Rad People Who Ride: Cameron Sanders

19 January, 2017

The photo above tells it all. Cameron Sanders (@adventure_by_bike) is a man of rad adventure. Not a watered down version of adventure that provides expectations or limitations. The rad kind adventure that is fueled by desire to experience life in an unconventional way that makes the memory more unique and authentic. He's always out there...constantly making a reality of the places he wants to see via bike. Not allowing anything to put a damper on his goals, he'll set out with a pack raft if that's what it takes to get where he wants to be. We sent him a set of Nano 2.1 and Ranger 2.8/3.0 tires to help support his bikepacking expeditions and next thing we knew we were receiving an endless stream of photos showing how he's used them to reach places we've only dreamed of experiencing. We'll let him take the stage from here and tell you what he's all about.

Name:

Cameron Sanders

Home Shop and City:

I'm a drifter by nature and never seem to settle into any one place long enough to call it home. I'd say I'm most at home in the saddle, with the bike loaded down and the world unfurling before me.

My garage is my home shop, although, recently I've been patroning Crows Feet Commons in Bend, OR for good company and to test out the newest dropper posts.

Notable passions, feats of accomplishment, interests, goals, phobias and unusual experiences:

I'd put getting asked to blog for WTB right up there with notable accomplishments and strange feats I never imagined doing!

Folks know me these days mostly for my bikepacking pursuits in out there places, like the Alaskan Backcountry or along the frozen Shoreline of Lake Superior… however, my Gateway Sport was caving.

I've worked 13 years with state and federal land management agencies like the National Park Service and US Forest Service. My career began as a cave guide and surveyor for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Had it not been for the life lessons learned while surveying caves, I would likely never had pursued a life as a steward of our public lands.

Favorite WTB product:

Most any WTB tire with TCS Tough Enduro Casing gets a big thumbs up in my book.

Right now I'm loving the 3.0 Rangers for Backcountry Bikepacking and 2.1 Nanos for gravel grinding and fire road touring. If I were planning a trip around the globe via remote back roads (perhaps I am), I would reach for one of these tires.

Favorite Ride:

It's hard not to immediately think of Moab's Whole Enchilada or Captain Ahab trails when imagining the best and most epic trails out there.

I must say, however, the trails of the Alaskan Kenai Peninsula hold the most special of places in my pantheon of favorite locations to ride. Johnson Pass Trail, Resurrection Trail, Crescent Lake and Lost Lake Trails molded me as a backcountry cyclist. All these routes individually offer great all day all mountain adventures. Where these routes really shine, is when combined into long distance bikepacking expeditions. The Chugach National Forest even offers multiple rustic cabin rentals along the routes - perfectly spaced for touring. Back when I lived in Anchorage, I would take a hut-to-hut fatbike holiday trip with friends each December.

Background, how’d you get into riding, what kept you going with it?

Most folks are surprised when they find out I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was in college. Cycling entered my life by surprise.

I didn’t grow up riding a bike. As a young man never possessed dreams of touring the globe via saddle. As a misbegotten youth I lived out of a beat up Dodge Caravan and spent the majority of my time wandering the woods with a bright red Petzl Ecinrock helmet and a tattered secondhand NRS Farmer John wetsuit in search of caves.

Growing up I dreamed of leaving the Midwest in search of high crags, waterfalls, glaciers, and adventure. When I got the chance, I left on the first flight I could afford to Alaska with no home and nothing to my name but the lime green Osprey backpack on back stuffed to the brink with an oversized military sleeping bag and far too much cotton.

Most of who I am was forged in Alaska. During my first few years in the state I spent months out of sight of towns exploring wild places. The mountains there instilled in me a wilderness ethic and a sense of responsibility for our public places. Eventually I settled into work with the National Park Service and US Forest Service as befitted my lifestyle and ideals.

I learned to ride a bike that first summer in Alaska. My first bike, a $300.00 Diamondback, which felt like the most expensive bike in the world to me at the time, had one purpose: to take me into the mountains.

For many years my backpacking trips began on bike and my bikepacking trips consisted of cycling with a 65L pack for a day to a week and ditching the bike in the woods when a summit appeared which needed bagging.

As that first year in Alaska drug on and I remained vehicle-less, my bike took on fat downhill tread studded with roofing tacks and layers of interior ducktape during the harsh Alaskan Winter.

Being both completely broke and inquisitive in nature, a series of unfortunate bike thefts left me thinking I could simply ‘build up a bike for less’… I couldn’t have been more wrong, however, my experiences thereafter have left me with an understanding and appreciation for not only the ride, but the art of bicycle fabrication. I annoyed every bikeshop in town with inquiries as to why I couldn’t mix this with that and why this had to be that way. I cared little for fitting to the bicycle industry’s status quo and more about the inner mechanics which lead to the art of motion.

My dreams of making it as a hot shot mountaineer died with a winter expedition gone seriously wrong which left me wondering if I would ever walk again. The low impact nature of cycling assisted in my recovery and what once had been the means to access the wild, became the adventure itself.

Overtime my bikes took on new shapes to fit the objectives of my adventures: strong and light steel, fat tires, frame bags custom stitched in living rooms, dynamo hubs, and better components.

I am not some hotshot racer. In the rare instance I enter a race you won’t see me on the podium. I’m not an ultraendurance rider, although I try to lump my vacation together each year to accommodate some big ride I’ve spent months dreaming of. Like so many, I spend most of my time working to provide myself and my loved ones with food on the table (and bikes in the garage).

At the end of the day, cycling is a means to the end I’ve always desired: an escape to adventure.

Tube or Tubeless, why?

Tubeless because it’s single handedly the best improvement to cycling since disk brakes. Going tubeless is cheap and easy. Carrying a spare vial of sealant is easier than carrying a spare tube (Although I do carry a spare tube as well on long remote journeys. For really out there trips, I carry a latex mold powder blend with me to make DIY sealant on the go - just add water) . Nearly all tires and rims come tubeless ready these days. You have no excuses - go tubeless and never go back.

3 most important things to bring with you on a ride?

Your Trail Ethic:

  • Be kind to the environment
  • Be kind to other people
  • Be kind to the trail
  • Respect Public Land Rules and Regulations
  • Smile

A Sense of Wonder and Adventure.

A frame bag - Ditch the pack (or lighten it) and put everything else you need for a safe and fun journey in your frame triangle (this is a much better and more stable position to store things than on your back, seatpost, or handlebars).


Craziest thing you’ve seen or witnessed on a ride?

I’ve seen lots of big game while out riding from Moose, to Grizzlies, to Bison. I even once got shot at while riding in very rural eastern Oregon.

I must say, however, the craziest thing I’ve ever witnessed on a ride is a toss up between a franken-truck backing down a waterfall via a wench a full day out into the Alaskan backcountry off of anything remotely resembling a road (the drivers were equally surprised to see a ‘crazy’ cyclist), and getting stalked by a mountain lion on a winter cycling trip this past November.

Most important lesson to teach the groms?

I’m going to be perfectly honest here and admit to Google searching “Define Grom” prior to answering this question...

It’s simply not enough to love to ride and do what you love. You’ve got to share your passion with others and you need to be civically engaged with your community, your trail networks and your local land managers. Join a local trail club. If one doesn’t exist, make one. Help maintain trails. If you don’t have local trails, approach the city manager, chamber of commerce, state parks and/or federal agency land managers. Don’t get frustrated if things move slowly at first. Don’t settle for “no” or “we’re too busy”. Don’t pirate illegal trails.

With hard work and the right approach, mountainbiking can benefit an entire community - far more than just benefiting the cyclists. Use cycling to make your neighborhood into a better, more resilient community. Use cycling to generate fellowship among neighbors.

Pay close attention to how your public lands are being managed. If changes are taking place which could compromise those lands, write to congress and let them know you disapprove and that their actions are negatively affecting your community and its wellbeing.

Be a steward and an ambassador of cycling.

Left my wallet in… (fill it in):

… in my coat or pants pocket and then it fell out during my ride/commute… I find it along the side of the road magically 3 weeks later after I have gotten a new wallet complete with all the important cards there within...

Anything you’d like to plug, courtesy of WTB’s blog?

@Adventure_By_Bike Instagram - Follow my adventures on Instagram. Insights to aid in escapism.

National Park Foundation - The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks. Funds contributed to the Foundation are invested directly into the national parks of the United States.

National Forest Foundation - Created by Congress as the official non-profit partner of the USDA Forest Service.

Adventure Cycling Association - The Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) seeks to empower folks to travel by bicycle. Many of the great touring routes in the USA have been created by the (ACA)

International Mountain Bike Association - The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is a non-profit educational association whose mission is to create, enhance and preserve trail opportunities for mountain bikers worldwide. Support IMBA.

BTR Fabrications - Looking for the dream bicycle to load up with all your WTB goodies? BTR Fabrications believes in no-nonsense and no compromise framebuilding. All BTR frames are handbuilt in the UK from the highest quality steel. #SteelisReal my friends.

ATM Handmade Goods - Need to find Item #3 from my “most important things to take on a ride list?”  There's lots of companies out there making framebags, but Andrew the Maker can outfit your rig with bags specific to your ride and needs. He's a stand up fellow; drop him a line.

Porcelain Rocket - Meet Scott Felter, owner of Porcelain Rocket. Scott makes some of the best bikepacking saddlebag systems in the world… and yes, he’s even got a dedicated setup for dropper posts.

Hammer Nutrition - Another good thing to have before, during and post ride is solid nutrition. I admit to living off of hammer gel most of the year. Don’t bonk and don’t let your body wear down.

TRP Brakes - I’m giving TRP a plug because their dual piston mechanical brakes (Spykes) are simply unparalleled when it comes to  straightforward, strong, reliable, field serviceable brakes. They may not be has strong as many of the hydraulics out there, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages for those bikepacking in the remote backcountry.

Alpacka Packrafts - Another item you should try bringing along on your next bike trip is an Alpacka Packraft. These little stout inflatable rafts are small and light enough you can take them bikepacking, yet durable enough to take on whitewater rapids and river rock gardens. Additionally the rafts float with enough clearance to allow exploration of places other watercrafts simply cannot go. Biking out and floating back makes for an amazing adventure… in fact, I’d say #bikepackrafting changes the game entirely.

Aquabound Paddles - If you’re going #bikepackrafting, you’re going to need some paddles. Aquabound can hook you up with lightweight, 4-piece paddles perfect for backpacking or bikepacking.

Dirt Components - You may have noticed WTB does not currently offer full-fat tires or rims… Until they do, Dirt Components manufactures the highest quality carbon fatbike rims for your ride. Great folks making great products here in the USA.

Help Rad Rider and Bikepacker Leialoha Sousa-Sommo Fight Cancer and Ride Again - My partner in all things was recently diagnosed at 27 years old with advanced stages of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Check out her Go Fund Me page and help her kick cancer and ride again.

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