Leaving Las Vegas, NV for the AZT

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Post-Interbike exodus out of Las Vegas.  While everyone raced to the airport on Friday night and Saturday morning, we met friends Skyler and Panthea at the baggage claim, arriving from British Columbia.  We assemble bikes, eat on the sidewalk, and roll into the desert for the night.  The following day, after some additional preparations, we leave town on a series of paved roads, bike paths, and BLM dirt tracks.  Our search for dirt only lasts a day until the 100 degree heat pushes us onto pavement in search of St. George, Hurricane, Colorado City, Fredonia and the AZT.  

There are some options for dirt routes between Vegas and St. George, and most of the way to the AZT.  A month later in the season might make it easier.  Some of the riding between Vegas and St. George gets soft and sandy, less of an issue on Skyler’s 29+ Surly Krampus and Panthea’s Soma B-Side+.  Anyway, the heat rules the day.  We’re excited for the pines of the Kaibab Plateau and the cool nights up toward the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at over 8,000ft.  

Riding to the start gives us the opportunity to acclimate to the heat, to the elevation, and to riding loaded bikes again.  All but Lael require this transition.  Now that she is fully recovered from her second Divide ride, she’s ahead of all of us and still goes running every day (and jumping rope, and swimming when possible, and she does planks and push-ups in front of the grocery store when I’m inside).  We’ve downloaded GPS tracks for the actual AZT race route on Topofusion.com, and have printed map sections from the Arizona Trail Association website, as well as current water data from Fred Gaudet’s site.  Be sure to join the AZTA and donate!

Reassembling bikes at the airport with Skyler and Panthea, Lael prepares dinner on the sidewalk.

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Camping 10 miles from the strip, about 200 yards from the nearest house.

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Out of Vegas.

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I-15 Travel Plaza, slot machines, fireworks, cheap cigs, booze, and snacks.

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Skyler cut a sidewall on his Gravity Vidar tires before leaving the city.  His tube seems magnetically attracted to the steel wires which litter the roadside, remnants of worn truck tires.  Lael naps.

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Into St. George, over Old US 91.

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Southern Utah towns are real nice– well planned and maintained with nice public spaces.

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The best available tire option for Skyler is a 29×2.5″ Maxxis Minion DHF, a great tire for this part of the country, although not quite the volume he is accustomed to.  He’ll try these for a bit, then mount some of the new Surly 29×3.0″ Dirt Wizard tires in Flagstaff.  We selected the 60tpi tubeless ready Dirt Wizard for a more durable sidewall.  The two tires share a similar tread pattern, although different volume and casing construction.  He is using an Easton ARC rim with a 45mm internal width, about 50mm outside. 

I left Anchorage on undersized used tires, remnants left from repairs at The Bicycle Shop, and quickly realized my mistake.  I find some 29×2.4″ Maxxis Ardent EXO tires in St. George. 

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Near Hurricane, UT we reconnect with Bill and Kathi Merchant, whom we first met at Interbike a few days prior.  Bill and Kathi have organized the Iditarod Trail Invitational since the early 2000’s and have hosted both a 350 mile race to McGrath and a 1000 mile race to Nome every year.  Bill and Kathi have lived outdoors for years in the Arctic, in the Southwest, and elsewhere.  

Kathi is currently organizing a Fatbike Expo to precede the start of the Iditarod Trail Invitational this spring in Alaska.  The Fatbike Expo will take place in Anchorage with an indoor exhibition at the Egan Center as well as a series of rides and other events.  Look for the Big Fat Ride which will include hundreds, perhaps even a thousand fat bikers riding together through Anchorage’s wide groomed trails.  The Fatbike Exop and the start of the ITI would be a perfect time to visit Anchorage.  Come enjoy local groomed trails and winter singletrack, check out the first miles of the Iditarod course, and if conditions allow, you can even ride to the Knik Glacier or over Resurrection Pass!

The Fatbike Expo happens February 26-28 in Anchorage and the ITI takes off on Sunday 2/28.

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Virgin River.

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Rockville, UT, just outside of Zion National Park.

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More soon on my new pink Meriwether frame and the RockShox Pike fork.  

Lael and I are each carrying standard mid-size backpacks on our handlebars.  It is legal to possess and transport a bike through the Grand Canyon, so long as the wheels don’t touch the ground.  Alternate routes around the canyon are long and complicated, and shuttling bikes and equipment is expensive.  When given the option of a 190mi paved detour and a 25 miles hike– with our bikes on our backs– we packed backpacks.  I’ve carried mine since Vegas, which I brought from Alaska.  Lael is borrowing one from Bill and Kathi, which we will return via mail from Flagstaff.

Okay, the paint is incredible, the details of the frame are nearly flawless, and of course, it fits like a glove.  More from Flagstaff once the bike has a few trail miles under its tires.  

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Green salsa and shade.  

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Lael and I have been joking a lot about the Tour Divide, mostly because I can’t keep up with her.

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Riding and pushing out of Rockville, we connect with a dirt route for a place to camp and to avoid the narrow paved climb out of Hurricane.

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Sleeping at the edge of a cliff, Lael calls this “Hollywood desert”.  The dirt is good, most of the plants are friendly, and there is shade when needed.

The forecast looks good for weeks and we’ve sent our tent ahead.  I’m sleeping on a 99¢ sunshade and Lael is using her XS Thermarest Prolite which she used on her two prologue rides this summer.  Nights are warm and dry.

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With a moment of sadness, we pass the turn to Gooseberry Mesa, a famous mountain bike trail system.  The day will soon be too hot and we continue on toward the cool pines of the Kaibab Plateau.

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Dead rattler.

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Off to Arizona and the AZT.  Flagstaff in a week.

Hope to catch up with James and Deja, Cosmic Ray, Stefan, Joe M., Nick from Rogue Panda, and anyone else in the area.

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Some People and Bikes from Interbike 2015, Las Vegas, NV

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Advocate Cycles frames are hot off the press, each featuring custom decals designed by local artists on the top tube.  Tim and Odia Krueger of Advocate Cycles shared a booth with Cycle Monkey, Sinewave, and Red Bear Products.  The 27.5+/29 Hayduke is in the foreground, and would be a great bikepacking rig.  It shares many features with my new frame.

Arriving on Monday morning, each of the five person Revelate crew had their own story of nocturnal misery at cruising altitude.  Except Lael, who claims the “shortest plane ride of her life” as she slept from takeoff to landing.  A summer of sleeping directly on the ground probably helps.  By noon, everyone assembled at the Mandalay Bay convention center to reassemble the contents of a shipping crate into Revelate Designs booth #21186.

Interbike is a trade show.  Everyone rolls their eyes about Las Vegas, about the nature of the show, about the cigarette smoke in the casinos, about the food, about the organization that operates the event, and the industry.  Everyone complains about Interbike.  However, it is the largest collection of cycling industry professionals in North America, eclipsed in size only by Eurobike and the Taipei International Cycle Show, and for the most part, a lot of productive things happen here.  There are a lot of nice people, a lot of exciting new product, and for most attendees, there are new prospects.  Lael and I enjoyed meeting many internet friends for the first time.  We made new connections which we look forward to developing into the future.  I met Charlie Kelly and after a teaser story from the first Iditasport event in the late ’80s, I bought his book.  Lael met Rebecca Rusch, the legendary endurance cyclist best known for her 13 1/2 hour passage of the Kokopelli Trail.  We huddled around pizza and beer to hear stories from Mongolia and secrets of new products, designs to make cycling better and more fun.  We talked a lot about Revelate luggage, bikepacking, and adventure by bike.  We met the Executive Director of the Adventure Cycling Association, Jim Sayer; Editor of Bicycle Times magazine, Adam Newman; and on more than three occasions, I passed Tom Ritchey in the aisles of Interbike.  Is Tom Ritchey the most recognizable guy in the industry, or is he just everywhere?

Interbike was awesome.  We spent so much time talking to people that the week passed much faster than expected.  And now, in a last minute rush, we find ourselves trying to shift entirely into bike touring mode.  I haven’t downloaded tracks for the AZT, scheduled a route from Las Vegas to St. George or from St. George to Kanab.  Skyler and Panthea arrive in a few hours.  We’ve located a nearby desert campsite for the night, expecting to return to town to pack and plan in the morning.  It will be nice once we get rolling, but for now, my busy summer continues.

Unpacking the crate.  The bare convention hall is transformed in less than 24 hours.

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Outdoor Dirt Demo

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The new Surly Wednesday.

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27.5+, full-sus, Nobby Nic tires=traction, lots of traction.

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18.9lbs, the new 9zero7 Whiteout Team Edition.

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The new Fatback Skookum.

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Icelandic Lauf forks, simple, light, maintenance free, and awesome.  They feel really, really good.  Best considered for gravel to light XC.  Think Tour Divide race bike…

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The Queen of Pain, Rebecca Rusch, and the queen of eating sandwiches and sleeping in the dirt.

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Some bikepacking junk show at Interbike, for sure.

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Charlie Kelly talked me into buying his book.  He didn’t have to try very hard, especially with Joe Breeze just over his shoulder.

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Big Adventures, and lots of Chinese carbon.

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Hey, it’s me!

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Vintage 1987 GT.

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Marin Pine Mountain 1 rigid 27.5+.

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Lauf leaf springs.

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John Lackey, meet John Lackey.  John set the Iditarod record to McGrath last year.

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Lael trashed a tire commuting around Las Vegas.  She borrow a Fatback Skookum for the ride home.  Rolling a fatbike through a casino in Vegas is fun.

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Each Advocate Cycle model features a different custom design, this is the new Lorax.

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New SP 150x15mm thru-axle dynamo hub for fatbikes.  SP hubs are now imported and distributed in the USA by Cycle Monkey.  I’ve also got the new top-cap mounted Sinewave Cycles Reactor USB charger to test on the Arizona Trail.

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Bikepacking junk show at the Giant booth.  The framebag opens from the rear toward the front, and without any tension it immediately jams up when you try to close it one-handed.

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Lael didn’t know these stickers existed.  She said, “that’s what I did all summer”!

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Adan Newman, the new editor of Bicycle Times magazine pretends to be a roadie for the new SRAM Red road wireless launch.

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This is Advocate Cycles, Tim and Odia Krueger.

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The Revelate Designs booth, while small, stayed busy for the three day indoor show.  During most of the show the booth featured a Jones+ bike, a Co Motion Gravel frame, and a Fatback Skookum.

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Interbike was a blasto  Off to ride the Arizona Trail.  Shipping the computer away for a while for a real vacation.

Summer Reduction: Anchorage, AK; Silver City, NM; Las Vegas, NV

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Local fishermen and families looking for fish in Ship Creek during the seasonal salmon run, Anchorage, AK.

I spent a full summer in Anchorage, Alaska, working.  Returning from Israel in May I arrived at The Bicycle Shop the next morning to build Lael’s Tour Divide bike.  I started work the next day, rode Lael out of town at the end of the week and then worked every single day until she returned from her ride from Alaska to Antelope Wells, about 50 days later.  Lael spent less than three weeks in town before turning back south toward Bellingham, Banff, and Antelope Wells for her second Divide ride of the summer, the LW ITT.  I worked during most of that ride as well, finally earning a few days away from work as the season slowed.

Less than a month before planing to leave Anchorage for the season, I flew down to New Mexico to meet Lael at the finish of the Divide, at the border of Mexico.  It was nearly– not entirely– a surprise.  

We both returned to Anchorage so that I could finish work for the season.  We sold her race bike, tidied up our affairs, and packed our bags for Interbike and adventure.  I gave the Krampus away to a friend.  Lael is riding a 2×8 drivetrain and platform pedals again, on a rusty bike with a half-dead Reba.  Still she claims it is “a good bike”.  We’ll spend the week in Vegas at Interbike with Revelate Designs, spreading our love for bicycle based adventure.  Thereafter, we plan to pack our bikes and ride into Arizona.  Ok, we might try to hitch a ride after Interbike to St. George, UT.  Anyone from Interbike headed back that way this weekend?  To SLC, Denver, etc.?

Aside from work– and I could write volumes about working in a busy bike shop in Midtown Anchorage– Alaskan summers aren’t bad, even if I didn’t always make the most of the long days and dry trails.


Anchorage, AK

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Riding along the Ship Creek slough during salmon season.

Life at the bike shop included lots of late night personal projects, including Lael’s two Divide bike edits, and this custom wheelset for Joe Cruz’s Surly Pugsley, which travelled to Norway this summer for a backcountry ramble.  He finally gave up the fight and moved from doublewall DH Large Marge rims to these feathery polished Marge Light rims.  Thanks to Fatbikes.com for providing the polished Surly rims and lightweight front hub.  I finished the build with butted DT Swiss spokes, gold alloy nipples, and a cheap sealed cartridge bearing Redline hub.  I failed the total lightweight build when I couldn’t find any high-quality 32h hubs in Anchorage, given our short time-frame for the build.

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Also from The Bicycle Shop, the analog Tour Divide Trackleaders page, exclusively dedicated to following the LW and LW ITT dots and promoting water cooler discussion about ultra-endurance racing.  This Michelin map of the American West provides a surprising amount of detail.

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Strawberries, not nearly as common as raspberries, blueberries, and rhubarb, abundant while we house-sat for Dan Bailey.

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I also hosted two cyclists during the summer, this rider from Japan and another rider from France.  I do my best to help some of the hundreds of touring cyclists who pass through Anchorage in a summer.  Recently, I enjoyed the company of Adela and Kris, two Polish riders slowly making their ways round the world.  Check out their travels at biketheworld.pl.

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Salmon, even more common than berries in the summer.

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Working in a bike shops keeps me close to the “industry” for a minute, as a wave of mid-fat bikes arrive to market.  This Trek Stache+ and the Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie FSR are widely lauded, and look like a fun and useful extension of fatbikes.  As fatbike sales eventually stagnate, we will continue to see the influence of large volume rubber elsewhere in the industry.

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Long nights leave ample opportunity to play in the city.  This beach is accessed from the end of the paved Coastal Trail at Kincaid Park, or by connecting a series of singletrack mountain bike trails.  This beach is often rideable through the winter.

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Salmon over the fire.

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Bike rides of various kinds filled my summer, although I only left Anchorage city limits twice.  

Riding to check in with Nate and the family.  It is always cool to see the evolution of his family bike circus.  Elin is riding a Yepp seat on the Big Dummy. 

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Her Revelate Designs Feedbag is stocked with Cheerios.

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Bill, co-owner of the 9zero7 fatbike brand is training for the Iditarod Trail Invitational, the full 1000 mile distance.  Christina tries to defeat Bill, unsuccessfully.

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Riding with Tamra, Lael’s local adventuring partner, and James, Lael’s brother.  They each bought their first mountain bikes this summer.  Bright colors are popular in the industry right now.

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Riding to rub shoulders with the after-hours crowd at Speedway Cycles, home of the Fatback.  Greg Matyas is good at keeping the shop stocked with beer.  Greg bought a special bottle to celebrate Lael’s first Divide ride.

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 Riding to visit family.

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And riding until finally, after midnight, the sun sets in the north.

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Silver City, NM

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On a whim, I bought a plane ticket to Tucson to meet Lael at the finish of her second Divide ride.  I spent the weekend with friends, Lucas and Monica, who recently moved away from Anchorage.

Lucas had just received a Lenz Mammoth, one of several 29+ full-suspension bikes made by Devin Lenz for Mike Curiak.  Two models have been dubbed the Fatmoth and the Fatillac.

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We spent the day building the bike and following Lael’s SPOT tracker through the Gila, anticipating storms and her late night passage through town.  While we went riding in the evening on the new bike. a severe thunderstorm rolled in, dropping just less than 3 inches of rain at the Silver City airport.  Only later did I learn that Lael hardly got wet, although there were many signs of flash flooding.

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That’s one Fatass rear end.

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Gomez Peak Trail System, looking north into the Gila and into a night of thunderstorms.

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Silver City is a great old western mining town, still supported in part by several local mines, Western New Mexico University, and a healthy population of local business.

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Lucas leads the way around town.  Gotta love a town with a proper main street, this one called Bullard St.

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Old buildings.

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Local beer.

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Gila Hike and Bike stocks Adventure Cycling maps for the Great Divide and Southern Tier routes, and supports a vibrant local cycling community.

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Local music, including friends Tim and Chloe, formerly of the Bike Haus in Silver City, also one-time residents of Albuquerque when we lived there a few years ago.

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The Bike Haus is locally famous as an informal guesthouse and cultural center for cyclists.  Jamie, who owns the house, rents rooms to a rotating cast of interesting people and on occasion, touring cyclists are invited to stay.  The property is full of bikes and puppets; a Seussian garden encircles the house.  I stayed here back in 2011 on my first ride down the Divide.

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I welded a welcome sign at the local Bike Works community bike shop back in 2011, which still hangs from the porch.  That was my first time ever using such a machine, some kind of wire-feed welder.

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I drove down to Antelope Wells to catch Lael at the finish, arriving a few hours early.  I passed her on the final paved stretch to the border.

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Waiting at the end, at the least used border crossing between the US and Mexico.

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Helmet hair, round two.  

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Anchorage, AK

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Back in Anchorage we prepare for our next micro-adventure, a trip to Las Vegas for Interbike and a ride on the Arizona Trail.  While Texas was the intended target after the Divide, it was cheaper for Lael to return to Anchorage for a few weeks than to kick around the SW, especially as we intended to go to Interbike.  The Texas situation is somewhat tenuous, thinking about Tucson for the winter.

Lost Lake, Seward, AK

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Oh, and carbon frames don’t resist abrasion very well.  Steel and titanium win this division, followed by aluminum.  Carbon comes in last.  But the ride is nice, and light.  

That is a pinky-sized hole in the seatstay of Lael’s Stumpjummper.  I suspect she rode it that way from Lime, MT to the finish.

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The chainstay has much more material and for some reason, also features more generous tire clearance than the seatstay.  The frame has been replaced, the complete bike sold to some awesome folks in Anchorage.  Mary walked away with a 22lb gravel shredder, complete with custom framebag and dynamo lighting system.

Mary, the woman who bought the bike, lived in Crested Butte, CO from the mid-’80s to the mid-’90s, and told stories of housing some of the great names in mountain biking on her couch or floor.  Wes Willams of Willets fame– strapped for cash– once paid his rent in the form of a custom titanium frame.  She claims that was frame #3.  Mary painted that frame with flowers.   

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Las Vegas, NV

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This is a familiar task, building bikes and riding away from the airport.  Conveniently this airport is in the middle of the city, although I only packed a pile of bike parts.  My new custom Meriwether frame was shipped to Las Vegas.

To prepare for the show, Eric asked that we make custom Revelate t-shirts.  Lael rebranded her two cotton race jerseys from this past year.  The Alaska Grown tee was a gift from her grandmother, and accompanied her on her second Divide ride.  The Keeping It Real shirt was purchased at a t-shirt shop in Israel and is now locally famous for crushing the HLC route across that country.

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Set up for the show.  Friday is the last day of Interbike.  We will be at the Revelate Designs booth 21186 for most of the day.  Otherwise, we’ll be walking around the show jamming our pockets full of tubeless sealant and nutrition bars.  

In an exciting twist, it sounds like Skyler and Panthea will be meeting us this weekend for an extended AZ jaunt.  We’ll all going in the same direction at the same, although we’ve never met and we don’t have any real travel plans.  With little more than a few Facebook messages, we’ll roll out of Vegas this weekend, headed for southern Utah and the northern terminus of the AZT.  The new pink frame is going to get a workout.  Back on the road in 3, 2, 1…  

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Prints from the Middle East, For Sale

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For sale are over a hundred small prints from our time in Israel and Jordan, mostly taken on or near the HLC route in Israel. There are scenes of camels in the Judaean Desert above the Dead Sea, images of Lael racing the HLC, portraits of Israeli bikepackers, scenes from Jerusalem, and lots and lots of incredible dirt roads and trails from all across the country. A series of larger images from the same set are also available. Smaller images are 4×6″, larger images are 8.5×6″. Individual postcard sized (4×6) images are available for $10, three for $25. Larger images are $25. Contact me if you’d like more. Additional donations would be greatly appreciated. Add $1 for international shipping.

Please leave your request for images (number of images, content) and your mailing address in the comment field at the time of donation. Select to “Leave a note to the seller” when you confirm the payment. Payment via credit and debit cards is simple and secure; or, transfer directly between Paypal accounts. Contact me directly at nicholas.carman@gmail.com if you have any additional questions. Feel free to request the content of the images your receive, such as camping or singletrack, and we’ll do our best to find a good one for you. We fly to Vegas on Monday, and ride out of town at the end of the week.  Act now!

As we pack our things in Alaska and regroup after a summer of working and racing, I found this shoebox of prints from our “Bikepacking Night in Israel” event this spring. Lael and I are greatly moved by the images and memories and want to share these physical prints with friends of the blog. Check out my HLC route resources at Bikepacking.com and Bikepacking.net. Tour the HLC route at any time, or sign up to race the HLC in April 2016.

Donate to fund Lael’s two Tour Divide rides this summer and help support her racing into the future. We’re hoping to be touring for a month in Arizona this fall before settling into another season of work in Texas to pay for her summer of riding. We’d like to be touring again in the spring, internationally, although Lael is already dreaming up some big race plans for 2016. Help keep this blog healthy with your donation. With limited support from a few companies, everything that happens here is sponsored by the work we do in the off-season, at restaurants, bicycles shops, and elsewhere. Thanks to Revelate Designs, Intelligent Design Cycles, The Bicycle Shop of Anchorage, and our friends at SRAM for helping Lael through 8600 miles of fast touring and even faster racing in the last three months. Her equipment worked marvelously, without exception.

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 Smaller images are $10, or three for $25.  Larger images are $25.  Contact me if you’d like more.
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Lost Lake Trail, Seward, AK

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A disconnected network of singletrack trails on the Kenai Peninsula in Southcentral Alaska comprise the greatest resource for mountain bikers in all of Alaska.  Despite expectations– and there are enough riding opportunities to occupy both major seasons– there isn’t much rideable singletrack in Alaska.  This is a big state with few paved roads, fewer dirt roads, and even fewer trails.  However, there are many off-trail opportunities including a vast arrangement of frozen backcountry trails and more miles of coastline than any other state.  Counting game trails and overland traverse the opportunities are endless, although the list of trails you can recommend to an out-of-town guest or a customer at a bike shop are limited   

Last Thursday, about two weeks since Lael finished her second run down the Divide and my first day out of town since May (New Mexico notwithstanding), we traveled down to Seward to ride the Lost Lake Trail with Christina, Amy, and Hobbs.

The Lost Lake Trail is a classic on the Kenai and travels from the small coastal town of Seward to the Primrose Trailhead on the south end of Kenai Lake.  We traveled out and back from Seward in an afternoon, leaving time to lay in the sun on one of the last days of summer.  It is possible to connect a round trip from the Seward TH to the Primrose TH on the Lost Lake Trail by returning on the old Iditarod Trail.  Our ride was less than ten miles in each direction, out and back.

Lael and I leave for Vegas next Monday.

For more from Lost Lake check out the recent feature by Dejay Birtch in Dirt Rag Magazine, or the Specialized sponsored Trail Hunter video series with rider Matt Hunter.

Spotting several pods of beluga whales coming in with the tide on Turnagain Arm, en route to Seward from Anchorage.

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Hobbs’ brother works at Great Northern Cycles in Whitefish, MT, and is the recipient of many of his little brother’s used bikes.  The latest is carbon Yeti SB95.

I’ve stopped in Whitefish a few times, and once bivvied in the backyard of Great Northern Cycles between live music at the Great Northern Bar and a morning swim in Whitefish Lake.

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USFS feels like home.

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Climb.

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Within an hour, we’re climbing out of the trees.

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Carving a line across the alpine tundra on durable trail.

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A short traverse to a gravelly beach on Lost Lake.

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Descend, back to sea level.

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Back down Box Canyon, into the forest, and back to the trailhead.  I chased Hobbs all the way down.  Chasing a former downhiller on a hardtail is loads of fun.  

This is one of the last rides on the Krampus.  It has been a good bike.  

Anyone in Anchorage looking for a Large Surly Krampus frame?  It comes with a very well used but functional Fox Talas and an unused rigid steel fork.

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Meriwether Cycles Bikepacker- RAL 3014

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The color is RAL 3014, borrowed from select Schwinn Mirada and Raleigh Seneca Mountain Tour frames from the mid 1980’s.  To a lesser extent, the flavor is taken from a series of Specialized Stumpjumper Team bikes in the mid ’80s, although those were more Barbie, and this bike is all coho and rose petal.  The color is most often called Antique Pink in RAL charts. 

The frame will receive a new bottom bracket, headset, and seatpost clamp, as well as decals and a head badge before shipment to Vegas.  The 120mm Rock Shox Pike fork has arrived in Alaska, along with endcaps to convert my Hope hub to 12x142mm thru-axle.  We plan to ride out of Vegas after Interbike.

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Meriwether Cycles Bikepacker Goes to Paint

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My new Meriwether Cycles chubbyniner, made for 29×2.4″ tires on 35-40mm rims with room for mud.  The frame also clears a 27.5×3.0″ tire and a double crank.  It goes to paint this week.  Keep up with Meriwether Cycles on Flickr and Instagram.

That’s my bike, built by hand by a guy in California, the result of years of thinking about bikes while riding, several weeks of detailed conversations, and just over a week of cutting, bending, and welding.  

Thanks to Whit Johnson of Meriwether Cycles for putting the pieces together in the last few weeks.  Things happen fast since we first talked about this project just over a month ago.  I’m flying to Vegas on the 14th.  If the bike doesn’t arrive in Anchorage before that, I’ll receive it in the mail in Vegas and install my pile of parts in the backyard of a rented house.  Come visit with me and Lael at the Revelate Designs booth at Interbike!  Also, check out the new  “Dial Your Ride” feature on the Revelate website.  We’re excited to have been Revelate ambassadors over the past year of riding, and are featured alongside some of the greatest people in bikepacking on the new site.  

Eric and Whit are inspiring people who share a lot of the same qualities.  They listen, they consider every suggestion thoroughly and seriously, and they rise to design challenges with new, creative solutions.

How is this bike different than my Surly Krampus?  Well, it isn’t all that different.  I’ve enjoyed the Krampus and would recommend it to anyone looking for a hardtail 29er with room for big tires and mud and gears, a featured design element in the new Meriwether as well.  The Krampus is simple, steel, and solid.  It will hold you parts and gear for a year and never complain.  I never rode it with 29+ tires, and for now, don’t have much interest in anything without a suspension fork.  The new bike is based upon my time on a Surly Krampus, a Raleigh XXIX, a Salsa Mukluk, a Surly ECR, as well as a detailed study of a handful of other bikes on the market. 

A 120mm Rock Shox Pike in the mail this week for the new bike.

But sometimes the Krampus feels like a big bike, like a pig on tight singletrack or when climbing.  The top tube is long and low, great for descending, but not the position I seek for all day pedaling efforts.  And on steep technical climbs, the long top tube and long chainstays mean my body weight is forward of center and rear traction is a challenge, which requires some pedaling acrobatics to keep the front end grounded and the rear end hooked up with the dirt.  

I have always disliked the Surly rear-facing dropouts in use, although I appreciate their utility on paper.  They give you a way to singlespeed you bike in the backcountry, tension a chain on an IGH, or adjust chainstay length for different wheel and tire sizes.  In actuality, I only ever rode with the wheel in the forward position, and with tubeless tires I did not find reason to remove the wheel more than a few times in a year.  But on my Pugsley I ran the wheel rearward in the dropouts and constantly battled brake rub and a mushy BB7, also the fault of the Pugsley’s famed offset.  Reinstalling the rear wheel requires some finesse.  Give it to Lael and we’ll be sitting around all day until the rotor is bent and the QR skewer is lost in the dirt.  It is not the easiest task for a first-timer, although it is not as bad as Manitou’s 15mm HexLock system.  

However, I wanted to retain some time-tested features, including a threaded BSA bottom bracket.  The replaceable Paragon sliding dropout plates allow me to build the bike with a 12×142 thru-axle, or with a 10x135mm QR.  If and when this bike travels outside a certain radius of civilization for an extended period of time, I may choose to revert to QR wheels front and rear (with a rigid fork, or perhaps an older QR Reba).  In a worst case scenario, you can slip almost any QR or bolt-on wheel into a standard dropout.  Thru-axles would leave you waiting for parts.  Is this a major concern?  Not really, but a considered part of the design.  The rear dropout interface is vertically oriented, enabling simple rear wheel removal and installation.  

Paint is RAL 3014.  Look that one up. 

I’ll be riding this thing in two weeks.  Come see it at Revelate booth 21186 in Vegas.

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