specially made strap or I brought along my small drone to try to take compelling aerial photos. Taking a photograph on a ride is not hugely challenging and it is quite common these days. “If you didn’t take a photo did it even happen?” is a common joke that has an edge of cynicism. Are we taking photos of rides as a desperate cry for attention or to brag? I’ve certainly done that at times, more often in the earlier years of my cycling photo life. But more often than not I’m taking a photo on a ride because I’m so excited about the moment or the place that I’m experiencing and I want to capture that moment for later and pass it along to others. Sharing the thrill of a ride, the landscape, and the company is a wonderful challenge to take on with a camera and most of the time I actually fail at that attempt to share. 97 out of 100 photos I take go directly to the trash on my computer. Of the three that I might keep only one has the chance of being a photo I’m genuinely excited about, a photo that has the potential to communicate through a tiny phone screen or larger computer monitor what it felt like for me to be there. I think anyone who has attempted to take and share a photo has experienced this challenge. At the peak of a sublime moment of a ride or at the crest of a hill we’re overcome with how good a moment it is and we reach for the camera. We take the photo and review it later only to be deeply disappointed that the photo captures almost none of it, none of that magic that we felt when we were THERE. But when you somehow by some miracle capture that moment and it isn’t dismembered as it filters through a lens, a camera sensor, an image processing chip, and a storage card you feel a pretty huge sense of satisfaction. That’s it! That is what it was actually like to be there! That’s a special image and in Rodeo’s case those are the images that in a large part have built this company and community.

This Thanksgiving my wife and I gathered up the kiddos and went “home” to Vancouver, Washington to spend the holiday with my side of the family. Vancouver is where I grew up and Portland, Oregon is the City across the river where I quickly moved to when I struck out on my own in life. I have so many roots and memories in the Pacific Northwest as a whole and I always feel a huge sense of expectation as I go back home and see these familiar places through the eyes of someone who now lives in Colorado.

To the outside observer Colorado often conjures up images of beautiful, rugged peaks and endless prime cycling routes. Rodeo features Colorado front and center in its imagery because this is after all our birthplace and home. I think our imagery sometimes shows a false reality though, one of non stop alpine vistas and larger than life adventure rides. I often joke to people that those rides are actually the exception for me and Rodeo and that 90% of our riding is on boring bike paths and roads around Denver.

We just don’t often take pictures of bike paths and boring roads. We take photos of the good stuff up high in the Rockies. Without fail though a big mountain cycling image seems to elicit pining comments from our online audience. “I need to move there”, “you guys are so spoiled”, “I wish I had roads like that”. When I hear these types of comments I go back to that thought about bragging and wonder if that is what we’re doing. Are we just bragging? Do we have it better than everyone else and are we rubbing it in? My trip to Pennsylvania in October seemed to be a pretty strong indicator that Colorado does not have any sort of monopoly of gorgeous mountains to explore or off the charts gravel roads to play on. My own personal theory is that “adventure”, that over-used marketing buzzword that is now very in vogue, is still a genuine thing and is in fact accessible to anyone, anywhere who has a willingness to explore and get outside of their comfort zone.

I almost didn’t take my bike home with me for Thanksgiving. The week before I left was a busy one at the office. Finding time to pack the and ship my bike (via BikeFlights) in advance was difficult to come by. I felt lazy and unmotivated. The forecast, in typical Pacific Northwest fashion, looked sadistic: 37 degrees and rain for the bulk of our stay. I wasn’t excited to go out for 20-30 miles on old familiar roads and freeze my drenched ass off. What pushed me over the edge was the fact that I’ve signed up for Atlas Mountain Race in February and I’m terrified at what I’ve bitten off. With only three months to train and prepare for it I didn’t have the luxury of eating pie and turkey on my parent’s couch for a solid week. I had to ride on my trip home and I had to make my riding count.

The problem was that family holiday visits home don’t mesh well with bike rides. At least in my family they don’t. Holiday trips are a chaotic mix of visiting old friends, dinners with family, late movie nights, and activities with the kids. There really wasn’t much time to ride at all. We had booked a beach house in Neskowin, Oregon for three days before the actual Thanksgiving holiday. There might be some opportunities to ride on those days but riding up and down the Coast Highway isn’t incredibly fun for me because it is narrow and fairly highly trafficked. Perhaps I had shipped my bike home for no reason and there simply weren’t any windows of time to ride in after all…

And then it hit me. On the third day maybe I could ride home from Neskowin, Oregon to Vancouver, Washington. If Neskowin was two hours away by car it had to be within striking distance on a bike. The problem was that I didn’t have any local knowledge of most of the roads between the start and finish. My route knowledge ended pretty much on the lines of the Portland urban growth boundary. All of that blank stuff on the map was wine vineyards, university towns, logging camps, and mossy Coast Range forests in my mind. Pretty much no-man’s land to a non-local like me. My solution was t roll the Strava dice and let the route builder auto compute the entire route for me. I opened my browser, put a pin in Neskowin, a second pin in Vancouver, flipped the “use popular” switch, and let it rip.

Strava spit out a route: 110 miles, 6200 feet of climbing. That’s a strong ride, but not stupid, especially with relatively little climbing over that much distance. The plan worked surprisingly well with the family schedule. I would depart early on Wednesday and arrive mid afternoon for a family taco party dinner in Vancouver. Any ride with Mexican food waiting at the end of the ride is bound to be a good ride, right?

It rained almost non stop on our first couple of days at the coast. Par for the course. And then something incredible happened. It stopped raining entirely – for a long time. I woke up the morning of the ride to find crisp, clear, beautiful conditions outside. It was nippy at 37 degrees (F) but that was about 20 degrees warmer than what I was commuting to work in Monday through Friday in Denver. Warm and cold are relative sensations. I unboxed and dialed in the bike. For some reason I wiped it down and cleaned Denver commute scum off of it. This was a pointless exercise as it would be covered in Oregon Coast road scum within a mile of departure, but I like my bike and I like to look at it clean.

I kissed the family and struck off. The road was wet. Thanks to high humidity the lack of active rain in Oregon doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is dry per-say. The wetness was manageable though and I intentionally left the rain jacked in my duffel bag at the house in an act of semi-denial. I wanted to ride with as little clutter on my body and bike as possible. I wanted that sensation of just me, a simple bike, and the road that is so common in warm dry summer months and so uncommon in wet, cold, layered, fendered winter months.

Riding long distances is an exercise in mental austerity. If you think too much about the day ahead, time, and the distance that must be covered the day will never pass and you will never arrive at your destination. In order to pass long miles it is best to clear your head, forget about time, and resolve yourself to the simple act of pedaling indefinitely. I switched my Wahoo screen from distance, speed, heart rate, and watts to the map page which showed no data other than dotted lines. Visual austerity is best paired with data austerity.

I rode up a beautiful creekside road into the coast range. Traffic was non-existent for the first ten miles save for a single modified off road Jeep which was desperately looking for a Forest Service or logging road gate left accidentally open. Jeeps to logging roads are what pigs are to mud. Unlike the free range unrestricted logging roads of my youth it would seem that the modern default is to now gate and lock access to those same mountain byways. This sucks for Jeeps but is great for adventure cyclists. Once you cross an Oregon logging road gate you could ride in solitude more or less indefinitely. That’s a lovely thought.

I rode in solitude for a while until I decided that I had earned a peek at my ride stats. I had covered about ten miles. 100 miles to go. My map screen had been ignored because the road I was on had no turn-offs, but when I looked down at my screen to check the map the little dotted line indicating my intended route was nowhere on the screen. I was 10 miles in and totally off course. I think it takes special skill to get lost on a road with no turn-offs. I congratulated myself. Then I had a thought: Were there turnoffs that I had missed? I knew that no paved roads intersected the road I was on, but maybe Strava had tried to send me up a gated logging road and I had missed the indication? Answer: Yes. At the very spot where I had stopped to take photos of a nice hairpin turn bridge, a small road I was supposed to turn on had gone un-noticed by me. Lesson learned: pay attention to the dotted line on the screen when riding in Oregon.

I made some course adjustments and re-gained the original route which put me on Highway 18 near Otis, a town consisting of some houses, a post office, and a burned down restaurant trying to rebuild with a Go-Fund-Me.

Highway 18 is a fine enough route, but after spending so much of the year off the beaten track I didn’t warm quickly to that familiar road biking sensation of cars buzzing by at 60mph mere feet to the left of me. It turns out I’m rusty at road biking. Distracted motorists scare me, probably because of the fact that if I’m honest with myself I’ll admit to being a distracted motorist myself. I longed for a quiet b-road and relative safety. On my map screen I noticed that the dotted line of my original route would soon re-intersect the route I was on, but via a road that paralleled Hightway 18 by a few hundred feet. Perfect! I had visions of a quiet paved or gravel road following a creek for 10 or 20 miles as I road towards the Willamette Valley and McMinville. The problem was that I couldn’t find a road that linked the highway that I was riding with the dream road that must be just through the trees. A turn off left to a dead end in Van Duzer state forest. I few hundred feet down the road I spied one of those gates. I crossed it and the road turned to gravel and mud. A few hundred feet later I intersected my route at a four way gravel intersection. To the left was a nice gravel road. Straight ahead was a nice gravel road, and to my right was the intended route and a more primitive gravel road leading up a steep hill. I did some quick math. I had 90-100 miles left to go before tacos and I was not making good time at all. Between getting lost and stopping to take photos this was looking more like a 10mph average speed ride than the necessary 20mph average speed ride. Adventure called on that gravel road but reality called louder. I need to cover some distance so I flipped it and road back to Highway 18.

My pace picked back up to what it needed to be. Despite the gradual rolling hills I was cruising, a fact I owed to having Colorado altitude lungs in sea-level Oregon. But hey, if Oxygen doping is what it would take to get me home in time for dinner I was fine with that.

Tens of minutes passed and I watched the deep, mossy, dark forests of the Oregon coast range pass by. These weren’t my exact home forests but they felt like home and the wet air was thick with familiar emotions and memories for me. I knew these smells so well. The abundant ferns felt like something I had last seen yesterday not a decade ago. The moss was so constant, like a blanket coating absolutely everything that didn’t move and even some things that do. I couldn’t ignore the forest and that dark road that I knew was still paralleling the highway. I saw another gate and this time I said progress be damned. I wanted to see what secrets that road held. I crossed the gate.

Fifty feet later I was on another planet. Behind me was the muffled chaos of holiday traffic on Highway 18, and in front of me was a pristine, moody, emerald forest. Instead of a red carped leading through it there was a perfect doubletrack of gravel that rose up the ridge and disappeared around the bend. I rode back up to meet the dotted line on my GPS that I had been avoiding. Dear gravel road: I’m sorry I cheated on you with Highway 18. I’m back.

I rode for a while and stopped way too much to take photos. It was impossible not to. This forest! It was overwhelming. Colorado has fantastic mountains but it is more or less a desert for much of the state. Colorado in December has zero green. ZERO. I’m exaggerating. There are pine trees but even then our pine trees are dull and Oregon pine trees are GREEEEEEEEEN. Oregon coastal forests are that photo you see on Instagram where the person who posted it took the saturation dial and ramped it to 200%. One look at the photo and you say to your self “Oh come on, so fake! Those colors don’t happen in nature”. But in Oregon those colors happen in nature, they’re real, and for a color starved Coloradan it feels like aloe vera on the pupils.

I rode for a while entirely happy. The speed was back down in the “not gonna be home for dinner” range but my excitement was through the roof. I paid closer attention to the dotted line on my screen and noticed that it didn’t exactly match the road I was on. The two would intersect then diverge then intersect again. This wasn’t a concern until the road on the map kept going but the road in real life quite simply terminated in endless forest. I had hit a dead end that wasn’t supposed to be a dead end. I flipped around and went back to an intersection I had seen. Maybe I needed to take that road, and I did, but that road quickly got very primitive so I turned back around again and took yet another road I had seen. That road was wonderful until it too became not-wonderful and ended in muddy bulldozer tracks and chaos. Oregon was messing with me. The words of friend and Donkey owner Dewey Nelson came into my head. He actually lives not far from where I was riding but was unable to join me on the ride. He had remarked that no map of the Oregon Coast range could be trusted and that to venture into those mountains was to venture into a day of guaranteed geographic uncertainty. Dewey was right and I wasn’t sure what to do. Highway 18 was never far away but to turn back no felt gross. I wanted to stay in the woods even if it meant getting a little bit lost. Tacos seemed iffy at this point.

I went back to the first road I had tried and even though it was incredibly sketchy looking it at least appeared that it might continue East in the general direction that I needed to go for a while. I took it, the road held true. As I rounded a bend in the trees a view unfolded in front of me that made me gasp. On either side of the road were tall pine trees but down the middle where the “road” was was a grassy cut seemingly looking as if it had been made by a colossal hair trimmer. This forest looked nothing like the wild, un-tamed forest I had been in 1000 feet back. It felt like I had teleported to a different, more orderly ecosystem in some Scandinavian country.

The road was in fact too steep to ride so I walked for a while. Then I rode again. Then I walked again. Nothing was flat. There was only up, down, up down. I was in fact having a blast but this was no way to cover distance so I regrettably looked for a way back down to highway 18. My Wahoo showed a dotted line back to the road. I intersected it and followed it until it too abruptly dissolved into yet more forest. Stubbornness set in. “Oregon I like you but you’re in my way and I’m going this way whether you like it or not.”

I plunged into the trees with my bike. Mossy branches and young saplings reached out and grabbed my bars but I was able to sort-of ride by Braille and feel out the remains of what had long ago been a road bed. I followed it. Pink ribbons appeared on the trees and I followed those. The road was no road at all but I enjoyed how hilariously ridiculous the entire situation was. I began to hear the sounds of highway 18 again as I bushwacked towards it. Finally the forest let me go and I was reunited with blacktop.  I was probably only on forest logging roads for four miles or less but in those four miles I had seen more lush, green, beautiful forest than I had in the rest of 2019 combined. Oregon had flexed. Well played.

Back on the road only one thing was on my mind: Forward progress. I was nowhere relative to the duration of the ride, twenty seven miles covered out of one hundred and ten total. The pavement felt nice. The weather was great. I put my head down, ignored the proper route on my screen, and plowed north-east towards Portland. Every once in a while I would feel a pang of doubt and missing out on the side roads and forest. Each time I detoured back to the planned route I was greeted with more beautiful sights and more of that sense of discovery that I love. I was also greeted with more disappearing roads and more dead-ends, so back to highway 18 I went.

Around mid day the wind kicked up in the Willamette Valley. I pushed and it pushed back. At first it was mild and mildly challenging but as I passed to Willamina and Sheridan and into open farm lands the wind became utterly unforgiving and very discouraging. 20 mph average? Ha! Not nearly. I was struggling to push 14mph on the flats. Morale dropped a fair bit. For a while the ride was a simple study in endurance and how to pass time. I felt like I was taking my vitamins though. I coached myself that the Atlas Mountain Race would be infinitely more difficult than this single one day outing, so I’d better suck it up and beat the headwind if I wanted to prove to myself that I deserved to even line up at that event in a couple of months.

I arrived in McMinville at long last. Sixty four miles and over six hours into the ride. Clearly my dinner plans were in all but roasted. I grabbed two Snickers and a fake Coke. One Snickers went into my mouth, one into my top tube bag, and the fake Coke went into my water bottle. I needed to eat on the move. Traffic picked up as I continued towards Newberg. Oregon Wine Country greeted me. Street signs were almost outnumbered by sign posts pointing to various world class wineries and tasting rooms scattered across the hills and valley. The depressed logging town vibes near the coast range were replaced by wine country money vibes. Houses and buildings looked increasingly tidy. Freshly minted wineries and rows of grapes sparkled and made me wish for a heated car, my wife, 8 hours, and a babysitter. I could kill a few days out here living a life of leisure for sure!

I passed the empty remains of a Radio Shack. The sight of the bold red logo as I passed was so jarring to my brain that it didn’t immediately register where I had seen it until I was a few blocks down the road. When I did remember I had to go back, soak it in, and take a photo. There it was, that logo I had seen so much in pro cycling a decade or so ago and had swirled so much around one of the central controversies in cycling in the modern era. It was striking to me in that moment how neither Lance, nor that Radio Shack cycling team, nor even road cycling in general were now what they once were. Times have changed and although pro cycling is still a big-deal thing it isn’t as much a thing for me anymore. I just don’t pay much attention to it. A large percentage of my friends feel the same. Adventure, exploration, and riding for discovery; these are things that have taken over my life and displaced the yearly well monied competition to find out who can ride across France the fastest. I felt like I was looking at a family photo album when I looked at that logo, and that I had discovered a photo of a relative that I had forgotten existed. I’m not sure I missed that relative anymore, but maybe I missed missing it.

Continuing on: My present situation, while also technically one of leisure just the same as wine tasting would be, wasn’t extremely enjoyable and was about to get more difficult. Instead of popping over a small hill into Sherwood the route chose for me more climbing. Strava’s “popular” feature routed me up and over a huge lump of dirt, wineries, horse farms, and pine trees called Parrett mountain. Any sort of climb this late in the day didn’t sound enjoyable to me and I considered once again ditching the planned route and coasting down the highway into Sherwood. But once again the thought returned to my head. If I couldn’t make it over a 1000 foot climb then I had no business going to Morrocco. Up I went.

Instead of being difficult and miserable I found Parrett mountain to be a meditative climb and a welcome return to the curvy, shaded, emerald forest roads that I loved. The summit soon came. The views were fantastic. I had spent twenty-something years of my life growing up not far from these hills yet I had never heard of Parrett mountain much less ridden it. That fact felt like a searing indictment against my imagination or lack of thereof when I was younger. Why is it that just now the cycling world has sized so passionately on themes of adventures, exploring, and of bikes that go wherever you want to take them? Why have we only recently woke as a mainstream cycling culture to this sort of experience? Maybe watching our Pro Tour heroes fall one by one to doping charges was one of the greatest gifts the Pro Tour ever gave us. Once we stopped trying to model ourselves after them, to be faster at all costs, we were allowed to slow down long enough to notice that we are surrounded by a wealth of geography and experiences that are bikes can transport us to, and that the long slow roads through Oregon or any place that we find ourselves can be ways to find deeper more sustainable themes in the sport than competition itself. Or maybe I was just really tired and my mind was wandering.

Sunlight was fading. I descended into Sherwood then Tualatin. These were localities I was familiar with from long ago when I was an apprentice finish carpenter hanging doors and windows throughout the area. Hills and street names became more familiar. I longed to reach and cross the I-5 freeway which was a sure sign that I was near to Portland itself, and then Vancouver, and then maybe tacos if there were any left. I-5 came and went, Lake Oswego with it’s posh lakeside homes and dignified forested villas twinkled in the night. The sun had gone and the headlight that I had brought just in case was now my lifeline through the night.

I rode in silence towards and down River View cemetery. I had never been here. I had never seen it’s huge hewn headstones and monuments to Portland’s elite that had long since passed. After it was all said and done these were the final testaments to achievement (or lack thereof) that many of these people had left behind, the only reminder to someone like me that they had ever existed at all. I wondered to myself if I saved up enough money and built myself a monument here after I died that people in a hundred years would think that I had also been successful or that my life had added up to something significant. I guess nobody wants to be forgotten, rich or poor.

The arrows in my headlight pointed guided me through the maze of roads down towards the Willamette river and Sellwood bridge which glowed dazzlingly in the night. (Did they rebuild the Sellwood bridge?). I found my way onto the Springwater Corridor and was greeted by waves of commuters exiting downtown Portland by bicycle. Portland is very proud of its bike commuter culture and ought to be. It made me happy to see a path so well used. I shielded my bright headlight as each rider passed, hoping not to be that a-hole-with-the-retina-searing-headlight that everyone complains about in the comments section of Bike Portland’s blog.

OMSI, then downtown. Finally. I stopped for a photo of the Portland skyline and remarked to myself how many new buildings there were since I had left, especially through the John’s Landing area. I had never ridden this river bike path when I lived here, but this felt like a fitting first time.

North Williams and North Vancouer avenues took me those final 10 miles home. I merged again with bike commuter traffic and watched the interplay between the slow commuters in no rush to get home compared to the frantic commuters weaving in and out of traffic. My legs were tired but not destroyed. These last miles felt so good. I knew that I would make it home without difficulty and even though the ride was almost over I no longer wanted it to end. Neskowin to Vancouver had been so refreshing to me. I needed a new ride through new mountains on new roads, even if none of it was entirely new to me. I needed to get a little bit lost, I needed to get a little bit discouraged, and I needed to push through the other side of it just to know that I could.

I rolled up to my sister’s house and stood by the curb for a few minutes. I looked at the GPS. I had gone 120.1 miles instead of 110. Getting a little bit lost had made the day 10 miles more awesome. Those 10 miles had been the best miles of the ride. The deep forests, the moss covered bridges. The logging camps, the farms and old churches. Those were the moments worth stopping to take photos of. This time I could definitely say to myself that I wasn’t taking photos to brag, I was taking photos in order to attempt to pass along moments that I had found beautiful. I wasn’t featuring Colorado and showing it off to the rest of the world. I was in someone else’s back yard this time, exploring the wealth of other people’s mountains, and getting excited about the idea that no place has a monopoly on exploration and adventure.

All roads lead to lost if you stay on them long enough. If you’re having trouble getting there yourself put a pin in the map at your starting point, then put a pin in the map  somewhere you haven’t ridden to before. The only thing left to do is enjoy everything that happens between the start of the ride and the finish.

I did make it home in time for tacos, except it was tortilla soup not tacos. Delicious either way.

Georgia Rodeo Rally Recap // Black Friday 2019

By Adventures No Comments

This past week sure was a good time with little work, many family and friends, lots of good food and a bunch of riding. Being Thanksgiving and a time for family traditions, we at Rodeo Labs have a southern tradition of our own, the Black Friday Rodeo Rally. This tradition started a few years ago between Jeff Thayer and me looking for an escape from Thanksgiving activities, the need for being outdoors and training miles for the upcoming Snake Creek Gap Time Trial Series.

The route was adjusted to run in reverse after the inaugural year due to a nasty, not fun downhill on Nimblewill, which made this a so so good route into a blast of a gravel route, the beauty of the route is at the halfway point you hit a smooth sweet pavement section for about 8 miles. This breaks up the route nicely between the 2 main climbs and the nasty downhill is now a fun technical uphill.

This year was the first without Jeff, he was missed, but for some reason unknown and surely not correlated, we had the greatest number in attendance. Thank you to everyone who showed up – it was a blast meeting new gravel friends, seeing the regulars and having a surprise guest appearance. We had a family (Justin, Martha, their son and his friend) drive down from Dover, TN (near Clarksville, Tn) to join in on the fun and spend the weekend biking in north Georgia. They stomped it all day long – well done! They rode the mountains as though they were flat. Also, we had another member of the Rodeo Lab crew do a surprise guest appearance – Justin Andres AKA @jjkiddynomite. He drove all the way from Charlotte, NC, unannounced and Rally Crashed it!

It was a complete surprise to see him pull in the parking lot and even better spending the day chatting and riding dirt. Great to see you again after Colorado #SilvertonProject week, Young JJ still kicking out the watts. Lastly, to the regulars that have been showing up to our Rodeo Rallies, this is what it is all about – developing a community, crushing some sweet dirt roads together and post ride social. It has been so much fun getting to know each of you and hearing of all the cool adventures that have happened since our last Rally. There are so many of us riding bikes in many cool ways to many cool places and sharing those stories in our after-ride socials makes me motivated for the next adventure. Thank you for riding in our Rallies and looking forward to seeing y’all in 2020.

Rally Stats:

Attendance – 20 (Black Friday PR)

Route – 47 miles; 5600ft ascent; 2 main climbs; max grade 14%

Climb 1 – Cooper/Hightower Gap 13 miles; 2800ft; 5% grade

Climb 2 – Nimblewill Gap 5.5 miles; 1400ft; 6% grade

Weather – 52-degree average with a high of 59 and a low of 46

Flats – 2

Di2 Wiring Issue – 1

Beers Earned – 18.8

Pictures and Videos can be found at the following links:

 

Silverton Project: IKOR Labs profiles

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While we were in Silverton this August we had an incredible brand partner on the trip with us in the form of the CBD recovery brand IKOR Labs. Ikor brought along Nicolas Tapia who shot and edited these partner / profile pieces on a number of riders who were along on the trip. We’re excited to share them here, and keep an eye out for our full short film on the trip to be released in 2020!

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Ride Journal: unPAved of the Susquehanna Valley

By Adventures 3 Comments

It was April or May when I registered for Unpaved Pennsylvania. Jason Malec, a friend and Flaanimal pilot form Philadelphia had invited me to the ride, or was it a race? I wasn’t sure. What I did know was that Jason said that the day would be super challenging, beautiful, and would fill up quickly. There wasn’t much time to consider whether or not to go so I made haste to put my name on the starter’s list.

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Ride Report: The Rift Iceland

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Rider / Author: Joe Perry

Event: The Rift
Location: Hvolsvöllur, Iceland
Date: July 27, 2019

Just over 10 years ago I remember watching the film Heima by the band Sigur Ros, this was my first exposure to Iceland and I knew immediately I wanted to visit there. Fast forward to the Fall of 2018 and my good friend was telling me about a new gravel race that was going to happen in Iceland in the summer of 2019, he was going and I knew I wanted to get in on it as well. Gravel riding and racing is pretty popular in my area so I had been doing it for a while and had lately really enjoyed exploring by bike on more fringe roads and longer rides to get a better feel and understanding of an area and its landscape.

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Ride Report: Josh’s Ride On Rollins

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Note: Josh came from the DC area to do the Ride On Rollins with us. He wrote this recap for his team blog / facebook group. When it was sent to me I asked Josh if he would allow us to repost it here and he graciously agreed. I like this report a lot because it has the perspective of someone doing this sort of ride with fresh eyes. I live inside the Rodeo / Colorado bubble but Josh does not so for me reading about his ride is so fun and rewarding.


By Josh Pierce.

Just before leaving last Friday morning, I texted my buddy Peder, “I was able to get in a last good ride, about 45 miles and about 2400 feet of climbing.” He texted, “we’re doing almost 9000 feet of climbing on Sunday but hey good work:).” I texted back “yeah, I know I’m walking in to a buzz saw jack ass!:)” That is exactly what it was…a buzz saw.

So just let me begin by saying thanks to everyone who helped get me to a place where I could even attempt this ride. It was tough, tougher than anything I have experienced on a bike. Thanks to Jay for showing me what a real workout means and getting me in to biking in the first place. Thanks to Dexter, Joel, and Hans for the encouragement and tips on riding at altitude, and thanks to Byron and Tom for helping me get back in to it after a few weeks off the bike with a challenging 5Bs. And thanks to Armstrong for lending me his bike for so long. I was truly thinking of bagging it but because I was able to get in a handful of rides, I felt good enough to proceed. On reflection, I am really glad I pulled the trigger.

I flew in to Denver Friday and like I am sure many people notice, EVERYONE is in good shape and everyone is in to the outdoors. I watched an elderly woman deplane in a wheel chair…with hiking poles. This tells you as much about my state of mind as anything about the folks in Colorado. I was looking at everything through the lens of this ride which I was a little terrified of. I jumped on the light rail and Peder picked me up. We grabbed some tacos and beer then went over to Rodeo Labs to grab my steed, a Trail Donkey 3.0. I was very excited to visit Rodeo Labs for a couple reasons; to meet the founder, Stephen Fitzgerald, and to see the facilities. It turns out that my buddy, Peder is very close friends with Stephen Fitzgerald. Back in 2000-something Peder and Stephen would get together over coffee to talk about cycling and the need to get away from the race-only mentality and towards more community focused gravel/mountain bike rides. During those talks, the idea for a Denver group ride was formed which they started. Later, the idea for a company came about which Stephen started in 2013 or 14, I think. Upon arrival at Rodeo Labs, I was struck by their size. The operating space is tiny. They had one admin assistant, a mechanic, Sheldon, Stephen, and one other guy doing something that I can’t remember. The space is smaller than the front desk area of Bikenetic and is situated downstairs of SloHi Coffee, which is closely affiliated with Rodeo Labs. SloHi, incidentally, is the confluence of two neighborhoods, Sloan Lake and Highland. The other thing, which is maybe not so surprising is that a steady stream of people came in the door from the time I arrived to when I left for all different reasons. So I was very thankful and slightly embarrassed when Stephen stopped what he was doing and grabbed my rental and looked it over before changing out the wheels to 650s himself for the ride Sunday. This may have had everything to do with him knowing Peder and nothing to do with some schmoe from DC who was out to do a ride he had no business doing. On the other hand, it could have had to do with Stephen wanting to make sure I had as painless a ride as possible. In any case, I got my first look at the Trail Donkey 3.0 with 650s, single ring in the front…which was actually oval, internal cabling, etc. We took it back to Peder’s house and I got it ready for the ride.

 

Saturday, Peder and I went out for a 25 mile loop on the North Table, about five miles outside Denver. It was a fairly vertical ascent and descent on rocky hiking trails, sometimes putting me at the edge of kinda severe drop-offs. Overall it was challenging, but we went slow and it gave me time to acclimate to the bike and to the elevation, which I felt even in Denver. The views from the plains on top were breathtaking. After a short descent, we arrived at New Terrain Brewery situated perfectly along a number of bike trails. The place was packed so we had to share a table and ended up chatting with a guy named Ted, a retired long-haul trucker. Ted knew Colorado well from his driving days and he shared a lot of information with Peder that I think was stored away for future rides. We told Ted we were planning to ride up Rollins Pass the next day, weather permitting, and he told us that he was actually thinking of driving up there for a hike and would keep an eye out for us. We said our goodbyes and headed back to Denver.

Game day started at HiSlo where the owner opened his shop at 6 for coffee and breakfast burritos. About twenty or so others were there. While Stephen gave a quick talk about the ride, Peder pointed out a few of the stronger riders. He pointed out Kristi Lindquist who placed second at Steamboat in the 40-49 and Brian Derstine, who placed second at Steamboat in Single Speed. At that point, I was beginning to realize that either this was a full on coffee ride or I would be riding solo or more likely just with Peder most of the day. I half expected Jeremiah Bishop to show up to punctuate the fact that I had no business being there. We headed out at 6:30am for Golden. There was much banter and joking. Everyone was clearly psyched. It was a gorgeous, clear, slightly chilly morning. I chatted with Kristi who is awesome and a guy named Woodrow from Newport News. Mostly I just made sure I was staying with the group which actually split quickly in to two.

Then we hit Golden Gate Canyon Road, a two-laner with few cars, at least on Sunday morning. It was lined with trees and rock walls that make you wonder if gravity is suspended in Colorado. It was maybe eight percent grade most of the way with one half-mile twenty percent section. There was one steep gravely descent for about a mile but otherwise it was 40ish miles straight up. It had some beautiful views but to be honest it was tough and I knew the tougher final ascent was coming and I needed to conserve energy. I was ready to get on to some gravel, come what may. As we arrived in Rollinsville, our B group of four saw the A group rolling out in the distance. We actually weren’t that far behind them! But honestly, we had no idea how long they’d been there. At an outpost/mom and pop market in Rollinsville, I had already depleted three water bottles and three bars. I was at only 8500 feet but was really feeling the elevation. My legs felt like lead but the fifteen minute break was very helpful. Our band of four grew to five when Sheldon arrived from Boulder to meet up with us. Peder had a mechanical and Sheldon fixed it, which also gave me a little more time to recoup. I drank a Dr. Pepper, ate a bag of chips, a bar, and drank more water. We rolled out of Rollinsville on to a flat, very packed, dirt road which wound around, under a bridge, across railroads tracks, and out a couple miles until we hit a sharp right on to the jeep road which began our ascent. The ascent was roughly sixteen miles up from 8400 feet to 11,660 feet. The average grade was 5%, I am guessing, but up to 15 in places and littered with progressively more and more rocks. 4-Wheel drive cars had a tough time on it. It was time to see what the Trail Donkey could do. Ok, and what I could do.

The good news was, strangely, my legs began to shake out. The bad news was instead of that leaden feeling, both legs began cramping pretty severely. Peder gave me a couple iodine pills and this seemed to help although I still cramped from time to time. As we ascended, I grew more tired which really affected me when I couldn’t find a line and was forced to just power over rocks. At these times, especially as we got closer to the top, I was forced to break out of my single-minded focus of “next step, next step, next step.” My mind wandered. I was exhausted, I was pissed, I was angry that The National hadn’t had a good album since 2008, I hated Chris Shue’s pink sock things he wears over his bike shoes in the winter, and the fact that Hans is always wearing a backpack when I ride with him. I knew that I liked mounds better than Snickers but I couldn’t remember why…OK FOCUS! Then I would kick back in to single-mindedness and keep going. It seemed to never end. Then the clouds started to move in. This was a psychological factor since we knew being up top with rain and wind would be brutal and possibly dangerous. As we approached the looping, final ascent around a gorgeous glass lake under a glacier, we ran in to some of the A group. They were bailing to get down to civilization before rain and hail hit. Lightning strikes were hitting out in the distance. I was almost too exhausted to worry. I also knew we had no choice but to go on. We were going to Winter Park to be picked up. The only way to Winter Park was over the pass and down. Going back also meant facing the brutal jeep road we had just come up and that just was not an option to me. So after a highly sketchy hike-a-bike on a dirt path over a now closed tunnel, connecting the road, Peder and I continued on. Side note; one of the A groupers rode down the path. I just cannot explain how insane this is. It’s probably a thousand feet down on one side and sketchy gravel and dirt (see the pic of me hiking). The others in the B Group bailed and joined the few A groupers who had summited. It was just Peder and I now and we were hurrying.

There are two abandoned train trestles to cross at the summit and as Joel had told me, height was actually never a factor. The trestles and the path on both ends are much wider than they appear and honestly, I was so fatigued, I hardly even noticed anything around me. I didn’t really notice the A groupers encouraging me, the joke Stephen made after seeing my face (he asked Peder if we were going to be friends after this trip) or that he handed me his winter cycling gloves for the descent…and I didn’t notice when Ted walked by me going the other way between trestles! Ted, the retired long-haul trucker, had made his way up the opposite way in his truck to see if we were going to make it! I waved as I rode by but only found out on the other side of the pass, that it was Ted. For some reason, I got choked up by this and I just turned and yelled “Ted!” as loud as I could back in to the pass. I like to think it echoed down and Ted heard it. At this point, we could see all the cloud cover now coming closer and in plain view. It was time to descend and fast. We stopped for one picture and then hit it. I have never moved this quickly on gravel. The back side jeep road to Winter Park is nothing like the one we had ascended. It was much smoother but still, if I’d missed one rock, I would have been over the handlebars at 15-30 miles an hour. The descent was brutal because even with Stephen’s gloves on, I couldn’t feel my hands. The temperature had dropped from 80 to 50 degrees. I got my brutalized body down the road eventlessly though and we rolled in to Winter Park. I ran to a public bathroom to change clothes before driving home and while in the bathroom, a flash flood started. We had somehow dodged the storm. I still don’t know how the others fared (they were going 140 miles to our 75) although I know Stephen didn’t get home until nearly 8pm, long after our brewery dinner and while I was in a hot tub nursing my ailments.

The ride was surreal, amazing, gorgeous. I was painful but I would do it again in a second. I wish I had been in better shape to enjoy it all perfectly but that is not how life works. You take it as it comes. It was something I will remember forever.

Ride On Rollins: A visual recap

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Earlier this summer a couple of us made the ride from Denver to Winter Park via Rollins pass. The 90 mile ride crossed the Continental Divide at Rollins Pass, elevation 11,676ft. The ride was incredibly difficult but the views as we crested the alpine terrain of The Rockies left us exhilarated and left us wanting to share the experience with others. This is when the Ride On Rollins was born. On Sept 8th, 2019 we rode to Rollins Pass again, but this time with approximately 40 other people starting from either Denver, Boulder, or Rollinsville. Of the starters about 12-15 people made the summit. Some loved the ride. Some hated the brutally rocky conditions. The rain threatened and so many of us were nearly hit full force by afternoon thunderstorms.

As difficult and challenging as the ride was it was awesome to share the route and inspire so many people to try it either for the first time or one more time. To us adventure is about embarking on rides with uncertain outcomes. Such rides test our mettle and reward us with sublime experiences that we carry with us from that moment forward. These rides are the embodiment of calling ourselves an Adventure Lab, a way to stay true to what we are all about.

This post we leave behind as a visual record.

 

Childish Things

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When we were children we spoke as children, we understood as children, we thought as children; but when we became men, we put away childish things. (That last part is a massive bummer).

On Tuesday nights we pull childish things back out and it feels great.

6pm at SloHi on 29th. 30 miles mixed terrain. Intermediate pace. Lights required. Rain or wet trails cancel.

Sometimes we have 25 riders, sometimes five or six. Sometimes we have 4-6 women, sometimes none join us. All are welcome!

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