Our celebration of “everyday cycling” took many forms over 2015, from exploring local rides, local cycling culture and celebrating the people we ride with, to embarking on epic, multi-day bikepacking adventures from California and Washington to Laos and Bolivia. Below are some of the highlights of the past year from Bicycle Times staff and contributors. We hope you enjoyed the photography and storytelling from their adventures!
In January, our publisher and founder Maurice Tierney kicked off the new year with a bike camping adventure via the San Francisco Bay Trail. Then, in March, he gave us insight into what it’s like to be a judge at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Editor-in-chief Adam Newman took us on an exploration of Oregon’s Detroit Lake, a man-made reservoir that is drained annually by the state and leaves behind a unique landscape for riding on.
In the spring, Adam Perry rode Eroica California with Andy Hampsten on a 1980s Torelli 12-speed, and sent us a report. Mark Greiz took us to Laos where he cycled and bushwhacked across a harsh jungle landscape that he believed no one had ever pedaled through before. Our tech editor Eric McKeegan joined the Blackburn Rangers for a multi-day bikepacking camp in California that included a BB gun biathlon, surfing and eating pie. We also met Bixby, a Border-Collie mix riding across the country on a bike trailer with Mike Minnick, visiting animal shelters and aiding a grassroots campaign to support nonprofit animal shelters.
Over the summer, Rocky Arroyo checked out PedalFest, a celebration of cycling, family, music and much more in Oakland, California. Carole Trottere wrote a humorous, emotional letter to her first road bike when, after 20 years, she upgraded to a new ride. Newman wrote a scathing, raw opinion piece about cyclists maimed and killed by cars after several cyclists lives were taken in his home city of Portland.
In September, we celebrated the first-ever Bicycle Times Adventure Fest with 400 friends in the beautiful hills of central Pennsylvania. We also attended Interbike during which a pair of socks made headlines and our new web editor, Katherine Fuller, addressed the misogyny that persists in the bicycle industry.
The following month, Sarah and Tom Swallow wrapped up their 10-week bike ride on the Trans America Trail, a cross-country route from North Carolina to Oregon on mostly gravel, dirt and otherwise unpaved roads. Sean Jansen shared a story of touring Colombia’s coffee growing regions by bicycle and Cass Gilbert offered up his advice—based on extensive experience—for the best bike touring gear for family travel.
Also in October, Fuller, paid tribute to a fallen cyclist who was honored with a 24 hour bike ride up and down the mountain on which he was killed. On a lighter note, McKeegan raced Iron Cross XII, an event with something like 7000 feet of climbing over 64 miles, a half-mile “run up” that averaged 28 percent grade, miles of forests roads, a few stretches of technical rocky singletrack, 50 mph descents, and a wintery mix of sleet and snow. Cass Gilbert inspired many of our readers with his story and stunning photos of “fatpacking” Bolivia.
Rounding out the year, Tierney and his friend Suzette Ayotte embarked on a wine tour by bicycle in California that moved about as slowly as expected. For the holidays, Newman brought you his second edition of “Fastgiving,” or riding fat bikes on sand at the Oregon Dunes. Russ Roca and Laura Crawford took us on a biking, camping and fly fishing adventure on the dirt roads outside of Seattle. On a tour fit for two, Justin Steiner and Emily Walley took off on a tandem adventure through the Allegheny National Forest. Finally, we visited REEB cycles and Oskar Blues brewing to talk Colorado-made bicycles and beer and the obvious combination of the two.
In case you missed it, our most-talked about bike review was of the Trek 920. Newman so loved the dirt-road touring machine that he purchased one after testing it, but the debate still rages on about “why isn’t it made of steel?” We also took the wild and weird Cannondale Slate, a 650b “road” bike with a Lefty suspension fork, for an extended ride on both paved and dirt roads in California, and went on tour with Salsa’s new Powderkeg tandem, a steel bikepacking/mountain/dirt road bike.
Also in 2015, our resident advice columnist and curmudgeonly bicycle mechanic Beardo the Weirdo offered up his sage advice on whether or not you really need to wear Lycra, what to eat while riding, what’s up with cargo bikes and belt drives and how to properly load your panniers (or, more accurately, how to stop worrying about whether or not they’re loaded properly).
Cheers and thanks to everyone who made 2015 a good time. Here’s to continued exploration on two wheels in 2016.
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From Issue #37
Bicycle touring has changed a lot over the past few years, and while riders once rejoiced for a smooth ribbon of asphalt, a rough and rocky road is now de rigueur. Right on the Trek website you see signs of this preference as the new 920 Disc is classified under the banner of “touring and adventure,” and it’s clearly been designed to peg the needle at the latter end of that dial.
I have to say, the matte green paint and knobby tires look pretty badass, like something you’d expect to see with CALL OF DUTY EDITION stenciled on the side. Besides its looks the main draw of the 920 is of course the wheels and tires, which are straight out of the Bontrager mountain bike catalog: duster elite tubeless ready 29-inch wheels with thru-axles front and rear and XR1 29×2.0 tires. There is ample clearance for a 29×2.2 or a set of fenders with the stock tires.
When not exploring the back roads of the Wild West, the 920 Disc would make an excellent commuter. The build powering those big wheels is a Sram 10-speed drivetrain with 42/28 chainrings and an 11-36 cassette, also borrowed from a mountain bike. Old-school bike tourists will appreciate the bar-end shifters, though I wish the modern SRAM versions could be switched to friction mode. The double chainrings are more than adequate for most riding, but don’t offer a huge range. This might be the first bike I’ve ridden where I was wishing for a little bit lower gear and a higher gear; usually it’s just one or the other.
Built from Trek’s 100 Series Alpha Aluminum, the frame’s tubing is aggressively shaped with a massive downtube and a distinctly kinked top tube. That kink makes room for a second bottle cage on the top of the down tube on frames size 56 and up, for a total of four on the main triangle. There are also bottle cage mounts on each fork leg that do double duty as the front rack mount. In fact, the 920 Disc includes both front and rear Bontrager aluminum racks. While the rear rack is a fairly conventional design, the front rack sits up a bit higher than a set of traditional low-riders, though with the panniers mounted on the second bar from the top the bike handles just fine with plenty of toe clearance.
Bringing it all to a halt is a pair of TRP’s Hylex hydraulic disc brakes, which stand out for their stopping power but are also distinctive for their ergonomics. The main body of the lever houses the master cylinder, and to make room they are quite long. So much so that if you swapped these onto another bike, you’d have to shorten the stem by 10 mm or so to compensate to achieve the same reach to the hoods. The compact bend of the handlebar keeps things pretty comfortable though. I also swapped out the stock stem for a shorter one to dial in a perfect fit.
I loaded the 920 up with panniers and hit the pavement for a 100-mile overnight road ride, and then ditched the racks for some forest road exploring. It’s perhaps a bit too heavy for all-out gravel racing, but I found it’s an excellent companion for all-day back road explorations and dirt road rambling. Despite the aluminum frame, the big tires are more than enough to soak up the road vibrations, and the Bontrager saddle and I got along just fine.
While the basic layout of the 920 Disc is fairly traditional, the details are anything but. Shift cables run internally and the frame is equipped with a port for the Trek DuoTrap S speed and cadence sensor system. The hydraulic brakes might scare off some traditionalists, but they are much appreciated when you’re careening down a mountain with 70 pounds of gear. Purists will also scoff at the notion of an aluminum frame and fork on a touring bike, but if you really think you need a frame that can somehow be pieced back together on the side of the road by a good samaritan with a blowtorch in Uzbekistan, so be it. But I doubt you do.
The other refrain I’ve seen echoing through the message boards is that Trek copied the Salsa Fargo, as if that were the first bike with 29-inch tires and drop bars. While the Salsa is at heart a mountain bike and can run a suspension fork, the 920 Disc isn’t meant for singletrack. Think of it more as a Subaru Outback than a Jeep Wrangler.
The stock tires are most at home on double-track or gravel, but they roll well enough that I left them on for road rides as well. Because they are tubeless ready the bead sits incredibly tight on the rim and fixing a flat requires very high air pressure, some strong thumbs and a bit of cursing to get the tires to seat properly. I recommend setting them up tubeless from the beginning to shed weight and eliminate pinch flats.
While the 920 is meant for more rough and tumble adventures rather than smooth pavement, I would still choose it over the classic Trek 520 model for traditional road touring. My mountain bike experience has made me a big fan of hydraulic disc brakes and thru-axles—modern features that have earned my trust. Whether you go slicks or knobbies, with racks or without, the 920 Disc is a versatile bike that is ready for your next adventure.
- Price: $2,090
- Weight: 24.8 pounds (without racks), 27.5 pounds (with racks)
- Sizes: 49, 52, 54, 56, 58 (tested) and 61 cm
- More: trekbikes.com
That’s right! You can enter to win a brand new Trek 920 at Bicycle Times Adventure Fest presented by Trek. How sweet is that?
This rough-and-ready touring rig might just be the bike of your dreams. Check out our Trek 920 First Impression here.
As with all contests, there’s some fine print involved. View the complete terms and conditions here. Here’s the short version. No purchase necessary to enter. Must be present during the intermission of the free live music show at Adventure Fest’s entertainment tent on Saturday October 10, 2015 at 8:30 p.m. EDT to claim your prize.
After the event, Trek will arrange delivery of this prize to the Trek dealer nearest the winner. Trek will cover the cost of delivery and assembly.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the complications of varying jurisdictions, this contest is only open to residents of the United States.