All-road: Lightly loaded, multi-surface touring and exploring. Ideal bicycles are designed around randonee, brevet, cyclocross, gravel racer, or touring geometries and specifications. Riders generally carry enough gear for a long day or an overnight trip in small frame bags or backpacks.
Salsa Cycles met Errin Vasquez a couple of years ago when he entered our Reveal The Path Video Contest. His video, Adventure Is Where You Make It, won and landed him a new bike and a trip to ride it in Alaska. Errin continues to explore the terrain in his home city of Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, proving that there’s always an opportunity to tour by bike, right out your door, no matter where you call home.
All Roads Lead To Adventure
My name is Errin Vasquez, and I’m a cyclist in Los Angeles, California. I spend most of my time commuting to and from work by bike, and I add in long rides along the way. Sometimes dirt and sometimes paved, but pretty much whatever is in front of me is what I like to ride. For these trips I always grab my trusty steel-frame, 650b-wheeled, fully fendered, dyno-lighted, friction-shifting, go-anywhere machine. It’s always ready to go with a front bag loaded with snacks, camera, and probably a bottle of Ensure just in case. As a bike owner I guess I’m a Luddite. My style of cycling is always based on some sort of adventure. If it sounds crazy, I’m in.
I started riding to work on a fixed gear bike and using the L.A. light rail system. I was only riding about 1.5 miles to the station and then about the same to work, but once a week I would try and ride the entire 12 miles home at the end of the day. I can remember how intimidating that was, being surrounded by the cars, feeling so far away from home and generally unsure of myself. Slowly I started adding more commutes by bike only, and eventually stopped using the trains altogether.
Over the past few years my commute has grown more and more fun because I rarely head straight to work. I go out of my way to either add miles, add hills, or both. I string together different routes depending on how much time I have and how my legs feel that day. Sometimes I even get lost, in my own town! There is nothing more rewarding than getting completely turned around within a mile or two from your house, because you’re out there learning your area. It may not be the Great Divide, or remote Alaska, but you can tour with what you’ve got, and for me that’s Los Angeles. That just may mean connecting this alley to that alley to get to that hill that’s just over there. My commutes have become some of the rides I look most forward to. The time is already set aside, so it just becomes a matter of how I am going to use it.
Weekly pedaling has led to weekend randonneuring, which is now my main focus in cycling. Brevets, which are 200–1,200k events in randonneuring, offer a chance to see a lot of the world in a small amount of time. They are essentially fast tours with routes ranging from 200–600k, going up to 1,200k for the biggest events. You get to pedal a lot of roads and see many places that you might otherwise skip over. The events are not races, but you are working against the clock so you can gauge your progress. Brevets are self-supported, so there is an emphasis on navigation and figuring things out if something goes wrong. Of course, that’s when things get fun right? Well, maybe not in the moment, but it is what memories are made of.
If you’re just starting out with all-road touring and exploring, my main suggestion is to keep it light, both in terms of gear and attitude. Try riding to a coffee shop across town, to a farmer’s market, or just to a friend’s house. To me, cycling should be fun and if it’s not, well, why do it? Whenever I invite people on a ride I always make sure they are no-drop rides. If that means riding sweep or even walking alongside someone, then that’s what it takes. Everyone should have fun. To me, that’s what cycling is about.
It’s always been important to me to stop and enjoy my time out on a ride. Take a camera along and share the scenery with my friends, just like they share theirs with me. If you have a bike that’s ready for anything, there is no reason not to turn down that dirt road and see where it goes. Or push up that hill and see what view is waiting for you up there. Carry a stove and make some coffee up at the top. Don’t be afraid to get lost now and then.