Inspired by the 71% of the planet covered by water, Blackburn Design created Water Cycle, a new film project that explores the relationships that cyclists have with the world’s most abundant resource.
The first chapter, River, follows avid fisherman and hunter Brian Ohlen on a bicycle journey down the Pacific Coast from Canada to Mexico fishing for Steelhead. Brian combines his passions for cycling and fishing by loading his waders, tackle and rod and setting off down the coast in the dead of winter, the best time for Steelhead fishing. He faces nearly constant rain, snow and ice for the chance to spend but a moment with these elusive creatures. Along the way, he found some beautiful quiet moments and simple joys that life on a bike can bring.
“The goal of this project is to recognize how important water is in our lives, especially as recreationalists. Brian’s trip is only one example. Active stewardship is necessary to preserve water and our access to it,” says Robin Sansom, Blackburn Design’s Director.
Public access to rivers and streams is important. As Ohlen states in the film, “if we ever lost that access or lost our public lands, it would be the death of the West.” Blackburn has partnered with Backcountry Hunters & Anglers to help protect public river access. Visit the Stream Access Pledge for more information.
River was directed by Dominic Gill of Encompass Films while filmmaker and photographer Brian Vernor is providing artistic direction for the entire Water Cycle project.Tweet Print
By Jen Sotolongo
In 2009, Bill White of Twin Bridges, Montana, began to notice the long-distance cyclists that were passing through the small town of fewer than 400 inhabitants. They stopped for a coffee or burger and then headed on to the next campground. He realized that “all the bike riders passing through were like gold going by in a river.” Feeling inspired by these cycling pilgrims, he set out to create a space where cyclists would linger for more than just a cup of coffee.
The result: Bike Camp. Working with his local government and community, White developed an overnight stopping point for cycle travelers, complete with a shower, a screened-in building to hide from the mosquitoes, toilets, tables and chairs, a sink and a grill. To spend the night, cyclists could pitch their tent on the surrounding lawn.
As a result of White’s entrepreneurial spirit, the town saw a huge influx in economic growth from cyclists. Restaurants fed the hungry travelers, the local market began carrying a few essential bike parts, the laundromat spun all season long and the local high school donated a permanent bike stand and workstation. By the end of the first season, more than 300 cyclists took advantage of the facilities in Twin Bridges, leaving more than enough donation money to pay off the $9,000 cost for the shelter building.
“Bike tourism favors quieter roads and smaller towns, away from the interstates—and as a result, serves as a lifesaver for many rural communities,” said Jim Sayer, executive director of the Adventure Cycling Association.
Often mislabeled as budget travelers the Outer Banks in North Carolina determined that 87 percent of the visiting cyclists earned more than $50,000 annually, and a full 50 percent earned $100,000 or more. Their subsequent spending bolsters local businesses and small towns as bicycle touring expands and the industry works to meet the growing demand.
“When you have successful cycle routes, many services spring up to cater for the tourists,” says Philipp Halmanns, who works for EuroVelo, the European cycling network that coordinates the development of 15 intercontinental cycling routes across the continent. “The classic example is EuroVelo 6–Atlantic- Black Sea. For many years Budapest marked the farthest east that most cycle tourists would venture. However, some ‘pioneer’ cyclists continued down to Belgrade and as their numbers increased, campsites, guesthouses, bicycle repair shops, cafes and restaurants were established to serve them. The infrastructure developed for cycle tourists can sometimes be used by local communities as well.”
Cyclotourism is good business. A 2012 Travel Oregon study showed that bicycle tourism generated $400 million in economic benefits for the state, creating boons in employment, retail and food services, accommodations and taxes. As the only state in the U.S. with a Scenic Bikeway program—with 15 routes in total, ranging in distance from 23 to 174 miles— cycling makes a significant contribution to Oregon’s tourism economy.
In Germany, 10 percent of all tourism revenues are generated by bicycle tourism, and in the region of Munsterland in particular, 30 percent of all overnight stays arrive on two wheels, according to a 2013 report produced for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. In a 2007 Sustainable Tourism CRC study, findings showed that cycle travelers make up 9 percent of all foreign visits in both Denmark and Ireland. The European Cyclists’ Federation determined in 2014 that the total economic impact of cycle touring in Europe totals more than 44 billion euros ($47 billion) annually.
“If one business owner in a small community starts to do something, and then talks about it to others in the community, you’ll see the hospitality start to spread,” said Laura Crawford of The Path Less Pedaled travel site.
To break down a cyclist’s spending habits, Crawford and her partner, Russ Roca of The Path Less Pedaled, compared a cycle tourist to a roadtripper, using a 200-mile stretch of road as an example. An easily manageable distance for a car to travel in a day, roadtrippers might begin in one larger city, stop for lunch, refill their gas tank, and then find dinner and lodging in another larger city, skipping several small towns along the way.
Roca and Crawford found that a cycle tourist, on the other hand, traveling that same route at 50 miles per day requires four days to cover the same distance, and needs four nights of accommodation. Since cyclists burn a lot of calories, they are constantly hungry, yet don’t want to weigh down their ride with heavy food, so they stop at local markets and restaurants to acquire meals and snacks for the day. And it’s not at all uncommon for the tired cycle traveler to wash down their day of hard work with a beer at a local pub. As such, cyclists will stop in every town with a market to stock up on food, fill water bottles, use the bathroom or spend the night. “The more accommodations and services, the more people touring, the more people spending money in small towns,” quoted Roca in a The Path Less Pedaled blog post.
“Another profound impact of bike tourism is the personal connections it fosters between cyclists and people in small towns,” said Sayer. “The most common feedback we get from people riding around the U.S. is that meeting people on the way restores their faith in America, and helps them overcome all the negatives they hear or read in the news.”
Cyclists enter establishments armed with questions: Where can we camp or find accommodation? How far is the next town, and what can we find there? Do you have WiFi?
In turn, curious shop owners ask about their journey. Just imagine, people travel through your tiny town by car all the time, but a cyclist who has spent several weeks traveling the same distance? That is an event.
“Rolling into a small community on a loaded bike, we are more of a curiosity than anything else, and it’s always positive,” said Crawford. “People who might not bat an eye at any other tourist will stop to ask us questions about what we’re doing and what it’s like to bike so far. It’s a rare opportunity to connect with someone that we might not otherwise have a reason to know or interact with, and often we can continue the conversation by learning more about the community itself and the surrounding region.”
Kona Gravity team rider Graham Agassiz and Kona Canada’s resident fishing enthusiast Matt Stevens head out to do some fly fishing in British Columbia on the new Kona Remote.
What do you think about e-bikes for applications like bikepacking? Let us know in the comments!Tweet Print
By Gabriel Amadeus Tiller
This is my first time in Mexico. We have no plan. No itinerary. No goals and no heart rate monitors. The only statistic we’re collecting on this trip is “number of tacos consumed.” (Final tally: 111.) To give you an idea of how prepared I am I didn’t bring a tent. Or pants. What we do have, though, is roughly a month before we need to be back through the Tecate border crossing into the U.S. and then on to our desk jobs.
The Baja Divide is a 1,700-mile dirt touring route that meanders the length of the Baja California Peninsula on Mexico’s Pacific coast. The route was conceived by Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox as a “gift to the bikepacking community.” Nick and Lael are a couple of snowbirds from Alaska who have been cycling the world for years. They’ve been spending the winter in Baja for the last few seasons now, riding up and down the peninsula exploring every unmarked rutted road they come across—and as far as I can tell, they’re all unmarked and rutted.
The amount of effort and detail they’ve put into developing the maps, the guide and other route resources has allowed me to have a cavalier attitude on this trip. I’m usually the one stressing about dead-end roads and resupply logistics, but instead I’m planning on fine-tuning my tan and following the 80 or so knobby tracks in front of me.
I’m no stranger to camping with my bicycle, but riding with a group of almost 100 new faces on this first running of the Baja Divide is refreshingly exciting. I enjoy solitude and solo discovery, but I’ve forgotten what a joy it is to see others experience and share new wonders for the first time. Nick and Lael have gone to great lengths to discourage competitive attitudes during the group start and even partnered with Advocate Cycles and Revelate Designs to give away a bikepacking “scholarship,” including a completely kitted out bikepacking rig, to one lucky female rider, Lavanya Pant.
The result of this intentional inclusivity shows. Nearly half the riders on this trip are women and experience levels vary widely throughout the group. We’re riding with people who have never bikepacked and some who are brand new to mountain biking. Ages range from 19 to 60. Some are riding fat bikes and some have full suspension bikes or BOB trailers. For some,this is the hardest trip they’ve ever done, while for others it’s just one of many this year. But the thing we all have in common is that everyone is having an excellent time. The moral support, the combined knowledge and the reality that we’ve all got each other’s backs makes pointing our tires down a steep rocky slope or along a 120-mile section without water much less intimidating.
We are all mesmerized by the landscape of Baja. Sitting around the campfire each evening we sip Tecate, grill tacos and excitedly recount the day’s curiosities. The geology is rugged and varied—at one point the San Pedro Martir mountains rise up to 10,000 feet above sea level. This uniquely long peninsula has many distinct climate pockets: The southern tip is obviously warmer and drier, but the Pacific coast also happens to be starkly cooler and damper than the Gulf of California just a short distance to the east. This geography lends itself to some fascinating botany. The north has high elevation pine forests, but as we move south the landscape is dominated by giant saguaro cacti, crooked ocotillos and the Martian cirio that is endemic to the Baja Peninsula.
Winter rains have briefly filled the dry arroyos and encouraged the desert to bloom. A thin layer of verdant green appears where there was only sand before. In a throe of life, the giant armored century plants shoot up towering stalks with pennants of golden fur only once before they collapse and perish. The ocotillos bleed red droplets randomly along their leafed stalks and the cirio trees spurt comical yellow tassels from their tips.
And then, too abruptly, our trip comes to an end. We realize it’s time to start making our way back north toward responsibility. We share slightly jealous goodbyes with our newfound friends who continue onward for who knows how much longer. Looking at the map, it becomes apparent we didn’t even make it half way. This is great news to us. It means we get to come back another year—or two if we’re lucky—and finish the job.
Tester: James Scriven
Sizes: 50, 53, 56, 59, 50, 53, 56, 59 cm (tested)
The Diamondback Haanjo EXP tickles me in ways no drop bar bike has ever done. That was before I spent more than 60 miles getting hammered on it at this year’s Grinduro gravel race. Olive drab paint and subtle graphics, knobby tires, wide-ass handlebars, a third water bottle cage and rack mounts? Yes. Please. Lycra wearing racers cringe all you want! This bike is for me! Before my first ride I was already dreaming about the back roads I could explore and the places a bike like this could take me.
I am not a roadie. My two-wheeled passion started with knobby tires and a desire to get out and explore new trails. When throwing a leg over a typical drop bar bike, I usually find myself limited by both the chassis and my confidence in the handling. My ideal road bike would not be for paved roads. No, it would be for any road, or as Diamondback categorizes its Haanjo family of bikes: alt-road. It’s a line of bikes that can take you from your daily commute all the way to epic adventures. The Haanjo doesn’t shy away from the steepest fire road grades or the sweetest singletrack. It is almost as if (and I mean this in the most endearing way possible) some granola-eating-jort-wearing product manager’s passion project slipped past the naysayers and hit an absolute home run.
The Haanjo line includes a few variants, and the EXP is the only model that gets the smaller 27.5 wheels and knobby 2.1 tires, though it’s just as happy running a 700×40 setup like the other Haanjo models.
The geometry puts the ride characteristics right in between a cyclocross bike and a full-blown touring bike with a taller headtube and slightly longer wheelbase than a cross bike. The biggest standout “tech feature” for the EXP lies in its 3×9 setup with bar-end shifters. The armchair elitist in me hated on the 9-speed triple right away, but looking back I will take my foot, stick it in my mouth and eat some humble pie. There is a reason for this gearing, and the only way to find out is to get into a situation where you NEED it. The ultra-lower gear range can take you anywhere, and the simple, reliable drivetrain parts like chain, cassette and chainrings are robust and easy to replace when they wear out.
Calling the ride qualities of 27.5×2.1 tires a game-changer has been done before. However, in this day and age it’s refreshing to see this tire size in a mass-produced, affordable and readily available complete bike. Swapping out the stock knobby Schwalbe Smart Sams to something like WTB’s smooth Horizon Road Plus tires could make the bike into a super-capable road commuter for longer miles and rolling hills.
Thoughtful details on the carbon frame such as rack and fender mounts, Di2 compatibility and three bottle mounts round out the ultra-versatile package. You’ll also find thru-axles front and rear, a full carbon fork, HED wheels and an 11-34 mountain bike cassette.
The only thing missing for my requirements was a dropper post. The PNW Rainier is one of a handful of 27.2 mm dropper posts that can fit bikes like this. With a Specialized Command Post dropper remote mounted to a Paul Components adaptor, this bike and I were ready for anything.
The Ride (and the Race)
I had just signed up for the second Grinduro race in Quincy, California, when the Haanjo EXP was launched. After struggling through the event the prior year on a cyclocross bike, the Haanjo seemed perfect for the variety of high Sierra backcountry terrain the race provides: more than 60 miles, close to 10,000 feet of climbing and four timed stages, the last of which is a 13 mile twisting single track section wrought with berms and loose decomposed granite.
On a long ride, race or multiday adventure, I’ve learned to seek out comfort and control above all other things. In my darkest moments this year I found myself just flat-out stoked with the performance of the EXP. The gearing, tires and overall feel of the bike felt like they were designed for the Grinduro and rides just like it—and in a way they were. Coming into the last 14 mile singletrack timed segment with tired arms, a sore ass and a cool buzz, both the bike and the rider were ready and willing. As I finished this final segment it dawned on me how truly versatile and capable the EXP is.
The proof is in the pudding when a drop bar bike can take a rider through miles of high elevation off-road climbing, harrowing ass-behind-the-saddle descents, and singletrack built by and for mountain bikes.
One of the biggest benefits I’ve found with drop-bar hydraulic brakes is the ability to modulate with one finger while on the hoods. The mechanical TRP brakes on this bike forced me into the drops for the majority of my braking, which I found to be less than ideal. The ONLY other gripe I have is that the front thru-axle is the new road standard of 12 mm. This eliminates the ability to run most models of mountain bike wheels already in my garage.
With the ability to run either 700x45c gravel tires or 27.5×2.1 mountain bike tires, the Haanjo is one of only a handful of mass- market bikes aimed at the dirt-touring crowd that’s been offered for the past few years. Diamondback has responded to this burgeoning market segment with wide bars, wide rubber and a spec sheet that has astonishingly thought of everything. If your rides are mostly dirt, and road bikes just never got you going, I dare you to take a peek at the Haanjo. It’s not a road bike, and I love it for that. I know there’s more of you out there.
Keep Reading: More reality-tested product reviews here.