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winter “training” in cold, snowy Ontario

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

From the first push of the pedals out of Istanbul in January, life will resolve down to a few intense simplicities: biking all day, every day, burdened and exhilarated; exploring borderlands and wildernesses in mountains and deserts; and calling the crooked, winding Silk Road our “home” for a year.

But until that moment of real departure, things are totally manic panic. Mel and I are working flat-out to get ready for this journey: checking off the million and two items on our To Do list, testing gear, puzzling out all the buttons and knobs on our cameras, praying to the Silk Road gods and goddesses that we have enough money to last the trip (beg your help?), and counting down the dwindling days until launch with a mixture of terror and excitement.

Despite the busy-ness, we spend time in the saddle every day to steel our butts and legs against the abuse they’re bound for. Riding an unloaded bike in freezing cold Ontario for just a few hours, then retreating to a warm house for hot cocoa, might not be the most specific training possible for winter cycling and camping along the Silk Road…but it sure is fun! Through the madness of preparations, these sojourns provide a daily reminder that this, ultimately, is what it’s all about: the sheer, reeling joy of riding bikes, of getting outside and exploring the neighborhood.

riding Seven down the Silk Road

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

The Silk Road between Istanbul and India promises to be one hell (and heaven) of a bumpy ride, but thanks to Seven Cycles, we’ll have custom-built titanium touring bikes to buffer the potholes we’re bound to encounter along the way.

We are so giddy and grateful for this chance to ride the Expat S from Europe to Asia, taking the roads less gravelled. As a bike with a split personality – “one part mountain bike for loaded pannier exploring; the other part a touring bike that is off-road worthy” – we can’t imagine a better set of wheels for this adventure. Epic thanks to Seven Cycles for believing in the wonder and worth of this expedition – we will strive to do you all proud. Check out the press release here.

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.
-Edward Abbey

t-minus three months until Cycling Silk 2011

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

The countdown has officially begun: Mel and I booked tickets to Istanbul, Turkey for January 7th, 2011, and from there we’ll start pedaling toward India, aiming to reach Ladakh about a year later, and exploring transboundary conservation case studies along the way. Nothing like a firm launch date to stir your belly into a frenzy of butterflies. We now have 70 days to sort out visas, finalize sponsorship deals, set up contacts along the route, and compress our lives into panniers for a year of vagabonding along the open road. Oh yeah, and acquire bikes! Our beloved touring bikes from previous trips – steel-frame hybrids we affectionately dubbed The Beast (Mel’s) and Crazy ‘Ol Maurice (mine) – are rusted relics of their former glory, so we’re seeking new wheels. More updates on gear and other matters to come. Meanwhile check out our expedition brochure.

In other news, the Cycling Silk website is mentioned in a new edition of Silk Roads, the Trailblazer guidebook depicted on the left (check out page 186!) They sent us a free copy which has already proven invaluable for planning purposes. So if you’re keen to explore this part of the world, be sure to check it out.

“One wanted, she thought, dipping her brush deliberately, to be on a level with ordinary experience, to feel simply that’s a chair, that’s a table, and yet at the same time, It’s a miracle, it’s an ecstasy.”

-Virginia Woolf

talking transboundary conservation with George Schaller

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

In January, Kate and I traveled to NYC to talk with wildlife biologist George Schaller about transboundary conservation in Asia in preparation for our upcoming journey. Schaller became a household name of sorts thanks to Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard, a stunning, poetic, National Book Award-winning account of Schaller’s field work in the Nepal Himalaya, where he and Matthiesson trekked in search of bharal (blue sheep) and snow leopard.

The snow leopard represented not just a rare and beautiful cat whose habits I wanted to study, but also the symbol of a search for something intangible that seemed forever elusive. -George Schaller, Stones of Silence

Click to continue »

riding the Silk Road with Polartec

Monday, February 8th, 2010

When Mel and I hit the Silk Road again in early winter 2010, this time we won’t be stashing cash in our bike handlebars. Instead, thanks to the Polartec® Challenge Grant, we’ll stash cash in the cozy pockets of Polartec®-equipped clothing.

We just recently found out that Cycling Silk won one of Polartec’s 2010 expedition grants, and we’re over the Himalaya at the news. For years now I’ve religiously checked up on the winners of these grants, tracked their expeditions from afar, longed to follow in their footsteps or, better yet, pick up where they left off and push on further. Past winners have included Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Steve House, and many more – heroes and pioneers, forces of awe and inspiration. And now we get to join their epic ranks. Or at least wear the same sweet Polartec gear.

While the great generalists of the Age of Exploration had patrons and kings to fund their expeditions, us modern-day wannabe explorers rely on the generosity and vision of folks like those at Polartec. I can’t thank them enough for supporting us through the Polartec Challenge Grant, and I can’t wait to take Polartec on this long and winding bike ride  down the Silk Road.

You can read the Polartec press release here. We also got some love from Outside magazine here.

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