Springtime in the Pacific Northwest usually means a lot of rain, but on the days that the sun comes out – expect the trails bursting with color. We took full advantage of a sunny day by mountain biking at Syncline where we had sweeping views of the Columbia River and Mt Hood.
At the top of the trail, we even had an impromptu engagement photo shoot with a bouquet of trailside flowers. My partner Skyler and I got engaged only a week before, and our friend Rie thought it was the perfect time to capture our love in full bloom! We couldn’t have chosen a better backdrop to all the things we love – sunshine, flowers, mountains, rivers and mountain bikes.
We asked our Ambassadors to play with light for their spring theme. Alex Luise took it very literally and created a few really cool images of the Remote CTRL. He then compiled them all into a short YouTube clip. Long story short? The Remote CTRL is ready to party!
Kona Ambassador Barry McWilliams is an American transplant living in Berlin—a city rich in history, culture and…coffee. It’s safe to say that biking and coffee are pretty excellent compliments to each other. Cool mornings, hot coffee. Long rides and a little caffeine. The invigorating smell of coffee is enough to perk up the sleepiest cyclist. In Berlin, Barry and friends use #coffeeoutside as a means to explore some of Berlin’s historic parks and find that the city comes to life with a little bit of coffee and springtime light.
Kona ambassador Graham Beaumont isn’t any different than the rest of us that live in dark, dreary winter places. The Lake District in the UK is known for it’s damp winters when every day seems like a gloomy mud fest. This is fun…for a while. But as soon as the days start to stretch out even just a little bit longer, we all start to pine for summer. Graham took advantage of the evening light and shot a series of photos with Ben Gerrish aboard his Process 153 29 CR.
“There’s nothing better than razzing in the woods with your best buddies after a long day at work. Team that up with a post-ride BBQ and you’ve got a match made in heaven. Cheers to the lighter nights giving us more time to play out!” –Graham Beaumont
As winter comes to a close, my job as a photographer becomes more difficult. I have developed a style for the dark, dankness of the PNW. Light encompasses all that is photography and becoming a master at capturing light is an eternal journey. Through the human eye, light looks brilliant pretty much any way you look at it however, the lens of the camera sees a much more different picture.
My biggest challenge as a professional photographer has been getting myself to adjust for harsh conditions in the woods, to master this elusive image in my head. Often light looks really great coming through the trees but will cause the camera to darken a lot of the shadows so your subject is black and vice versa. This has been an eternal goal for me to face as I have been trying to figure it out for years now.
My techniques for capturing light amongst the thick PNW woods has been an artistic process. Often I feel the highlight is the priority which gives the photo a more dramatic look with darker shadows and often leaving the viewer curious for what’s behind the shadows. This I hope leads the viewer to use a bit of their imagination.
As I continue this journey through the light it often guides me while directing my eye to perspectives I normally wouldn’t see. I hope that you as a reader are able to appreciate the light on the same level I see it. It often brings me lots of excitement and joy to see it breaking through the fog in the early morning. I cannot express enough how in love I am with the surrounds here in Washington. Every day this state inspires me, drives me to get out and instills trust that life is a wonderful journey where change is always a constant.
Light and photography go hand in hand, the right light really does make or break a photograph so that was the task for this topic, go find some good light!
Unfortunately, all too often the weather does not play ball. I had high hopes for a recent trip to ride some new spots but the grey skies and moody mist didn’t let up all day. It was certainly atmospheric but that wasn’t the brief!
Two days bikepacking provided more opportunities and after a beautifully clear night under the stars, we were woken by the first soft rays of the day breaking through the trees.
Still not quite getting the light I was looking for there was only one thing left to do, drop everything if the forecast looked good and head to the hills in time for golden hour.
The light may have been inconstant but the new bike was anything but, from big jumps to all day epics the Hei Hei Trail hasn’t missed a beat!
With the idea to color up the woods in the night, Chris Hosper and I went into the woods at night armed with a camera, flashlight, craft paper, and a construction spotlight.
The construction spotlight gave little glimpse where the trail goes. Onboard my Kona Process 153 29er Enduro Bike it was a bit of a challenge to read the light up the trail. We were experimenting with colors but the red light came out the most rad. At least it was a little play on words, too.
I am filled with excitement to have an opportunity to build my ultimate dream bike. I also won’t lie–I hope to snag a highly coveted #KonaDreamBuilds patch in the process, too.
In this pursuit, I am starting with the gorgeously painted Kona Libre in a size 46cm frame. Out of the box, this bicycle is amazing as it is. I’ve been so tempted to ride it while I waited for parts to arrive, but I want my maiden voyage to be in the bike’s “dream state.”
I plan to strip the bike down to its beautiful multi-colored frame and then start building it back up. The Shimano 105 drivetrain will be replaced with Shimano Ultegra R8070 Di2. This will be my first foray into electronic shifting and I am ready for the challenge!
The 650b wheels x 47mm tires will be upgraded to carbon fiber 700c wheels and the tires will be replaced with a more tarmac-minded ride in mind, but still mixed-terrain friendly. 165mm Ultegra R8000 crankset and a left-arm power meter will keep tabs on my #withthesethighs efforts.
Will there be LIGHT at the end of this tunnel? Will I achieve “dream build” success? Stay tuned to find out!
Hopefully the build goes according to plan, so take one last look at this beauty before she gets upgraded. Stay tuned for the reveal!
When I mention to my riding friends that I
like bikepacking, many of them respond with “It’s too hardcore for me”,
especially the women. I’m perplexed by
this. I see my friends riding steep,
technical terrain on mountain bikes or doing long, hard gravel races during
early season conditions which tend to be muddy and snowy. This seems way more hardcore than a weekend
bike packing trip!
As a smaller rider, one thing I’m always trying to figure out with my next bike packing trip is how to make my gear even lighter. These are a few things I have learned over the years, both from bikepacking experience and extensive backpacking trips in New Zealand and Nepal. Doing a 15-day trek will certainly teach you a few things about keeping your gear as light as possible!
Tent Versus Hammock
Switching over to a hammock has been a huge space and weight saver for me and was a relatively inexpensive way to achieve the lightness. I would have had to either buy a very expensive, light bivy bag or an even lighter 2 person tent. Light tents = expensive tents. With more hammocks coming on the market, it made my decision easier. I’ve only bike packed in Ontario so far and there is no shortage of trees! Having a built-in mosquito net is super important too. I’ve spent many evenings reading my book, swaying in my hammock safe from the bugs. It is a convenient way to dry your riding clothes too!
Even if we only do a 2-night trip, a substantial amount of weight can be saved on lighter food. It also means you can bring more! Riding a fully loaded bike in either the spring or fall (bugs are overwhelming in the summer) burns A LOT of calories. I’ve been known to get hangry before…
By borrowing a friend’s dehydrator and his
mom’s food sealer we could make enough food to last for the season in just one
weekend. It is a fraction of the cost of
store-bought dehydrated food and also really tasty! We just mark on the outside of the packaging
how to prepare it (usually, just add hot water).
With the food being so light, we bring an
extra day’s worth. Or, it’s good to have
extra in case a friend you are with doesn’t attach his food bag well enough to
his bike 😊 Yes, that can happen!
This may seem crazy, but this is my
favorite piece of light bike packing gear.
I sleep better with the support of a pillow (I know, I can roll up some
clothes and use that but I often wear everything I brought to bed because the
weather is so sporadic!). This Klymit
pillow only weighs a few grams and works great!
If you do any travelling, I put it in my purse and use it to sleep on
airplanes or catch a few winks in an airport.
My old pillow wasn’t THAT heavy, but this is a simple and inexpensive
way to maximize comfort and keep it crazy light weight and small! This pillow
only weighs 54 grams.
Ok, so the fact I’m even bringing a chair might seem luxurious to some more serious bike packers, but in terms of comfort, this is phenomenal. For the majority of trips, we are using rustic campsites (i.e. a clearing in the forest near a lake or river) so there is nowhere to sit. The Helinox chairs are lightweight and very easy to strap onto the front of your sweet roll. To put it in perspective on our first group trip with 6 people only 1 person brought this chair. On the second trip, 4 people brought a chair and on the 3rd trip, all 6 of us had a chair. It makes the campfire so much more enjoyable. A great gift for someone who bikepacks.
Bike: Honzo versus Fatbike
The biggest way I’m saving weight this season is upgrading from an aluminum fatbike to a carbon Honzo! Even just decreasing the tire width will be huge weight savings in rubber, and the carbon frame will be lighter too. With the lighter bike, all of my bags will transfer over easily, so I’ll have the same capacity but it will make the climbs or long days that much more enjoyable.
Packing Strategy – Weight Distribution
From my backpacking experience, I learned that you want to keep your heaviest items centered as much as possible. When I’m packing my bike, I put my heaviest items (typically food and tools) in my frame bag, and also on my fork cages (stove/fuel and spare water). My front roll carries a fair load of weight with my hammock, sleeping pad and sleeping bag. Of course, my chair is strapped on too! My lightest items go in my hydration pack to compensate for the weight of the water (shell, first aid kit, phone, ID) and most of my clothing goes in my seat bag. As I eat down my food, I transfer things out of my backpack and into my frame bag to lighten it up even more.
There is that feeling at the end of a long day. You’re tired, bit
heavy, maybe you just finished work. But all you have to do is get on a bike
and fly… woosh! It all vanishes away so
quickly replaced by something else.
In the cycling world, we talk about ultralight bikes and gear; the weight, how heavy, how big?! How many grams, pounds, kilos do I have in these here panniers, fully loaded and packed onto this kickass Kona bike? Just enough (with maybe a few extras). But the weight goes away once we’re cruisin’ forward, up and down, back and around. The Sutra can carry me to innumerable places and with what weight?? It’s something I can lift over a shoulder, a fence, a boundary if needed.
Touring around the world, I want dependable, sturdy, reliable,
comfortable, robust, steel(!!). A bike who (it does become like a good mate
doesn’t it?) can handle a day flying down windy, bumpy, torn up roads in the
back country of China, slick snowy streets of Switzerland, or rocky gravel
trails in the wilds of Tasmania. 15% grade going up? Let’s race*! I’m in the
I never have a shred of doubt when I’m shredding on this Sutra “beast”. The sutra is strong, it’s sexy, it protects, it carries me the way, and I can carry it. It can handle that extra 2 liters of water, 6 packets of biscuits, 3 jars of peanut butter (ok, maybe just two). Of course, the essentials of a year on a bicycle are in there too. Are we getting heavier yet? Nah. It makes me so mobile, so agile, so ready to jump at any adventure handed my way.
The way I feel when I think about riding? Freaking happy. The way
I feel when I’m on my bike, free to go wherever the pedals will take me? Light.
The following is from Kona Ambassador Colt Fetters. This is Colt’s submission for our second ambassador theme, “Light.” You can see his first submission for “Winter,” here.
From Colt: “In celebration of daylights savings time, we decided to take out the bikes to explore parts of the Bears Ears in Southeast Utah. The extra hour of light gave us the ability to cruise 20 miles of dirt road with plenty of time for additional adventure. The Kona Wozo is equally at home in the desert, cruising sandy roads as it is munching snow in the mountains. The Bears Ears are known for their history and archeology of Ancient Puebloans. A hike up the ridge lead to a large panel of rock art and beautiful views of the desert below.”