About me: Riding bikes to get places

I ride bikes to get places.  Sometimes those places are far away.  Often, I enjoy taking my time.  I left on my first bike tour in September 2008 on a secondhand bike purchased for $300.

The travels documented on this blog begin in 2011.  Any and all of it was great fun, and is recommended. Rather, I’ve never been on a bike trip I didn’t like. Since 2008  I have spent more than half of every year traveling by bike.

I condone any and all travel by bike or on foot, by ski or snow shoe or regular shoe or no shoe; by air, in a balloon; by water, swimming or by canoe or kayak, sailboat or board. Disregard them (naysayers), you can transport yourself!

I am fascinated with cycling utilities in the form of signed and mapped bicycle routes as well as cycling facilities such as rail trails, canal trails, bike lanes and paths.  Off-pavement touring is blissful, and popular routes such as the Great Divide are affecting a new season of cycletourists, of which I am one.  I am perpetually infatuated with bikes; old bikes, new technology that makes life better, and cheap creative solutions to problems. I love bikes, but they aren’t sacred. Make your bike better for you. Make it yours.

The bicycle has taken me all over, including: United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico; the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Switzerland, Czech, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece; South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland; Egypt, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan.

I have ridden some or all of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Kokopelli’s Trail, the Colorado Trail, Arizona Trail, GAP/CO rail and canal trails, Traversée du Massif Vosgien, GR5, GR12, the AlCan and Cassiar Highways, the Taylor and Top of the World Highways,  the Denali Highway, the Denali Park Road, the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route, the Northern Tier, the Southern Tier, the East Coast of the US, the entire coastline of Florida, the Dragon’s Spine Route in South Africa, the Holyland Challenge in Israel, the 1000 Miles Adventure across Czech and Slovakia, the Bicycle Odyssey race route in Greece, the Top Trail 3 in Montenegro, the Baja Divide in Mexico…

Check out my route project in Mexico called the Baja Divide.  The route was scouted during three months in the winter of 2015-16, and was published through the following summer.  The Baja Divide is a free route resrouce that is open to ride at any time, provided as a gift to the bikepacking community with limited support from Revelate Designs and Advocate Cycles.

-Nicholas Carman


He said, “I’m not a homeless man
I’m a gypsy by trade
And I’m travelin’ this land
I’m not a homeless man”

J.J. Cale -“Homeless”


59 thoughts on “About me: Riding bikes to get places

  1. Nykola the Gypsy Kozak,

    I do enjoy that J.J. Cale song. I will vote for another tune to make your anthem once “Homeless” wears out. It is called Ten Things by Paul Baribeau. If you haven’t heard it, I feel you are in for a treat, though, I could imagine you saying you’re riding buddies with the guy and you met on some Mexican canalway or something. Either way, enjoy yourself brateh.

  2. How have you found Mexico? bike friendly? Safe? I’ve heard talk of disappearance, decapitation, and death. As a touring cyclist (instead of a tourist) Do you find yourself exempt from those dreadful perils that have come about as of late? Perhaps the situation down there has only recently become so inhospitable, but many loved ones have been urging me to rethink my plans to tour there. ANy thoughts, route or otherwise?

    • Baja, without question is safe and fun. A moment of caution in Tijuana, but otherwise the peninsula is rural desert, small villages and vacationing Canadians and Americans. Mainland MX was exceptional riding, even though we were deep in the mtns where some of the drug production is supposed to be. People were universally wonderful; fun, silly at times, interested, but never hostile. A touring partner calms the nerves, but is not necessary (esp as a male). Probably avoid biking through Juarez– we bussed from Chihuahua City to Juarez, and biked into El Paso upon exiting. Everybody! told us not to go to Mexico. Now, I tell everybody to go. Be smart, use caution…but of course. The only sign of activity in the country were federal military patrols on rural highways (young guys in 4wd vehicles and farigues, and military checkpoints in Baja). To me, they were a sign of keepimg the peace. There are supposedly a few difficult places in MX, but it is not an entirely lawless country.

      Btw, I got treated for tetanus for free after a stingray nabbed me, at an impressively efficient state health clinic.

  3. Nick–

    I learned of you, your blog, and your travels from Cass Gilbert’s October 16, 2011 blog posting in which he mentions you. In it he reported that you travel with a penny stove. I recently learned of this style of stove and am curious to hear from someone who has used one how well they work. Also, must one use denatured alcohol or can one use, for example, automobile fuel? Finally, Cass also commented about how lightly you travel. Might you ever have drawn up a gear/kit list? If so, I’d love to see it so I too can pare down my kit.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with the world.

    Happy riding,

    • The Penny Stove performs quite well, boiling water in the kind of time you would expect from any other stove. Of course, there are many benefits to an alcohol stove, and such designs as the Penny Stove further benefit from being available from roadside materials, literally. My first stove was in use for 10 months, daily, and finally suffered from poor sealing due to mangled/dented parts, although it still functioned. I built another stove in Steamboat, two stoves actually, and gave one to our warmshowers host. These stoves were built completely with a swiss-army knife, from local canned Colorado micro-brew.

      I would plan on building at least two stoves the first time around, and burning both to determine which “burn” suits your needs. Small changes in internal volume and burner/hole sizes change the dynamics of the burn. If using a drill, 1/16″ is recommended, but 5/64″ works well too.

      The exposed lip of the Penny Stove is cause for concern as it could become misshapen, and would be unhappy to accept the simmer ring. I have never had a problem with this, but might consider a more robust, durable design in the future, including some double-wall designs. With the availability of aluminum bottles with caps (Budweiser, some energy drinks) it may be possible to build a stove with a sealing cap like the Trangia, for less money and possibly, less weight. I may experiment when I find myself settled for the winter.

      There is a slight learning curve when using an alcohol stove to actually cook food, but with practice, more advanced meals are possible. For many, rice and/or ramen are standard; but the simmer ring allows soups and sauces, as well as reductions and fuel-saving simmering once the water is hot.

      Another great idea which I haven’t done myself (thanks Greg) is to build a “pot-cozy” out of duct insulation (aluminized bubble wrap) and heat-resistant, metallic duct tape. Built to the outside dimension of the pot, boiling hot water can be left to “cook” pasta or oats, sans fuel. The cozy also protects the pot while packed away.

      For an amazing assortment of alcohol-stove ideas including some versatile wood/alcohol hybrids, check: http://zenstoves.net/Stoves.htm.

      I have avoided kit lists thus far, and am reluctant to share the usual bike-blog fare of riding distances, saddle-sores, etc; but I may share some of my favorite gear ideas in a post soon.

      I am traveling “light” in more of a theoretical and philosophical way, than in actuality. The bike itself weighs about 35+(?) lbs, and my gear includes some relative luxuries, but I don’t carry anything I don’t need. This is the only (obvious) secret.

      Thanks for reading.

      • Nick–

        Thanks for the prompt, lengthy, and informative reply. I am just so impressed by how both you and Cass have responded to my inquiries. I assume you both have so much going on and many people making requests of you, but, despite this, you took the time to respond as you did. Thanks again. What a class act!

        You likely have already found this site about alcohol stoves but I thought I’d share it if you haven’t and/or if others are interested: http://www.jureystudio.com/pennystove/

        If you do decide to share some of your favorite gear ideas, I look forward to reading them.

        All the best,

  4. I ride. Just picked up a 1984 schwinn high sierra in mint condition for 40 dollars at salvation army. My touring bike is a rivendall 650b. Will I be happy with the high sierra. Took her for a short ride and every thing works. There are some weird people in alaska. I like heat. Rode c and o canal a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Ride out of macon ga and vancouver bc

  5. Stan, I really enjoy my High Sierra. It rides great and has generous clearances and attachment points. I’ve seen a few 84’s and t and at least one had some horrific welds, not that it should be an issue, but more a curiosity in the history of the HS. This was Schwinn’s first effort in the ATB market; the fork on the 84 is quite attractive, as is the pine tree on the top tube. It would be a worthy bike in comparison to your Bleriot, especially for rough-stuff touring as it will accommodate tires up to about 55mm. Happy riding.

    • Thanks, the welds do look like there was not much quality control, out for about 20 miles today to try to get use to the shifting, have x9 sram on the 650. Have other frames but not enough lugs, built up a soma speedster but she would not carry loads like the bleriot with surly racks front and back. Montreal and the upper hudson this summer, maybe the erie canal. Usually take the trek 6700 for these trips but will try the h sierra, am calling it my st simons bike. I surveyed in alaska, too many repubs up there now days.

  6. I’m a girl about to embark on my first bike adventure. You seem like a kindred spirit and I’d love to hear from you and maybe get some advice (especially since most of the other bike travelers I’ve found have been men). You can find me on FB (lame, I know, but I’m a musician, so it’s kind of a demand of my job). Barb Carbon… I’m bookmarking your page so I can keep up, but if you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear from you. Happy travels…

    • just realized you’re a guy too… oops. saw a pic with a girl with a ponytail and thought that was you. Well, your adventures still seem amazing an perfect and inspiring, and I’d still love to hear from you. And I know you must be pretty awesome if you’re site is named after a JJ Cale song. 😉

      • Barb, I’ll contact you via FB. It’s not so lame, really. I even used to think bike blogs were for the self-obsessed. I might have been right, but I find the whole thing to be a celebration of our bike-centric lives. We love riding bikes. Lael and I have been touring together for four years and we’ve learned a few things over the years. If there is anything you’d rather ask her directly, I’ll forward her contact information. She’d be happy to help.

        What do you have planned?

  7. Hey Nicholas, Cass said to ask you what the best Alaskan touring tire would be for riding pavement AND our dirt/gravel roads? Ex: Fairbanks to Cantwell, across the Denali Hwy, then back to Fairbanks… or Fairbanks to Deadhorse. One mostly pavement, one mostly dirt. Is there one tire or a combo of folding tires that would work for each? Thanks!
    I commute on 700×35 Marathon Pluses and am dabbling with 700×38 Specialized Crossroads. Pluses aren’t folding, but the Crossroads are… and they’re a lot lighter, but not as fast as the Pluses.
    Thanks for your input!

    • Josh, My apologies for the delay. There’s little wireless internet between Whitehorse, YT and Dease Lake on the Cassiar. If you’ve already got the 35-38mm tires, ride them on the paved trips. You’d certainly make it to Deadhorse or across the Denali on those same tires, but my preference is for a much larger tire for dirt roads. A common misconception is that for dirt roads a knobbier tire is needed. A tire provides: traction, suspension and flotation. A larger tire will almost always improve comfort (suspension), durability (longer wearing and fewer flats) and traction. Knobs may help, but those tiny nubs on 32mm cross-type tires do little to stabilize a loaded bike on loose gravel. I’m currently riding a Pugsley, hybridized with a 2.35 Schwalbe Big Apple tire (60mm) on a 65mm rim. It looks strange and the tire is a bit “slippery” over pea gravel, but the volume provides the flotation over loose surfaces and most importantly, the option to lower tire pressure to gain traction and smooth the ride. Lower pressures capable on larger tires, allow safer more comfortable riding as traction and natural suspension are improved. A contentious point to some, but lower pressures will operate faster on rough surfaces, especially bumpy dirt roads (see Bicycle Quarterly for endless discussions). Oh, and fewer flats, less rider fatigue, longer-wearing, fewer broken spokes or racks…this is something of a personal crusade. You can blame Cass for sending you here.

      As for actual tires, I prefer the Schwalbe Marathon 1.75 (47mm) tire in either 26″ or 700c/28″/29″ sizes, if your frame will fit them. The Dureme and Supreme are lighter and often folding, but are more expensive and likely have fewer miles in them. I put over 12,000 mi on a 47mm Marathon last year, and it still has life in it. The Extreme will be the knobbiest Marathon, and will roll alright on the road. The Mondial is probably nicer than the standard Marathon as it is lighter and (possibly) longer-wearing, but is also more expensive. The Pluses are great, but I’ve generally decided the weight/ride quality isn’t worth the additional protection for my riding, although paved in rural Africa might be different.

      If the frame doesn’t fit 47mm tires; 40, 42, 45mm would help on dirt roads, especially with a load and will not be appreciably slower on paved stretches. If the road is perfectly smooth, I sometimes increase pressure. Of course, lightening the load helps as well. There are plenty of other good tires brands to choose from, but many of us that live on a bike swear by Schwalbe touring tires for consistent manufacturing quality, durability and reliability, reflective sidewall (free safety!) and a decent quality ride.

      Try your current tires on the Denali Hwy first, as it is generally in good condition although washboard may increase through the summer. Have fun. Let me know how the tire selection goes.


      • Awesome, thanks for such a comprehensive response, Nicholas. I agree with all your points. Smooth is fast and wide is comfort!
        I hope you’re having an awesome ride. It’s one I’d love to do sometime. Keep the great posts coming!

        • Good summation. Sometimes I have a way of finding the long way to say things. Smooth is fast and wide is comfort! I’ve wished for more aggressive tires on a few occasions and even bigger tires at times, but never smaller. The Big Apples really eat the road miles when the pressure is dialed, even though it’s neither a lightweight nor a performance tire. It’s just been a really good hybrid tire; that said, I still prefer the Marathon when available in the proper size. I get a good laugh every time someone asks, insisting, “Doesn’t that create a lot of extra resistance?” Sure the wheels are heavy, the the tires roll great. I laugh, thinking of narrower (faster) tires on paved (chip sealed) roads with the whole Ortlieb family. Not for me, not anymore.

          Hey, ride the fatbike up the Dalton. I just realized (via FB) that you’ve surely got a capable fat-tired rig.

    • Thanks! Life keeps getting better and better. Montana is a dream after all the dusty groceries and mosquitoes of the north and Missoula is a little bit of bike heaven.


  8. So I just built up some Large Marge Lites for my pug and outfitted them with the Schwalbe 2.35’s to make my pug more versatile. Was
    wondering what pressures you are running with a touring load. I put 35psi in mine and it seems like the tube is going to exploded
    out the cut outs. Is this as it should be?


    • Hold your ears, stand back…


      I realize I’ve never shared this but when I first mounted the Schwalbe non-fat tire (still big, I know) I had a similar concern and actually installed two Surly rimstrips. As a result, I’ve not had any problems. The cutouts of the Marge Lite do not seem to be sharp or abrasive as custom cutouts may often be, but prudence led me to use another rimstrip for security. I haven’t had a flat in almost two months and have not removed the tube and tire as a result, so I couldn’t tell you if the outer rimstrip has been compromised at all but nothing is apparent from afar.

      Without knowing for sure, I’d suggest a second rimstrip. However, I think I’m running closer to 25 psi but that’s only my best guess with the “thumb and forefinger method”. I used to run 25-35 psi in my 1.75 Marathons, so I’m a bit soft for softer tires. You may also notice some unique handling/steering with this tire and rim combination, some of which is a feature and some just takes some “getting used to”. In all, it’s a viable format unique to the Surly Pugsley.

      I’m waiting for a second Marge Lite rim for the rear wheel– coming soon. I’ve thought some white 26 x 2.35″ Schwalbe Fat Franks would look classy…


  9. Thanks for the quick reply and advice, Nicholas. I did notice right away the weight difference in the wheels, and also the quicker steering.
    Not sure how much weight you’re haulin’ while touring, but I can gaurantee you, I’m way heavier. (check out “Crazy Guy on a Bike”
    website, search for “PAW Tour 2011”. Do you think these new rims will hold up? I built up DB 14/15, brass nips, 3x.
    Thanks for the excellent site, very well written,I’m ADDICTED! Pug is my favorite bike, even more so now that it is more versatile.

    • As for the wheels, you can’t do much better than you describe. It’s common to hear that singlewall fatbike rims are unfit for non-winter (non-sand, non-soft) riding. But with 690g of aluminum and with an extrusion designed to maximize torsional rigidity, I expect Marge Lite is up to the task. My front wheel is built symmetrically as I’m using a Shimano generator hub with the aftermarket 100 mm Pugs fork, so the real test will be with the new real wheel built in the offset pattern. I don’t expect any issues, but I can’t find a lot on the internet to assure me that an offset singlewall rim will withstand miles of washboard, road riding, and singletrack under a moderate load. To the spirit of experimentation!

      Greg SIple took my portrait today at ACA for his collection of touring cyclists (dating back to 1982). Recently he has begun weighing bikes; last September I tipped the scales at 66 lbs. This year, I weighed a pound more at 67 lbs, for which I blame my rear wheel. I was almost without food and water at the time, so aside from the extra pound I’m probably closer to 75 lbs while out riding. This includes a laptop and camera with chargers, cooking gear and fuel, food, clothing, and general camping equipment.

      I’ve not yet dug all the way into your Crazy Guy, but I like the drop bars on the Pugs. For some time I have been dreaming of riding the John Wayne Pioneer Trail across the state, and fat tires have really opened up that opportunity. I’ve lived in Tacoma for years and have enjoyed visiting the lands of the great floods on the other side of the mountains, so I enjoyed your photos.

      I’m expecting to encounter goatheads in the fall, especially in the SW. Have you found a suitable solution? In fact, fat tires are not much more prone to their malevolent nature than regular rubber. Even on Marathon Plus tires I’ve been foiled in Albuquerque. QBP’s DH (3″) tubes have removable cores as I understand, so that some liquid sealant could be applied.

  10. Hi there.
    I am so stoked on reading blog! Thanks for taking the effort to do it.
    Have a question for you about the pugsley. I two am a fan of the fat tires, but have never used a pugsley as the wide q factor is a worry to me. Have you found it to cause any problems? With sore joints and the like?
    Thanks again.

    • Matt, I just found this comment amonst VIagra ads in the Spam box, so forgive the delay.

      I’ve not noticed any problems with the wide crank position while peddling. It felt different at first, but I became accustomed to it over the winter. Leaving for many months of travel, I thought I might notice it again while riding long days. That was not the case, however, even with ten or more hours in the saddle. Perhaps smaller riders or those weigh very narrow hips may have a different experience. I’ve never met anyone who actually complained of these issues, although I’ve heard a lot of people speculate about the possibility.

      Recently, the combination of wide BB/crank and large platform pedals has resulted in pedal strike on rutted singletrack. Not a big problem, but it sometimes limits me from riding a trail that is otherwise rideable.


      • Yeah, Nicholas, you’re dead on here. Only people with narrow hips or small frames will notice any bodily effect, probably in the knees. I have a friend who’s 5’9″ & 135. When I watch him ride, his lower legs are bent outward from his knees down. He notices how wide the pedals are for his small frame, but I don’t think he has experienced real discomfort.

  11. Nick –

    You’re mentioned in Josh Tack’s column, Fine Tuned in the upcoming, December/January issue of Adventure Cyclist. Can you guess the subject of this issue’s column???

    – Alison

    • Hey Alison,

      Great news! I’m guessing the article is entitled “Get a Job, Already!”, or it’s a look into the nascent world of fatbike touring. I recall him asking about using my name somewhere, although I didn’t realize it would be in the magazine.


    • Thanks Lanny, This is exactly the kind of resource I’m looking for– a rough track through the mountains, connected by a broad theme. I will be doing more research regarding the route. It seems that a lot of popular guided tours visit the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but none of them actually follow it closely for the whole length. Keep these kind of ideas coming my way.


  12. Hi, Enjoy the pics and comments. I have a 1999 Trek 5000, or 5200 , not sure, it’s oversprayed blue, that has twenty thousand or so miles on. I usually just ride me and a old North Face backback around town and maybe hundred mile trips. Could I go long distance just like that? I love the simplicity. 23cm tire s on front and 28cm on the back.

    • I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. My most recent post documents all the touring bikes that I saw in Montana (https://gypsybytrade.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/real-touring-bikes-montana/). Similar posts show bikes from the Yukon, B.C. and the Canadian Rockies. Overwhelmingly, most of the touring bikes one finds on the road have racks and panniers. However, there are other ways to carry gear. It also seems that you are committed to a ‘fast and light’ approach.

      For the record: Yes, you can tour with a backpack. In fact, I met a cyclist riding a modern Trek road bike from NYS to San Diego with a surprisingly large backpack. He also had a few small attachments on the bike. I’m not sure if he was camping, however.

      As you have already found a bike you like, I would suggest an alternate packing method. Personally, I do not use a backpack on the bike except while in town. Some mountain bikers carry smaller hydration packs when traveling lightweight, but the bulk of their load is often on the bike. There are a growing list of lightweight bag makers that could help you pack your load on the bike, without the need for racks and panniers. See my post here: https://gypsybytrade.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/homegrown-bike-bags/

      As well, this is a timeless resource on lightweight bike touring, albeit before the trend of modern lightweight “bikepacking” gear: http://ultralightcycling.blogspot.com/

      An alternate packing system to consider could be equally lightweight using basic drybags, and much less expensive. Some good ideas here: http://wheelsofchance.org/

      Since you mention tire sizes, I would recommend a durable 28mm tire both front and rear, for reliability and long-term durability when out of town. Schwalbe Marathon tires are reputed for lasting many thousands of miles, while the Marathon Supreme version is reasonably lightweight and fast.


  13. My buddy Josh Spice txt me the other day and said you posted a reference to my small sewing company in fbks AK. Thank you Sir 🙂
    Becker Sewing and Design.
    I’m on the interwebs at the Facebook.

  14. Nick

    I’ve been following your blog and even a few comments. We’ve emailed too, you sent a PDF of Ian hi bells book to me.

    I’m in Albuquerque and wonder if you have time for covering the AM?


    • Hey Tom, We should meet for a ride or a drink sometime. I’ve recently started working full-time, but have some days and evenings available. Also, I’m working at Two Wheel Drive on Tuesdays if you want to stop by.

      Hmm, confused about “covering the AM”?


    • Mr. Grizzattack,

      I purchased an Olympus E-PM1 in Alaska this past spring just before leaving for a summer of bike travel. It is my first camera and was an inexpensive entrance into the Micro 4/3s system. It also happens to be one of the smaller camera bodies on the market in this format. I have been using the stock 14-42mm lens exclusively. I have learned a lot from this camera and while I sometimes wish to explore other lenses, I have been content with the current system for my needs. As well, the stock Olympus lens is retractable, and makes a very tidy package in spite of its versatility.


  15. Hi Nicholas,
    Thinking of riding Baja again. Although this time on a stock pugsley. Although a little worried about the wide Q factor. Did you have any issues with knee/hip pain at all?

    • Hey Matt, I’ve never had an issue with the wider stance on a fatbike. I noticed it when I first bought the bike, perhaps only because I was expecting it. I was worried that it would be an issue when I left town this past summer and rode some very long days. It has never been an issue. In fact, I now prefer the wide position for climbing, heavy loads, etc. Imagine, what kind of stance would you choose to approach a squat at the gym (I’ve never done a squat, but I understand how it works, I think)? Surely, a narrow Q-factor is ideal for efficient road pedaling, but a wide Q-factor is not bad. I think some myths have been suggested by those who prefer narrow cranks. Perhaps a 100mm BB and mtb cranks would be too wide for a very small adult, but not for an average sized-man.

      Baja on a Pugsley sounds like a dream. Look into this tubeless setup, which should be super reliable if you run into thorns or goatheads, and will cut some weight out of the wheels: https://gypsybytrade.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/tubeless-moonlander/

      Carry two tubes as spares. They are still hefty, but are better at the bottom of your framebag than in your wheels. Riding a new Pugsley with cutout wheels? or last year’s white frame?

      Have fun in MX.


  16. I read your coverage of Knards at NAHBS. Then I read your story about your everchanging Pugsley. You’re a great writer. I’m a fan. Cheers.

  17. Nick, I live in Corrales and just acquired my Ogre, to compliment my LHT Disc. Who could I contact about best or favorite S24O routes in NM or southern CO? Thanks, Marvin

    • Marvin, It has been a long time, but I just found your comment for the first time. From Corrales, you have a lot of great opportunities from your front door. One of my favorite local rides goes up FR 376 from Jemez Springs (RR grade, pavement turns to good dirt), then crossing NM 4 to San Antonio Hot Springs. Come back to the pavement, ride toward Los Alamos for a bit, then descend FR 289, St. Peter’s Dome Rd (FR 289) to Cochiti. This is a big descent on dirt, with great views of the canyon. You can find routes back to Corrales from there, or take the RailRunner from Santo Domingo/Kewa.

      Definitely get a Santa Fe National Forest map if you don’t already have one, and pick up some maps from the Adventure Cycling Association covering the NM sections of the Great Divide Route. These might make for some great multi-day options.

      Best easy, mixed-surface, S24O from Corrales? Maybe ride NM550 to San Ysidro, through Jemez Pueblo, then turn left up FR 376 to camp in the alpine meadows in national forest. Finish the ride to NM 4, then enjoy the descent towards home through Jemez Springs to San Ysidro.

  18. Hi Nicholas,
    I just wanted to write to congratulate you on such an amazing blog. The way that you live your life is incredible and I just wanted to let you know that each and every post that you put up is brilliantly inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing and also thank you very very much for adding me to your blogroll, that is such an honor. I really appreciate that. Thank you and all the best to you and Lael. Please let me know if you ever make your way back through Banff, it would be great to meet you.


    • Kevin, I was inspired by your writing in the upcoming Bunyan Velo, and both Lael and I have enjoyed browsing your photography online. We especially love your dedication to Scott. Amazingly, Lael always says ‘Scott is the nicest guy”, although she’s never met him. Your photos captured his personality, especially the photo of him patiently warming some water in freezing rain. We’ll be back in Banff sooner than later.


  19. Thanks so much for your kind words Nicholas, I love your article in BV and can’t wait to see the whole thing published today! Thanks also for the compliment on the photos of Scott, he really is a super nice guy and an incredibly talented maker and rider. We both always seem to end up camping together in the snow during times that it should not be snowing here. But I guess that is Banff! I hope that you are having a wonderful time in Europe, it looks as if you two are having an amazing time. Please look us up the next time you are around Banff, Scott is only an hour away.

    All the best to you and Lael,

    • Peter, If you’re asking about those two models because you already own them, I’d suggest the Nobby Nic (2.35?). Not that you need a tire quite that aggressive, but it is a nice tire with a voluminous casing, which which be more comfortable and surefooted. I rode the Divide on a 1.75″ Marathon the first time– it was a fine tire, and with a light load, I could lower the pressures to be reasonably comfortable. However, a full 2″+ tire would be best. Set it up tubeless if you have the chance, for a full summer of riding without any flats.

      Of course, there are a lot of other fascinating destinations near the Divide. If you foresee seeking any trail riding in nearby towns, the Nobby would be better. If you might make some paved detours, through Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain NP, the Marathons might be nice.

      If you’re looking to buy a new tire, something in between the two you mention might be best, like a fast rolling MTB tire from 2.1-2.3″. For budget options, I recommend the Schwalbe Smart Sam (26×2.25″) and Geax Saguaro or AKA (26×2.2″). A personal favorite of ours for durability, fast-rolling traction, and easy tunelessness is the Maxxis Ardent 26×2.25″ or 2.4″). Get the EXO version for best tubeless performance. Plenty of other great options out there.

      Enjoy the Divide!

  20. Pingback: The Art of Bikepacking: July 16, 2014 in Anchorage, AK | gypsy by trade

  21. Nick, what kind of jobs do you in Alaska that allow you such freedom during the summer months? Is most Alaska’s economy seasonal, or just the industries you are employed?

    • Paul, Our jobs in Alaska are not unique to Alaska, although the perennially strong economy does not hurt. We are not full time Alaska residents but the last few seasons we have spent there (two winters, and one summer back in 2009), we’ve worked in restaurants, I’ve worked at a bike shop (in the winter, no less), and Lael spent some time as a math tutor in an elementary school. Cost of living is higher in AK, as are wages. If you can find a cheap way to live it is possible to save money. We have been lucky to spend some time living with Lael’s parents in AK. However, we’ve successfully saved money in Key West, FL; Annapolis, MD; Albuquerque, NM, Tacoma, WA, and elsewhere. The willingness to work hard and the ability to live simply and save money are transferable to many situations. We enjoy work and are lucky to have employable skills and personalities.

      Elsewhere in Alaska, you may be able to make a lot f money fishing or working up on the North Slope in the oil industry. Seasonal summer jobs are abundant, although they may not pay as richly.

  22. Pingback: Bikepacking Year in Review - Bikepackers Magazine

  23. I just want to know which wheels you use, as in France, the wide choice of 29-inch wheel is very limited…. may be you can help me in my research…
    Congrats to Laël and you for the inspiration…. and sorry for my english 😉

    • 29″ wheels aren’t so uncommon in France, are they? Has 27.5″ taken over the market there? For the past two years I have been using a pair of wheels I built with Hope Pro 2 rear hub to a carbon Derby 35mm rim, and my front wheel is an SP dynamo hub to Light Bicycle 35mm carbon rim, using butted DT Swiss spokes and brass nipples.

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