Cars equal comfort. They make things easier, faster, and less committing. When you drive to the crag or the trailhead, it’s like you’re leaving a safety net in the parking lot. With a bike, not so much. When the day is done or the climb is over, there’s no jumping in the rig and punching the cruise control home. When you’re cycling for transportation, the ride home is as integral a part of the climb as the summit, whether it’s a few blocks home from the gym, or a week-long ride back from the desert. The lesson is this: the climb isn’t over when you reach the top. You’ve still got to get down, you’ve still got to get home. When you’re on the bike, there’s no easy escape, no quick way to pull the plug. This requires commitment and dedication, but it also builds patience and understanding.
This is the last installment in our series of trip reports from the fall’s Pilgrims of Gnar expedition. At 35 days and over 1500 miles of riding, this experience taught us a lot about ourselves, each other, and life on the bike. A journey this long tends to change your perspective and leave you in a daze, but even as you readjust to the world around you, the important lessons and values avoid erosion.
I’ve been racking my brain, typing till my fingers bleed, trying every different angle, but none of it feels right. This fall we cycled over 1500 miles across 5 states to spend 2 weeks climbing in one of my favorite places on Earth: Zion Canyon. A trip report won’t do, and I’m not convinced there are any words or ways to convey to you just how much this life means to me, how much it’s changed the way I climb, live, and see the world. I’d love to tell you about each pitch, each mile, every day and every climb, but I know that’s not how it works. I want to grab hold of your shoulders, to shake you and show you what’s real, what’s important and why this life is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but you’ll just think I’m crazy.
Maybe it’s the easy way out, maybe I’m missing something or just loosing touch with how to tell a story. Maybe, but something tells me this trip was too big, to deep, and too crazy to properly share, and that my attempt with words will only confuse the issue. What happened out there? Sometimes even I wonder, but I rest easy knowing I shared it with my two best friends on earth, knowing they had their minds blown as wide as mine. This time, I’m gonna keep my mouth shut. This time, I’m gonna let the pictures tell the story.
There’s something different about Zion National Park, something obvious and fundamental, something so simple that when you first encounter it you might not even notice. Like a magician’s trick your eye is drawn to the canyon’s towering walls and breathtaking beauty, while right under your nose hides a difference that shapes your experience of this sacred space more than the natural beauty ever could. Crowded into a shuttle with 50 other tourists, you might not be able to pick out exactly what it is that makes this place so special, but when a small group of cyclists cruises past as you step out to take in the awesomeness of the Big Bend, there’s a twinge of recognition. The difference? There are no cars.
I’m not really one to write about gear.Talk about it, obsess over it, over-analyze it, yes, but there’s something about personal blogs that feature gear reviews and gear talk that makes me nauseas.I didn’t start this to get free gear, free trips, whore myself or promote the continuation of our material culture that is leading to the degradation of our environment.Lest you believe I’m a total cynic about this sort of thing have yourself a read of Craig Childs’ piece of the “Buying and Selling of Nature”, and Dane’s piece about the “Elite” attitude of sporting becoming the norm.Although these pieces might not actually say much it is a pretty good jumping off point for the conversation of the amazing duality that exists between outdoor enthusiasts and the material “gear” culture that we’re so entwined with.We rely on our gear, it’s a huge part of what is enabling us to push our boundaries and find new limits.You’ll not be finding a thousand-word blow-fest about a mid-layer polartec hoody here, we can leave that for the “athletes” with pretty faces who’s job it is to sell things. Mostly themselves.What I do want to offer you is a glimpse at the gear I use, how normal and average it is, how it fits on the bike, and how easy it is for you to make the transformation yourself.
The impetus for this post is a recently published write-up of our Zion trip to my friend Ed’s site VerticalMinded.com. If you haven’t yet, check it out, it’s mostly a bunch of pictures but there’s a little bit of the insight and reflections that went into (and came out of) that trip.I don’t plan on re-posting it here but I thought I would instead include few things that I left out of that posting, mainly, a look into the gear we use, what we brought, and how you can do it too.In the hopes that others might follow suit, here’s a quick look into our panniers, our minds, our bags of gear, and why packing all of the same stuff into your car is weak sauce.Enjoy.
Although we’d been counting on going to Zion for a while, our plans seemed to be constantly revising, when, how, time, money, these variables were in constant flux as we tried to move our lives from Washington to Utah and maintain some sense of organization. Although we planned on bicycling from SLC to Zion for a week of climbing, we ended up renting a car due to the constraints of time and weather, but more to the point, due to our overriding passion to spend all of our available time climbing. This isn’t a journal about our stalwart decision to boycott oil, it is about the creativity and flexibility to pursue your passions and goals while making an effort to curb your consumption of carbon. That said, if you don’t own a car, some time’s you’ll end up renting one. The Corolla that got us to Zion did over 35 miles a gallon, pretty sweet compared to some of the inefficient cars I’ve been forced to own over the years. Although I was a little bummed we didn’t get to go on a longer bike tour, the week was awesome and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Click below if you want to see some great pictures and a bit of a write up about our week. Continue reading →