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2509 Sheridan Blvd.
Edgewater, CO 80214

(303) 232-3165

We love riding in the dirt and on pavement, and we respect and service all bikes. We are overjoyed to see you on a bicycle and will do everything we can to keep you rolling. We also sell Surly and Linus bikes (because they are rad).

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TROGDOR THE BLOGINGATOR

Surly's Redesigned Karate Monkey; Bruce Lee Meets Curious George

Yawp Cyclery

I first rode a new Karate Monkey at Saddledrive last year (which you can about read here), and I've been riding one exclusively for the last couple of months. As I get to know this bike, it continues to surprise me. 

Before we get into how this bike rides, let's address the obvious: both of Surly's stock builds are rigid, steel bikes. What's next, Surly, a horse and buggy? This is the age of carbon fiber and pivot bearings. 

See but here's the thing, though. If you wanted to mug someone on the train, you might see Bruce Lee sitting there looking kind of scrawny. If you mugged him, you'd have ample time in your hospital bed to dwell on the cliché about the deceptive nature of appearances.

That shade of Karate Monkey yellow looks so familiar...

That shade of Karate Monkey yellow looks so familiar...

This yellow, rigid, steel bike may appear anachronistic, slow, and abusive. To some, it appears to be the wrong tool for the job. Why? It's just as much fun to ride as its full-suspension counterparts (perhaps more fun). Rarely is it slower. Sometimes it's faster!

If you're interested in self-defense, you might choose to learn Karate. You could also buy a machine gun. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Each demands different things from you. Each is effective in its own way. Let's leave that metaphor there, because I'm not interested starting a firearm debate, but the violent nature of the metaphor is appropriate. If you think you can teach the Karate Monkey a lesson or two, you will find yourself face-down on the sparring mat before you can say, "Zero inches of travel." Yes, descending on a rigid bike can leave you savaged. It can feel like this. If, however, you recognize the Karate Monkey as your master and learn its ways, you'll be earning your belt in no time. Rigid bikes will make you smooth when the trail is not.

(Also, sometimes the wrong tool for the job isn't the wrong tool at all).

Rigid bikes aren't for everyone. You can certainly use a suspension fork (120-140mm travel). Don't feel bad about using one; Bruce Lee didn't always fight with his bare hands.

This leads me to my next point; the new KM is superior to its predecessor in two major ways.

1. Versatility. The rear dropouts will accommodate boost hubs, non-boost thru-axle hubs, and quick-release hubs. A shorter seat tube allows for a longer dropper post (with internal routing). Long dropper posts are crucial for getting rowdy on a rigid bike. Run 29er wheels or 27.5+ wheels. 

2. Stability. With a longer toptube and a slacker headtube, you can feel confident charging into just about anything. My old Karate Monkey was one of the most intuitive bikes I'd ridden. It would go wherever I told it to go. The new Karate Monkey already knows where to go--straight into the fun, gnarly lines. 

The great wheel size controversy rages on, and it divides people almost as quickly as a debate about firearms. I'm going to mostly tip-toe around that controversy here. Sufficit to say that cushy plus tires on a rigid bike are a benefit, and additional traction is never bad on a singlespeed, whether you're crawling up rocks or trying to carry speed through corners. Wheels are great! So are their sizes.

How does it ride? I am surprised at how quickly it cuts corners that involve multiple, loose, rocky step-downs. I am surprised at how easily it gets off the ground, and equally surprised by how well it handles when it returns to the ground, amidst the chunk and chunder. Stable, agile, aggressive.

I tried carrying a second water bottle underneath the downtube, but it shot out at every opportunity. I asked Bruce Lee where he carries his second bottle, and he replied, "Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water put into a cup becomes the cup. Water can flow or drip or creep or crash." Thanks, Bruce.

I moved the cage onto the fork leg, and it's worked like a charm. (Let's ignore that one cage is black and the other white--sometimes what you find under the seat in your car isn't anodized to your preference).

All of that is to say that, like Bruce Lee, the Karate Monkey can fight its way through anything. 

That shade of Karate Monkey yellow looks so familiar...

That shade of Karate Monkey yellow looks so familiar...

That about sums up the Karate; what about the Monkey?

Karl Ove Knausgård makes an observation about what it means to be an adult in Volume 1 of My Struggle. 

"Understanding the world requires you to take a certain distance from it....We bring it within the scope of our senses and stabilize it with fixer....Then one day we reach the point where all the necessary distances have been set....That is when time begins to pick up speed."

A bike helps to unfix all of those carefully maintained distances. Bikes are tools for exploration. Elation. Being outdoors keeps us young, active, and it helps us be surprised by the world. Those things are vital--Curious George appears to be happier than many adults.

The Karate Monkey is an incredible machine for exploration. It's comfortable enough to sit on all day long, and it has mounts for just about any rack/bag/cage combo you could imagine. Plus tires are a great choice for bikepacking and other kinds of loaded roaming.  Yeah, you can push it as hard as you want to on singletrack, but you don't have to. You can load it up and head into the woods and get Curious.

Bruce Lee can handle anything. Curious George wants to discover everything. That about sums it up.

The Longest Day: Dirty Kanza

Yawp Cyclery

Emporia, Kansas is eight hours away, as the crow drives. Let's say you wanted to go there in order to see whether you could, in one sitting, drink twenty-four beers. When your friends and family found out what you were going to do, here are a few things they might say:

1. That's a good way to make yourself hate beer.

2. Can't you do that at home? Colorado beer is far better than Kansas beer anyway.

3. Wouldn't you rather drink one fantastic beer than twenty beers you won't even taste?

4. It's important to do things that are difficult. It's difficult to do things that are important. Does it follow that drinking twenty-four beers in a day in Kansas is actually important?

5. That sounds like the worst thing ever.

6. The hangover won't be worth the achievement.

You may know that the Dirty Kanza is a 200-mile gravel race that happens annually in the flint hills of Kansas. You may also know that you don't pronounce Kanza with a "short a," as in "Kansas." If you do so, people will step forward to correct you. Even if you are alone on an Emporia street corner in the middle of the night and you whisper, "Kân-za," someone in lycra and an aero helmet will materialize beside you to wag a finger and say, "Ah, ah, ah, it's Kahhhhn-za." Therefore, you might want to pronounce Kanza with a schwa--like Captain Kirk:

Or, if you enjoy irritating people, call it the Dirty Iowaza.

When you tell folks you've signed up for Kanza, they'd say many of the same seven things. I myself have said many of them in the past. Now that I'm older and wiser and deeply, exquisitely tired, my opinions have changed.

That's a good way to make yourself hate beer.

No it isn't.

Can't you do that at home? Colorado beer is far better than Kansas beer anyway. 

Sure, I could ride 200 miles at home, but I won't. I'd get tired and stop at a Mexican restaurant after fifty miles and then call somebody to pick me up. Months of pageantry, anxiety, and logistical hurdles and then an eight-hour drive gives one an incentive to finish.

Kanza is an individual event, but it's steeped in community. Riding 200 miles with 1000 people is not an experience you can choose to have at any given time. It's an experience worth having, and if you want to have it you have to participate. You can't do that from home. It's good to travel beyond what you know and see things you haven't before. Like this:

Also, while Colorado singletrack is indeed superb, there is much to be said for sampling the delicacies of other locales. I'm not going to move east any time soon, but I do secretly enjoy riding gravel roads. Don't tell anybody.

Wouldn't you rather drink one fantastic beer than twenty beers you won't even taste?

But see, though, I've savored fantastic beer. I've not had a case of fantastic beer all at once. What's that like? I don't know. Do I want to know? I don't know that, either. Only one way to find out.

It's important to do things that are difficult. It's difficult to do things that are important. Does it follow that drinking twenty-four beers in a day in Kansas is actually important?

No. Yes.

Yes and no.

It's complicated.

We're not feeding the hungry here, nor are we negotiating a peace treaty. We're spending a self-indulgent weekend riding bikes. So in that way it's not important at all.

On the other hand, it is important. Every now and then, it's important for me to ask a lot of myself. Sometimes, things in life are difficult, and there's a voice in my head that urges me to quit difficult things--even mildly difficult things, like cleaning the garage. I need to shut that voice down now and then, or it will immobilize me and I will succumb to the void.

It's important to let the dirt in. It's important to be outside all day. To distance myself from screens, from distractions, from paperwork, and from the mundane. Riding a bike all day makes for aches and pains, but it never stops being pleasant. Well, unless you forget to check your bottle before you stick it in you mouth--that's unpleasant.

A long, beautiful day turned into a beautiful evening. Right after this sunset, I saw fireflies for the first time in my life. As I age, the world surprises me less and less often. It's a real joy when it does. To know that it still can.

The hangover won't be worth it.

Yup, I felt bad for a day or two. I dropped a few things on the ground and I did not pick them up. It was totally worth it.

Thanks to everyone who helped me make it to either the start line or the finish line or both. Bobby and his team from District Bicycles provided amazing support--I couldn't have finished without them. Tobie and I trained together by eating cheese and drinking alcoholic beverages. Adam from Slo-Hi Bike and Coffee, along with his friend Scott and dad Andy tolerated me all the way to KS and all the way home. Chad told me what to expect (and he was right--especially about my improper gear ratio). Phillip helped keep the bike shop afloat with my ever-tolerant staff, Scott and Brian. As always, thanks to Rebecca for putting up with shenanigans.

Now that I'm home and won't be able to sit on a bike for awhile, I have a curious eye on that case of beer over there...

The Yawp! Company Bewitched by Penitente Canyon

Yawp Cyclery

Our first warning came from the park ranger. "We don't really have maps of this place. I used to have some copies of the course from the Twelve Hours of Penitence bike race, but those are all gone." 

Our second warning came from the campground host. "I'm here for another few weeks, but then I relocate to Crested Butte for the summer because there are too many rattlesnakes here." 

That was all we knew about the place on Friday night. Don't get lost, don't get bitten.

Nobody warned us about the witches.

From our campsite we looked across the San Luis Valley at the snowcapped Sangre de Cristos on the valley's far side. The Great Sand Dunes were a strange bronze smudge along the otherwise green mountainside. But we paid little attention to the view and instead stared into the fire pit, where Darin kept making delicious things appear:

On Saturday morning we found what appeared to be a trail, so we rode it. We climbed up fun little rock features, and the trail alternated between rigorously steep and mercifully steep. Occasionally we encountered forks in the trail, but instead of the signage one might expect (the useful kind), divergent trails were marked with Trail Confidence Markers, some of which (but not all) were numbered. What could we do but forge ahead and get lost? We were treated to fun little rock rollers and drops until we found a meadow atop this hill. One of the more prognosticating members of our party dropped bread crumbs behind us, but the same fate befell those crumbs that befell the crumbs of Hansel.

Continuing on, the trail narrowed until it became primitive, and then narrowed some more and all but disappeared into a creek bed. It was great. We felt like explorers of yore. After much loose and sketchy descending we ran out of rock cairns and debated whether we should turn around and push our bikes back up the gnarly hill we'd just descended or continue on into the wilderness and risk near-certain death. We pressed onward. Near-certain death versus hike-a-bike--is it even a choice? We yearned to see a useless Trail Confidence Marker. 

The faint and primitive trail eventually t-boned a well-worn trail and we picked a direction. We began to think we recognized certain hillsides. We began to suspect we knew where we were. But the the trail turned and we were treated to a rippin' little descent, and then we found this:

Had it been lost? Had it been bitten?

Had it been lost? Had it been bitten?

Further into the breech we rode. The sun was directly overhead, and you had to pick up a thing to see its shadow.

Somewhere out there we found a sign with actual, real words. Those words were Witch's Canyon. It wasn't until later that we reasoned it no great place for bikes, nor for credulous mortals.

In places, it was barely a trail at all. Beware the thicket.

There's a rock at the top, though, and upon it we sat.

Unexplainably, the trails were reshuffled so that we found ourselves in familiar territory. We descended the trail we'd first climbed, down rollers and drops and smooth stone berms. There was hucking, shredding, and thrashing. Clothing was rent out of sheer glee. Miraculously, camp rose up out of the plain below as if summoned. It was precisely one beer past sandwich-thirty.

Some of our fellow travelers had also found the Witch's Canyon trail. We asked them how they liked it, and they replied, "Only idiots would try to make it up that trail." Point taken.

By early afternoon it became apparent that spells had been cast, and I succumbed and was bound by an unholy gravity to this rock for nearly an hour.

I woke in full thrall of the spell, and was drawn inexplicably back up the mountain. The others, it seemed, had been similarly affected. Who knows to what purpose the witch's spells allured us back into the woods. We found ourselves climbing a trail that runs along Witch's Canyon but is far more pleasant to climb. It was called Kitten Nugget or Sunbeam Chicken, and it began near Trail Confidence Marker #11. But to what end does a trail have a name if that name is recorded in no log and posted on no sign and remembered by no party in this bewitched company? 

I would say with confidence that the spell dragged us up this mountain's every side, though it also compelled us down routes equal in number that we had not climbed. Can one solve a Rubix Cube with travel? That as much as anything else may be what was attempted.

Our lives were undoubtedly saved when the spell's antidote was discovered. Turns out it was pizza. And beer. We had our fill and returned to camp and once again were free to determine our own actions. I advanced to bed directly.

Having never before been the subject of a spell in my sheltered life, I knew not what a suitable treatment might be for subsequent day-after afflictions. It turns out that riding Cottonwood and Chicken Dinner on S Mountain in Salida is just the cure. 

Bikepacking Canyonland's White Rim

Yawp Cyclery

This blog isn't going to be about bikepacking gear. Having the 'right' gear is essential to bikepacking, but it also isn't. Humans have been sleeping outside for awhile now. I forgot to pack a few 'necessities' and things turned out alright. Let's save the gear talk for another blog.

This isn't going to be about the physical demands of long, fully-loaded rides. Long bike rides can be overwhelming, and that's interesting to talk about. Let's save that discussion for another blog on another day. We'll call it The Snacks They Carried.

This isn't going to be about mileage or navigation or logistics. We weren't the first group to bike the White Rim, and there are many sources for that kind of information. All you might need to know is that we rode seventy-five fantastic miles on day one and thirty splendid miles on day two, and that I'm grateful these kind folks let me crash their trip.

This isn't going to be about the weather.

Nor is it going to be about omens. At the trailhead I surprised a hawk that was devouring a dead bird it held in its talons, and it tried and failed to fly away, the payload just a little too heavy. She continued to eat while keeping her eye on me and I continued to eat my own cold donut with my eye on her. What kind of omen was that? I have no idea. Having to defrost your chamois over the heater in your car--is that an omen? Who cares. Best to just leave omens out of it.

This isn't going to be about the terrain. It's all desert doubletrack, and it's rough and gouged and compressed into a pumice, except for where it's sandy to a degree that can only be described as malicious. 

This is going to be about a song that was stuck in my head for a majority of our two-day ride.

The song appears on an album that I have loved deeply for decades, and during the ride it seemed odd that this particular song should be on my mind. Neither its tone nor its content are at first glance appropriate to bikepacking in Moab. When I returned home it continued to play like a soundtrack over memories of the trip, and the more I thought about it the more satisfied I became that it was exactly the right song. 

The song always struck me as slow and sad and not at all appropriate for sunny days or bicycle rides. The album on which it appears is antithetical to being in the wilderness (and perhaps to being happy). I am almost always indoors in the dark when I listen to it, as I at this moment am.

I didn't even remember the title the song of until I got home and looked it up. Of course it sums up the nature of the trip perfectly. This blog is about being a tourist. The song is Radiohead's The Tourist.

David Foster Wallace describes being a tourist as well as anyone in his essay Consider the Lobster:

"To be a mass tourist, for me, is to become a pure late-date American: alien, ignorant, greedy for something you cannot ever have, disappointed in a way you can never admit. It is to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience. It is to impose yourself on places that in all non-economic ways would be better, realer, without you. It is, in lines and gridlock and transaction after transaction, to confront a dimension of yourself that is as inescapable as it is painful: As a tourist, you become economically significant but existentially loathsome, an insect on a dead thing."

Wallace's sentiment is similar to mine, but not the same. I've always experienced tremendous rejuvenation in the wild, and it turns out there's some science that substantiates that experience (see The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier by Florence Williams and Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris). Canyonlands is very much alive, and getting out of town for a couple of days to ride as deep into the canyons as possible is very much what the sport--and this blog--is about. Wandering along lazy double track in the sun, allowing one's mind to wander, spending time with some delightful people but also a great deal of time alone--that's my kind of tourism.

Shafer Trail is the faint, plummeting zig-zag in the middle distance.

Shafer Trail is the faint, plummeting zig-zag in the middle distance.

I first went to Moab when I was nine, and what is now a definition of 'tourist town' then felt remote; the land itself was totally empty. It doesn't feel like that anymore. There are tourists everywhere. As the area gets busier, Ed Abbey's Desert Solitaire gets more and more depressing, as if the open landscapes Abbey wrote about in the sixties will soon read more like science fiction than history. The White Rim gets busy, too, but early on a cold April morning it felt like the Moab that stirred me as a kid. It felt vast and desolate, the way I want it to feel. 

Honestly, Utah is so pretty that when I observe that desert I know who I am.

We camped at Potato Bottom, a lush and leafy contrast to most of the ground we covered that first day. Setting up camp as the sun set and the leaves rustled was cinematic. I ate almond butter using a chocolate bar as a spoon, enjoyed the banter of my compatriots, and was content to an extreme.

I woke in the middle of the night to a sky so awesome that I forced myself awake fully to watch it for an hour. Lying in a warm sleeping bag on a chilly night under a starry sky can calibrate a person.

Note the local dude ahead of Sarah pulling a kid in a trailer up this hill, which is steeper than it looks.

Note the local dude ahead of Sarah pulling a kid in a trailer up this hill, which is steeper than it looks.

The story is that Jonny Greenwood wrote The Tourist after watching Americans in gaudy garb rush frantically through Paris in such a hurry to see the city they were amidst that they were missing the beautiful city they were amidst. This sentiment is similar to Wallace's but not quite the same. Neither sentiment is quite my own. Mine has proven difficult to convey. Perhaps it can only be spelled out by the arabesques of the canyons. 

Maybe if you play this video while scrolling through the photos below you'll get a sense of the hauntingly elegant, serene, and unspoiled landscapes we traversed. The trip could've been a dream--traveling in a fugue state with friends I might've known forever across alien terrain that felt like home.

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A Few Words About the Surly Big Fat Dummy

Yawp Cyclery

The Big Fat Dummy is for bigger, fatter times.

The Big Fat Dummy is for bigger, fatter times.

Surly released it's first cargo bike, the Big Dummy, in 2007. I have no memory for dates, so I have no idea when I bought one for myself. Let's call it somewhere between six and eight years ago. Since the day I rode it home, whatever day that was, the Dummy has been one of my favorite possessions.

Cargo bikes can sometimes inspire a kind of smugness that I want to avoid here, but to describe how invaluable the Dummy has been I want to catalog some of the things I've hauled with that bike: passengers, lumber, bikes, dogs, firewood, charcoal grills, mannequins, and gardening soil. I've raced cyclocross on the Dummy (with and without a passenger), bikecamped, and moved. I've made a game out of running errands without planning beforehand how I'm going to get everything onboard, and it's a game I've yet to lose.

Here are a few fond memories from unspecified years:

Big Dummy, little dummy.

Big Dummy, little dummy.

The Dummy brought it all, including the table.
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The Wheelie Upgrade

The Wheelie Upgrade

The Big Dummy is a bike that encourages a good time. Going somewhere fun? Take a Dummy and never regret it. Going somewhere that's not fun? Take a Dummy with a cooler on the back and suddenly Gumby is with you and you're having a good time.

That's Chad on a Big Dummy (the cooler and jukebox are aftermarket). 

That's Chad on a Big Dummy (the cooler and jukebox are aftermarket). 

I was pretty sure the Dummy was the one bike I'd have forever, but deciding to sell it was easy.

The release of Big Fat Dummy seemed cause to raise an eyebrow. Did Surly bring a product to market simply to satisfy an inspired name? I threw a leg over it and knew within minutes that I'd be trading my Big Dummy for the BFD.

It's stiffer, and thus it handles better. I've ridden the Dummy down many a staircase, and it's always been fun, but the BFD does it with, dare I say, grace. The smaller double crankset means you can drop the front end off a low-to-moderate retaining wall without bottoming out on the large chainring. That might not seem important, but one of the worst wrecks of my life was caused by just such a bottoming-out. It occurred during a birthday party (after a couple of beers) and I have no idea what year it was.

The BFD is relatively easy to bunny hop. I love this so so much.

The cargo deck is bigger. It's easier to balance wide loads and it's more comfortable for passengers. The deck is also higher, so you can inflate your rear tire or adjust your derailleur without fighting a cargo bag that's full of 87lbs of pancake mix (or whatever).

I never had a problem with the mechanical brakes on the Dummy, but the hydraulics make a notable difference.

Now, about those fat tires. Fatbikes have drawn ridicule from some riders, a few with experience and a few with mere aesthetic objections. Like any bicycle, however, fatbikes are really good at some things (climbing straight up a wall) and not so good at others (shedding grams). For hauling cargo, there seems to be no downside. I've hit curbs and potholes on a fully-loaded Big Dummy, and the forces involved made my cartilage hurt. A fully-loaded BFD (we're talking close to 400lbs) absorbs obstacles. Does it make the BFD slower than the Dummy? Who cares. Why are you in such a hurry to get your food-grade rain barrel or your crate of watermelons or your deflated bouncy castle across town anyway? Also, big tires mean you can stick some sweet wall rides on the South Platte Trail underpasses.

I've been meaning to do this to my Big Dummy for years, so I installed an axle mount to the rear of the BFD's cargo deck. This makes it easy to haul bikes. This may seem ridiculous (it certainly looks ridiculous), but I've already used this twice and am planning to use it again tomorrow, and I've only had this bike for four days. The axle mount accommodates a 15x100mm, but with a wooden dowel and a homemade spacer, a quick-release, boost, or fatbike hub will also fit.

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Is that photo above absurd? Yup. Sometimes a person has to haul various things in various directions in a single day.

Some people might look at the Dummy and the BFD and think about how full their garage already is, and wonder whether they really need another bike. I can understand. Clutter stresses me out. Having too many possessions stresses me out. But here's the thing: a cargo bike allows you to leave your car in the driveway more often. For a number of years, the Big Dummy allowed me to live without a car. Those are very valuable things. If you're cargo-curious, get a cargo bike and use it to haul a couple of boxes from your garage to the thrift store. Park it in the space you've made, and I'll bet you find yourself using it more often than you imagined.

Durability. Versatility. Utility. Surly requires these things from all of their bikes, and the BFD is no exception. It's a strange, magnificent, all-terrain, mind-altering, work-horsing, fun machine. Don't believe me? Get a six-pack and hop on the back.