Luc Mehl (right) mid-way through a 200 mile ski and packraft trip. Photo by Danny Powers.
Luc Mehl is an adventurer in the truest sense. His deepest passion is to set a course across a tract of the Alaskan wild then cover it by foot, ski, packraft, bike, and even ice skate. He documents his human-powered traverses in great detail on his website through photography, video, and writing. For the past several years, his biggest objective was to complete traverses across North America’s three tallest peaks–Denali, Logan, and Orizaba–trips that took Mehl and partners across hundreds of miles of forests, desert, glaciers, rivers, and mountain peaks for nearly a month each time. In between, he’s done dozens of smaller traverses and many summer and winter Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classics, brutal point-to-point adventure races.
Bikes played an important role on two of his “Big Three” traverses, but Mehl is not a cyclist, per se (though he loves mountain biking and recently got a fat bike). Nonetheless there are universal themes of challenge, risk, reward and satisfaction in his adventuring that transcend modes of travel. I spoke to Mehl about growing up in the Alaskan interior and his early introduction to adventuring, the logistics of 30-day wilderness trips, what he gets out of his traverses emotionally and physically, balancing the very real risk of death with the rewards of his trips, and much more.
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Posted in Adventure, Bike Touring, Interviews
Tagged alaska fat biking, alaska wilderness classic, Csikszentmihalyi, denali traverse, fat bike traverse, fat biking, flow, iditarod, luc mehl, mt logan traverse, things to luc at, wilderness adventures
Mike Curiak at an Iditarod race in Alaska. Photo by Chris McLennan.
From the early rebels racing down the Repack to today’s craziest freeriders flipping off massive cliffs, every era of mountain biking has needed pioneering figures to push the boundaries of what’s possible on a bike. In endurance racing, Mike Curiak was one of those key people who helped define just how long and far the human body can go on a mountain bike. He is best known for his exploits at Alaska’s brutal Iditaraces. Over his 17 year race career, he won numerous iterations of the 225-mile Iditasport and 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational, set a course record on the 1,100-mile Iditasport Impossible, and later completed the 1,100-mile race fully self-supported. He also helped organize the first successful Great Divide race, won the Kokopelli Trail Race, and was a nominee for the mountain bike hall of fame among other palmares.
Curiak retired from racing almost 10 years ago after winning the 2005 Iditarod Trail Invitational. These days he says he’s focused more on fun, though it’s his version of fun, i.e. multi-day bikepacking trips that require packrafting across lakes and down rivers and other adventures like that. He’s also focused on his well established Lace Mine 29 wheel-building business. I spoke to Curiak before he set off on a three-week packrafting trip through the Grand Canyon. We talked about his early entry into endurance racing, endless laps on 24-hour race courses, his experience racing in Alaska, helping create the Great Divide race, his disappointment with the direction endurance racing has gone recently, and much more.
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Posted in Adventure, Interviews, Mountain Biking
Tagged 29er, endurance mountain bike racing, fat biking, great divide mountain bike race, iditarod, iditasport, kokopelli, lace mine 29, mike curiak, mountain bike pioneer, packrafting, snow biking, tour divide
Lael Wilcox and Nicholas Carman on the Arizona Trail in 2013. Photo by Nicholas Carman.
The chorus to the JJ Cale song “Homeless Man” goes, “I’m not a homeless man/I’m a gypsy by trade/And I’m traveling this land/I’m not a homeless man.” It is the source from which Nicholas Carman’s blog Gypsy by Trade draws its name–an appropriate umbrella for the journals and photographs of a man who spends about half of each year exploring the world by bike.
Nicholas and his partner Lael Wilcox have toured on and off road through Europe, Canada, across the United States, on routes like the Great Divide and Kokopelli, and plenty more. They’ve structured their lives around travel, spending winters working and summers on the road. Nicholas answered my questions by email from Anchorage, Alaska where he’s currently working seven days a week at a bike shop, saving up for the next adventure. In this interview, he discusses his foray into extended bike touring, his favorite trips around the world, how he and Lael make their travel work, his evolution of thought about bike touring gear, and much more.
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Image by Mike Curiak. From lacemine29.blogspot.com
Fat bikes are taking off in a big way. Once predominately the domain of Alaskan adventure racers tackling Iditasport, fat bikes are now being used for everything from mountain biking to bike packing to urban exploration. But at their heart, fat bikes still seem best suited as wilderness adventure machines, ready to tackle terrain long after the roads and trails have ended.
Mike Curiak, Eric Parsons, Dylan Kentch, Doom Fishfinder, and Roman Dial did just that this summer. The crew biked and packrafted along Alaska’s Lost Coast from Yakutat to Glacier Bay.
Curiak put together a beautiful video from the trip that does a great job of capturing the Alaska’s rugged, wilderness coastline. Watch it and enjoy ten minutes of vicarious adventure.