A loop around the Valles Caldera on dirt roads is a suitable test for the new bike. Leaving Santa Fe, Jeremy and I ride north for an hour on pavement to Espanola. The feeling of being on a road bike again is exhilarating. Just west of town, the unpaved 31-Mile Road (FR 144) climbs 5000 ft over a ridge connecting Chicoma Mountain and Polvadera Peak, linking with the Great Divide Route for a bit. Chicoma is the second tallest peak in New Mexico at 11,561 ft– the road passes a thousand feet below the summit. We find cold nights and sunny t-shirt days as November becomes December, miles and miles of dirt roads and hardpacked snow in the shadows; deserts and pines from 5500 to 10,500 ft; and a back door entrance to the popular San Antonio Hot Springs.

Reverting to my roots, the VO Campeur is the most road oriented bike I have ridden since I sold my well-used 1995 Trek 520 three years ago. It is thrilling to be able to connect the dots on paved roads so easily, to transport myself well out of town in only a few hours. It is satisfying to “do more with less”, and to explore sandy, rocky, but mostly well-graded dirt roads. It is frustrating to not be able to go absolutely everywhere, as I have come to expect on the Pugsley. Compromises are the nature of any bicycle expected to serve varied functions. A more complete discussion of the Campeur will follow in the coming days.


On the last day of our trip, my workhorse MacBook Air was stolen from aside my bike. Jeremy and I are picnicked only a few feet away, deep in conversation, and as we begin packing to leave I sense an absence. Fuck. Dig deeper in the saddlebag, but of course it has nowhere to hide. My external hard drive is also missing, and as many as twenty thousand photos are gone. I select a direct route toward Albuquerque, and coast downhill in awe. The road flattens, pedaling eighteen, twenty miles an hour into the sun, knowing that lactic acid and tears serve some of the same function. The new bike rides; it really, really rides. I ride for fun, for transportation, and now for release. A missing hard drive is not the same as the loss of memory. It does not impede the future. Rolling into Albuquerque at sunset, barely, I am happy about our trip and committed to forward motion– these are the roots of my cycling life. Be happy, roll on.


I still have a bike and a camera. The blog will be rolling again soon.

Lovely Bicycle considers the difference between a camping bike and a touring bike. I have an ideal camping bike in mind, capable of roads and trails and moderate loads. What is your ideal camping bike?

37 thoughts on “Roots

  1. Wow! Major bummer about the computer and hardrive. In Cuba? I’m SO sorry. Sounds like otherwise the trip went great.

    I’ll try to get the photos you want to you tonight.

    • Moments of devastation, shock, awe; mad, sad, deflated and disheartened. But a bike ride is like a washing machine for the body. I arrived in Albuquerque with a positive outlook.

  2. So sorry to hear, Nick. Way to be positive. I’d be fuming. The FC should arrive soon and lift your spirits 🙂 Glad you’re liking the new bike and wow does that ride over the pass sound awesome! -35 today at my cabin. I wish I were down there…

  3. Gutted to hear about your Air. When mine failed in Ecuador (thankfully later brought back to life) I readily admit to sinking into a pit of despair. A replaceable inanimate object it is, but losing those photos is something else. I hope at least some are backed up… Riding more is good therapy.

    On a brighter note, the Campeur looks to suit the crusts of mud and muck. Good to see it initiated.

  4. That blows to hear about the theft man. Sorry to hear about it.

    I love that your “most road oriented bike” is depicted encrusted in mud, on dirt, and on snow with nary a paved surface to be seen.

  5. Thefts like that are incredible. That you can be just a few feet away & someone can lift your stuff in nothing flat. To your question about the ideal camping bike, I’ve been riding my Rivendell Atlantis for nearly 10 years & can’t imagine anything more suitable. Every time I change tires they get a bit chubbier, with no downside. The low bottom bracket does require attention in truly rutted terrain but other than that no compromises. I love to be able to ride out my back door & figure out the route (pavement, dirt, trails) as I go.


    • Doug, I agree with your idea of a camping bike, which is generally also a good touring, commuting, and everything bike. As for larger tires, I often say “there is more to gain than to lose”. Large volume tires with a (mostly) smooth tread are a revelation.

      It is bikes like the LHT and the Atlantis that I often recommend to friends, although a vintage ATB suits my style and my budget, with the benefit of a taller BB. I definitely have some love for bikes named Prairie Breaker, High SIerra, Ridge Runner and Rockhopper. After riding the Pugsley for a year, I have a hard time letting go of the ultra-abilities of 4″ tires, but the Campeur is a treat in town and on groomed roads.

      Incidentally, Jeremy was riding his Riv Hunqapillar on our camping trip with 29×2.35″ Schwalbe Super Moto tires. His build approaches my ideal dirt road tourer.


  6. Yeah, the loss of the computer sucks. Sorry to hear that. I’ll throw out the idea again of uploading photos to a web-based application, like flickr or Picassa. You don’t have to put everything up, just what you want up. (Or you can keep some stuff private, but knowing how “privacy” and “internet” go together…)

    Good to hear that the Campeur performed well. You’ll need to report soon, for no other reason other than to silence all those internet doubters!

  7. Sorry to hear about your computer and hard drive. That sucks. I have a 12″ iBook G4 that I’d be happy to give you. It’s not nearly as svelte as a Macbook Air, but it works well and could fill the void. Just let me know.

    It’s odd to see you on such skinny tires, but it looks like a bike well-suited for its purpose.

    • It’s a little odd to be on such skinny tires, although I’m loving it around town. Returning from the mountains I was easily able to swallow almost 70 miles in an afternoon, arriving a half-hour before dark. Compromises are the nature of such things, but going fast is fun for now.

  8. Not so useful now I know, but maybe for next time… I’m paranoid about photo backups, so while I was travelling in South America I kept my hard drive separate from my computer, and stashed additional USB memory sticks, with my favourite shots, within a hidden compartment in my framebag (especially commissioned for this purpose!). When I got the chance, I’d ask UK travellers to take stuff home and post them onto my parents.

    I experimented with uploading backups, but connection speeds were never quite good enough. Drop Box could be good for this, especially if a friend could download files as you go.

    Western Digital does a 3TB hard drive (My Book Essential) for about $150. It’s not one you’d carry with you, but useful for copying purposes every once in a while.

    Of course, they say you’re supposed to bury one copy too…

  9. My respect for you, always large, is now increased. You handled this far better than I would have. My computer is not inanimate, it is a portal and companion. Only when on my bicycle or at my keyboard am I happy. It is a problem. But the “real world” is way overrated, in my opinion. Your world, a product of integrity and adventure, looks pretty good from here. Thanks for sharing it with us and that new bike looks like a pretty trusty friend. That your first journey together was marred by this damnable act of avarice is unfortunate, but soon enough it will be just another story.

    Again, thank you Nicholas, for your stories, photos, and example.


  10. Nice to hear the Campeur is solidly living up to it’s PR. This bike is on my list, saving my pennies. I have to say I find my self overcome with envy upon seeing the sunny snowy backroad riding you’re getting in the SW. Sitting in Poland atm. Only snowy, no sunny.
    sucks about the Mac, but you have the right attitude. I can’t say that I would have been so zen…kudos.

  11. So sorry to hear about your losses, Nick! I would have liked to have imagined that this only occurs in the dark trenches of big cities, but you do have your priorities lined up correctly – the memories remain! Hope your loss may be softened with time! Thanks for sharing your ride with all of us!

  12. While you’re at it, I’d backup your blog, if you haven’t already. Go to Tools, and export (All). This will create a dated xml file with all your posts/pics/comments (I think). One blogger friend of mine had his site hacked for no reason, and would have lost all his content otherwise…

    • Hell, cass, i wish some fool would hack into my site and leave a little content. All the world is ephemeral, this voyage we share is but a dream some king is enjoying. Speaking of kings and content…you, my friend, are overdue…

  13. …Truth, the hard drive cant effect the future, that’s wisdom.
    There’s foul weather and sub freezing nights to be enjoyed, I’d like to get back out soon and lunacy loves company!
    “My eyes are blind, but I can see ,The snowflakes glisten on the tree ,The sun no longer sets me free”
    -ace frehley

  14. Hi Nick,
    How are those v-brakes working out for you? Must be change coming from the discs on the Pugsley. I really enjoy your blog. Thank you for all the information you post.
    -Take care,

    • Raud, I have always loved cantilever brakes. For me, I appreciate the ability to tune the brakes to my exact needs. Mechanical disc brakes provide good absolute stopping power, and certainly excel in wet, muddy, snowy conditions. However, they are like v-brakes in that modulation is average; cantis can be set-up to give good stopping power and lots of useful modulation. The challenge that many users have with canti brakes is that they can seem complicated to work on. In every case, V-brakes and discs will be better than a poorly tuned canti. In many cases, all three would be adequate solutions.

      On the Pugsley, disc brakes are useful as the wheels are heavy and the tires provide lot of usable traction for braking– the tire contact patch allows for highly effective braking. As well, some of the terrain that one would ride on such a bike requires serious stopping power On a road-type bike, a disc brake is often overkill from the perspective of stopping power. Without effective modulation, it would be easy for a disc brake to overpower the capacity of a narrow tire to maintain traction, thus causing the bike to skid. For this reason disc brakes on road bikes are mostly unnecessary, although I’m sure they work fine. For wet-weater riding, cross, and mountainous terrain, discs make sense on “road” bikes.

      Hydraulic brakes have the potential to put all other brakes out of business, as soon as the technology to all users. However, the low cost and simplicity of rim brakes will ensure that they remain involved for a very long time.

      Short answer: The cantilever brakes on the Campeur work great (Tektro CR720 with VO pads); they modulate well and provide good total stopping power– they leave nothing to be desired.


      • I ride a road bike, but after following your blog for several months I built up a Pugsley to do some trail and beach riding. I really enjoy the disc brakes. On the other hand, I had a Salsa La Cruz road/cross bike with disc brakes and 25mm tires and in the rain they were a mixed blessing. No lag when braking because the rims were wet, but hit them too hard and the back end would come loose.

        I had to look up canti vs. V-brakes. I thought V-brakes were center pull cantis like you have on your Velo. V-brakes are the ones with the noodle – now I get it. Thanks again for all the good info.

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