Since paring down our touring kit, we’ve become real fans of small panniers. These Arkel panniers are probably the smallest we own (definitely the lightest) and are more like a bikepackers pannier than anything else. Amazingly, they are also fairly affordable for the pair. Watch the video to see how they mount and our thoughts on them.
We are just wrapping up 3 weeks of being on the road on a sort of Northern California bicycle tourism study tour. We’ve been staying in countless motels and in this vid, we show our travel coffee setup we use when we aren’t camping. It’s a great portable setup if you’re on a trip where lighting a stove probably isn’t the best choice!
The Great Shasta Rail Trail has been on our radar for the last few months. When it is complete, it will be an 80 mile rail trail through some amazing Northern California landscape. 37 miles are currently open to the public, the remaining miles have some challenging construction challenges with several bridges that need to be maintained. In this video, we ride a portion that starts near the quaint former timber town, McCloud, CA.
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We are currently on a road trip with our bikes from Los Angeles back to Portland. We made a quick stop in Redding to check out the local cycling scene and talk with bike advocates. Redding is an interesting bicycling destination with lots of great riding (that no one knows about!) and great fishing. Of course, I had to throw a line in and try a little #bikefishing in town!
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LA has a pretty interesting and vibrant bike culture and one of the cool local events is #LARiverCampCoffee, an informal weekly meet up of coffee and bicycle aficionados. We’ve been hearing about this local gathering for the last year on Instagram and finally got a chance to check it out first hand. In this video we interview Errin Vasquez to get a little background of #LARiverCampCoffee as well as chat with some folks to get their take on this bike and coffee phenomena. If you enjoyed this interview and like our new video content, let us know by subscribing to our Bicycle Travel Channel!
We met Chase almost a year ago at FrostBike. He and his wife Tami had plans to open up a new bicycle and coffee lifestyle shop in the heart of Los Angeles Art’s District. We got a chance to get an exclusive look at their new space a few days ago. Even though the shop is still under construction, we could tell immediately from the space that it is going to be a big hit. Check out our interview with them and follow them on Instagram or sign up for their newsletter to keep track of their progress!
Up, Down and In-N-Out
Distance: 12 miles
Elevation: +1932 feet
Riding Conditions: Some road riding, mixed terrain, fire roads
Ideal Bike: Gravel bike, touring bike, mountain bike, fat tire road bike
Tire Size: Recommend at least 32-35mm, 40mm ideal
GPS: Ride with GPS link
After a busy and successful Bicycle Tourism Conference, where we made some great new acquaintances and reconnected with colleagues we headed South via Amtrak to where I grew up in Los Angeles. Whenever, we visit with my parents, I’m always excited at the opportunity to do some riding since they live just a few miles from Angeles Crest Forest and the Verdugo Mountains. Of course there is a bit of irony, since I remember in high school feeling bored because there was “nothing to do” in the Sunland/Tujunga area. This was before I discovered bicycling. Now, when we visit, its a bit of a cycling vacation if you can believe it.
One of our favorite short rides to do is what we’ve dubbed the “Up, Down and In-n-Out” ride because just as the name implies, there is a lot of climbing and descending ending conveniently at an In-n-Out. The Verdugos have been “discovered” the last few years since the interest in mixed terrain riding/gravel grinding has become popular. We enjoy it as a great short ride to stretch the legs and enjoy an awesome 360 degree view when the wind patterns allow.
What I personally love about it, is that it is this natural oasis right smack in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. There are some deep almost forested pockets where you can imagine for a second what this area looked like before the freeways and strip malls. It is a great ride for mental health when you’re tired of the urban jungle that is Los Angeles.
Here is a route that we’ve plotted from the In-n-Out on Foothill and Lowell. The first 2 miles (and last 2 miles) are on city streets, but the traffic seems to be fairly light and there are good sight lines and passing space. Once you cross the gate and hit the off-road portions it is essentially uphill until the top. In short order you’ll be tested with a punchy 15% ramp that lasts a few hundred feet. Once you get past that there is some (but not much) reprieve. Most sections hover above 7% with some more stretches in the 10-12% range. There is no traffic, so you can go as slow as you need. There are portions that are pretty rutted and sandy so you have to be a bit more present to navigate those parts. This is definitely a 30mm+ sort of ride with 42-45mm being optimal, but if you are a skilled rider you could do it with 28mm tires.
You’ll know you are near the top when you see the radio towers. A lot of the ride is fairly sun exposed, so on a hot day it pays to have at least 2 water bottles. Once you make it to the towers, you can enjoy a flatter section on the ridge with amazing views of downtown Los Angeles in the distance. There is a little area signed as Plantation Lateral that makes for a good picnic with a bench that could not have been better placed. Once at the top you can explore some more, or if you’re hungry by then, ride down hill and head for the In-n-Out!
This is a great ride if you only have a few hours and want some traffic free climbing in or if you want to break in your new gravel grinding machine. It is also a great introduction to the riding in the Verdugos if you’ve never ridden there before (and did we mention there is an In-n-Out at the end of the ride?) Sunland/Tujunga will probably never be a true cycling destination, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some true gems hidden in the San Fernando Valley.
(Check out our blog post about our visit to the Verdugos back in January 2014)
We’re about to hop a plane today to head down to San Diego for the National Bicycle Tourism Conference (#biketourism2015 for Twitter folks) in San Diego. It should be a fun and informative conference and will give us a chance to connect with both our bicycling and tourism colleagues. From there, we’re going to the Los Angeles area to ride the Verdugos, visit with family and celebrate my birthday (yay!).
From there, we are on sort of a road trip (with a car unfortunately and bikes in tow) making our way back to Portland, Oregon. We have rough plans to stop in Redding, CA to do some #bikefishing with some locals then stop in some Shasta area communities to interview folks behind the new Great Shasta Rail Trail. We’ll be posting on our various feeds (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and if you want to meet up or give us suggestions of what to check out, let us know!
With all the new fancy rackless bikepacking gear out there, the inexpensive but highly utilitarian basket seems to have been forgotten in the bicycle touring world. What a shame! We’ve been touring with a basket for the last two years and it is a great way to carry a load that offers many advantages. Our basket of choice is the venerable Wald 137 which seems to be just the right size for our loads. Laura straps hers to a Globe Mini Porteur and I strap mine to a SOMA Mini Front rack. Check out our video below for 3 reasons why you should try a basket on your next tour! For more videos, subscribe to your Bicycle Travel Channel.
We had the great pleasure of meeting the Sarah and Tom Swallow just a few days after they finished their epic gravel ride across the US. Even though they were still mentally processing the trip, they were nice enough to stop by for an interview. It was our first time interviewing people at our “studio” so there were some technical difficulties and I’m a little rusty with the questions at first, but as we got going we got to the good stuff. I decided the best way to share the vid, would be a sort of Youtube podcast beneath their awesome photos. If you go to the Youtube video page, there are time notations so you can jump to specific topics.
To see their equipment list and their written account of the trip, visit their site here.