By Karen Brooks
Issue #26 is in the books, so to speak, and even as you read this copies are making their way to your door and to your favorite magazine retailer. Click through for a sneak peek. Read the full storyTweet Print
By Shannon Mominee
If you like custom frames, clever accessories, cool components, and good people the Philly Bike Expo is the place to be. Dennis Jordan of The Leather Arts Store displayed his handmade toptube leather wine bottle holsters, saddlebags, belts, and shoulder bags. Jeff Williams’ booth featured bike-themed paintings. A display of vintage Schwinn Paramount track and road bikes were on display across from a sprint competition sponsored by RELoad Bags.
Click through to see what you missed. Read the full storyTweet Print
By Seth Gernot
It was the best of ideas, it was the worst of ideas. Well, at least it was an idea. Pictured above are two people that are having fun, right?
Fun isn’t the right word. It was a combination of fun, pain, and pain. We still can’t figure out who had the idea to ride to DC in 24 hours on a tandem…
The last you may have heard from us, Rebecca and I were poised for our trip. The support crew was ready, the gear was all set, and the weather was looking beautiful. The start was set for 7:30 a.m. at Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh.
I don’t know about you, but I get pretty excited before big events. My inner child gets all wound up. Sometimes sleep is hard to come by when you’re on the precipice of something big. So, I figured drinking a single bottle of beer around 9 p.m. the night before would help usher in a couple of sinking eyelids.
Instead of grabbing a bottle opener I took a shortcut and popped the top off with my multi-tool. I’m not very good at this maneuver. Not very good at all. In fact, in one quick motion the cap flew off, the multi-tool broke the bottle, and the big knuckle on my right index finger drove into the newly shattered bottle. It was bad, quite bad. And the timing was awful. I needed sleep more than stitches. So, gauze and a duct tape was all that was used to stop the bleeding.
The next morning Rebecca inquired about the liberal use of duct tape on my now swollen hand. I admitted that the cut was pretty serious, but the show must go on. I decided then that a full-fingered glove would be placed over the hand and not removed until we reached Washington D.C.
As you can tell from the statements above, I am not a doctor. But, I can ride a bike and I’m kinda stubborn, so let’s continue and see what happened next.Tweet Print
It was only a matter of time before someone started a Tumblr of the NYPD (and others) parking in the city’s bike lanes.Tweet Print
On the twelfth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance is putting into action the plan to finish a series of bike paths connecting the cities where the planes crashed and the memorials to the victims.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Somerset County, Pa., has received $100,000 in grants to begin work to connect a path from Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed, to the Great Allegheny Passage. The GAP trail, along with the C&O Canal Towpath, already connect Pittsburgh with Washington D.C. where Flight 77 struck the Pentagon.
From there the trail will extend up the East Coat Greenway, a long-term project to connect all the major cities on the East Coast with a traffic-free corridor.
The final leg, from New York to Shanksville will follow roads and rail trails through central Pennsylvania, though the exact route has not been decided.
In Summer of 2011, alpinist Kyle Dempster set out across Kyrgyzstan’s back roads on his bike. His goal – ride across the country via old Soviet roads while climbing as many of the region’s impressive peaks as possible. He was alone. He carried only a minimalist’s ration of climbing gear. Ten Kyrgyz words rounded out his vocabulary. He’d purchased his bike just weeks before and had never bike toured.
Upon arrival, Kyle found himself pulled into the Kyrgyz culture – heavy drinking, friendly curiosity and families carving existences out of yurts in the foothill. From his maps, he picked a circuitous path of back roads between the regions incredible mountains. When he arrived, he found that the roads had been abandoned. Crumbling roads led deeper into the heart the Kyrgyz wilderness before disappearing all together. After crossing a few rivers and nearly being swept away in the process, Dempster realized that his path back was blocked. He had to keep, pedaling, pushing and carrying his bike. It meant crossing rivers raging with summer snow melt and navigating game trails.Tweet Print
Seth Gernot and Rebecca Rankin cranking up Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh, the steepest paved road in the world.
The 335 miles of bike trail connecting Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. has never been ridden in 24 hours. A Pittsburgh couple will not only accomplish this feat on Friday, they’ll do it on a tandem. After successfully setting the bar as the first co-ed tandem riders to complete Pittsburgh’s famous Dirty Dozen ride in 2012, the couple is ready for anything.
While the couple has ridden long distances before, nothing will compare with the test ahead along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath. “A couple of years ago we rode 150 miles in a day to Cleveland. I wasn’t used to pedaling for that long and ended up dry-heaving during the last four miles… but we made it,” said Rebecca.
She is no stranger to physical challenge. As a dedicated Bikram Yoga instructor Rebecca has taken on the challenge of completing eight Bikram classes in a day. She admits that, “Spending 12 hours in a humid 105 degree yoga room is incredibly difficult, but riding to DC in twenty four hours is daunting.”Tweet Print
By Trina Haynes
As a bike lover and advocate, I enjoy showing off my love for bicycles anywhere and everywhere. I can’t walk into a shindig with my bike as a hat, so I indulge in bicycle related jewelry and accessories. There is a plethora of companies big and small offering cycling-related jewelry these days. You can find recycled inner tube jewelry, stainless steel and glass pendants, blinged-out chain bracelets, upcycled headset necklaces and much, much more.
Today I want to share a few of my favorite and most frequently worn bicycle-related jewelry items. Almost everything handmade I’m a fan of, and if you involve a bike or bike-related product in the design and I will have a hard time controlling the urge to spend.
Elizabeth Klevens makes handmade fused glass, bike mosaic and sterling silver pendants in a multiple of styles. One of my favorites is the circular “Ride Like a Girl ” necklace that goes for $35. You can add in a satin cord with a stainless steel clasp for $10 more. If you’re into mountain biking she has a “Singletrack Mind” in the same cut, just for you. Her gorgeous, handmade necklace pendants range from $35-$75. You can find them here.
Another one of my favorites is Becky Tesch’s handmade, recycled innertube cuff bracelet. This one is cut into a flower design and I have taken such a liking to it, I wear everyday. Dress it up or dress it down, either way it looks pretty swank. She also makes innertube necklaces and earrings, as well as a variety of colored chain bracelets. You can find her wares here.
Last on the list, earrings! I used to only wear earrings on special occasions, but when a friend sent me these innertube earrings cut to look like feathers, I started wearing earrings again just so I could wear these a couple times a week. Unlike real feather earrings, these inner tube ones will, hopefully, not be attacked or eaten by your cat. They are also sturdy enough to handle a helmet strap and not fall apart. I do not know where he got them, only that they are mine now. (Thanks Andrew!) Here is a link to the ones that looks the most similar to mine.
Have a few of your own favorites?!
After losing title sponsor New Belgium Brewing for 2013, the Urban Assault Ride took 2013 off to rebuild and refine its ‘best day on the bike’ that you can imagine: amazing obstacles, great after party, cool people, and the best sponsors (including Bicycle Times).
Now it’s looking for your input on where you’d like to see it stop in its nationwide tour in 2014. Visit the Urban Assault Ride Facebook page, vote for a city (or write one in) and you’ll get a $20 coupon off registration.
So far the leaders are:
- Des Moines
- St Louis
Where do you want it to visit?Tweet Print
Editor’s note: We were tipped off to this story by Jeff Jones, creator and namesake of the Jones mountain bikes. Olsen rode his Jones 2,858.75 miles to finish fifth in the 2013 Tour Divide from Banff, Alberta, to Antelope Wells, N.M.
Words and photos by James Olsen.
Just over a week ago I arrived at Antelope Wells after 17 days and about 5 hours of the most intense riding experience of my life. I’m back at home now, I’ve been meaning to get something written down for a few days and it’s only now I’m starting to accept that it’s in the past, no longer waking in the night feeling that it’s time to get up and roll along the trail for a while, warming up before settling in for another long day in the saddle. The Tour Divide was everything I went out there for, it was beautiful, intense and at times almost crushingly hard and it got the best out of me.
Firstly, my bike and kit. I bought a Jones Titanium Spaceframe a couple of years ago and it changed my riding. Really, this wasn’t just new-bike love. Longer rides went by in comfort, the handling was addictive and motivated me to ride almost every day and the comfort meant my rides got longer and my fitness improved noticeably.
I bought a steel diamond frame with truss fork for holidays and bikepacking trips and found it was the perfect tool for the job. Comfy and efficient but also a huge amount of fun downhill—a bike-packer ride that wasn’t ever dull or a compromise when we found unexpected gems of trails. Not once did I think “If only I had my susser here…” on those trips. For the Divide there really isn’t a bike I’d have felt so confident in.
I used my steel diamond frame for the frame-bag space and the Ti truss fork for less weight–it all counted. The Velocity P35 rims let me use my tires at maybe 17-18 psi at times when the washboard roads were beating me up, or simply when I wanted to roll more easily along the rougher trails. Others were sticking to 40+ psi and thinner, lighter rims and I think I had an advantage there. I’m certain I was getting less beat up than other riders.
I used Geax Saguaro 2.2 tires that do roll very well and work well on both loose or hard ground but I think a bigger tyre would have been a wiser choice. Fast-rolling 2.4 tires aren’t so widely available but perhaps the tread is less important at lower pressures. On the roads an Ardent 2.4 at 40psi would’ve been slower than the Saguaro, but on balance it may have been faster or comfier over the rougher sections. I saw a couple of Surly 29×3.0 Knard-equipped bikes on the route and eyed up their tires enviously.
A Ti Loop H-bar was the perfect bar for this kind of ride, plenty of space for lights, computer, route maps etc as well as the grip options. A good number of racers were using them this year.
I used a single 34t oval chainring and a 12-28 six-speed modified cassette on a Hope singlespeed hub, using three single-speed cogs and three Shimano cassette cogs stacked up. This was a really hard-wearing combo in the gears I used 80 percent of the time (16, 19 and 22 rear) and I was confident 2,800 miles wouldn’t put too much wear on them. The shifting wasn’t as slick as a normal cassette but it was ok, like a singlespeed with a few options either side of my usual 34-19 ratio.
The straight chain line and front single ring would have been a benefit in the infamous Divide mud, but it was my downfall on a fast road section at the end. A triple may have been a wiser move, certainly if I’d known it was going to be generally so fast and dry I would have fitted one. Shifting was done by a bar-end shifter with a Paul Component mount and I used XTR v-brake levers on BB7 brakes with 160mm and 180mm rotors. Pre-greased cables were a little sticky at first but ran smooth the whole way and I only used one set of pads. My wheel set uses the same spokes throughout so I only carried 2 spare spokes. All my kit came to around 11 lbs., just under 2 lbs. for my sleeping kit on the bars, 3 to 4 lbs. of clothes and waterproofs in the seat pack, the rest was a camelback for food and water and in my frame bag that had extra space for a full 2-liter water bladder if needed.
As for the ride, the Tour Divide isn’t that well known outside mountain bike circles but the number of entrants has increased sharply the last few years and blue-dot watching (trackleaders.com) has added a new spectator dimension to races like this. This year there were 140 or more of us, mostly gathered at the YMCA Lodge in Banff on the morning of June 14, heading south.
I guess most of us had discovered bikepacking in recent years, seen “Ride the Divide” or read Jill Homer or Paul Howard’s books and been hooked on the idea. Some had been planning the race for a couple of years, others for less time. I fell into the “less time” group. At New Year’s I decided I wanted to do something committing on the bike and the Tour Divide was big and exciting enough to really motivate me (fear is a good motivator I found).
Multiple-race-winner Matthew Lee’s posts on Divide racing attitudes and ethics on a forum clinched it for me, it was a race that seemed to appeal when racing rarely does so. For five months my spare time was focussed on little else. There was no race experience in my past to base any confidence on but I had done plenty of reasonably long rides and bivi trips in the past. I feel at home when alone and outdoors and I love sleeping under the stars. I felt confident in my self-sufficiency and felt that I could answer a reasonably confident “yes” to the “Are you up to this?” check-list on the Tour Divide site. Or at least, ‘yes, after some preparation’.
I also had found the perfect bike for my long rides and overseas trips in my Jones bike. What I needed to do was get myself in shape for the demands of the race, finalize my kit and decide on some kind of strategy.
I wanted to race in a certain style, influenced by what I’d read about the original Great Divide race and Matthew Lee’s approach to Divide racing. I really wanted the Divide to be a tunnel that I entered into with the only way back to home comforts being the finish line, or retirement from the race. That meant (to me) racing without a phone or GPS, being 100 percent reliant on myself for bike servicing or repairs and I wanted to sleep out trail-side every night and find a rhythm that worked with daylight hours and my body clock to maximize rest or minimize physical and mental disruption.
The Divide route was to be an open-air experience and roofs were off-limits between start and finish. I think a few more storms would have tested that aim towards the end, but I’m happy that the stormy nights were times when I pushed on out of town in the evenings, set up camp in the dark downpour and lay safe under my small tarp as the lightning lit up the fabric every few moments. Other nights, the storm threatened, tested my resolve then backed down and let me rest with only a light drizzle that couldn’t disturb my coma-like sleep.
Before the race I said that these ideals or ethics may cost me a few places but racing style was important to me, I had some kind of “clean, onsight” kind of climbing ethics in mind that could only really be done once as a rookie on the route. Ask me about ethics after I mis-read my cues again or rode miles past a turn and spent a stressful time uncertain whether it was the right one and you’d have got a different angle on Divide racing! GPS is a good thing if you want to go fast and phones are a faster way to find out about fire diversions, but adventure and uncertainty is also part of the experience.
I think I had a couple of advantages in the race that made up for a lack of race experience and helped keep me in the top five most of the race. One was being happy to sleep trail-side anywhere and in almost any weather which saved me time, the other was having reliable equipment. I was confident in my bike and gear as I’d used it in roughly a Divide’s worth of distance of bikepacking and touring trips before without a single issue. Some of my kit was fairly new but simply a lighter or simpler version of what I’d used before. Some other things I’d do differently next time having completed the race, but that’s always the case with an experience of that magnitude.
The training went well and I enjoyed the long overnight and weekend rides I did in preparation. By the time the race came around I was nervous, scared almost, but raring to go. If you love long rides and existing with the minimum of possessions the Great Divide is a wonderful place to be. Remote in places but rarely dauntingly so, it’s a route where you’ll often feel very small under dramatic skies and expansive views. The feeling of open space is simply huge. If it wasn’t a race there would have been times when I would have got off my bike and just sat or stood in the middle of these great spaces, trying to take it all in. But it was a race and that added a pressure I never predicted.
I’d ended up in the top 10 on day two; when Billy Rice (a northbound rider nearing Banff, who would then turn around to ride south, completing the first TDR double last week) stopped to say hi and tell me there weren’t many ahead of me I realized I was making my way towards the front of the field. After that there was no letting up, I wanted to do well. If I was going to be happier at a slower speed I could tour the route another time.
Naturally I found myself close to other riders on different strategies and with different strengths but the Divide evens things out soon enough. Racing so closely with Alex Harris for over 2,000 miles taught me a lot as well as stretched my ability and my mental strength, I found I could pedal longer and harder than I expected but the lack of sleep and need to compete with a very experienced racer/adventurer was tough, it wore my nerves down at times but it also stopped me slipping into default tourer mode when I felt tired or close to being beaten by the scale of the route.
I don’t think we were ever more than a few hours apart and all I could go on were tire tracks. If there weren’t any signs of Alex’s tire tracks ahead of me, every time I stopped for any reason I was looking behind me and the pressure built. I learned soon after riding with Alex for the first time that he had experience and a source of strength that I would find it hard to compete with when things got difficult, and it was simply a case of when that happened, not if it would.
Things got difficult after La Manga pass, going into New Mexico. Alex and I were low on food but had eaten well in Platoro, 30 miles or so earlier. We were headed into the first of New Mexico’s wilderness stretches, the Cruces Basin, a very beautiful area that we first saw through rain and a fog of hypoglycaemia as we separately tried to make 800 or so calories each last well over a hundred miles of mixed ground. At times it was among the hardest terrain of the route and all of it was at high altitude.
We both knew it’d be hard as we went in, we’d briefly debated the wisdom of going off-route for 30 miles for food or the ethics of hitching off-route. I didn’t want to hitch or delay but I also wanted food. I remembered Aidan Harding’s comments about considering how a racer-to-be would feel when much-needed resupply points were closed, leaving another half-day’s ride to the next point. I thought it was something I could cope with.
Bravado was called out as Alex decided to head into the wilderness. I think the racer in him knew it could be a pivotal moment in our two-man race. Maybe he was just calling my bluff, I don’t know. But I had to follow. As I pushed uphill in the rain to save what little energy I had only ten miles in, he slowly rode away and I felt alone for the first time in the race. I’d enjoyed riding alone for so many miles before that and at times I wanted to break away from Alex simply to ride alone again, but after the first week’s fatigue I wasn’t up to putting more than relatively brief, almost futile gaps between us and I also enjoyed his company.
The Divide racers’ dilemma perhaps, you need a strong head to race the entire route solo, refusing any company. Further up the trail I found half of the small bag of trail mix that a couple on quad bikes had given us earlier. Alex had split it and left it clearly on the trail… “This really was half, honest! : ) ” it said on the bag. Riding alone was losing its appeal, tough times are better faced as a team but this was a solo race and more so now than before it really felt like a serious, solo race for me.
Dark, irrational thoughts closed in and I thought I may end up losing a few places as I walked, then stumbled, for miles and miles to the next potential food supply but my decision had been made and only I could affect the outcome or take the blame.
It turns out that years of long rides and often-poor pace management had taught me a lot about managing “the bonk” and by eating a tiny amount every twenty minutes I eventually stabilized and perhaps much of my lethargy was due to altitude, or caution-induced. I then had a reckless moment when I ate more than half of my only cliff bar in one go and as the sun went down my energy returned. I caught Alex shortly after turning my lights on and we rode together until we emerged onto a five-mile road climb between the wilderness/forest park areas at around 11 p.m.
It felt like a fairly lucky escape but there were still 50 or more miles to go before any hope of resupply. I was pretty sure that the first possible source of food would be shut anyway, as often had been the way. “Don’t get your hopes up”. I chose to bivi there and rest despite saying earlier that pushing on through the night was a good plan, since by then it was a clear night and getting colder and shivering costs calories. My thin but cosy down bag and cushy Neo-air mat was calling again. Alex had only a bivi bag and down jacket so he pushed on to the next shelter which turned out to be only six miles away. We remained within an hour or less of each other but all I knew the next morning was that I was following his tracks again.
The next day in the town of Abiqui I bought the Divider’s breakfast of two double cheeseburgers each with fries, a large milkshake and large Coke but only after being unable to get any cash at a post office and riding past two cash-only shops over the previous 30 miles. I was also caught at the post office by Liam Crowley who may not have got the friendly hello he deserved from this tired, run-down rider. Sorry Liam… He then gave me a spare bar in a generous offer that I won’t forget.
From that point on, I saw a lot more of Liam. He’d been behind us for almost a week but something had lit his fire and he was riding well, he’d closed a half-day or more gap with what must have been a tough all-nighter across the Cruces Basin from Platoro, a big effort that didn’t seem to cost him in the long term.
In the final miles of our Tour Divide we passed each other as we napped separately for an hour or so or paused at food or water points within 125 miles of the finish. I wanted to ride right through to the finish but sleep deprivation was building and mild, continual hallucinations affected me and falling asleep on the bike for brief moments happened too regularly. Waking and swerving across the road without crashing showed how in tune you can get with your bike after 17 days of almost continual riding but there was a real risk that I’d crash out of the race within sight of the finish.
I had an hour and a half’s sleep under a tree as light rain continued to fall and was back on the bike soon after 4:30 a.m. As dawn broke across the beautiful final desert stretch I was riding strongly but following in Alex and Liam’s tire tracks. Passed Separ, I saw no tracks and got my head down for the last 65 miles of road to Antelope Wells. Tears welled in my eyes as I realized I really was going to finish the Tour Divide, relief that it was almost over was mixed with sadness of a journey’s end, something magical grasped.
I thought I may be about to finish third, unthinkable to me really despite having spent a number of days between third and fourth position and as good as that thought felt, I tried not to dwell on it. It just didn’t seem possible. When I saw two dots behind me on the horizon I upped my pace to my limit, I felt good that morning and thought I could hold the pace for another 35 miles to the finish but whether I actually could, I’m not sure.
My 34×12 top gear was good for a speed that was about as high as a rider with 2,800 miles in their legs could maintain, but Alex slowly reeled me in. I sat up and we regrouped as Liam joined us. For a few miles the pace dwindled and we joked about all of us being caught again as we slowed up – half seriously, as we knew Brian Pal (top US rider that year) had been riding strongly and gaining ground in the last few days.
A truck drove past and pulled into the road side. A big guy in a checked shirt, Texan hat and suspenders got out and stood in the center of the road. His pose was pure wild-west, ready to draw. As we rolled up to him he smiled and held out cans of cold condensation-dripping Coke. Lloyd and Roger Payne, thank you for the best welcome committee possible. Racing was off the cards as we drank two cold Cokes each, then it went back on the agenda as a final sprint was mentioned.
From the one mile out roadside marker.
We were at mile three and I was itching to go. I did feel good, but I was tired enough not to realize that my 34×12 top gear wasn’t going to get me past either Liam or Alex on a flat road. But finishing as racers was the only fitting way to finish, there wasn’t to be any joint-placings among us.
By the time we wound up the sprint, I was back in 5th spot watching the others ride away over the last few hundred yards. It wasn’t a welcome sight yet somehow places mattered less to me then. In the early days I was elated to be top 10, as I moved up the field the only place that mattered was the one I held then and the racing had motivated the best riding I’d done. Ranking mattered less to me than how we’d ridden and coped with the challenges, racing all the way yet happy to ride together when our timing and pace matched.
I’d stuck to my no outside-influence bike service and sleep-out-every-night plans and had nothing but pride and satisfaction for how the race had gone. I’d finished, after all. As much as I’d have turned myself inside out to have got third place, Alex truly deserved his podium spot and at the time I’d have traded that cliff bar with Liam for a place any day. The 17 days had gone by in a blur of huge vistas and wide-eyed discovery, tiredness and endorphins and massive appetites. I’d ridden in sublime places with great people and seen how welcoming small-town American people could be toward tired, smelly bike racers with accents they rarely could place. I’d met Kirsten at Brush Mountain Lodge and Megan and Clay at the Toaster house for not much more than an hour or two and it had felt like I’d known them for years. All the fatigue and pain that was to follow as my body went into a minor breakdown a few hours after finishing were worth it.
And I’m looking forward to tomorrow – unboxing my Jones, simply lubing the chain and riding my local trails again.
See more of James’ photos from his trip in his Flickr gallery.Tweet Print