From the Silk Road to the Arctic Circle

We got this note and photo recently from Kate Harris whose book, Lands of Lost Borders, was just written up in the New York Times Review of Books. It’s been a good year for Kate, and if you’re looking for a good holiday (or any time) read, we recommend Lands of Lost Borders. It’s a good and powerful reminder of the value of exploration, no matter where you are.

Thanks so much for the newsletter love for my book, Seven!! I’m forever grateful for your support of our wild Silk Road ride, and I’ve taken my loyal Expat S steed on several bikepacking epics since, including a winter ride from Dawson City in the Yukon above the Arctic Circle to Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories via the now-defunct “ice highway.” Skinny wheels, studded tires, loaded bike, sheer ice—no problem. Warm wishes to all of you at Seven, and I hope I can someday get back to Boston and visit you!

Cheers,

Kate

The Four-Season Sola 2×2

Design Mission: Create the most capable four season bike possible. As cyclists we are keenly aware of the weather and the many challenges it presents. Any cyclist who lives in an area that experiences four true seasons, like our home here in Massachusetts, will want a bike capable of tackling whatever the weather throws at them.

After building about a dozen variants of a year-round bike, we packed all our experience and research into this one broad-use, high-capability bike.

For summer and fall, with 29er mountain tires, the bike is a fast and agile race-ready bike, setup for technical single-track and short, punchy climbs. In the winter and spring, with 27+ 3” tires, the bike can do anything and go anywhere, with or without studs, in snow, ice, mud, or frozen terrain.

See more photos and read all the details here.

 

A Study in Contrast

It was 13F at ride time this morning. Small flakes darted around on the wind. As the morning progressed, they got fatter, drifting and chasing each other into small cottony piles. We rode, and it was nice.  We like pushing ourselves through the falling snow, and there are usually fewer cars on the road.

It’s hard not to think of warmer days too, though.

Here’s a photo from FOS (Friend of Seven) Mike Bybee who was kind of us to put us in his new Sights of the Southwest 2018 calendar. Mike is an ardent explorer, bikepacker, and photographer. We built him this Sola SL 29er adventure rig a few years ago, and so he’s taken us on some incredible adventures.

Joe Cruz’s “Given by Mountains”

There are small adventures and there are big adventures. They are all good. We believe in the adventures our riders find at the ends of their driveways as much as the ones they find at the ends of the earths.

Here is a video our friend Joe made about his bikepacking expedition (a big word for adventure) to Kyrgyzstan. Joe rides a Seven Treeline SL.

 

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.