Category: South America

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Cycling to Machu Picchu

In a splendid fiction one could easily pedal to the edge of the ruins at Machu Picchu and circle and photograph its majesty by bike, just as one might at Angkor Wat or Palmyra. In reality the tourist town that supports MP — Aguas Calientes — is so remote and small, and the concentration of visitors to it is so great that access is highly controlled. Indeed, there are no roads to AC. Many cycletourists simply ride to Cusco and leave their bicycles there, getting to MP the usual way by bus then train. I did not want to go to Cusco and backtrack, nor did I find the usual way aesthetically appealing at all. I contemplated skipping it altogether.

But there is an alternative that includes high mountain pass bikepacking, weather, minor drama, and a bit of cycletouring nostalgic history in that a fair bit of it is on train tracks. Thus, it echoes in a tiny way the style that the likes of Sachtleben & Allen or Frank Lenz traveled in when a railway link was the only path between cities.

The plan assumes travel from the west, i.e., headed south through South America. It is possible to do what is described here backwards, but it appears to me that starting from Cusco likely offers different options. The route is substantially based on a trek that has been adapted into a multisport multimodal trip involving hiking, biking, luxury eco lodges, donkey porters, vans and trains. Obviously, Pfft! on all that. This is how to do it all by big pedaling. A very capable off-road bike and minimal weight are essential.

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Touring on a Surly Pugsley (Progress Report)

(A Tom Walwyn photo, above)

When I got home last year from touring on the Pugsley in Alaska I ventured some thoughts, all enthusiastic, about the bike choice. After all, it’s a bike, it goes when you pedal it, in fact it goes just about anywhere a bike can go, and if you’re not racing or trying to keep pace on asphalt with your skinny tire friends, what’s not to like? And in AK, why are you not riding a fat bike? Still, I envisioned myself going back to the Long Haul Trucker with 26″ x 2.0’s for overseas rough stuff touring, the ‘cross bike for smooth roads, and a two nine — the folding Rob English with an IGH, one of the best bikes I’ve had the pleasure of riding — for domestic expedition use.

Then my imagination was hijacked by all those days, not necessarily winter days, hooting and having a ball on the Fat Bike, pointing it into the woods and going, just going. Sure, the tires, rims and bottom bracket on the thing are a decent argument against taking it too far for too long away from North America. If those go FUBAR one would have to get creative. It’s a pig, an automatic minimum 10 lbs. penalty over your next heaviest bike. But I’ve spent most of my time over the last eight or nine years on a rigid singlespeed, so I’m no stranger to poor judgment in bicycle selection.

Here’s what I think after two months riding the Pugsley in South America.