Joe Cruz in Croatia

Another missive from our buddy Joe, adventure cyclist/philosophy professor, this time from Croatia. Beautiful images. Good words. All his. All adventure. Read on.No place is a unity, not if you’re open and look to learn something even from small things. In riding in Croatia, then, we didn’t find it to be one place. But the diversity was macroscopic, ranging over the thick parts of culture and movement and affect. In a single day we might pack up our gear from a woodland camp, take lunch dockside in the swirl of festive Europeans on holiday, clinking white wine glasses and bobbing yachts as backdrop. We might then climb on rutted tracks between centuries old stone goat fences up through half abandoned villages—cherry and apricot trees twisting in brightness—to pedal with our hearts in our throats through uncleared landmine acres, then sit at mountain camp with grinning Croatians sharing their stew and bread and stories. The next day we’d drop down off the ridge again.

Our hours were that kind of glorious haphazard fabric, unexpected warp and weft. The only constant was Homer’s wild northern sea, the Adriatic, always in sight or at least its suggestion.

Another evening after a restaurant dinner, the owner talks about her family’s olives, how when growing up in the era of Yugoslavia she used to drink olive oil as part of becoming strong for gymnastics. She doesn’t say so, but her voice suggests that it’s also a metaphor. With the sun a few fingers over the horizon, we pedal to a late ferry to Krk. When we reach the island, it’s plenty dark so our headlamps go on and we ride onto a dirt track, looking for a camp spot. The riding is rugged, dry. Demanding though buoyant. Water will be hard to find for these coming weeks. We’ve learned to spot the wells, low stone chimney looking blocks with an iron lid. Looking down at our reflections, the rain water is placid in the catch, three meters down. We lower an improvised pail, a cut in half soda bottle with a long length of wire. Jack carries the wire coiled on his saddle bag, I carry the bottle strapped on my front roll.

Later we feel the accumulation of ascent, scaling passes into a cracked plateau with the white gravel track disappearing before us deep into Velebit National Park. There’s a feeling of remoteness that we didn’t expect: from towns and people, of course, but also from the recent history of this region, as if the crags are trying to be a sanctuary from memory. For the first time on the trip we’ve had to put on our jackets against chill and a greying sky.

In total we ride a mix of demanding mountain bike track, dirt roads, asphalt that remains new in the way that only sunny warm climes can allow. We sweat and bend our shoulders against the sky, exalt in long descents and sometimes push our wheels up through thorny brush to emerge into expanse. We visit a Croatia that’s wilderness, that’s jumping accelerating commerce, that’s nearly silent alleys. We stop at the Nikola Tesla museum to have our arm hairs stand straight up near the big coil. We ride around holes in the tarmac where we can’t tell if they are from heavy truck tread or from shell fire twenty-five years ago.

Croatia unfolds to us and our days there are far too few.

Joe Cruz is a professor of philosophy, an expedition cyclist, and an ambassador for Seven Cycles. Find more of his words and images at joecruz.wordpress.com and on Instagram @joecruzpedaling.

Joe Cruz in Cuba

Joe’s been on the road again. Who dreams bigger? Who seeks adventure like Joe? Here he is #evergreening Cuba over his holiday break. Text and photos, his.

Clack clatter sliding shush as they get mixed up before the round, or later the slap flourish when you put down a domino especially well played. Sounds from when I was young and sitting across of my father, he’s gone so I’m savoring this moment that we’re laughing and carrying on. Sweat coming off my elbows, bottle of Havana Club passed ‘round again. Dust midday haze heat when we rolled into town, asked after maybe something for lunch, this open sided cafeteria had run out of eggs for the pan con tortilla so we’re guzzling lime sodas instead as a break and regroup. The three guys in their 20’s saw my too long look at the white tiles, big hearts and grins like so many Cubans we’ve met, asked if I wanted to sit and play. When I got shellacked in the first round they didn’t say a thing but when it came back and I won, just raised eyebrows and cheerful teeth whistles. Linger long enough to be grateful and polite, we’ll get back on and pedal through sunshine and suspicions that the ocean is just 10k away.

Cuba of images and glimpse is chipped plaster glorious Spanish moorish buildings as if from a movie set, mazes of music, oceanside fortresses, mid 20th century Detroit curved cars, 2am salsa dancing, mojitos palm trees hand rolled cigars Fidel Castro murals. We find all of that, but riding from end to end east west we also and most of all find Cubans’ eyes glinting with reflection and pride to talk about their home and to open it a little to us.

Our route, a broken meander on the smallest back lanes, cow paths, stony hike-a-bikes, with a dose of wading and lifting sweat skin biting fly swatting. Our light fast drop bar knobby tire bikepacking rigs, January riding in t-shirts and sandals, big mileage days or cross-eyeing steep pitches. Hundreds of kilometers of rattling dirt farm roads, we’ve wild camped and set up our tents on people’s porches and in their yards and on ball fields, had water offered to us from ice filled gas cans strapped to sugar cane harvest machines. That one night 4am wide awake in our sleep sacks in a town gazebo hardly could be happier listening to the karaoke that’d been going on for hours on a Saturday night. We’ve jungle bushwhacked and sand surfed to sleep on the beach and swim in jade water cenotes.

In a month we find no singular place that is Cuba, instead fractal shards where every deeper shape contradicts the emergent ones. We know something of the history of the revolution, Hemingway’s idealized Caribbean paradise displaced, Cold War stasis or crisis communism, and we can see it on the landscape and in the impossibly flattened economy where surgeons make fifty US dollars a month and farmers make twenty five. But then there’s simultaneously something else, a lucidity and humanity in the idea—made explicit in the words of people whose daily rhythms are rural and local but for all that are also globally conscious—the idea that was told to us, we Cubans may be poor but that makes us all in this together, we help each other, no one is better than anyone else. A rancher who shares his homegrown coffee with us says that he wishes Cuba was a little more like the USA, but not too much like it.

It astonishes us every day, we’re breathless in its self aware narrative.

Back home when we were packing our gear and zooming in on maps to link together towns we assertively couldn’t find out anything about, we reveled in the sense of horizon. Our times in Camagüey and Santiago and Viñales and Havana are splendid, but in between is where we found the thick experience of just movement and days. The generosity we meet is visceral, joyful, it’s here you are in a sliver of our lives and we’ll embrace you. And after evenings in people’s homes or in roadside shacks knocking back dubiously cold Cristal beers in the company of so many, the bright smart smile and handshakes and cheek kisses has transformed us into and through friendship. Nuria, after she took us in, insisted and fed us the most elemental delicious dinner, and in the morning as we were leaving she rubbed the skin on her arms, black as coal, and she said my skin is this color and yours is different but we’re family and we can’t forget that. We won’t.

Joe Cruz is a professor of philosophy, an expedition cyclist, and an ambassador for Seven Cycles. Find his other stories and images at joecruz.wordpress.com and follow him on Instagram @joecruzpedaling.

Seven on the Stelvio

We had these photos and message from John P in our inbox this week.

Hi Seven,

Since my last email I’ve done a second trip with my Airheart, this time to Italy (Monte Grappa and the Stelvio Pass) and France (Alpe d’Huez). As with my Maui experience the Airheart performed flawlessly and turned a few heads as ‘coupled’ travel bikes are known but rarely seen.

I’ve added a few pics from my Stelvio ride…

Sincerely,

John P

Joe’s Expat SL

Here is a do-everything touring machine we built for Joe with our friends at Spokes, Etc. in Alexandria, VA. This Expat SL incorporate S&S couplings, front and rear rack & fender mounts, a kickstand, Rohloff belt drive, generator hub, extra water bottle mount and a pump peg. We like this build because it really demonstrates the extent to which a rider can personalize a Seven to produce what is, for them, the ultimate bike for the purpose (or many purposes).

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Photos by Mike Gregerson

John’s Airheart

IMG_4588This is John and his Seven Airheart. We built this one with our friend Eric at Pleasant Hill Cyclery. John went with a simple matte black paint job over his steel frame, then built the bike out with wide range Shimano Ultegra cassette and a set of Rolf Prima Elan wheels.

He says:

IMG_4160Hi Seven,

I hope all is well with you… apologies for my delay, I built out my Airheart in March. Since then I’ve done a number of short to long, easy to tough rides and throughout the Airheart performed much better than originally anticipated. I cannot detect any difference in performance from having frame couplers and not. As far as where my Airheart fits in my ‘bike’ world… right between my Merckx and Parlee. I would have no issue if I my Airheart was my ‘only’ bike but I’m glad I have all three !!

IMG_9069I‘ve included a few pics of the final build and from my first [airline] trip to Maui and Haleakala Crater. Jeez, packing the Airheart was so much easier with the Rolf Prima wheels as the cassette, shaft and free-hub easily come off.

The total bike weight less water bottles and saddle bag is 18 LB., just a half pound heavier than my Merckx EMX-5 and 2 LB’s heavier than my Parlee Z5.

Many thanks to you and Seven Cycles !!

Sincerely,

John