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Eric Parsons
March 8, 2016

Pancho – Guest Post by Lael Wilcox

Posted by Eric Parsons

Written by Lael Wilcox, photos by Nicholas Carman

Riding out of Bahia Los Angeles, under the sun with a tailwind, Nick and I get in a fight because I want to run and he wants to keep moving forward. Fueled by temper, we ride fast through afternoon until we reach a crusty old car tire marked “San Rafael” with an arrow pointing to the beach.

San Rafael is a dot on our paper map. Sometimes these dots are pueblitos, sometimes single family ranches, sometimes mission ruins and sometimes just plain ruined. You never know what you’re going to find in Baja. Tracing lines on a map is much different than riding them. Roads are good. Weather is good. Our biggest challenge here is water. Baja is a desert. We’re always looking for people because if you find people, you find water. They need it as much as we do.

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We turn off to San Rafael. Just above the beach, there are a few shacks and a trailer. A sign up front says “beer and camping”. A dog barks. I knock on the door of the trailer. There’s tv noise and then it’s quiet. Thin and older, a man opens the door. He doesn’t fill out his jeans, but he wears big boots. It’s Pancho. He welcomes us like unexpected friends and we follow him to the shack next door.

Once inside, Pancho sets a pot to boil on the propane stove.

Nick asks, “Cerveza?”

Pancho doesn’t have any cerveza because he doesn’t have a lot of visitors right now and if he had beer sitting around he’d drink it himself and he doesn’t need to drink beer.

Okay.

Pancho asks, “Café?”

I shrug towards Nick and he shrugs back.

Por favor.

The water is hot. Pancho sets out nescafe and sugar, and as an afterthought, powdered creamer. I stir in coffee and warm my hands around the cup.

Pancho seats us at his table. He’d also like to invite us to a fish taco. I decline– we have food and everything we need. He insists and I agree.

He opens the lid of a pot on the table. It’s full of fried fish. He opens the one adjacent, it’s full of

frijoles. He refries the fish on the griddle, reheats the beans and apologizes because he doesn’t have any tortillas.

We do!

I go out to the bikes to retrieve the tortillas. Pancho fries them with the fish.He sets out two plates– one in front of Nick and one in front of me.

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“You’ll eat with us, right?”

“Of course.”

He sets out another plate for himself.He fills the plates with fish and beans and one little langosta. He sets out a jar of mayonnaise, hot sauce and the tortillas. We each grab a tortilla and Pancho leads. He dabs a fork in the mayonnaise and spreads it on half the tortilla. He fills the middle with fish and a dash of hot sauce. We follow suit and then we eat.

Tasty!

We eat and talk– mostly we just eat. And then we’re tired.

Pancho suggest we camp behind the shack because it would block the wind, but the best camp spot is on the beach. He’s built walls around a palapa and spread gravel over the sand. We can sleep where we please, so we head for the beach. He’s right. It’s exceptional. Should we swim? It’s chilly, but we’re dirty. We strip quick and run into the sea. The water is salty and cold and glimmers in the moonlight.

We dry off in the breeze on the walk back to the palapa, lay out our sleeping bags and fall fast asleep.

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Awake before first light, I sneak out of the palapa for a run. I run a dirt road away from the beach and towards the mountains. The sun rises through clouds over the Sea of Cortez. On the way out I see five coyotes, on the way back, cows.

Back at the palapa, Nick has already packed up my sleeping bag and filled up my water bottles. This guy is too good to me. We’re ready to set out. We push our bikes back up to the shack to say bye and thanks to Pancho.

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He stands at the table, rolling out flour tortillas. He spreads them on the griddle to cook– three at a time. He flips them with his fingers and stacks them in a towel once they’re cooked.

“Café? ” He smiles.

Por favor.

He refries the fish and reheats the beans and resets the table and we eat more fish tacos.

I ask about the cows. Why are there cows on the beach?

Oh. He shrugs, “Pancho has a ranch a kilometer away.”

“Pancho? Aren’t you Pancho?”

“Yes, another Pancho. We’re both named Francisco, so we’re both called Pancho.”

“Oh, you’re Pancho and he’s Pancho. You catch the fish and he has the ranch.”

I make a mental note so I don’t get confused. Our Pancho is Pancho Pescado, the neighbor is Pancho Rancho.

“Yeah, Pancho (Rancho) is strange. Last time I saw him, I invited him in for coffee, but he didn’t have time for coffee. People are strange.” Pancho Pescado waves his hand in dismissal.

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We talk about San Rafael. Pancho Pescado has lived here for 35 years. He doesn’t have a car. He has everything he needs. He has many American friends that visit him every year. They bring him water every now and then, but it rained so much in September that he trapped two big barrels of water and he’s set for months.

“Rain?”

“Yeah, huge storms.”

Then we hear an engine approach.

Pancho Pescado gasps, “It’s Pancho (Rancho).”

We sit quiet and sure enough a big barrel of a man in a cowboy hat and boots comes walking through the door, holding an empty coffee cup. His little wife limps in behind.

“Hola, Pancho!” The man beams.

“Hola, Pancho!” Pescado returns. The little wife waves.

“Café?”

“Por Favor.”

We all drink a cup of coffee and the Panchos shoot the shit like the best of friends. Then Pancho Pescado gives Pancho Rancho a fish taco that he eats with gusto. He gives the little wife a langosta.

She holds it for a minute and then tucks it up her sleeve for later.

We pull out the map and ask about the road to Santa Martha.

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Pancho Pescado knows that motos take that route. Pancho Rancho hasn’t driven it for years and thinks it may be storm-damaged, but passable. The major challenge is water. They know of a family twenty miles down in El Progreso, and then a few houses in El Barril. We can ask along the way.

After a second cup of coffee, they walk us out to the bikes so we can get riding. On the way, Pancho Pescado points out a crack in his fishing boat. The Panchos take a minute to discuss it and then we walk to the bikes. Pancho Rancho squeezes my fat tires. The dog nips at the wife’s sleeve– where she’s still hiding the langosta. She shoos him away and he turns to my bike and pees on it. We all laugh and wave goodbye. They go back to the boat problem and we head out on our bikes.

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lael tires

Eric Parsons
February 24, 2016

Bikepacking Romania – Vampires and Castles.

Posted by Eric Parsons

Story and Photographs by Revelate Ambassador Dan Bailey.

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Vampires and castles. That’s all I really knew about Romania before deciding to go bike touring over there for a month. Oh yea, and that the country was ruled by a brutal communist dictator for over 20 years, who was executed by firing squad on Christmas Day in 1989 for his crimes against the state. I remember watching the huge public outpouring in the streets of Bucharest on TV at my grandmother’s house.

Other than that, the place was pretty much off my radar for most of my life, until a young German friend of ours told us that her family still has a house in Transylvania. “You should come visit. We go there very summer!” That’s all the prodding I needed. One year later, my wife Amy and I packed up the bikes and flew over for a five ­week tour through Transylvania, the land where Vlad the Impaler, and the mythical Dracula legend were born.

A country that’s been invaded by nearly everyone in the region for two thousand years, (the Romans first conquered the Dacian Empire in 106 AD), Transylvania is known for expanses of wilderness, and a lifestyle that still clings to medieval ways. Cycling around this area is like stepping back in time. On any given day, you’ll bike through sleepy villages, past shepherds tending their flocks on gentle hillsides, farmers working their hay fields, horse ­drawn carts plodding along dusty gravel paths, and you’ll pedal through the shadows of centuries old castles and Saxon fortified churches.

 

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In other words, it’s an awesome place to go bikepacking, as long as you’re up for a little bit (or a lot!) of adventure. Starting and ending in the medieval city of Brașov, we covered over 850 miles and 45,000 feet of climbing during our five ­week trip. We mainly rode from village to village on roads that varied from smooth pavement to muddy double track through hilly forests to dreamy singletrack across grassy pastures. Some routes were easy to follow, others required careful navigation, and sometimes just plain guesswork with fingers crossed.

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With mountain bikes rigged up with bags, we weren’t limited by any terrain­ we could go anywhere. Everything performed flawlessly during the entire trip, and we had no mechanicals or issues with any of our equipment. Me with my Salsa Fargo and Amy with her Niner MCR steel hard tail, we trained and dialed in of our gear for the trip during the summer on some of Alaska’s remote gravel roads, like the Denali Highway and the Nome­ Teller road, which dead ends at the shores of the Bering Sea.

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I’ve toured numerous times with a variety of different setups over the years, but this was, by far, the most streamlined and efficient rig I’ve ever run. My setup was as follows: Megamid in my Sweet Roll, clothes in the Viscacha seat bag, food, beer can stove, MSR titanium cook pot and fuel in the frame bag, water bottles in the feed bags, cookies in the Gas Tank and tools in the Jerrycan.

On the rear rack, I had a prototype pair of Nano Panniers, where I kept both of our running shoes, a spare water bottle and a rain jacket. Essentially, light bulky stuff that isn’t going to stress the rack if I’m bouncing on rough trails. Salsa Anything cages on the fork held my sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and a third rack under the down tube offered space for extra fuel or water. I carried camera gear, chargers and Goal Zero solar panel on my back in my F­Stop photo pack.

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Fueled by hoards of cheap eastern European cookies and snack cakes, fresh plums and walnuts we picked from tress right at the side of the road, crusty bread, couscous, heaping bowls of polenta, mountain cheese that’s stored in casings made of tree bark, and some of the best fresh tomatoes known to man, we lazily picked our route each day and took each day in stride as we explored.

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We camped under the stars on open hillsides, in farmers’ fields and shepherd pastures, or slept in cheap pensiunes and hostels, some of which had never seen an American visitor before. We drank lots of wine and cheap brandy, which we fondly referred to as “Eastern European cough syrup.” Culminating with our crossing of the mighty Transfăgărășan pass, which rises with a dizzying maze of switchbacks over the forbidding Carpathian Mountains, we finished out our month by riding past the legendary Castle Bran and the last few miles back to Brașov just as the first signs of autumn descended on Transylvania.

We left Romania, profoundly touched by the fascinating culture and history, the impressive landscapes and feeling enriched by all of the wonderful, friendly, generous and happy people we met during our bike trip, which, as all bike trips are, ended up being far too short.

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See more of Dan’s work at Danbaileyphoto.com

Eric Parsons
January 27, 2016

Introducing the Wampak winter hydration pack!

Posted by Eric Parsons

Introducing our newest product – The Wampak.
wampak back2
This winter hydration pack has been a bit of a love child around here and a long requested item from our friends in the winter ultra race circles. It solves a simple, yet common problem – how to hydrate when winter biking. Common ways to do this are put bulky insulated bottles or bladders in a frame bag, that works for a little while, or you can put Nalgene cozzies on your handle bars – that sorta works too but is unstable and as soon as you drink half a bottle the threads and rest of the water tends to freeze up. The only logical place for long rides is on your back. Problem is, hydration packs just don’t work when it’s cold out. Sure you can insulate the hose and blow back, but eventually the hose is going to freeze and you are SOL.

Like most of the stuff we make, we only do it if we see a need. Looking around there was nothing else available that really checked all the boxes for what’s required of a hydration pack to function well in a true winter environment.

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The only real source of constant heat is the furnace of your own body. This pack is designed to be worn under your layers, using that furnace to keep the hose and bladder warm, and insulate along the back where it is most exposed. An aluminized liner fabric cuts down on radiant heat loss and a layer of insulating foam cuts down on conductive loss – with your clothing over it all – you can put ice water in the bladder, ride at 15 degrees and the water will be warm within an hour.

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Likewise, a clean chest harness carries well and allows breathability since the pack is worn so close to your skin. Stretch woven pockets carry your chapstick and spare camera battery.

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The bladder opening is accessed via a hassle free magnetic clip buckle and can accommodate bladders up to 100 oz. The shape of the pack is optimized for using Camelbak antidote bladders, yet almost any will work. A top clip keeps the bladder from sliding down.

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Although we strongly encourage under arm hose routing for winter use, the hose can be routed over either shoulder if you prefer.

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Since the pack is worn under your layers, we designed the shoulder straps with disconnect buckles at the bottom. Simply pop the sternum strap and each shoulder strap and the pack slides off under your layers.

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Coupled with our Powerline hoodie and you have a solid setup.

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There you have it. MSRP is $95, bladder not included. There are obviously a ton of hydration products out there that almost get the job done, but this one really does for winter riding & ultra racing. You’ll dig it’s well thought out features, thanks for looking!