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The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.

- John Muir

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Athletes & Explorers

Feb 01, 2019

Imagine; A Cleaner World with Rivian, & the End of Alex Honnold’s #VanLife

With Rivian’s new electric adventure vehicles, so came Alex Honnold’s announcement of his partnership with the company and perhaps an end to his #VanLife, for the benefit of a better world.

WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

New to #VanLife? Check out the Dirty Secrets here

Imagine you are prepping before a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon with your family and friends. You drive to the put-in at Lee’s Ferry, Arizona with your gear packed and your rafts loaded. You park the truck, put on the river, and spend a wonderful 18 days floating through one of the most incredible canyons in the world. When the trip is over, the same truck you drove to the put-in upstream is now waiting for you downstream at the take-out. Ready to be loaded up with gear and driven away.

Imagine you’re going downhill mountain biking with your friends. You drive to the top of the trailhead, unload your bikes from the truck, and ride incredible single-track all the way to the bottom of the mountain. The same truck that you left at the top is waiting for you at the end of the trail, ready to shuttle you back up for a second lap.

Imagine heading out for a long-distance point-to-point trail run. You drive to the trailhead, pack some energy gels in your hydration vest, lace up your sneakers, and set off on a moderate pace through the mountains. However, instead of offering beers to a friend in exchange for them picking you up at the end point, the same vehicle that you drove to the trailhead will simply drive itself to the pick-up point. To top it all off – this miracle vehicle doesn’t require a single drop of gas or diesel. It runs on electricity.

Photo: Ben Moon.

This is the ultimate motivation behind Rivian, the newest electric vehicle company – to create self-driving, electric, off-road, 4×4 vehicles that appeal to folks wanting to spend time in the outdoors, and help enable them to do just that.

“better off-road than any other vehicle on the market”

Here’s a big differentiator between Rivian and lots of other companies out there – they don’t want their vehicles to be owned by every single outdoor enthusiast in America. This is because every driver in America does not need to have a vehicle at their disposal 24/7. Rivian’s goal for the future is to allow people to subscribe to their vehicles, where the vehicle then drives itself to your home for your requested time, ready to be driven. Instead of owning a vehicle, you can simply call it to your house, and then use it to take your family skiing for the weekend. Or take your friends to the beach for the day. Or take your kids mountain biking after work.

Rivian’s thoughts are simple: Fewer people owning vehicles = fewer vehicles = less waste and pollution. 

In November of 2018, The Outdoor Journal was invited to the official unveiling. You can read more about this first peek, and the car itself here

Photo: Ben Moon.

For the time being, Rivian is taking baby-steps towards that goal – starting with perfecting the electric vehicle. Rivian (you can check out their current lineup here) is the first electric car company building 4×4, off-road vehicles.

The goal? To be invitational. To help you get out there and enjoy the outdoors in a clean way. Trucks and SUV’s are currently available for preorder, to be released to the public in 2020. According to Rivian’s Founder and CEO, RJ Scaringe, their truck is “better off-road than any other vehicle on the market” – Without using any gasoline or diesel.

Sounds great, right? We think so!

The Rivian x Alex Honnold Partnership

We’re not the only ones – so does world-renowned rock climber and free-soloist, Alex Honnold. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to do a 10-day rafting trip and have your car pick you up at the end? Except it wouldn’t be your car. That’s the whole point – the Rivian picks you up and it isn’t necessarily yours, but you are still getting picked up by a quality vehicle that you know you care about.”

RJ letting Alex take a Rivian for a test drive. Photo: Ben Moon.

Honnold’s partnership with Rivian caught us a little off guard.

Honnold is switching to a truck? What about his #vanlife? He is famous for being a dirtbag climber living out of a van! How will he do that with a truck? With all those questions in mind, we called up Alex to pick his brain about his decision to ditch #vanlife and move forward in a partnership with Rivian.

To Alex, making the decision to switch was easy.

We need more companies like this in the world.”

“Well, I mean the point of van life has always basically been because it’s the easiest way to adventure and access the outdoors. And if there is a way or a cleaner way, then I’m 100% on board. I basically always wanted to go electric for my transportation but there just hasn’t really been the option. And I own a home now… so basically at least half the year I’m based out of the home, and it makes more sense to be able to commute and drive your car to the crag. This is why I’m so excited about my partnership with Rivian is that living in Las Vegas, a lot of the climbing is sort of highway driving. It’s pretty casual, like any electric cars could get you there. But then the other half is pretty rugged, four-wheel drive, you know, dirt roads and there just isn’t an electric car on the market that can do both.”

Until now.

Photo courtesy of Rivian.

From Dreams to Reality

RJ Scaringe built this company from scratch. It was just himself and his dreams, then slowly over the past ten years, built the company up to what it is now. A budding electric vehicle company with five different factories in multiple states and continents. In the way that he built the company from a clean slate, he also built the vehicles with a blank canvas, from the ground up. Completely rethinking the design and storage space available in a vehicle, Rivian went about building their trucks and SUVs from a previously uncomprehended perspective.

We were fortunate enough to sit down and speak with RJ a little later the same day. You can read “Meet RJ Scaringe. The Founder of Rivian, Changing the Way We View Transportation” here.

The entire vehicle is built upon something RJ refers to as a skateboard, because that’s exactly what it looks like – 4 wheels and board. This skateboard includes everything that the vehicle needs to run, so everything above is free for you, me and an abundance of storage. Instead of a typically huge engine being stored in the hood of the truck, there is only one vast storage compartment. Instead of the usual workings required behind the back seats of the truck, there is just another gigantic storage compartment. More information about the build can be found here

Alex and RJ checking out the storage behind the seats, wide enough for your surf or snowboard. Photo: Ben Moon.

Electric, 4×4, off-road capable, an environmentally-focused company, ample storage space… it seems perfect. So what’s the catch?

The Cost

Well, as RJ says, “Today with battery prices where they are, it’s very hard to make a large battery pack vehicle at a low cost. It’s super hard. It’s really impossible.” And when building a vehicle is expensive, buying a vehicle then also becomes expensive. With a $61,000 starting price for the truck and $65,000 for the SUV, Rivian vehicles are a price range well above many of their off-road competitors. But despite this, RJ is optimistic that as the world continues moving forward with electric vehicles, the price-point to build Rivian cars will go down, thus allowing the company to sell the vehicles at a more affordable price. “We are at a really interesting tipping point where the whole world will convert and needs to convert to electric. Essentially over the course of our lives, it will go from a percentage of vehicle sales being electric, to literally one hundred percent.”

Back to Alex and Imagining.

100% electric vehicles sounds pretty good when Alex Honnold talks about it. “When you think about how much more liveable cities will be when vehicles are 100% electric. Much more peaceful. Imagine LA without smog!”

We may have a long way to go before the entire world is driving 100% electric cars, but at least this is a step forward!

As Alex says, “It’s the  sort of company that I wanted to see succeed. Even if I wasn’t working with Rivian, if I wasn’t an ambassador or anything, I would still be supporting the brand. We need more companies like this in the world. The world has to go 100% electric at some point and the sooner the better. I am so psyched. Can’t wait to get the truck and use it.”

Photo courtesy of Rivian

Introducing The Outdoor Voyage

Whilst you’re here, given you believe in our mission, we would love to introduce you to The Outdoor Voyage – our booking platform and online marketplace which only lists good operators, who care for sustainability, the environment and immersive, authentic experiences. All listed prices are agreed directly with the operator, and we promise that 86% of any money spent ends up supporting the local community that you’re visiting. Click the image below to find out more.

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Athletes & Explorers

Aug 06, 2019

In Defense of the Struggle.

Mountain bike racer Alicia Leggett reflects on how the obstacles she's faced have made her a better competitor and a stronger person.

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WRITTEN BY

Alicia Leggett

Like many ambitious people, I hate being bad at things.

Here’s my problem: It’s hard to become good at anything worthwhile without sucking for a while.

I’m a pro mountain bike racer, and last summer was my first season of world-level international racing. I raced in six countries as part of the Enduro World Series and traveled to races outside of North America for the first time. And although this was the season I’d been dreaming of for years, it was the hardest and most frustrating season of my life. More importantly, it took a lot of work to get there, and it will take much more work to keep progressing.

My 2018 season kicked off in March with races in Chile and Columbia, countries I’d never visited but had researched obsessively since I first looked at the season calendar. Living in Missoula, MT, I had spent most of the winter off the bike. I also received my bike for this year the week before I left for South America, so although I was beyond excited and itching to escape the snow, I wasn’t exactly prepared to compete with the world’s best.

“I remember crying in the shower”

I had done what I could. Moving to somewhere warm and dry wasn’t an option for me last winter, so I made the most of things and embraced the mental break from riding. I skied more days than I didn’t ski, I learned to enjoy running in the snow (and started borrowing my favorite dog, who became a great running buddy) and I started lifting heavier and more consistently than I ever have. Still, when I showed up to the start line at 11,000 feet in the Chilean Andes, I struggled.

The two-day race was brutal. I remember crying in the shower after the first day, dreading the morning when I’d have to wake up and do it again. But somehow, those two days are imprinted in my mind as two of the best days of my life. The Chilean sky is beautiful. The mountains are rugged. The terrain made me feel like I was riding on another planet. A week later, I raced in the Colombian jungle, in a mess of tire-sucking mud and suffocating humidity. I reveled in the misery.

“I’m not here to write about the times things went well”

All things considered, those two South American races went all right, and I collected a couple of race results I can be proud of, but I returned to the U.S. battered, exhausted and demoralized. But things improved from there. I put one foot in front of the other, took one pedal stroke at a time, and kept moving. I spent time riding my favorite trails, taking bike park laps and racing at the regional level for the next few months. I started running women’s clinics in my area, continued coaching teenagers and generally had a great time riding my bike. I won four regional races in a row, which was exciting proof of my growth as a rider. But I’m not here to write about the times’ things went well. This is a defence of the struggle.

After racing the Enduro World Series round in Whistler, I returned home and focused on preparing for the season’s final races in Spain and Italy.

The first day of racing in Spain was one of my best race days ever. I climbed about 6,000 feet and raced four tricky stages to land myself in 19th of 41 of the world’s best racers heading into the next day. I was so excited I could hardly sleep – I loved the course, and being in the top half of the EWS field felt great. I just needed to keep my riding smooth through the next day and I’d land myself in the top 20.

On the first stage of the next day, things fell apart. My dropper lever got stuck engaged and my seat kept popping up, which was not helpful in steep, rocky terrain. I crashed. Hard. I finished the stage, much slower than I wanted to, then admitted to myself that I might not finish the race. I looked like I had an extra elbow in the center of my chest and it hurt to breathe. I watched a volunteer wheel my bike away and felt my high hopes disappear.

I’d made it through the whole season without any serious crashes or mechanical problems. Why did the problems have to show up at one of the races I cared about the most?

At least I had one race left. After a round of chest x-rays (verdict: nothing broken) and a few days of rest, I was ready to ride again. I drove to Italy, fixed my bike and studied the course. Practice day arrived, and it was the first day I could move around without chest pain, so I considered that a good sign, until I caught my front wheel in a corner and body-slammed the ground. Once practice was over, I started to feel everything.

My chest still hurt and I had a massive bruise on my quad left from the previous crash. On top of that, I’d landed on a big rock just inside my hipbone and my bloody arm had started to swell.

“I crossed an ocean for this,” I kept thinking.

I showed up to the start line battered but determined to make the best of things. I just had four race stages left in my season. I would show up and ride my best.

I hadn’t quite learned the lesson the previous week: Sometimes, things just fall apart. We can’t control all of it. And if we could control it, where would the adventure be?

I controlled the variables I could, but in that final race, my luck had run out.

I bent my derailleur on a rock on the first stage. I also broke my chain guide on the first stage. My chain broke on the second stage as I tried to sprint up a hill with my limited gear range. I rode a clean but conservative third stage before lining up at the top of the fourth stage.

My entire season had built up to that moment. I left the U.S. riding better than ever before, and I’d made sure everything on my bike was dialed. I’d take all the steps I could to set myself up for success, and things still hadn’t gone my way. Regardless, I had to keep giving my all. The last stage that day was my favorite, and I went in for redemption.

I knew I shouldn’t set my hopes too high. After a few minutes of riding fast, skipping through technical rock sections and pedaling hard whenever I had the chance, I felt my chain drop off my chainring and all I could do was try to keep my momentum. So much for having a good stage. I dropped into one of the most iconic sections in all of enduro racing, a rocky corridor lined with thousands of cheering spectators that feels like it goes directly down the ridge to the Mediterranean. It was incredible. After a brutal day, when it felt like everything went wrong, I crossed the line ecstatic.

An article I read once explained that gamblers experience a bigger rush when they almost win than when they actually win. That’s part of what keeps them coming back. I think I’m the same way. For the entire trip, I had great race stages interrupted by the most frustrating moments of my season. I went from feeling on top of the world to feeling awful over and over, in just a few seconds each time. Those races showed me that I could be on-pace with where I wanted to be, racing with the best of them, but reminded me to never take a good result for granted.

“Learn to love struggling”

If I’d finished the season the way I wanted to, I would probably be content, and maybe I wouldn’t train as hard through the off-season. I can use my unfinished business with the EWS as motivation to come back stronger. I learned much more from the Europe races than I ever learned from races that went well, and I will focus on everything I can carry forward with me into future races. I learned about on-the-go bike fixes and gained practice staying calm when things felt disastrous, which, as it turns out, is important.

I’m now in the middle of my 2019 race season, and haven’t forgotten last year’s lessons. I’ve had a few explosive, unprecedented results so far this year, so I know I’ve internalized at least some of what I learned. Each setback has poured a bit more fuel on the fire, and I’m back, mentally and physically tougher than ever.

I’ve heard so many times that we can’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react. I’m choosing to learn whenever I can.

Years of riding bikes has shown me the value in doing things that are difficult. The most fun trails are usually the ones I’m good at riding, so I make myself ride the ones I don’t enjoy. I look for technical climbs, off-camber corners and tight switchbacks, which I would love to avoid. And these days, I can think of a few trails I used to hate that I now find satisfying.

Riding bikes is hard. Crashing out of a race sucks. Mechanical problems also suck. Both at once… well, you get the idea, but that’s mountain biking sometimes, and life. We are all doing the best we can with what we know.

So, my advice to anyone reading: Learn to love struggling. Do the things that are hard, especially when you don’t want to. If a ride or race falls apart, find the lesson and keep moving. You’ll prove to yourself, over and over, that you can survive.

 

Introducing The Outdoor Voyage

The Outdoor Voyage booking platform and online marketplace only lists good operators, who care for sustainability, the environment and immersive, authentic experiences. All listed prices are agreed directly with the operator, and we promise that 86% of any money spent ends up supporting the local community that you’re visiting. Click the image below to find out more.

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