I’ve spent the last two years in a Biostatistics MS program at UCLA. I’m preparing to move on in life now, taking my last quarter of classes virtually, holed up in a loft in Berkeley. I am currently splitting my quarantine between genetic research and building bikes.
For a final project for one of my classes recently, I did an analysis of my cycling data from the last two years of training in the Santa Monica area. I’ve been very consistent in my training since moving to LA. A very regimented schedule of rides, both on my own and in groups.
My best memories from this time in my life will unquestionably come from my wonderful Tuesday and Thursday mornings with Las Flores Breakfast Club. This is a remarkably consistent group ride that I have participated in over 60 times since December 2018. For class, I downloaded and analyzed my Strava data from these rides and wrote the following statistical analysis of my performance.
A few months ago I changed my name on Strava to reflect my corporate sponsorship. ‘Bryan Kevan’ became ‘Bryan Kevan | BMK Frameworks’, and I started casually working in exaggerated references on group rides to ‘… my SPONSOR’.
At about this time last year I was in the process of finishing up riding the Silk Road. It took me five months, and I rode the bike, and myself, into the ground. I didn’t know Russian, and didn’t ride with another person for a single day. I spent long, long hours rolling hash from literal ditch weed in order to stave off the intense loneliness of Eastern Kazakhstan. I was poked and prodded by every authoritarian government from Tbilisi to Mongolia. Then I moved to West LA, started graduate school, and joined a collegiate cycling team. It was a definite change of pace (cadence?).
Surprise, surprise, I took another bike trip. Admittedly, Southern California in spring might not seem as exotic as other trips I’ve taken recently. At this time last year I was drowning myself in gas station vodka to deal with the sheer brutality of Northwest Uzbekistan. This year I ate strawberries in wildflowers and read Tortilla Flat in the warm sun.
Part 2 of frame 2. With the ability to churn out tubes on my fiberwinder cheaply and with mildly reckless abandon (see Part 1), I still needed to turn these tubes into a bike. And to do that, I was determined to once again use Calfee Design for my inspiration and use 3D print carbon fiber lug moulds. Calfee got me into framebuilding in the first place, and was where I went to for my bamboo ideas back when I was in high school trying to finish frame 1. Or frame 0, I guess, because that bike didn’t even make it through a single ride. So the record, frame 0 is the one that failed, frame 1 is a champ, has lasted for a few thousand miles and many rough gravel rides. And frame 2 is coming to take its place.
Today I’m switching gears from cross-continent trips to my further experiments in carbon fiber framebuilding. I’ve spent the second half of this year bumbling my way through the first quarter of graduate school and designing and building my second carbon fiber frame. I did a lot of different things this time, and I’m eager to share what worked and what didn’t. About 90% of my instruction has come from small blogs with blurry pictures, and 50-page forum posts in a variety of languages. So this is my way to spread my breadcrumbs for others who looking to do something like this. It’s been a fun project.
I left an abrupt ending to my last post. I guess the trip kind of ended abruptly, so the last post fit that mould. The last few days felt just as abbreviated. ‘Now you’re on a bus, now you’re running around Ulanbaataar, now you’re home.’ There wasn’t some glorious ‘last night looking over the steppe and pondering the experiences of this trip’. After a few weeks back in the States, I’ve had some time to reflect on this voyage and so I’m going to write a post reflecting on my time in Central Asia. Also, now that I’m back on a computer with a decent screen to edit photos on, I am going through my photos for ones that I may have missed along the way. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites and some of those that didn’t make the posts for whatever reason.
“You appear to be moving very slowly into the Gobi Desert. Are you sure you want to do this?” – Things Google Maps isn’t designed to say.
After almost two weeks running from Police in China, using various mapping resources that run acceptably well through the Great Firewall, I completely missed how close I’d be coming to one part of the Gobi Desert. I guess by some definition, you could say that my route, unbeknownst to me at the time, had me crossing it. I’m not sure where the precise borders of the Gobi are, or if there even are precise borders of such a monstrous geographical feature. Regardless, Google gave me no warnings when I crossed into the region about how absolutely desolate the area would be. When I finally zoomed out a few days into Mongolia, I discovered just how close my route had gone to the ‘Great Gobi B’ on Google Maps, it in all honesty came as a surprise. I had planned this leg thinking it was just another barren steppe, one of many I’d crossed since leaving Kyrgyzstan about a month ago.
Xinjiang, Xinjiang. Where to start with this absurd place. Xinjiang shares much with the oppressive political situation in Tibet, but doesn’t get nearly the coverage. And the Chinese Government has a vested interest in keeping it that way. Geographically, it is a vast province spanning most of Western China. That fact alone should raise red flags on its own about potential political troubles in the region. The province is sandwiched between China and the predominantly Muslim Turkic peoples of Central Asia, and this creates an obvious conflict. The Uygur minority is kept under constant surveillance, with “abnormal” (real term!) beards and head scarves banned. It’s known to be a nightmare to cycle through, but I think I’ve found a very good way to do it and I want to share that information. So this is a writing-heavy post. But first, back to the last few days of riding in Kazakhstan. The long days riding in Kazakhstan are so crucial to understanding why eventually entering China felt a little like getting hit with a bag of bricks.