The roaming collective of international bicycle tourers is the only tribe I really belong to. No exclusivity there: for instant access, just turn up with wheels, enthusiasm and wanderlust.
Bike-love transcends borders and cultures, and out on the road, the club has extra perks. As much as I enjoy meeting fellow bike tourers from more relatable backgrounds, connecting with local riders is always a moment to savour – like my time in in Sichuan province, China, where the humble bicycle bridged language chasms, and introduced me to friends I’d otherwise never have made.
Within mountain biking circles, travelling by bike has provided, so often, a ticket straight to the inner sanctum. As a keen roughstuff rider, little beats being privy to favoured local trails – wisps of singletrack, the majority of which may well have taken years to unearth and polish. I’ve appreciated this close-knit mountain biking camaraderie in the US, Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador, to name a few.
Wherever it may be in the world, the experiences are universal. The toils of a chin-down climb, and the elation of a let-loose descent. Adjusting derailleurs, fixing a flat. The satisfaction of cleaning an awkwardly placed rock. A nod of acknowledgement, a smile of encouragement. At the end of each peel of singletrack, my reactions are studied inquisitively. So? What do you think? I know the look; it’s one I give visitors to my local trails, keen as I am to show off the best there is to offer.
This community is one of the reasons I chose to tour on the Ogre. I figured, despite its rigid fork status, that big 29er wheels would hold their own on more challenging Andean singletrack. Which they have done, ably. A 29er makes a great dirt road tourer, while offering surprisingly little compromise when the terrain gets technical. The world (and all its singletrack) is your oyster.
The Cordillera Blanca – whose trails have certainly given me good reason to pause in my travels – is a perfect case in point. Aside from its epic, unpaved roads, I’ve revelled in foraging around on day rides, as well as taping into a rich vein of overnight, bikepacking potential. I know I should keep heading south, but it’s hard to press on when you’re onto something good. I ride to discover places, not to pass them by.
And, when it comes to embracing communities, the Huaraz Riders are a prime example; they’ve been more than happy to pour over my maps and field my incessant questions. A band of brothers who’ve explored these mountain trails since they were teenagers - here’s one of their favourites – they live to ride. No expensive branded apparel necessary: jeans and a cotton T-shirt are likely to be their garb of choice. Downhill is their MO, though their notion of a ‘downhill’ rig is probably an old hardtail, crammed with the largest tyres that will fit. Short stem, wide bars, flat pedals.
And seat dropped low…