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My five favorite bike moments of 2022

From bikepacking trips abroad to the longest single ride of my life, here are five of my favorite bike moments of 2022.

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Most of the experiences on the bike that I write about here take place at races or events. Some of the most meaningful ones stay tucked away in my memories.

It’s a bit of an act of separation of church and state — when the activity you love to do on your own time can also qualify as ‘work,’ there is a constant danger of always being switched on.

This year, I did a good job of being on when I was supposed to and also carving out time to check out of work and tune into the experience.

From bikepacking trips abroad to the longest single ride of my life to witnessing a historic event in France, here are five of my favorite bike moments of 2022.

Bikepacking the Cape Loop, Baja California Sur

Micheladas are ride fuel, too

In February, I traveled to Baja California Sur to bikepack the Cape Loop. I’d been wanting to check this route out for years, and a fortuitous new friendship with another fellow adventurer finally made it happen.

The trip went off without a hitch — we quickly settled into a predictable rhythm of riding and chatting, or riding and silence. We climbed out of urban San Jose del Cabo on an incredibly-maintained mountain road, found water in the desert, spent countless days shrouded by elephantine cardon cactus.

Our bikes chugged through the sand like diesel tanks. We had a tacit agreement to eat fish tacos at every opportunity and we adhered to it religiously.

Whale watching at sunrise

The hours riding along the Sea of Cortez were a life highlight; every day as we moved southward back toward San Jose we watched dozens of humpback and sperm whales breaching and blowing and crashing into the sea as we tried to stay upright on our bikes.

Then, before dusk, we’d find a place to hunker down on the beach, unfurl our sleeping pads and change into our long johns, drink a few watery Tecate Lights and watch the sunset paint the sky an amazing shade of rosa.

Unbound XL

Even though the Cape Loop was unknown to me before I did it, I had enough beta from friends and the all-knowing internet to know what to expect.

Riding 350 miles through Kansas in one go, on the other hand? That felt like an honest-to-goodness mystery.

Even though the XL seems to have some structure baked into it since it’s part of the Unbound event weekend, a lot is left to chance when you set out on a 350-mile route at 3 in the afternoon, with only six gas station convenience stores to break up the ride.

My biggest fear going into XL was that I would end up being alone for the entire time. In fact, I was convinced this would happen because this is normally what happens when I do gravel races. This time, though, I was less concerned about the inefficiencies of pedaling into the wind alone and more about the ever-present threat of the deep and dark recesses of my mind where I was still processing the deepest, darkest year of my life.

Even if you’re unsure if you can ride 350 miles, just trying is an adventure (Photo: Dominique Powers)

Much to my surprise, I was not alone for more than two hours of what ultimately became a 26-hour ride. I spent the firefly-lit hours of night with a new friend named Tina, and just before sunrise, we linked up with four other riders. We celebrated 200 miles at sunrise and shortly after, I found my friend Austin who I’d met years before on another Big Ride — Austin also knew about the deep, dark year of my life, which made spending those final 150 miles with him very meaningful.

I crossed the finish line moments after some of my friends who are professional riders, like Maude Farrell, Sarah Sturm, and Kristen Legan, which never happens. We exchanged hugs through mud, sweat, and … well actually, there weren’t even any tears. Just pure gratitude and elation.

The Tour de France Femmes

Although I rarely cover road cycling and have a bit of imposter syndrome when I do, I knew that I had to go to the inaugural Tour de France Femmes in July. Beyond the moment in history, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was happily blown away on so many levels.

This race was no ‘pink it and shrink it’ affair; every host city and village was decked out in polka dots, green, and yellow. Crowds lined the streets and joined the melee at the team busses every morning. The racing was audacious and exciting until the very last minute. It was incredible to speak with the women as they spun out their legs post-race, graciously giving the swarming media much more attention that it had ever given them.

I never would have made it anywhere without my stalwart companion Sadhbh O’Shea who is a wizard at navigating the circus that is the Tour. We were the yin to each other’s yang, Sadhbh reading the maps with me in the driver’s seat (once, stalling out in the middle of the race course to full applause from the fans). I would have missed every start and finish were it not for Sadhbh, not to mention many of the nuances of the racing. She is simply one of the most steadfast reporters in the game.

Les femmes journalistes!

The icing on the TdFF cake for me was befriending and learning from the other phenomenal female reporters who were covering the race France. Our mighty women’s press peloton was a force to be reckoned with. We gravitated toward each other in the press rooms, tag teamed interviews on the ground, and then shared transcription duty.

Then, we schlepped cheese and crackers and olives and the free bottles of champagne from the press room up the Planche des Belles Filles on the final day to celebrate each other and the incredible week of racing.

Credit card touring from Torino, Italy to Nice, France

I came crashing down from my TdFF high not 24 hours after arriving back in Paris.

Although I managed to navigate our rental van back to its minuscule parking bay in a subterranean parking garage in the middle of the city without incident, and to build up my bike and re-sort all of my luggage, there was one thing I did not do.

Buy the train ticket to Italy in advance.

Dream gravel between Torino, Italy and Nice, France

It’s a rookie move not to pre-book European travel in August, but normally I am a master of spontaneity. Instead, I found myself panicking, at one point flinging random destinations across France, Spain, and Italy into the search engine on the train website just so I could go anywhere, even if it wasn’t my planned route from Torino to Nice. At the eleventh hour of my desperation, I almost booked a plane ticket back to the US.

Then, I found the last seat on an overnight bus from Paris to Torino. Click, purchase.

While I arrived in Torino sleep-deprived and with a bent derailleur hangar, I arrived in Torino. I met up with a friend of a friend, who rode me out of the city and up into the mountains. We miraculously found shitty WiFi (for his work call) and crusty bread with cheese at tiny mountain inn. I felt right at home as we ascended on gravel above treeline.

The next day, my energy — and the vert — kicked up in earnest, and I headed deep into the French Alps. One day I’d be riding up a climb from the Giro, the next I was descending into France. The roadside cheese signs were always a good indicator of which country I was in.

I ate my weight in croissants (better in France) and dosed myself on Ibuprofen and coffee (better in Italia). I slept in cheap-yet-charming motels and high alpine rifugios and had the perfect number of passing, yet meaningful, encounters you always have when you’re traveling around alone by bike. I got seriously stormed on three times, but every time turned out to have some silver lining — notably the few hours I spent in a small shack with Piermario, an Italian ski resort worker, and a German family of three cyclists, drinking tiny cups of liquor made from local berries.

Dropping in on summertime Nice

Rolling into the bustling city of Nice after so many days so far away from big cities and people was like going from a one-room schoolhouse to Las Vegas. I was too cracked to care and instead settled into a deep people-watching/beach-hopping/swimming tour of the city. The turquoise water felt like a warm embrace.

As dusk fell, I made my way to the train station because, guess what? At the last minute I got the last bed on an overnight train back to Paris.

The Pearl Pass Klunker Tour

I love mountain biking between Crested Butte and Aspen, Colorado and have crossed over the Elk Range between the two towns a handful of different ways.

Until last September, however, I had never done so on a bike with coaster brakes and no gears.

But don’t cry for me — I chose this, as have hundreds of people ever since 1976.

The Pearl Pass Klunker Tour was one of the first organized mountain bike rides ever, but it wasn’t done on mountain bikes. Actually, mountain biking was born as a result of the ride from CB to Aspen — tinkerers and riders from Colorado and California went to town after that to develop bikes and later trails that would make riding in the mountains as fun as humanly possible.

Bikes are supposed to be fun

However, every year during the first weekend of September people are invited to experience mountain biking as it was before suspension, gears, disc brakes, helmets, etc. The Pearl Pass Klunker Tour is a no-drop (unless its psychedelic) group ride that leaves from Crested Butte, heading up toward Pearl Pass to camp for the night, and then making the summit push and rocky descent into Aspen the next day, just like they did in the 70s.

There really aren’t any rules — you don’t have to ride a klunker or camp out or drink alcohol or even ride over to Aspen.

You just have to be cool.