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On the Road – Daniel Sharp at Oregon Outback

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Daniel Sharp and his Benedicto crew have been at it again. This time taking on the Oregon Outback. We find that the best thing to do with Daniel is to get out of the way and let his words and pictures tell the story, so we’ll do that. This isn’t nearly the whole story or all the pictures, just an excerpt.

I think I was nervous about the Outback. I didn’t sleep well for an entire week leading up to it. My mind was wound up with to-do lists and what-if scenarios. I had managed some good hard 60 to 70 mile road rides, but hadn’t done much fully loaded. What about the Bay Area Ridge Trail? That was 300 miles in 3 days, but that was six months ago and we packed light. What if I implode on day one?

dsharp_outback-26230001I think it’s funny that we went to great lengths to ride Amtrak down with the group. We stayed at the hotel where everyone departs, but when it comes close to “Grand Depart” time, we decided to head out a half hour early to “beat the pack” and avoid traffic. We had a 7:30 pm reservation at the Cowboy Dinner Tree. Not to be missed, they say. 30 ounces of steak, they say. Someone said if you want to catch your dinner time on day one, you’d better leave early.

dsharp_outback-26270023We roll out into cattle country and promptly flat at mile 43. You just have to give into these occurrences and help out as you can. We triple-team the flat change. Someone gets out the fresh tube and pumps it. Steve checked the casing and found a crazy little razor sharp sliver of stone protruding. We remount and keep rolling through cow country.

dsharp_outback-26300016How do you calculate the difference between pedaling a road bike with just two water bottles and minimal tools and a 50-pound loaded mountain bike? If math was your thing, I’m sure you could produce an equation, but I know what it feels like in my legs and in my mind.

dsharp_outback-26210023Our rollouts were pretty silent affairs. Nobody yelled “rolling out in five minutes.” You just silently stuff bags and fill bottles until it looks like everyone is ready. I like that unspoken group mind sometimes. Rolling out in the rain and chill is a bit of a somber affair that feels more like duty than a party.

dsharp_outback-26220012My right knee started to hurt at this point my mind started wondering if this was a trend, or just a momentary thing. Pavement turned to dirt, which led us to miles of descending. So much descending that you have to stop and rest and keep pedaling just to stay engaged. At this point we meet up with Bear Creek and things just get greener as we approach the reservoir. One last killer climb, though before a killer descent to the reservoir.

dsharp_outback-26270003Prineville was a turning point in our Outback. Mileage-wise we had completed 225 miles of the 363. Having completed two days was a huge boost in confidence. At this point, it felt like our bodies were adapting to the work and rhythm of bike by day camp by night. We started to get a feel for how much food we needed to pedal all day.

dsharp_outback-26330021I just keep making little goals. Just make it to that tree. Just make it to that rise up there. At some point the pure climbing gives way to rolling terrain, so good-sized climbs alternate with healthy descents.

dsharp_outback-26220017“Rise and shine cowboys – time to hit the road and pedal those bikes” yells a local woman cruising mainstreet at 6 am. She inspects a falling handrail on the vacant hotel and mutters something about how someone needs to get on these repairs. I think the hotel looks pretty good considering it was built in 1900. I read that the hotel shut its doors in 2009. At 7am one of the Outback riders rings the large bell next to the City Hall.

dsharp_outback-26220009And that’s it. No finish line, just the Deschutes River flowing peacefully by. We jump in and it’s bracing. It feels good to be done. Cold water feels amazing and it was the first shower I had in three days…I don’t think I really doubted I could do the Outback, I just maybe thought it might be harder…and maybe it would have been with different conditions.

Daniel rides a Seven Sola 29 SL.

Find the whole story and all the photos at Bendicto.co.

Horses for All Courses

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

JohnShredThree of us showed up for this morning’s shop ride on three different bikes (while others…ahem…chose to sleep). It’s only 10 miles, but all on twisty, rooted, rocky single-track, one of those cool stretches of uninterrupted dirt that seems so improbable so close to the city, but it’s a gift we avail of ourselves year round, year-after-year.

It was just the regular Thursday morning dirt commute, but here’s where it gets interesting. One of us rode a mountain bike with 2.3s. One of us road an Evergreen with 40c tires, and the third road a cross bike with 32s. None of us was out of our league, and none of us seemed to have too much bike. Were there differences in how we performed over the varied terrain? Sure. The mountain bike was fastest through rock gardens and over roots. The other two bikes were faster on packed climbs. But it all evened out, and we all had fun.

This was one of those cool, unintentional experiments that yielded reinforcement for an idea we’ve been nursing for a long time, that the common conceptions about the “right” bike to ride in a given situation are probably not more than reasonable suggestions, and that really, you just have to ride what you love.NeilNMatty Don’t get trapped by expectations. Be led by fun.

Matt’s Maneha 250 – In Photos

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Last week we told the story of the inaugural Maneha 250. This week we bring you more from that event, because it was just that good.

If you were to call Matt O’Keefe, our erstwhile production manager and bike handling guru, a visual storyteller, he would likely guffaw in your face, because he’s modest, and at root, he just likes to take pictures. He’s also a hell of a bike rider, and so, when we received his trove of photos from the Maneha 250, we had to share them. Matt makes 250 miles of self-supported, off-road riding look as good as it gets. If these don’t make you want to ride your bike, then you don’t like to ride bikes.

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Matt (right) with Seven bike builder Brad Smith.

 

 

Going to the Woods

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

7050643843_401b3e8d9c_zWe’ve already talked about Going Up, Going Far and Going Fast.  Going to the Woods is another thing we like to do, riding the jeep tracks and trails that crisscross our New England forests. We design bikes to go there in a few different ways.

Two crucial variables for any woods-oriented bikes are traction and speed. How will we keep the wheels on the ground, and how fast do we want them to move? Suspension is an option with our classic NE hardtail mountain bikes, the Solas and 622M SLX. They’re built to be fast over chattery, heavily-rooted ground and to climb the short, steep pitches we find all over. The Ti chainstays on these bikes act as de facto suspension systems, effectively keep the rear tire planted on the ground and rolling forward. For dirt road bikes, we can narrow the tires and build around a rigid fork, which will speed things up on less technical terrain.

b9325f7471c811e19e4a12313813ffc0_7Another key question is, how much ground are we trying to cover? Are typical rides of approximately the same length, as with a cross country race bike, or do they vary wildly, with marathon trail sessions coming as often as possible. Those two bikes differ geometrically, one built for agility and speed, the other for comfort and stability. We can build them as traditional trail bikes, or with rack mounts for bike-packing. Geometries can get more relaxed or more aggressive.

We also send our Evergreens and Expats to the trees. The Evergreens are designed to tackle mixed-terrain, some road, some dirt. The Expats are touring bikes. As with the other types of bikes we design, finding the balance points is key to delivering the right bike. Going to the Woods can add as many or more different variables than the bikes we’ve discussed in previous pieces, so working through all the basic questions is integral to the process.

 

 

Ricardo’s Sola S

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

This is our friend Ricardo’s Sola S, delivered through Bikestage in Madrid. Ricardo opted for a 142×12 thru axle rear end for his bike, and the final build came out very clean and spare. The bead-blasted logo gives it that touch of class, too.Ricardo_SolaS