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We Share the Trail

From the sights we pass to the places we stay and the people we meet along the way, riding a trail together is a binding experience. In Oregon and Colorado, five Rapha riders undertook their own journey along sections of the iconic TransAmerica Trail.

22 June 2021

On an early Tuesday morning in May, photographer and visual journalist Rue Kaladyte set out from Prineville for four days of riding through the Ochoco National Forest to Dayville. For the brave few who embark on crossing the United States by bike, the breathtaking hundred-mile stretch through Central Oregon either constitutes the first or last few days of the journey, depending on their direction of travel. Magnificent rock formations adorn this stretch which is boarded by tall pines. Along for the ride were two riders who are no strangers to multi-day bikepacking trips.

With several hundred thousand kilometres under her belt, Rie Sawada has seen the world from her saddle, cycling everywhere from the streets of Nagoya to the backwoods of Brandenburg and ultimately to Portland. Wherever she travels, her twin passions for coffee and her bike are brought along for the ride. Though globetrotting can be a lonely way of life, she finds that bikepacking helps her connect with the people she meets.

“Bikepacking is a communication tool. It makes it easier for me to communicate with people since I’m not that confident with my English. Being on a bike tour makes it easier to connect with people. Bike talk is easy.”

Riding alongside them on the trail was biker and grassroots organiser Molly Sugar, who has devoted herself to improving gender inclusivity and racial equity in the cycling community. While dedicated to her work with Friends on Bikes and Radical Adventure Riders, Molly can’t resist the lure of a bikepacking trip. Each cyclist Molly ventures out into the wilderness with, of which Rie is often one, enhances her experience on the trail.

“Once you’re out together, there’s this sense of calm. It’s easier to relate to other women. It’s empowering to get other women to go ride, to do something they might not otherwise do since it’s not typical that you see groups of women bike touring.”

A few weeks later, with Molly and Rie having cycled off for their next adventure, Rue heads on to Colorado. The next leg of her journey takes her from Frisco to Fairplay through Hoosier Pass, which offers spectacular views of the Rockies. There she is joined by her wife, ultra-endurance cyclist Lael Wilcox, who is usually tackling these trails in the delirium of the Trans Am Bike Race. In her triumphant turn at the race in 2016, Lael completed the entire route in just over eighteen days. Riding at a more social pace this time around, Lael reminisces about those excruciating mornings when gaining ground was her only priority.

“When I’m racing, I wake up after two hours of sleep, feeling like someone hit me in the knees with a baseball bat, but I have to get on my bike. For the first 20 minutes, I feel like I’m going to die, but then I warm up and I’m fine. It’s incredible that you can ride for 20 hours a day, feel like garbage one hour, and feel like a million bucks the next.”

On the road to Fairplay, the two join forces with Stephanie Puello and Krystal Salvent on the high mountain pass, two riders involved with Black Girls Do Bike. Stephanie founded the organisation’s Denver chapter where Krystal got involved last summer, bringing with her a passion for mountain biking. Together, the two inspire and support the Black women and women of colour in their community to get into cycling. Discussing the work they do with Lael, Stephanie shares the importance of building a community of Black female cyclists.

“It’s a space where we’ve been able to ask questions you perhaps wouldn’t ask at the bike shop or someone else of a different race. There are some things other folks just don’t understand. Questions like how we do our hair under our helmets. That’s something specific to Black women.”

Though they never met before this particular trip, it’s no coincidence that in 2016, Lael, Stephanie and Molly all travelled the same trail at the same time, each of them chasing a different goal. Molly just wanted to tour across the country, Stephanie was on her journey to becoming the first Black woman to complete the route, and Lael was racing to achieve the biggest win of her career by becoming the first woman to win the Trans Am Bike Race. Whatever it is that brings us to the trail, it’s the people with whom we share it that often shift our perspectives and make it an adventure. Whichever the trail you travel, you’ll always feel the riders who came before riding alongside you.

THE NOMAD COLLECTION

Made for discovery not speed, the Nomad collection draws its inspiration from the early adventurers who shared the trail. This women’s collection of adventure apparel comprises pieces developed to sustain comfort and performance during multi-day bike packing trips, featuring a design that harkens back to a decade of discovery.


 

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