Everyday Adventures

A Birthday Ride

Birthdays… the best excuse to make sure you get out for a ride. Cass celebrates his 45th journey around the sun with a short loop around town and into the meadows beyond.


I made it out today with my friend Rusty for a birthday ride.

Nothing too big and epic but lots of fun nonetheless; a couple of hours in the saddle for a 15-mile loop using bike infrastructure, highway shoulders, dirt roads, and some singletrack.

The sun was shining bright, the afternoon light was gorgeous and sunwashed, and I felt pretty fortunate to be in New Mexico. If big, open spaces are what you seek, there are few places that I’d consider more peaceful and beautiful than the Land of Enchantment’s high desert plateaux.

Given all the snow of late, our local dirt roads are only are only guaranteed crispy and crunchy before the ice thaws and hardpack turns to gloop. So, as we didn’t get out until the afternoon, we had to make a tactical reroute to avoid the worst of it.

Finding a clever shortcut around town, or a good slice of trail mid-ride is like chancing upon a nugget of gold. They spice up any bike ride, be it a commute to work or a local exploration.

Luckily I was riding with Rusty, professional wheelbuilder, stay-at-home dad, and master of dirt road shortcuts and overlooked trails. I’m always happy to tap into his knowledge and expand my own. Unearthing secret cut-throughs and moments of singletrack take perseverance. But once you have, the rewards are particularly satisfying.

So best to expand your backyard intel?Satellite imagery and Googlemaps are incredible 21st tools we now have at our disposal, supplemented with old fashioned local knowledge (try the bike shop) and on-the-ground recces, be it alone or with friends.

And, as it happens, Rusty used to work in the area. Knitting together less-than-conventional commutes was his habit, as was escaping his desk for a midday mountain bike ride; both provided him with ample opportunities to nose around. The result? A brilliant way to turn a commonplace commute into a daily dose of adventure.

Rusty’s gear: the classic, venerable, practical Carradice Longflap saddlebag. These bags have been made in Nelson, England, since 1932. Clearly, Rusty is a man who takes his patchwork seriously; with some strategic placement, I’d say there’s room for just one or two more.

The Hunqapillar rides smoothly, it’s practical, and it’s timeless.

And, his Rivendell Hunqapillar. Perhaps it wasn’t the ideal bike for today’s ride, given the mud in places and the frame’s relatively tight clearances, at least with the knobbly tyres we favour around here. But it’s a lovely, traditional steel bike; it rides so very smoothly, it’s extremely practical (note wire basket), and it’s timeless in its components (if it ain’t broke…).

With its lugged frame and colourway, the Hunqapillar has an aesthetic that I find particularly appealing too. I love the philosophy – no, the ideology – behind this Californian brand. If you want know more, hop onto the Rivendell website or check out this quirky pdf for a rundown of their current range. The Riv ‘Blahg’ always makes a good longform read; it’s rooted in everyday cycling, but often goes beyond.

But a bike’s a bike, and just getting out for a few hours was what the afternoon was about.

We cut back home via the Arroyo de Los Chamisos Trail, which plugs into the mainline Rail Trail, a wide bikepath that leads cyclists straight into town, completely traffic free. Bliss. Although we did see a couple of cyclists coming the other way, I’m always surprised it’s so underused. I’d expect it to be busy with families on a sunny, Friday afternoon.

Anyway, a short ride it may have been, but it’s always good to get out with friends, scope out new places, stir the blood, and relax the mind. And, getting to truly know the lay of the land in which you live is especially rewarding.

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