I don’t know what to say here, other than this is another drab day for cycling journalism. Growing up in the midwest during the 80’s, I loved riding my bike but didn’t really know about what was really out there until copies of the stalwart cycling publications of the day started showing up on the publication racks of our local supermarket. My knowledge, and love, of cycling expanded with every flip of the page, and this has remained the case to the moment of this writing. There is no substitution for the feel of a print magazine, the back page ink migrating to grimy fingers as every picture, word, advertisement etched in the mind after countless thumbings-through. There will also be no substitution (or replacement) for Dirt Rag magazine.
Dirt Rag magazine was cut from a different cloth as it were, a publication well ahead of trends such as 29’ers, gravel racing, and they put on their own festival, Dirt Fest, which celebrated all things dirty. Their covers were spectacular and often true art, featuring incredible illustrations by artist Ryan Inzana. Their editorial section was pretty legendary, and they even gave my good friend Guitar Ted his start in Bike Writing back in another century. (shout out to GT!) I’m disappointed to see that they will not be switching to at least a digital-only format, but absolutely respect their decision to be done when they want to be done and not try gently gliding into a digital finish line somewhere down the road.
Its sister publication, Bicycle Times, was one of my modern day favorites and covered all the fringe “disciplines” others skimmed over: Commuting, Cargo Bikes, Gravel, Touring, and more. Bicycle Times sadly went by the print wayside a few years back, beginning a short stint as digital-only, which I imagine bolstered the decision to skip this step with Dirt Rag and exit the world gracefully. Thank you, Dirt Rag, for 30 years of dirty journalism, and for all that you have done for the cycling community, journalism, and the sport. Love y’all.
I’m going to try to say this as nicely as possible: Dave, piss off with that garbage. The UCI is trash, and one thing we don’t need out on the gravel is trash. Keep your money grubbing mitts out of the pockets of grass roots organizations and racers. We don’t need to be “governed” aka exploited by the self proclaimed overlords of the cycling world.
Expect to hear more on this later, I need to go ride off some rage.
This is the first in the “Fuel The Fire” series which takes a look at food for your ride. This encompasses anything from local restaurants to hit to dehydrated meals to bars, gels, liquids, gasses, plasmas, whatever can be used to fuel your fire out on the road. Taqueria El Tizon is a Las Vegas Staple and just a block off the Plateau Passage Route. I’ve named it as the unofficial starting point for this route to Durango, and encourage you to visit if you have a love for Al Pastor. They obviously do.
The following review is pulled mostly straight from my Yelp page where I also pollute the internet with opinion.
When you walk in to a taqueria, and upon peering back into the open kitchen you see Al Pastor spinning on a proper rotisserie, and a grill loaded up with whole carne asada flap steak, signs point towards your mouth getting into a bare knuckle brawl with some dangerously delicious tacos. El Tizon is such a place.
From the first moments as you ride into the parking lot your senses begin their journey to Taco Overload, the smells of the grill freshening the air with scents of char and what I can only describe as hope. Hope that the tacos were as good as that anticipation.
Spoiler alert: they are.
Our first trip was during lunch time on a Saturday and the dining room was appropriately abuzz. We ordered, I’m the only non-Spanish speaking person in my party and I pull a very typical move of a person in my station, trying to order an inordinate amount of tacos in Spanish (yeah, sorry, I’m a “dad” and kind of a Chad sometimes). The young lady taking our order has obvious experience with such chadliness and corrects my order to two tacos. Very smooth handling of the situation. By her, not me.
My order consists of a pair of Asada and a pair of Al Pastor because… well re-read the first paragraph. My family ordered 10 more tacos and the Al Pastor Nachos Supreme. Our order took a few short minutes to complete, meanwhile we stocked up on all three salsas, carrots and limon.
The tacos presented well, the Asada dressed in oven-baked beans, Al Pastor with the traditional cilantro and onion AND a sliver of pineapple atop each. Can we swear in these reviews? Because all I have is swear words of pleasure to speak of these tacos. You absolutely can not compare a proper rotisserie pastor with the typical marinated and fried version. Both good, but the “burnt ends” feel of the pork shaved from a spinning roast… i say gotdamn. These tacos will destroy your mind.
My second trip to El Tizon was the very next day. No shame in my game haha. While doing a little course recon for the PPR it was discovered that El Tizon was just off route and I happened to be hungry. Weird. I pulled up on the trusty Vaya, riding through those familiar smells from just a day ago, walked in and ordered an El Pastor burrito (hold the dad/chad comments). I ate the burrito. It was amazing and I think I’m going to go back there after I finish writing this paragraph for another. I can see a long future together, me my bike, and El Tizon.
I highly recommend you visit here when you are in town for whatever reason. There is so much more to the Tacos of Las Vegas than what you find on The Strip. So much more, and El Tizon will show you the way.
PS: the adobo (dark red) salsa is everything. The curious lack of chile toreados was odd.
One of the most important pieces of luggage you can lug on a bikepacking trip is the Seat Pack. You know what they say, keep your enemies close but keep your important, yet not too heavy, gear close to your butt. Seriously, that’s a real saying. Recently I took my trusty Fargo for a ride on the Plateau Passage Route to try out the Revelate Terrapin 14L seat pack for a Lil Bit.
The Revelate Terrapin 14L is a brilliantly thought out piece of kit wherein the dry bag portion of the pack can be fully removed, leaving the actual mounting system (which un-ironically resembles something of a turtle shell) securely attached to your seat post and saddle rails. Revelate, make a green version please and make the whole turtle reference complete. Anyway, the dry bag and mount are separate AND THAT SHOULD MAKE THINGS MORE SIMPLE, RIGHT? One would think. More on that later…
The dry bag of the Terrapin system is a single ended, roll closure situation with a bleed valve which allows you to purge air when the bag is sealed. The bag is shaped to the contours of The Shell, so you need to remember “logo on the drive side” when placing the bag into its home. You gotta get those logos placed in your Insta posts, right?
My favorite, and possibly unintended, feature of the bag in the context of my rig is that it can be removed from the bike and used as a pillow. I pack my entire sleep system (mat, sleeping bag, tyvek ground cloth) in a compression bag on my handlebars, the seat pack contains mostly soft goods spare clothing items. I wrap the dry bag in my down jacket, then boom. Pillow time. I ended up sleeping about 7 hours on the overnight due to the comfort afforded by this pillow action. It was pretty rad.
The star of this seat pack system is the newly-improved “shell.” You know what? It’s getting a little late and I should get some sleep then finish writing this after a wading pool’s worth of coffee. BRB.
Oh, hello. Where were we? Oh yes, sleep, coffee, review. Must be time to finish talking about the Terrapin 14L a lil bit.
LET’S TALK ABOUT SOME OF MY FAVORITE FEATURES OF THE MOUNTING SYSTEM, SHALL WE? First off, and this is a new feature, the bottom of the cradle is a hard plastic sheet which acts as a fender. I’ve often considered my seat packs a fender substitute, and Revelate just went ahead and made this seat pack an actual fender. I love it. There is even a little plastic clip on each side that will allow you to strap equipment to this plastic underbelly, if you have the tire clearance. On top of the mount you will find a draw cord system, which is great for strapping down your jacket or gloves to air out before packing them away. There are also a few rows of webbing loops for stashing and lashing, or mounting a D-ring for your camp cup. The new seat post mounting strap and hardware seems to be much hardier and secure than the original Viscacha (my go-to seat pack for years). The clip lock system for saddle rail securement is a little stiff at first, but it’s very secure. You should have no worries about whether or not your Terrapin will stay put, in fact it took a little work to remove it from the bike when the journey was over.
One of the issues I had with the Terrapin is the strap system which secures the bag into the holster. The good part, and very smartly done, is that there are two different sets of loops to use. This means if you need to wear your jacket for a bit, you can simply remove said jacket from the dry bag, roll the bag back up with a few extra rolls, and use the second set of loops (closer towards your saddle), to secure the bag without the need to readjust the strap length. Kudos, amazing, yeah, great. The not-so-great part, and maybe this is a user headspace and timing issue, is that the metal hooks at the end of the securing straps will dangle straight down into your spokes when they aren’t attached to the loops in which they were intended to live. The VERY FIRST THING that happened after mounting the cradle to my bike was a very awesome straps getting stuck in the spokes and tangle up quite a bit. This was in my garage and easily remedied with some obscenities and rolling the wheel back a bit, but I see it as a potential safety hazard. Maybe its a safety feature? If you ride off without securing the dry bag, the straps catch in your spokes and stop the bike to remind you that you should have secured the dry bag. Sort of like that annoying dinger that dings away when you don’t have your seatbelt fastened, but with the added benefit of potentially destroying your rear wheel or worse. Whatever the intention, make sure your get that stuff locked down before you take off.
Another small issue I had on the ride was that undoing the metal hooks from the eyelets was difficult with cold hands. It may take some practice, or become easier as the bag breaks in, but most times I needed to get into the bag there was at least a small level of difficulty. Silver lining: I am absolutely certain that, when properly secured, the dry bag has zero chance of accidentally coming loose. Won’t happen.
All in all, the Terrapin 14L is a beast of a bag and a worthy addition to your bikepacking kit. It’s also very fairly priced at $155USD, just a bit more than the average seat pack and for something most definitely beyond average.
If you are one of those types who are wondering about anything gravel, I’d like to direct you to a corner of the inter webs which can enlighten you as such. The folks over at RidingGravel.com have a combined 10 billion years experience out there on the rocky roads (it’s true, I’m not exaggerating at all), and are sharing the sage wisdom gained from said billennia experience with Gravel Freaks world-wide daily.
Go visit them today and check out all they have to offer, which is pretty much everything you would need to know about how, when, why, where, and what to Gravel. They already knew the answer before you had the question.
If you’ve been following along here, you’ve gotten more Plateau Passage Route Posts than you were bargaining for, as if you were bargaining for any to begin with. This past Thursday I finally set out to conquer Segment 1 from Las Vegas to St. George, UT. I wrote a little post about it, wanna hear it here it goes…
Thursday morning started off much like any other Thursday morning: wake up early, coffee, breakfast, nice talk with LT, watch grumpy teens be grumpy about their morning. There was one glaring deviation from the norm this time, though. I was leaving on a much planned and dreamt about journey towards St. George, UT shortly after the house emptied out its other human contents. My nerves were also pretty standard for a long solo ride departure: a little jitter, a little quitter. If you have done anything “big” by your own standards, you probably get what that means. It’s easy to think about quitting before you even start. It’s called convenience, I’m sure you have heard of it.
When the house was finally down to just me and the fur kids, it was on. There were a few last minute things to tend to such as changing the pedals on my bike (always a great idea to wait until the last possible minute on that task) and making sure all the things were tightened, strapped down, or otherwise secured to the bike. Everything checked out, tires were inflated to pressure, water full, and it was time to lift off.
The beginning of the ride is an easy roll down Hollywood Blvd’s brand new protected bike lanes to the entrance to the Wetlands, my official start to the route (which isn’t the official start to the route). I made the gradual left arc towards Lava Butte and prepared for what was to come, which ended up being a little easier than doing the LB run from the Lake Mead side. There are a few nasty descents, but for the most part it’s a beautiful off road way to exit the city. At mile 17 I passed through the Lake Mead Recreational Area toll booth and on to 50 miles of paved (yuck) glory to Valley of Fire State Park.
The goal for the day was to make it to the VOF entrance sign before sundown, and considering I was a little late out of the gate it was going to be a challenge. I’d love to sit here and write some incredible story of what transpired, but as there were no flat tires it was pretty standard. Here’s some highlights as I’m still feeling lazy and am only writing this because someone wants to read it. Wink.
The Park Ranger at the toll Lake Mead gate was astonished at what I was about to do. I appreciated his seemingly feigned awe.
I found a pack of Marlboro Reds strewn about the middle of Lava Butte trail, whomever dropped those is going to miss them a lot more than I miss smoking them. Not gonna lie, I did consider picking a few up for the trip. I didn’t
I was, of course, passed by the usual super kitted up roadies. Happens every time I ride this road, this time is was a pair of dudes in Castelli full kits buzzing by on their cool carbon road bike with the accompanying sound of aero carbon wheels whooshing by. I said “hey, look at you two” and laughed a little. They seemed unimpressed as to be expected. There was also a follow up solo dude a ways off the back. I suspect these guys ride out to Redstone, which is kind of the unofficial “summit” for this road, allowing them to ride a billion miles back to the entrance. Anyway, I didn’t miss my roadie sighting or their return zip past my slow ass climbing yet another hill.
I stopped at mile 31 for a lunch of madras lentils, a little chocolate, and of course water. Super exciting
The scenery was as breathtaking as usual as was the trash in order: License Plate, Cooler Top, Pool Noodle, Orange Squirt Gun. Every time I pass these I wonder if everyone who passes by these odd pieces of trash make the same mental inventory. Picking them up seems a disservice to the cycling community of the greater Lake Mead area, one part of me wants to properly dispose of these items, the other part of me doesn’t want to throw someone else into a state of mental chaos trying to figure out if they are lost, on the wrong road, or if someone was responsible enough after all these years to finally do some trash removal. I’m not going to be the one to cause such madness, and I fret that some other potential do-gooder may incite the same wild paranoia in me. Feels awfully Lovecraftian.
My rear brake was being a real butthole and at one point had to pull of the road and do a hard reset on the caliper. I even screamed “DO NOT MAKE ME TURN THIS CAR AROUND” at thing. This helped a bit, but the goddamn thing was noisy for the entire ride. It’s on the maintenance list, as well as the shit list.
I stopped at Redstone picnic area, which is a dune off the side of the road that has a little hint of Valley Of Fire to it, and I still suspect that this is where the mysterious roadies do their turnaround. Yes, still, like from a few bullet points ago. Upon arriving I was greeted by the same crow that is always perched atop the highest rock, doing his job giving everyone the “ka-kaw” and probably practicing a little bird judgement. It’s a really fantastic spot to have a picnic, and has restrooms and a small hiking loop to walk off your picnic foods.
After Redstone I started thinking about an old friend whom had passed away this week. I dedicated my ride this day to him, as he would have really loved to be a part of it. Had a good cry about him for a few miles, Rubber Side Down even in the afterlife, Dan. Thank you for the opportunities and friendship.
I rolled past Blue Spring, where LT had rescued me from a pretty brutal storm a few weeks ago, and took stock of the sun position. I had just enough time to make it to the Valley Of Fire sign. It’s on!
I went, for all I could muster, full on sprint for the next few miles until reaching the turnoff. They put the sign back a few miles off the road. Dirty trixters, but I made it and got the picture. Yay.
As the sun set I FaceTimed LT and shared a bit of the day’s shenanigans, then set out to find a camping spot. It was super dark.
Ended up “camping” at the Visitor Center right around the corner from the water bottle filling station. It was incredibly windy, but a south wind, so I was well sheltered by both the building and the knowledge that in a few hours I would wake to the south wind and let it carry me through the park and on to Overton.
I apologize for this being in bullet points. Maybe next time it will be a slide show.
And with that, day one was over. 69 miles, 4900ft of climb, zero energy left. I laid my head down on my seat pack/pillow and tried to get some sleep before starting off on day two.
Were the final words from Super LaLa this morning as she left for school, and if I follow her advice they will not be her actual final words to me. Why was I receiving such a seemingly morbid farewell from such a super Lala?
I am leaving for 4 days on the Plateau Passage Routethis morning, the culmination of a few weeks of planning and route recon. It’s going to be a little dangerous out there, and this is by proper definition my first real bikepacking trip. My experience up until now has been more “gravel packing” or long distance “road packing” as this was the the reality of bikepacking in my native midwest. Riding the outback trails of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah is a totally new world and basically like riding on the surface of Mars. Honestly, a lot of what I’ll be riding does resemble the surface of the Red Planet. Maybe I’ll meet Kuato? I wouldn’t mind a battle to the death with Michael Ironsides, though. Been waiting to fight him for decades.
We gathered around the kitchen table for a nice family breakfast of omelets, hash browns, and cinnamon rolls thanks to the tag team of LT and yours truly, and traded the usual jabs about the usual things like who’s always late in the morning or who did or didn’t do their chores the night before. It was a great scene that made me very thankful for where the glacier of life has dropped me. This incredible farewell breakfast was fit for any tour depart, and almost overkill from what I’m akin to for a little a four day excursion into the mountains.
This morning truly made me want to have fun and not die, and return in one piece to share the tales of my travels with the family over our planned taco dinner Monday night. You can’t beat bookending a bike ride with two great meals.
I just realized depart time has passed, so it’s time to GTFO. Have a great weekend, and I will try post some pictures during my ride sometime between having fun and not dying.
No, this is not some Sci-fi fantasy short story about a fictional hero answering to the name Wampak who uses its powers of extreme hydration to defeat the giant ugly bib-shorts-only clad beast named Zwift…
Or is it?
This morning LT and I were discussing the difference in the meaning of cold between the Southwest and the Midwest and how back in my Midwesterner days I would have to ride with my hydration pack under my jacket because it’s around -40f wind chill this time of year. Frozen water bottles aren’t a lot of help on long distance rides. We had a chuckle about how 34f this morning felt “cold,” then moved on.
Moments later I get an email from none other than Revelate Designs out of Alaska (real cold). Their Wampak hydration bladder carrying system is back in stock AND GUESS WHAT? It’s designed specifically to be worn beneath your outer layers and uses your body heat to keep that precious water from freezing when it’s -40f. What a concept.
This is a product that will hopefully never be of use to yours truly, as I intend on skipping Actual Winter for as many years as I can. You, on the other hand, may possibly need something like this to ease the planning of your cold winter rides. Hydration is a big issue in freezing temperatures. Get ahead of that game and STOP RELYING ON SMART TRAINERS AND APPS TO “RIDE” DURING THE WINTER.
What a day to be alive on gravel! PNWC has come a ways since they were mainly known for a mud fender and a cool handlebar mounted basket, recent times have found them also developing more gravel-centric gear such as this new The Coast Stem and Ultra-Wide drop bar.
The bar is essentially a super-wide take on the Salsa Cowchipper dirt drop, and the stem is meant to be used in place of your current stem to bring the bars in and up a bit to accommodate for the extra arm stretch akin to such width. I’m not completely sold on this new “bars so wide they don’t fit down a hallway” movement, but maybe I’ll end up with a set of stupid-wide bars to test at some point. Hint hint.
The REAL star of this show, for me at least, is the The Coast stem and its optional (but included) light/GoPro mount. As manufacturers of off road rigid forks continue to forget that many of us Adventure Cyclists would like a crown-mount for our dyno lights, we need a hero like PNWC putting out stems like this. Sure, there are offerings from big manufacturers out there, but this particular stem seems to be the jam for gravel grinders and bike packers who are looking to get their light up and over their handlebar, but also off their bars, AND not have to use some sort of gangly contraption to do so.
Kudos, PNWC, I will be adding a The Coast stem to my bikepacking rig for a test run, and to bring my Luxy bars in a bit. They are also ultra wide and you’ve made a stem that will move them exactly to the position I’ve been thinking of.
From the PNW Components site:
The Coast Drop Bar and Stem are the latest introductions to the PNW Components gravel and road product line. Coupled with the Coast Stem, the extra width, exaggerated flare, shallower drop and shorter reach of the Coast Drop Bar creates a smooth ride that allows you to cruise and sprint in an ergonomic position.
— Read on www.pnwcomponents.com/blogs/news/introducing-the-coast-dro-bar-and-stem
I’m a Salsa person. If you know me, you know this. My collection of Salsa cycles was at one point on par with any out there, and one of my favorites was the first year of the Carbon Warbird (I had the Rasta Bird, which is pretty funny if you know me) This was the year they REALLY started firing on all gravel cylinders. I had very few complaints aside from the unfortunate-for-me colourway, I suppose the lack of fork bosses or dyno light mounting/internal wiring was there (easily remedied by using a Rodeo Spork fork or something similar). No biggie.
The Warbird Aluminum was one of the first bikes marketed as a “gravel bike” and seemingly opened the floodgates to other manufacturers’ many attempts to copy or best the Salsa design. Now, over a decade (I think) later this 2020 iteration of the stalwart Salsa Gravel Bike looks to be The One. Take a look at the sweet colors, tweaks, and sick robotic shifting parts that could possibly be another way for SkyNet to destroy the human race. Think about it, an artificial intelligence that would know when to cause fatal mechanicals on a bike clearly meant to be ridden by only the strongest of body, mind, and wallet that the human race has to offer.
DAMN YOU SKYNET!
Introducing the Salsa Warbird gravel bike lineup for 2020.