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2521 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, Salsa, and Fairdale bikes (because they are rad).

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TROGDOR THE BLOGINGATOR

The Luxury of a Spice Kit: A few thoughts on bike touring gear

Yawp Cyclery

by Alex Hardesty

 Jack drying our laundry at the top of Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. 

Jack drying our laundry at the top of Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. 

 

Last summer my stepbrother and I decided to embark on a 2,300 mile bike tour around the Northwest of the United States as a part of our “post college graduation I don’t know what I’m doing with my life hiatus.” Neither of us had any bike touring experience, but with our early 20’s athleticism and youthful insanity, we decided it was a wise decision. After surviving three flat tires, poison oak, and the worst thunderstorm of our lives (all in the first 24 hours) we were skeptical of our decision but pursued nonetheless. It only took a week for me to fall in love with life on the bike, and I was excited about the freedom that summer had to offer. Beyond the relentless humor, swimming in cold bodies of water, and copious amounts of beer, a few supplies got me through thick and thin, and others I wish I had brought. There are many valuable advice columns and packing lists from experienced bike tourers one can find online, but here are my two cents I gathered from spending two and a half months in the saddle.

 

What I brought and LOVED

By no means does this list encompass my entire gear inventory. I just wanted to highlight a few items that I used often and was grateful I had with me.

Surly Disc Trucker, duh...

Adventure Cycle Maps: I used these to plan my entire tour and lived by them 24/7

Ortlieb Panniers

Kindle

Small candle lantern

Extra charging cell

Tenkara fly rod

Aeropress coffee maker

Elaborate spice kit

Flask (full of your favorite whiskey)

Multitool

Ibuprofen

https://www.warmshowers.org   I’ll leave this here for your exploration. The hospitality is phenomenal.

 Blue skies and blue bikes somewhere in Canada

Blue skies and blue bikes somewhere in Canada

 

What I sent home/didn’t need

Water filter: Surprised? I certainly was. My step-bro dropped ours in a high velocity creek on the second day of our tour, so we didn’t really have a choice here. Serendipitously, we found we had very little need for a filter because there was water almost everywhere. Oh ya and those Adventure Cycling Maps that I LOVE also indicate the nearest water sources and the miles in between. We had iodine tablets but never used those either. We carried large bladders in addition to our water bottles to for extra H2O on the longer stretches.  

Jerseys: The fact of bike touring is that you will be dirty. Showers are few and far between. The sunscreen, sweat, dirt, blood, tears, regrets, and dreams will all become a part of your new, superstar cycling self. I started with 3 jerseys and three shorts and sent home all but one jersey and one pair of biking shorts. As long as you have clean clothes to change into at night, it doesn’t matter what you wear or how bad you smell during the day. Note: Extra underwear is key to this strategy :)

 

Things I wish I brought

Crazy Creek: This was a big one for me. Each night when we got to our campsite, I craved some sort of back supportive sitting device where I could lean back and read a book. I took to laying on the ground as an alternative, but was constantly envious of the fellow cyclists who sacrificed the extra pound of weight for a comfortable, compatible chair with back support. Crazy Creek is a great option, and they can also double as a sleeping pad if you don’t mind your feet hanging off the end of your backcountry mattress.   

Clipless platform combo super duper pedals: During the day, clipless pedals are fantastic to give that extra push and pull up the hills. But when you’re riding from the campsite to take a dip in the lake, brewery hopping in Missoula, or cruising to the nearest ice cream shop to devour your personal pint of the day, platform pedals are a luxury. The solution? Clipless platform combo super duper pedals! And yes, that name was invented on the spot by Levi Teal.

Sun protective arm “warmers:” The sun is intense. Especially when you spend 10 hours riding through Eastern Washington with no tree coverage. I took to layering on 20% zinc oxide sunscreen every two hours. I saw a lot of people using these protective arm sleeves and wish I had brought some for my sun sensitive skin. They probably would save you money on sunscreen in the long run too.

 

What I saw other people bring and thought, meh...

Solar Charger: This one is a contentious subject for those doing long bike tours on pavement. In my own biased opinion, I think they are unnecessary because we had no issue finding outlets, even in more remote areas. However, I also used the “outdated” paper maps for all but a few miles of my tour, so if you’re a super duper techie, don’t take my advice on this one.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, your gear will be a personal reflection of what you value most while spending time off the grid. For me, that includes luxuries such as fishing, reading, and cooking with all the spices I use at home. Another list may include the most comfortable sleeping pad or dare I say a solar charger. Everyone values something different after 100 miles on a bike, and that is one of the great joys of touring. It gives you the opportunity to appreciate something small that goes unnoticed in our everyday lives. Ride on.

 The perfect fit 

The perfect fit 

The 2018 Randonee-Nae

Yawp Cyclery

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When Halley's Comet passed between the Earth and the sun in 1910, it was the first time humans had the spectroscopic technology to determine the chemical composition of a comet's tail. To the horror of some, we found the tail contained poisonous gasses, and we knew that as the comet followed its path around the sun, its tail would sweep over the Earth. Hence, there were End-of-the-World parties the night the comet passed, but--you guessed it--the world did not end. That's fortunate, because it would've been a real shame had Prince never had the chance to record 1999 so we could all play it repeatedly at our Y2K parties, when--if you'll recall--the world once again did not end.

In fact, there's a list on Wikipedia titled 'List of dates predicted for apocalyptical events,' all of which turned out to be incorrect. This list doesn't account for eclipses and other natural disasters that fooled our forbearers into thinking the end had come.

I mention this because it more and more often seems as though most cyclists (and human beings in general) that one encounters are odious twonks. They won't yield the trail when it's their prerogative. They liter. They ignore your friendly greeting. They'll pass on narrow singletrack without warning.

If you haven't noticed that everyone is an odious twonk, it could be that you haven't driven across town in traffic recently. Right-hand turns from the left-hand lane. Constant texting. Sudden and pointless lane changes. Drivers pushing to get to the head of an endless line that has no head. If you do a fair bit of driving and still don't think that everyone is an odious twonk, try reading a few comment threads on the internet. 

On the front range alone last year, one cyclist was assaulted and another shot. It's easy to imagine that all of our building anger, frustration, and impatience is going to coincide with the destruction of our environment and culminate in a fiery, nuclear period at the end of humanity's run-on sentence. However, the list of misguided apocalyptical predictions suggests that people have always felt this way. Thanks to Socrates, we know that people have always thought the youngest generation would be the ruination of our species: "The children now love luxury, have bad manners, contempt for authority, are odious twonks..." and so on.

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I say all of that to say that we held our second annual Randonee-Nae on April 28th. A randonee is a ride, not a race, that's at least 200 kilometers long. Fifty people showed up for this ride; statistically speaking, roughly fifty of those people should've been odious twonks. None of them were. None of them. How is that possible?

I have not been trained to deal with that kind of overwhelming positivity. 

  I enjoy riding past cemeteries, for reasons you can read about  here   .

I enjoy riding past cemeteries, for reasons you can read about here.

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I should note that the term "Randonee-Nae" was coined by an overwhelmingly positive friend of mine called Reeves. Coincidentally, Reeves maintains that the two oldest sentences in human speech are, "The end is near," and, "These kids today." If these are the sentences that have preceded and defined us, we should take this time to form some better sentences to supersede them. 

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It may sound as though this one terrific day took me from one extreme of the ill will/good will spectrum to the other, but that's not what I mean to convey. What I mean to convey is that in order to survive, as George Costanza put it, "in a society," one has to surround oneself with a fairly thick buffer lest one feel annoyed, shortchanged, and insulted several times a day. Yet that buffer leaves one closed to the very best parts of living in a society--other people. Of course, other people are also the worst part about living in a society. It's really confusing.

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Thank you to everyone who showed up for this ride. You were good to each other, and you made this one of the best days on a bike that I can recall. Thank you also for agreeing to pay the entry fee. I don't like paying to ride my bike, but together we raised $760 for the Denver Food Rescue. That's pretty good for a bunch of people whom our elders used to contemptuously refer to as, "These kids today."

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I'm afraid to hold this ride again next year because I can't imagine how it could be this good again. However, if you're willing, I think we should give it a go. Before the world ends.

Please enjoy some pictures, and then go outside and ride your bike.

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This tunnel of stoke sequence was captured by Kevin McDonough:

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The Value of Difficult Things; The Land Run 100

Yawp Cyclery

After last year's Land Run 100, I vowed never to return to Oklahoma. It was the most difficult ten hours I'd ever had on a bike, and while I didn't know it at the time, I inflicted some permanent damage on my left hand. Ten hours is a relatively short period of time, but it was a sodden and freezing cold period during which time itself became an un-deliniated substance, thick as taffy in a puller, folding endlessly back upon itself. I've tried to describe what that day in 2017 was like (here), but the images in Salsa's short video are a good visual representation.

Not long after registration opened for this year's race I signed up. Why? 

The drive alone--ten hours each way--is its own kind of monotonous, boring hell. Even the brightest, cleanest gas stations and truck stops can be depressing, like the one in Kansas where I witnessed a man very publicly threaten to strangle his eight year-old son in a way that I could not interpret as metaphorical while the rest of his family stood frozen in a tableau around the soda machine, afraid the t-rex would see them if they moved. Cruelty, obviously, is depressing, as is a truck stop full of uncomfortable bystanders who are impotent in the face of cruelty because they aren't sure whether it's their business to intervene. This particular scene sent me spiraling downward because we human beings are often a lot more similar than we might wish, and it's easy to imagine that this angry father is conflicted about his behavior in the same way that I am conflicted about some of my own behavior. Most of us, I think, wish we were better than we are. That thought breaks my heart.

Speaking of hell, the Land Run itself can be like the fifth circle of Dante's Inferno, with participants wading through the river Styx's muddy swamp with bikes over their shoulders. So why did I sign up to do this race again? I don't know. That not knowing confuses me, and it highlights a question that's nagged me persistently these past few months: why do people do things on their bikes that are incredibly difficult? For some people, that might mean the seven-mile climb up Lookout Mountain, and for others the Tour Divide or the Iditarod--the difficulty is relative to one's own ability. Many of us seem compelled to explore our limits while being unable to explain why. 

The weather for this year's Land Run was mercifully mild, and the gravel was not a 7-layer peanut butter cake. Because I have no muddy carnage to present, all I have is this question to try and answer. Pull up a couch and let's hash(tag) it out.

  Salsa's #chasethechaise lounge.

Salsa's #chasethechaise lounge.

A majority of my bike rides are quite pleasant. I ride to work. Rebecca and I ride across town to drink beer, or we ride mountain bikes for a couple of hours with our friends. These are the kinds of rides that get me through the week, and in which I hope to partake for the rest of my life--to which bicycles add a healthy mix of exercise, nature, good people, beer, and Mexican food. The Land Run and other long events are something else. Sometimes we call them sufferfests, but in other parts of my life I am careful to avoid suffering, so there must be something else going on.

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That's not to say there's no suffering involved. At the end of this year's race, as I drank my recovery beer and watched others come across the finish line, I witnessed a few things that sum it up pretty well. A big, bearded fella finished, came to a stop and, statuesque, received his hug from Bobby without much reaction. He kept standing there as other racers filed past him. A minute or two later he bent over his handlebars and quietly wept. Even when the roads are dry the Land Run is hard

A struggle of that intensity flays you, and you find yourself at mile sixty or seventy without any energy, opinions, memory, ideas, courage, or thoughts. There is only despair. But if you allow yourself to taste that despair, you'll break down and never finish. All you can do is ignore the despair and push on, which reminds me of yet another quote from yet another Becket novel. "You must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on."

So yes, there is suffering involved. Yet I witnessed a lot of other things at the finish line. Relief. Exuberance. Shock and awe at having actually completed the thing. People told all sorts of astonishing things to Bobby; many people became emotional as they whispered into his ear about overcoming all sorts of things, about riding for loved ones who were ill or no longer with us. For many, the ride was an Odyssey.

Herein lies the value of doing hard things.

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If you have done the Land Run, or another long, arduous bike ride, and if you have said to yourself, "I can't go on. I'll go on," then you know that asking yourself to be better is not asking too much. You have stood in the pouring rain without anything left, without any personality or ego or even so much as your own name, and you have somehow put foot upon pedal and gone on and gone on and gone on. You can ask yourself to be compassionate when you don't want to be, to turn off the teevee if you have something important to do, to not threaten violence upon your child in a truck stop (or anywhere).

It's cruel that we're so often unable to be who we want to be, but there is every reason to keep trying. If you can refuse to quit a bike race, you've no excuse to quit on yourself.

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If it's possible for this post, which is already too serious, to get even more too serious, let's talk for a minute about the graveyards we passed along the way. I can't remember how many there were. Two? Three? One of them was called Paradise. A graveyard called Paradise is essentially the same thing as a college bar called The Library--it saves a lot of tricky explanation when your roommate's parent calls and asks, "Where's Johnny?" and you can respond, "He's at the Library."

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Anyway, what I want to say about graveyards is that it's good to think about them. There's an app modeled after a Bhutanese saying that to be truly happy you must contemplate death five times per day. The app is called We Croak and it will send you five notifications per day. It may sound morbid, but here's an example of a notification you might receive:

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If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.  --Emily Dickinson

That's not a bad thing to contemplate.

To put too fine a point on it, thanks to last year's Land Run a part of me is dead already. This is happening to all of us, and all too soon. In the middle of the Land Run, in the midst of struggle, it's good to look over at a graveyard and remember that the struggle is a privilege, and is revocable. 

Okay.

That was a bit of a bummer. If you're for some reason still reading, let's get on to party hats and Irish Whiskey.

There were many things about this year's race that were different from last. I could see the landscape. Spring carpets of vibrant green and purple lined the roads, and gave way to peaceful, rural farmland. It was a lemonade and wind chime kind of day.

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It was also St. Patrick's Day. 

 

  Party hat!

Party hat!

  St. Patrick's day oasis at mile 75. Skratch Labs, water, beer, Irish Whiskey.  Thanks, fellas. That was the best bad decision I made all day.

St. Patrick's day oasis at mile 75. Skratch Labs, water, beer, Irish Whiskey.  Thanks, fellas. That was the best bad decision I made all day.

A lot of people go to bike races because they like competition. I'm not fast enough to compete, so I have to focus on something else. I'm going to borrow an analogy from a book called The Elephant in the Brain about redwood trees. 

Redwoods are the tallest trees on earth, and they got that way because they compete for sunlight. Trees that don't grow as high as the others don't get enough light, can't eat, and don't survive. If trees could work together, they might sit down and decide that this competition wasn't really benefiting them as a species, and they might decide to cap growth at 100 feet and spend all of that extra energy on producing pine cones instead, thereby expanding the forest. 

People are unique in that we can decide how to spend our resources. This is what makes the Land Run special. Whether you come to compete or not, you are encouraged, supported, and respected equally. Everybody gets a hug for finishing, not just the top twenty. The good folks at District Bicycles run an event that's professional and well-organized, but also fantastically warm and hospitable. This is a forest that's growing outward. 

  If you have a pair of pants and a pair of scissors, you have a pair of bike shorts. Commendable style, sir.

If you have a pair of pants and a pair of scissors, you have a pair of bike shorts. Commendable style, sir.

  Party eyes!

Party eyes!

Right here and now I'm making a vow never to return to Oklahoma. At least until next year.

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Comparing Surly's Drop Bar Bicycles (Including the Midnight Special)

Yawp Cyclery

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Surly just released a bike called the Midnight Special. It's a drop bar bike with a lot of tire clearance. Sound familiar? About two months ago they released another drop bar bike with a lot of tire clearance called the Pack Rat. In fact, before that, they already had a couple of drop bar bikes with a lot of tire clearance. What's going on? Are all of these bikes just excuses for Surly to invent color names like "Expired Yogurt," "Sweaty Hat," and "Javelin Catcher Red?"

Surly excels at putting good products into the world, but they often don't say a lot about them. That's great. The bikes speak for themselves. Unfortunately, we as consumers are under such a deluge of new products that often our attention is diverted to companies that scream for attention. In that environment, Surly's bikes can sometimes be glossed over and lumped together. The purpose of this post is to explain some of the differences between several Surly models that may appear to be very similar.

Obnoxiously, marketers invent categories just to sell product. So while we'll be discussing some fine points here, let's not buy into the validity of "lunch ride bikes" or "charity ride bikes" or any of that nonsense. We're going to focus on distinctions that are worth our time. I'll be spending most of this blog discussing the three bikes I've recently spent the most time on, and then at the end we'll broaden the scope to include a few other models.

It may help to imagine that these bikes are all characters in Super Mario Brothers 2. You can certainly beat the game with any character, but each is significantly different from the others. I've arranged the bikes along a spectrum with stability on the left and agility on the right.

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The straggler

I've had a Straggler for many years now, and we've been through a lot together. It's seen everything from pavement to single track and hasn't flinched at any of it. I ride it almost every day, am happy to ride it any distance and on most kinds of terrain. It's simple to convert the bike to a singlespeed and so enjoyable to ride that way that you may not convert it back.

I have ridden the Straggler into sharp turns with no brakes, assuming imminent death (it's a long story). I haven't asked a bike to corner like that before or since, but the Straggler handled those moments flawlessly. Note: take spare pads with you if you're riding in the mud in Oklahoma.

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Let's call this bike the Mario of the Surly lineup. It's responsive, but stable. For people who are new to the game, the bike is easy to control and, while being a workhorse, is pretty fast. For advanced players, there isn't a trick you can't do or a secret area you can't get to with this bike. Want to carry turnips around? No problem. Want to carry turnips overhead? That's...weird.

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The disc trucker

The Disc Trucker is a long and stable bike. It's very different from a Straggler. It doesn't want to get rad. It is still fun to ride on dirt, but it doesn't want to lean over or get up in the air. It doesn't want to go fast or slalom through trees or ride over logs. It will do those things, but it would much prefer going on a long tour. The Disc Trucker is a touring bike. It handles like a dream (Mario 2 was all a dream!) when it's loaded. It's a great bike when it's unloaded, and a very comfy commuter if there are no logs to jump between your house and your job. When you look at the Disc Trucker and the Straggler side-by-side, it's easy to see the similarities. Yet I cannot emphasize enough how differently they handle. The frame geometry and the shape of the tubing have astonishing effects on how these bikes feel. 

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We're going to call the Disc Trucker Toad. Toad is strong and doesn't jump well. Can you beat the game with Toad? You sure can. Can Toad carry magic potions and turtle shells and huge keys while remaining fast and agile? Yep. Just don't ask him to jump. 

*The Long Haul Trucker is identical to the Disc Trucker, but it has rim brakes. The Long Haul Trucker is also Toad. Two Toads!

  Disc Trucker and giant toadstool.

Disc Trucker and giant toadstool.

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The midnight special

I first saw the Midnight Special in a bar at a Surly event last summer. I stood there spilling the beer I'd forgotten I was holding onto the floor while verbalizing something like, "Oh no," because, well, have you seen the Midnight Special? 

This bike is new, so I may post a longer review once I've spent more time with it. Yet it only takes a few turns to notice the difference between this bike and the others. It accelerates faster. The handling is superb! The best way to talk about the handling is to talk about making biscuits. Know how it feels to press an overturned glass into biscuit dough that's been rolled out? It's soft and pliant and there's a twisting motion involved and some kind of oddly satisfying vacuum sensation? That's how it feels to corner on this bike--somehow sharp and pillowy at the same time. After I cornered for the first time, I laughed out loud and then swerved all over the street like a maniac, trying (and failing) to find the bike's limit. It's fast. Precise. Responsive. You can't lean it over too far, and it knows your intent in regards to where you want to go and how fast. It may look like a gravel bike, but it's a road bike. It really is. It's also a gravel bike. And also, have you seen the Midnight Special?

   Colorado pavement.

Colorado pavement.

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On our spectrum of stability---agility, the Midnight Special should be as far to the right of the Straggler as the Disc Trucker is to the left. Descending Lookout Mountain, the Midnight Special is unbothered by the switchbacks, even if they're a little sandy. It's really fast, unlike the Princess, but it floats and can change directions in midair, so in our analogy it'll be the Princess.

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Have I mentioned how well the Midnight Special handles? While climbing Red Rocks and descending Lookout Mountain I had to keep recalibrating my brain. It's like riding bikes while depressing the B-speed button.

  You will have to pee no matter which Surly you ride.

You will have to pee no matter which Surly you ride.

  You will have to pee probably because you met up with a bunch of other Surly riders at a brewery.

You will have to pee probably because you met up with a bunch of other Surly riders at a brewery.

  P.S. We'll ride bikes and drink beer with you no matter what you're riding.

P.S. We'll ride bikes and drink beer with you no matter what you're riding.

While the Midnight Special is a road bike, riding snow that's simultaneously bumpy and slushy is no problem (even while taking a picture). Jumping is no problem. Cornering on dirt is no problem. 

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What happens when you ride with 700 wheels? I have no idea, but I can't wait to try. Hopefully we'll have the chance to post another review in the future after we've had more time with this bike.

 

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THe Pack rat

The Pack Rat has to be Luigi because he's the only character left, and they're both green. That's about where the similarities end. To compare it to the other models, the Pack Rat is more stable than the Straggler (especially with a loaded front rack), but has a shorter wheelbase than the Trucker and feels snappier. While Surly rightly places this bike in its touring category, we here at Yawp! see it as an upgrade for the Cross Check. Sure, the Straggler is also kind of an upgraded Cross Check, too, but the Pack Rat is a little less expensive than the Straggler. Many of the people who use Cross Checks for commuters and urban bikes might find the Pack Rat well suited to their needs. Higher volume tires smooth out rough surfaces (I don't know about the rest of the country, but Colorado's pavement is rugged as a cowhand), and the stock parts spec is really great. Integrated shifter levers are easy to use, and the included 24-Pack front rack alone makes the Pack Rat a great value. The bike is designed around a front load, so there's no wheel flop when that rack is weighed down.

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If those descriptions don't help you sort things out, here are some helpful slides from Surly. I've used many of these bikes beyond their recommended surfaces, and things have almost always turned out fun. However, these graphs provide useful guidelines (sorry about the arm intruding into the last photo).

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To recap: the game is fun no matter which character you select. Some characters are probably better suited to you than others. Beware dinosaurs spitting eggs, and throw your vegetables.

Thanks for playing. You win!

The Ice Cream of the Crop; Fatbike World Championships

Yawp Cyclery

"It's been said that fatbiking is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience"
--Carl Sagan
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It is -10 degrees at 7:45am and I am walking through the town of Crested Butte. This quiet street smells of woodfire, and up the street a truck engine heaves and refuses to start. To be excited about a bike ride in such conditions is not sane, but what is sanity other than a human endeavor that's incompatible with the universe surrounding us. At least, that's what Camus thought. But I don't care about what Camus thought--it is the morning of the Fatbike World Championships, and I am ready to get crazy. It is ten below zero and it is time for ice cream.

  Photo: Brandon Stahnke

Photo: Brandon Stahnke

This is the third iteration of the Fatbike World Championships. Riders may choose to participate in a 3-lap ride of about eighteen miles or a 5-lap race of about thirty-two. Tires must be 3.8 inches wide at a minimum and at 8psi at a maximum. It takes place in the middle of winter at 8,900 feet in the Colorado Rockies.

That's absurd. 

Sometimes a fatbike ride is a fatbike ride, and sometimes it is a search for meaning in a cold and desolate universe. Camus said it first. That is more or less a direct quote.

  Photo: Rebecca

Photo: Rebecca

Human beings do a lot of things that are absurd. We do these things, it seems, to alter consciousness. Amusement park rides, bike rides, creating a work of art--these things briefly remove us from the mundane and from the torments of being trapped in a human mind.

Some absurd activities are too dangerous or grueling for my taste, but FBW is just the right combination of bicycles, foolishness, satire, camaraderie, and beer. Tying a number to your handlebars almost always means you're in for something "serious." At FBW, you can race seriously, if that's your thing, or you can line up next to the abominable snowman, a banana, and Scooby Doo, and be as serious as a flask of whisky will permit.

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I've participated in a fair number of endurance cycling events, and I've never seen so many high-fives, so many costumes, and so many people enjoying themselves. Several times during serious events I've seen someone get really upset because they aren't doing as well as they'd hoped--so upset that they've thrown their bikes. You can barely even lift a fatbike--let alone throw one--so what choice do you have but to enjoy yourself? 

  Photo: Rebecca

Photo: Rebecca

  Photo: Rebecca

Photo: Rebecca

The fields through which the course winds are so pretty it hurts. It's still and silent out there, except for the crawling crunchy sounds of big fat tires grinding along a groomed trail (off of which a few people wandered, judging by the sunken, semicircular depressions of front tires in deep snow with human-sized faceplant craters beyond).

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Grand settings like this one always remind me of Sagan's Pale Blue Dot, which for me expresses the idea of the absurd best.

  Photo: Voyager

Photo: Voyager

"We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

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"The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the pixel on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

  Photo: Rebecca

Photo: Rebecca

That may not seem to be about fatbikes, but it is. Our best human conceits are those that admit their folly right upfront. Then we can just calm down and have a really good time, and we can smile until the cold makes our teeth ache like they are about to crack apart.

Most people recognize my costume as some kind of bird of prey. This year, someone mistook me for an eagle. No big deal. Owls don't care about that kind of thing. (Never mistake an eagle for anything else, however; eagles are really uptight). But some people, like Rebecca, can take things just a little too far:

  Photo: Rebecca

Photo: Rebecca

Fatbike Worlds is really fun, and it's almost all fun. Admittedly, it's not completely all fun; it's difficult to eat and drink sufficient quantities when it's so cold, so the day is ripe for bonking and dehydration. The hot shower I took afterward was quite painful, and I myself was cold enough that I couldn't tell if the water was hot or cold. My skin was all colors of pink, white, red, gray, purple, and blue. None of that is what I'm thinking about now, though. I'm thinking about high-fives, jumps, sketchy cornering, that 70 year-old woman who rode IN A WONDER WOMAN COSTUME, and about seeing so many people grinning uncontrollably. 

If absurdists like Camus are right, then we are looking for meaning in a meaningless universe and any meaning we find is of our own making.

It's fine to make our own meaning, as long as that meaning has tires that are at a minimum 3.8" wide and are run at a psi of 8 or less. Camus said that. I swear.

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