We’ve been riding our Salsa Vayas for a little over two months and have managed to put over 1000 miles on them. In that time, we’ve ridden them around town, on the 25th Anniversary Cycle Oregon ride, on our first randonneur event (the Verboort Populaire), up Larch Mountain, on a few overnight bike tours and miles and miles of hills and gravel on road rides around Portland. The good folks at VeloCult built up our frames with components that we picked out that are a little different from the off the shelf Vayas and we had the bikes fitted at Crank PDX. We’ve ridden them enough to get a good sense of how they handle and the ride qualities and what the best uses would be. So what’s the verdict? How do they compare to the venerable Surly LHT?Read More»
Let’s just get it out of the way in the very beginning. The worst thing about the Travoy is it looks like you just cart-jacked Arnold Palmer on the 18th hole. Yes, it looks funny. Yes, it looks tippy and strange. But, if you can get over that, you’ll find the Travoy is a pretty amazing trailer on and off the bike.Read More»
I’m chest deep in video footage from this year’s Cycle Oregon. With over 18 hours of footage, I’ve primarily spent the last few weeks simply logging and taking notes of footage, trying to make sense of it all and finding good bits of dialogue . With the logging finally done, I can start to build the story. Small sequences are slowly coming together that will be woven into a longer piece. But some moments stand on their own. Here’s two little snippets that I really loved that I think communicates what is special about Cycle Oregon.
In one clip, Jonathan Nicholas, one of the ride’s early founders talks about their signature grant for this year. In the second clip, we get in behind the scenes of daily operations and ride along with the lead SAG driver and hear what the ride is like from his perspective.
It’s that time again when we take a look at photos from our past years adventure to put together a fun calendar. It’s hard to believe that this is our fourth time doing this. Tempus fugit! First off, I just want to say thanks to our readers who have supported our endeavors over the years by buying calendars, shirts, ebooks and headbadges. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve stayed with folks and have seen our calendars on their walls and it almost makes us teary-eyed. It means so much to us and you all do indeed keep our trips and projects going.
This year’s calendar is a collection of 12 images from our trip to New Zealand. As many of you know it was a challenging trip in many ways, but the landscape was also beautiful beyond comparison. If you love bicycles, Bromptons, New Zealand or traveling to far off places, this calendar is for you. You can check out a full preview and order yours below. Be sure to leave extra time if you plan to give it as a gift!
I’ve been interested in the odd bicycle niche of randonneuring for quite a while. It’s a ride but not a race. You’re self-supported but not exactly touring. You wear a lot of wool and use lots of French sounding words. The irony of course is that we’ve been occupied the last few years with our fully loaded touring so I didn’t have the opportunity to give it a try. The Verboort Populaire (aka Verboort Sausage Ride) is a 100k ride and is an entry level randonneur ride that allows the bike-curious to see what it is about. While short by randonneur standards (where rides typically begin at 200k all the way up to 1200k in varying degrees of masochism) it does give you a sense of what the whole thing is about.
We woke up painfully early at 5:30am, packed our bikes, ate breakfast and poured as much hot coffee down our throats before we had to run out the door to catch the MAX out to Hillsboro. While on the train, we saw other cyclists board the train for the ride. An hour later at the end of the line, we detrained and pedaled 7 miles to Visitation Church in Verboort, OR at the start of the ride. The Verboort Populaire takes place during the locally famous Verboort Suasage and Kraut Dinner which we’ve been told is the community’s largest fundraiser.
At the start we pay $5 each ($2 for insurance and $3 towards the fundraiser) and get our cue sheet and brevet card in a Ziplock baggie. During the ride there are control points where you have to get a signature, receipt or some other form of proof that you were at a certain place at a certain time. It adds a fun scavenger hunt aspect to what otherwise would be just a long ride through the countryside. After some announcements, we are off.
To finish within the allotted time, we had to keep an overall average of 10 miles per hour including stops. These sorts of rides are really about managing time and trying not to linger too long at stops. This means eating, drinking and regulating your clothing without stopping. The terrain, once we got out of the burbs was pretty nice. Mostly quiet roads with slow undulating hills. The highlight was the first and only significant climb on Timber road. We leave SR6 and slowly wind ourselves up through the trees, fog and mist. The traffic was nearly non-existent and the only sound you heard was your tires on wet road and your breathing. It felt very Rapha-esque. All that it was missing was grimacing faces and bold typography ; )
The turn around point was Vernonia. We rolled into the Black Bear Cafe and saw about a dozen other bikes already there. Everybody was chowing down and drinking coffee for the return. Laura and I split a hamburger and fries which was actually pretty spectacular. We’ll have to return again to explore the town some more. After a relatively quick lunch we are on the bikes again to keep momentum and prevent our legs from stiffening up too much.
From here back is mostly gravy. We hop on to the Banks-Vernonia trail and ride the entire length. The first half is a false flat until you summit then it is a pretty cruisy downhill to a flat stretch to the end. There were leaves everywhere on the trail and made for a slippy surface if you braked too hard. At the end of the trail we are on country roads for most of the way back to Verboort.
We rode 68 miles and came in under 5 hours and had the appetite to prove it. After handing our brevet cards over we made our way to the Bingo tent that was selling sausages on a stick or on a roll. After devouring a sausage and bun in less than two minutes we were in line for more. The second one might have been a bit overboard especially with all the grease, but when you are blinded with hunger good sense goes out the window. Before our legs get too comfortable we ride the 7 miles back to the MAX stop in Hillsboro and more or less collapse on the train for the hour long ride back into Portland (or more speficially, Velo-Cult for post-ride beers).
For our first actual official randonnuering ride we had a lot of fun. There were other newbies that we chatted with as well as some more seasoned riders that offered advice. We filtered between a few groups of people and enjoyed the social aspect of riding and eating together. It didn’t have the same hammerhead mentality as some century rides, but it also wasn’t as lackadaisical as touring. For tourists that want to ride a little faster and longer it was a good fit for us. While I don’t see myself doing 400k and 600k events anytime soon (maybe a few more 100ks and a 200k), it was a fun way to finally see what this was all about. It also broadened our riding experience a bit. We’ve been a little tired of the same in-town Portland loops we’ve been doing, so it was good to ride some new roads and get outside the bubble. For anyone considering the Verboort Populaire, we highly recommend it. The route was good, the people friendly and the sausages at the end of the ride were a good reward.
One of our favorite things about bicycle travel is visiting small towns. After being nomadic for three years and passing through literally hundreds of tiny towns, it dawned on us that bike travel could be a viable means to revitalize rural areas. Bicycles are slower by nature, but that is not always a bad thing. Because cyclists need to stop more and eat more, their potential spending in an area far exceeds that of someone traveling by car! This idea hit me in our tent in Montana a few years ago and I drew a little sketch in my notebook. It’s been almost two years since that little doodle and I’ve finally had a chance to animate it try to spread the message.
From sketch to animation….many years in the making.
Since we’re not actively traveling at the moment, our roles have switched from being active tourists to promoting and advocating for bicycle touring. In a way, we are simply trying to give back to this activity that we love so much. We’ve inspired many people to hop on their bike and go touring. After a lot of thinking, the next step for us is to inspire communities to welcome bicycle travelers. We’ve already begun some work in that arena, speaking at the Oregon Active Transportation Summit in Salem and addressing the Rotary Club and many elected officials in Waynesville, NC. It’s an exciting time and we hope you follow us in this new leg of our journey.
If you are in a bike advocacy group or are in a community interested in the possibilities of bicycle tourism and would like to have us speak, send us an email.
We’ve been riding the sweet 2013 Salsa Vatya frames for a while and have been dialing in the fit and components. Here’s a quick video tour of how we built them up. There are a few differences from the stock build. We wanted lower gearing than the cross double provided so we are running a 42-28 mountain double. Laura wanted to still shift friction so we set her up with some Paul Thumbies. We’ll post a more comprehensive component list soon, but for now enjoy the video!Read More»
The plan was to meet up with our friend Howard on the Springwater Trail after he got off work. We loaded our bikes and rode down to the trail just as the sun was setting. It was just the right time of day when everything was bathed in the sort of gilded light that makes you sigh constantly at how beautiful things look. The evening was unseasonably warm and it was nice to ride on the thinning trail that was usually croweded with people. We got rolling about 7pm and after a few miles down the trail the sky had gone through its various hues and had settled into darkness.
For all our years of touring, we’ve done very little night riding. What struck us immediately was how much further distances felt in the dark. We have ridden that stretch of the Springwater several times and for some reason it never seems as long during the day. But at night, with the small patch of vision provided by our lights, it seemed to go on forever. We stopped momentarily near Powell Butte to eat some snacks when we heard a chorus of coyotes not far from the trail. The howling and the nearly full moon seemed fitting.
It was with some relief to get off the Springwater at night, which was starting to feel a bit claustrophobic and be on actual country roads. We noticed houses and a little cafe that we usually missed when riding through the area during the day. But at night, with their porch lamps shining it we a bit surprising to see how many people lived in this stretch of countryside. We passed one hopping little cafe on Dodge Park road with some people hanging out outside by their truck. Of course, as we roll by someone spots us and shouts out a cheery “Hey, Lance!” I smile and for a second contemplate responding with “Hey, Bubba!” but think the better of it and pedal on.
We take Dodge Park road and turn on Lusted which has a slight incline to camp. Nothing major, but enough to keep your legs honest. When we reach a part of the road where the groomed inhabited meadows fall away and we are faced with tall brooding trees once again, we know we are near to camp. It also means the start of our final descent to river level. Laura has the weakest lights of the three of us, so we plan to descend gingerly so she can see by the pool of our lights.
We begin our descent into the darkness and are only vaguely aware of anything else but the striped line of the road, that we try to keep centered in our patches of light. My headlight is mounted to my left fork and it is a strange and slightly unnerving sensation when the road twists to the right where I have no visibility. I make a mental note to look for a helmet mounted light if we plan to do more night touring. It’s a fairly long descent (atleast it feels long at night) with lots of twist and a few hairpin turns. There are few straight stretches but when there are, I try to look up and see around me. The full moon peeks through the tall black rushing trees. Somewhere below we begin to hear the unmistakeable sound of running water.
The end of the descent is punctuated with a spectacular exit out of the trees. Suddenly you are on a bridge and the forest opens up and on either side of you is a wide and glorious river in different shades of grey and dark blues in the night. I drag the brake to momentarily take it all in.
As luck would have it, we get into camp just in time. It is a little after 9pm. At 9:30, the camphost calls it a night and starts their final rounds of the park before shutting the gate. We have our choice of the campground and pick a spot quickly and get to work setting up camp. Laura puts up the tent and I work on getting the fire started. I’ve brought our camp knife and chop up lots of bits of kindling. I use an Esbit cube as a fire starter and soon we have fire.
Now we could finally relax. We each brought burritos for dinner from a foodcart and try to warm them by the fire. We packed light and brought no cooking gear, except for a kettle and a folding Esbit stove for coffee (we are not completely Spartan). We talk around the fire and take everything in. The tall trees around us hide the moon but its light works it way to the forest bottom and gives everything a bluish glow. Our small fire burns for a surprisingly long time before we call it a night.
The next morning, I get up at 7am and try my hand at some fishing. The water is at late summer levels before any of the winter rains so it is noticeably low. What were rapids a few months ago are just wade-able trickles. With no luck, I go back to camp and have some coffee and breakfast. Laura gathers some twigs and the rest of our wood to make a small morning fire. I decided to tackle the water one more time before heading out and switch tactics. Instead of fishing the riffles, I try out the slower deep water rigging up two weighted nymphs I cast upstream and drift the flies subsurface hopefully near the bottom. It’s tricky to fish this way since the takes are harder to feel. After about a half hour I’m ready to call it a day since we have to take off by 9am. I’m doing a slow retrieve over some rocks and see a flash of silver and the familiar tug of a fish on the line. I can tell by the weight on the line it is no monster, but the little guy has some fight. It’s a beautiful six inch rainbow. The other people fishing across the river momentarily look up and give the nod. I let it go and head back to camp to pack up.
We have to be back in Portland at a certain time, so it is not a leisurely ride going back either. The road that we gingerly descended in the dark, we attack with gusto in the morning. We make short work of the two climbs and before we know it we are back on the Springwater heading into town. We stop at a foodcart just off the trail and inhale some enormous cheeseburgers in record time. The trail in full daylight doesn’t seem as long or as mysterious; it is an altogether different place when the sun is out. The magic of riding under the full moon is gone, but not forgotten. We are a little sad that we won’t be able to camp at Dodge Park for another year, but excited at the possibilities of other places night rides could take us.
Last night I began the intimidating task of shifting through hours of footage to create a short video about our Cycle Oregon experience. One moment that stood out crystal clear for us was the first night in Bly, OR when a local council member welcomed us to Klamath country.
The behind the scenes of the actual filming is less than glamorous. I was just settling into a beer in the back of the stage when the evening announcements begin. I quickly bolt up and run with my tripod and camera (with a bulk of the audio gear in the tent) and start recording. Fortunately, I was able to capture a moment that I think sums up Cycle Oregon for us. Cycle Oregon is ultimately about connections. It connects friends, volunteers and most importantly it connects rural and urban Oregon in a unique shared experience.
The finished product of this video is still months down the road, but I couldn’t help but share this one moment since it is the essence of the Cycle Oregon experience. Sit back and enjoy!
(Keep our adventures going and the site growing! If you’ve enjoyed our stories, videos and photos over the years, consider buying our ebook Panniers and Peanut Butter, or our new Brompton Touring Book, or some of the fun bike-themed t-shirts we’re designing, or buying your gear through our Amazon store.)
Interbike 2012 has come and gone and we’ve braved Las Vegas once again to take a look at new trends in racks and bags in the bike industry. While this year seems less revolutionary than last, with most products only getting a new color scheme or incorporating some of last years innovations, there were a few things that caught our eye. For those that want to see things in action, watch our video roundup below.Read More»