In order to evolve into the thinking, building, producing, consuming, ordering, planning, texting creatures we are today, we humans had to ride/pioneer into the unknown.
Complex culture depends on the exchange of everything, exchange depends on established connections, established connections depend on travel and movement—but barriers always exist. Wilderness, fearsome and hazardous, is among the most impressive and iconic of the barrier class. To tempt its transit can invite dire consequences, but it is in our nature as humans to push boundaries, to make discoveries, and to know the unknowable.
But why a bicycle? Why not a donkey, a motorcycle, a helicopter, a sailboat or a simple pair of hiking boots? Because bicycles are the most pragmatic/useful/efficient means of personal transportation ever invented, that’s why! They cover ground at the ideal speed. They are dependable, simple, and adaptable. And they will carry everything you need them to carry: food, water, shelter, and yes, even entertainment such as a book and/or prosumer grade slingshot.
Let’s consider the alternatives for a moment. Have you ever tried traversing a mountain? You might have to feed a donkey, put gas in a motorcycle, and do so-many-things to a helicopter that we don’t have nearly the time or energy to enumerate. And yes, of course, we know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking what’s wrong with walking, the old standby? Or, “hiking,” as it’s known in adventure circles. It’s too slow, that’s what’s wrong with it.
Anyway, we believe that bicycles are the perfect vehicle for experiencing the unknown world. They travel at the right speed—it’s a scientific fact that 12 to 18 miles per hour is the optimal speed at which to view, engage with, and document the world—and they use the wheel, which, last time we checked sits in second place on the list of man’s best inventions.
- You have to go places because it’s in your nature and because civilization depends on it.
- Bikes are how you go places, unless you hate doing it right.
- And so now here we are. YOU ARE READY! You’re motivated and willing, ready to explore, discover, and pioneer in the wilderness—you know, up to a point.
But where should you go and how should do you do it? Don’t sweat it, we got you! Here are three rapture-producing bike rides in varying degrees of North America’s wilds. We’ve done them. We love them. We think you should do them. Here’s the who, what, where, when, and why.
Discipline: road cycling, best executed as sunset racing and metropolitan escapism.
The Draw: the thrill of unpredictable earthquakes; the Californian culture dichotomy; the Traverse Range.
- Start: Golden Saddle Cyclery, Los Angeles, CA
- Finish: Ranch House Coffee Shop, Gorman, CA
- Distance: ~ 125 miles.
- Time: One long day.
Precautions: Beware of California drivers. Wear sunblock, even in the winter. Especially in the winter.
The Story: Los Angeles and Bakersfield—one a cultural producer, the other an agricultural nexus—are two seemingly disparate cities whose respective vibes are separated by the Transverse Range. To travel between worlds, a navigable connection was attempted early on with the construction of the Ridge Route: a road that at the time connected the small ranch communities north of Los Angeles, to Fort Tejon, and later Bakersfield. Time and technology however have found the route abandoned, as Interstate 5 relegated the Ridge Route to a historical fetish—a reverberation of a romanticized past that now only exists when we imagine it.
The Takeaway: Los Angeles is world renowned as a sprawling expanse of concrete, communities, and consumption. In the face of this, the Old Ridge Road route is notable in that it takes you from the heart of this mega city to a forgotten stretch of road where one rides through a sepia-toned experience of forgotten time.
Discipline: road cycling, with a helping of bike-pushing through the snow.
The Draw: Sheetz, railroad tracks, American Legion Posts.
- Start: Pittsburgh, PA
- Finish: Washington, DC
- Distance: ~340 Miles.
- Time: Two to three days.
Precautions: Don’t go during a hurricane. Enjoy the smooth surface of the Great Allegheny Passage instead—the C&O path is in much worse condition.
The Story: This route follows a set of transportation corridors that were integral to sustaining the fantastic industrial growth of 19th and 20th Century America. While it is a testament to Yonder Journal’s legacy of misfortune that our attempt at completing this ride occurred while Hurricane Sandy was subjugating the East Coast, reputable sources who have made the passage on non-hurricane days report back that the ride offers an abundance of non-disaster experiential stimulation and easily accessible resources.
The Takeaway: If you manage to avoid a hurricane, then you’ll be riding through what amounts to a 340-ish-mile diorama of American history. And guess what, this route is dead–DEAD–simple. Once you get on it all you need to do is ride, no turns necessary. Plus, there are ample places to bask in nature (Ohiopyle State Park) procure food (Sheetz) and shelter (Morguen Toole Company hotel) along the way.
Discipline: Mountain fat-biking, floatplane riding, deep-backcountry wayfinding.
The Draw: Grizzly bears, sacred MTB lands, everyday a new pass, every moment an incredible view.
- Start: Tyax Cloud Camp, BC.
- Finish: Tyax Lodge, BC.
- Distance: ~70 miles.
- Time: Four days, four nights.
Precautions: Call up Tyax Adventures (which offers guided MTB tours as well as lodging) before you go; stay at Tyax Sky Cabin; bring bear spray.
The Story: BC is MTB hallowed ground. For the past few decades, big-travel mountain bikes have been de rigueur for shredding and blasting the well-known trails of BC’s coastal range and beyond. But BC is big, and the Chilcotins are mountainous with minimal access, rugged terrain, and hordes of intimidating animals enjoying seemingly endless wilderness.
Getting around here is difficult and road access is very limited—so we devised our route around floatplane access (offered by Tyax), a few established trails, and all-terrain-compatible bikes that would be capable of tackling a route that criss-crossed a long series of passes over four days and nights. Yes, being dropped off by a floatplane in the middle of nowhere in a sense means that we paid to be abandoned—but that abandonment makes the experience (if you survive) that much better!
The Takeaway: If you want full-blown backcountry bikepacking, it doesn’t get much better than this. Pack everything you need, leave everything you don’t, and prepare yourself for some of the best trails you’ll ever ride. Also be vigilant, as there are Grizzly bears all around; something has to guard these trails.