Archive for the ‘Bicycle travel’ Category

‘Story!’ cried the Editor

June 3, 2021

My last piece for Adventure Cyclist.

It’s hard to retire when you don’t have a job.

It’s even harder when you have a couple-three-four of them.

Still, I keep trying to find that hole in the fence, because I am a persistent mutt.

I successfully “retired” from my last real job in 1991, when I bid adios to The New Mexican and took up the uncertain life of a freelance cycling scribe. I like to think I beat the rush to the door. The writing was already popping up on newspaper walls from coast to coast, and I wasn’t one of the lucky few who would be offered a buyout. Mine would be more like a “Get out!”

So, rather than wait for the shove, I jumped.

Other separations have followed in the 30 years since I hit that door running, or maybe cycling. Either the magazines have gone away or I have.

This month brings my departure from Adventure Cyclist. It was an amicable separation. Deputy editor Dan Meyer asked if I wanted to review a bike; I thought about it for a bit, then replied, “No, thanks.”

It may sound impulsive, but it really wasn’t. I have outlived Mike Deme, the editor who brought me aboard. His successor, Alex Strickland, has moved on to another job, as have colleagues John Schubert, Nick Legan, and others.

It’s been 10 years. The bike biz is moving in directions that mostly don’t interest me. I’m an old white guy who doesn’t need the work or the money and should really just get the hell out of the way.

Also, my last two pieces, about the New Albion Privateer and the march of technology, practically wrote themselves. This could not continue. Call it a premonition: By the pricking of my thumbs, something banjaxed this way comes.

So I jumped.

Mike and Adventure Cyclist came around at exactly the right time. I was in something of a rut, basically just going through the motions, and reviewing touring bikes forced me into new ways of thinking. Alex and Dan continued Mike’s generosity. I had big fun and made good money, and now it’s time someone else had a taste.

A thousand thank-yous to everyone who enjoyed my reviews. And if any of yis bought a bike on my say-so, may the road rise up to meet you. With the rubber side down, of course.

R.I.P., LHT

January 17, 2021

The Surly Disc Trucker, up against the Wall of Science.

A moment of silence, please, for the Surly Long Haul Trucker, which rolled west in November. It was 16.

When I reviewed the Surly Disc Trucker for the July 2020 issue of Adventure Cyclist, product manager Amy Kippley told me the rim-brake LHT wasn’t going anywhere other than everywhere, just like always.

“Our Long Haul Trucker is the best,” she said. “We’re team #savetherimbrake all the way. People love to build that frame up and make it their own. There’s nothing quite like touring-tinkering.”

Maybe so. But there was nothing quite like 2020, either. And therefore never send to know for whom the [bike] bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Come the February 2021 issue of Adventure Cyclist, our very own Khal S. — himself a LHT owner — was reading the bike’s obituary, headlined “Requiem for a Two-Wheeled Dream.”

“It was a bike that could do nearly everything, and usually did. At any given time, you could close your eyes, toss an ice-cream sandwich into Adventure Cycling’s courtyard, and hit a Long Haul Trucker.”

Progress marches on, they say. But when it trucks, from Surly, it will do so with disc brakes.

If you can’t say anything nice. …

January 8, 2021

It’s not Cold Mountain, but then again I’m not Han Shan, either.

I know a lot of bad words. None of them seemed bad enough for what I saw yesterday.

So I went out to finish shooting some video for Adventure Cyclist. It was not a speaking role.

Velocirapture

October 9, 2020

I think the place is closed. Call it an inspired guess.

I took a leisurely ride to Tijeras and back yesterday, with a brief detour to Carlito Springs Open Space.

The place is shuttered for “improvements” — to wit, “roads, additional parking capacity,” etc., et al., and so on and so forth. I’m going on 67 and managed to make the trip via bicycle, but never you mind that, Captain Elitist, with your fancy-schmancy velocipede, outlandish getup, and life of socialist leisure. Some of us have to work for a living.

En route along Old Route 66 I caught up with a group of bicycle tourists bound for Las Cruces. In ordinary circumstances we might have ridden together for a while, discussed the route, gear, eternal verities, and whatnot.

Alas, the circumstances are far from ordinary, so we exchanged compliments from a social distance and went our separate ways. Mine was considerably less challenging, but someone has to be around to reheat the jambalaya while Herself brings home the bacon.

Cast off, matey

September 20, 2020

The New Albion Privateer, in matte black.

There’s a new ship in the harbor: a New Albion Privateer.

The temptation is to load it down, saddle up, and sail away. But to where?

Lacking a passport, I’m restricted to the lower 48 states, Alaska and Hawaii being something of a long bunny-hop by bike. I don’t think Hans Rey could make either in one go, even if he started with a bean feast, a lit fart, and a tailwind.

Unfortunately, several of my preferred bolt holes are either hot as blazes or actually on fire. And if I leave New Mexico, I face a 14-day quarantine when I return.

Plus, Herself would have to rassle up her own grub in my absence, in addition to working for our living, catering to Miss Mia Sopaipilla, and assisting the assisted-living place with Herself the Elder, who recently took another digger, this time breaking her right wrist.

HtE is issued a fresh 14-day quarantine every time she leaves assisted living to see a sawbones, which is not nearly as much fun as seeing the road unfold before you from the saddle of a brand-new bicycle.

This is a review bike, of course. Merry Sales provided frame, fork, and a big box of bits, but the Great Parts Shortage of 2020 being more or less ongoing, I had to contribute a few items from my personal collection, among them a wheelset, inner tubes, saddle, and brakes.

Between us it made for a pretty tasty build, and I can’t say much more than that until the paying customers get theirs. In the meantime, I’m getting mine.

Still sticking pretty close to home, though. I’m not getting too far away from the mailbox until our ballots show up. That’s a review I can’t wait to write.

Car park

July 9, 2020

“Why do American cities waste so much space on cars?”
Uh, because they’re climate-controlled living rooms that go places?

A good newspaper not only reports the news, it stimulates debate on the issues of the day.

And this piece by Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times — “I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing” — is certainly going to set some chins wagging.

But hoo-boy, talk about your roadblocks:

Given how completely they rule most cities, calling for the outright banishment of automobiles can sound almost ludicrous. (We can’t even get people to agree to wear masks to stop the spread of a devastating pandemic.)

In other words, don’t swap the Escalade for an e-bike just yet, Sparky.

One more minor quibble: I think this sentence — “Manhattan, already one of the most car-free places in the country, is the best place to start.” — is just a wee bit Noo Yawk-centric.

How about starting with a smaller space, like Santa Fe? Wall off the actual walkable/bikeable bits from the metastasis that surrounds them, provide car parks around the perimeter, and encourage people to engage in muscle-powered transportation.

Pedicabs will be available for hire, but you’re gonna have to show me a serious hitch in your gitalong or other qualifying infirmity before you make someone else haul your fat ass around town. The penalty is crucifixion (first offense).

Clutch effort

June 23, 2020

The descent from the intersection of Pino Trail and Wilderness.

More adventures, still more!

Today I decided to challenge the ankle a bit with some off-road foolishness in the Elena Gallegos area. I thought I was being smart by waiting until 10 a.m. to head out, reasoning that the weak would get theirs earlier, in the cool of the morning.

Well, you know about me and smart. Never happen, is what. Everybody and his grandma was out there with me.

I had to dab a couple times while climbing one section I call Cholla Clutch Cañon because I screwed the pooch riding it as a descent back in 2017, grabbing a fistful of cane cholla to keep from skidding over the edge. (See “me and smart” in the previous paragraph.)

Anyway, the trail wizards have been waving their wands at this stretch since I last rode it and muscle memory was of no help whatsoever. Also, everybody else was riding it as a descent, on full-suspension mountain bikes, which proved something of an impediment to Wrong Way O’Grady, with his rigid, drop-bar Voodoo Nakisi weirdomobile and mad climbing skillz.

Speaking of mad skillz, the Adventure Cyclist boyos have posted my latest review online. Surly has updated its Disc Trucker with an eye toward the gravel-gobbling, bikepacking market.

And wonder of wonders: You can still buy the rim-brake Long Haul Trucker if that’s how you roll. I don’t know that you’d necessarily want to ride it up Cholla Clutch Cañon … but hell, I’d probably try it.

‘It’s stupid not to bike.’

November 9, 2019

Grandpa John whiled away his retirement making miniature pianos, replicas of JFK’s rocker, and other lovely bits of woodwork instead of riding a bicycle. For transportation he preferred a stately maroon Cadillac with a cream interior.

I don’t care to live in Copenhagen. The climate seems ill-suited to a worshipper of Tonatiuh who knows why his bog-trotting, ring-kissing, pub-crawling ancestors invented the uisce beatha.

My stepgrandfather on my mother’s side was a Dane, but he didn’t want to live in Copenhagen either. He lived in Sioux City, Iowa, where he was retired from the railroad and whiled away the hours drinking beer and smoking cigars, maintaining a medium-heavy vegetable garden in the back yard, and making lovely bits of this and that in a basement full of woodworking tools.

I don’t recall ever seeing Grandpa John aboard a bicycle, though he certainly had the leisure time for cycling. He drove a stately maroon Cadillac with a cream interior, because that’s what a fella did in America.

Which is a shame, really. Because if we hadn’t built our cities around Grandpa John’s stately maroon Cadillac with cream interior, The New York Times might be writing stories about Albuquerque, the cycling capital of the Southwest, where the residents neither own cars nor care to, because the bicycle “is typically the easiest way to get around.”

Albuquerque probably has Copenhagen beat when it comes to cycling weather. Today, for example, we’re looking at mostly sunny conditions with a high in the low 60s, and more than 10 hours of daylight, while Copenhagen can expect a high in the low 40s, rain, and less than nine hours of daylight.

But if you think I’m gonna ride my cargo bike to the Sunport to fetch Herself home when she jets in from Florida, well, think again, Jens old scout.

First, the Sunport is a 25-mile round trip from El Rancho Pendejo, with a thousand feet of vertical gain. Second, Herself travels about as lightly as Hannibal crossing the Alps. And third, the roads seem to be full of cars for some reason. Not stately maroon Cadillacs with cream interiors, mind you, but suburban tanks about the size of Hannibal’s elephants. And their mahouts are all inattentive, impaired, or insane.

Anyway, I don’t have a cargo bike. Because for better or for worse, Albuquerque isn’t fucking Copenhagen.

And until we rethink our cities and how we get around and about in them, we’ll have to settle for reading about Paradise from our parking lots.

Feel the (Bourbon) burn

November 8, 2019

Oh, indeed, that’s the question right there.

Bicycle Week continues at El Rancho Pendejo with a long-distance peek at the National Bicycle Tourism Conference in my old hometown of San Antonio, Texas.

BRAIN’s Steve Frothingham, a very busy fellow indeed, is down on the scene and learning all about the bicycle tourism, including the Bourbon Country Burn, an event I might’ve leapt at a few years back when I was still a drinking man, assuming that any reputable publication’s editor would have been loopy enough to send a copper-bottomed tosspot to it in the vain hope of getting anything in return for the investment in time and treasure beyond a phone call from jail and a plea for lawyers, guns and money.

The BCB went from 200 participants to more than a thousand in three years, sez Steve to me, he sez. So they must be doing something right. (See “Which distilleries will I see,” above.)

The Adventure Cycling Association has boots on the ground, too, so look for a report in an upcoming edition of Adventure Cyclist.

Masi! Gesundheit!

May 24, 2019

The Masi Speciale Randonneur, up against the Wall of Science.

There’s a new bike in the house: a Masi Speciale Randonneur.

It’s one of them there newfangled “sport touring all-road bikes,” but you don’t gotta plug it in at night. 650b x 47 rubber. Columbus Cromor tubes. Three sets of bottle bosses and the usual rack and fender mounts, plus fenders to go with ’em.

If I can beat back these allergies its maiden voyage will be tomorrow. Yesterday I felt like I’d been tear-gassed. Today I squeezed about eight hours out of a Claritin-D 12 Hour, which if my math is correct falls about four hours short of getting ’er done.