Ellie Kaszniak’s Tidbit Archives

Ellie has recently joined our team as our part-time bike mechanic, to help us with our extra repairs and bike builds, especially during the busy season.  Ellie grew up in Tucson where she began working with community bike projects in the early 2000’s.  After spending many formative years in the Pacific Northwest working as a mechanic and in bicycle youth programming, she returned full time to Tucson in 2017.  Since returning, Ellie has been an instrumental part of teaching and co-managing the amazing organization that is BICAS.  Ellie remains involved at BICAS as well as working with after school youth bike clubs. 

Ellie loves to get out on bikepacking and climbing trips with her buds all over the Southwest and beyond.  We’re so excited to have Ellie sharing her depth of bicycle mechanic prowess and Tucson bike community knowledge here at Campfire Cycling.

FUGA’s Summer Vibes Block Party – July. 12, 2024

A shout out to FUGA (Familias Unidas Ganando Acesibilidad, www.fugatucson.org) for their recent Summer Vibes Block Party. When I left work to head over to the block party to help out at the mechanic station where FUGA was offering free minor bike repair, I wondered if the event would be called off. Monsoon storms had been hitting all day across the city and we seemed to be directly in another one. However, when I rolled up everything was all set up, the music was playing, and the street was full of people wet and laughing. FUGA really does know how to bring the good vibes. Check out their twice a month community rides and other local activities. 

BICAS Summer Camp – July. 5, 2024

Last week, I co-instructed a week long Summer Camp at BICAS (www.bicas.org), called Youth Earn-A-Bike. Our group of kids ages 9-12 worked hard all week refurbishing donated bicycles and learning about mechanics so they could take them home at the end of the week after a test ride through the neighborhood. Congrats to the campers and thank you to Campfire for accommodating my schedule. 

Swift Campout… Tucson style – June. 28, 2024

The Swift Campout holds a special place in my heart. “Swift Campout is the annual, global call out to go bike-camping to celebrate summer solstice.” 

Some of my earliest explorations in the PNW by bicycle were with my dear friends at Swift Industries.  Our love for time spent outside in nature by bike has been the glue of our friendship across time and space. Campfire’s participation in this celebration brings to mind so many fond memories.

However, while they may be welcoming the summer in Seattle, we are deep in it in Tucson, where temperatures have been topping 100 degrees for a while now, and we’ve been tailoring our rides to early mornings and higher elevations. Who would have thought that this year’s campout would usher in our first big monsoon storm. We often look to the Catalina Mountains with anticipation to watch the first storms roll in, and there we were, atop the mountain in the heart of it.

In the end, I love a mis-adventure, a little unexpected, and how adaptable we can be. We may have ridden back down the mountain before any camping happened but I still had a blast riding with this sweet crew and getting to know everyone better while waiting out the rain on a porch. We’ll be back up there sooner than later.  

Riding El Lobo Lupus – June. 21, 2024

Just wrapped up an incredible week riding at higher elevation on a modified version of the Lobo Lupus route in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. I spent a good chunk of time in this area as a kid with my family and it was such a treat to greatly expand my awareness of and wonder of this region. We were a little too late season to truly beat the heat but it was worth it. Elk, pronghorn, deers, turkey, and even a wolf and bear graced us with their presence. I thought a lot about historical and modern fire management and land stewardship as we witnessed both the scars of major fires and the resilience of the land. There are so many loops in this route that one can tailor a trip to their time limitations, just be ready for a lot of climbing. 10 out of 10 would do again! 

WZRD Build – June. 14, 2024

Thank you Morgan for the opportunity to work with such a beautiful custom build. Morgan brought us his WZRD frame (check out @wzrd.bikes) and a box full of perfectly selected parts. I love all the details on this bike, especially the fork. I hope this bike brings you so much joy Morgan! 

RAR Discussion Group @Campfire – June. 7, 2024

Campfire had the honor of hosting a discussion group of Cyclista Zine put on by Tucson’s RAR chapter, @rar_tucson. Participants wanting to continue building community in cycling, even as temperatures rise and daytime bike rides become less practical/safe, gathered to read passages out loud from various issues of this zines and discuss responses, with a focus on inclusivity. Check out @cyclista_zine, a community bike zine that highlights “All bikes. All bodies. All stories.” or swing by the shop where we have a small collection.  

Prospecting the Great Divide – May. 31, 2024

Congratulations Chris on your new Tumbleweed Prospector. This was a fun build and we wish you the best out riding the Great Divide. 

Prescott National Forest – May. 24, 2024

Prescott National Forest is full of such fun riding. Spent my weekend in the area with a little kayaking, swimming, climbing, and biking. I was worried I might feel limited not having brought my mountain bike, but my Fargo handled just fine on all the fun flowy trails we encountered. Riding in the soft forests of Northern Arizona are such a treat following the often rocky and cactus filled terrain around Tucson. Can’t wait to get back to check out some more riding. 

Desert Friends – May. 17, 2024

Getting ready for the summer heat and shifting my riding hours. The other evening a friend and I did an after hours ride up Sabino canyon, an incredibly pleasant 7.5 mile out and back climb that takes you past various creek crossings with sufficient water to take a dip in the evening heat. We passed a small tortoise on the way out crossing the road. Unfortunately not photographed, but here’s a photo of another favorite desert friend. 

Happy New Salsa Day! – May. 10, 2024

We are professional “bike packers” indeed! Shoutout to Surly for providing my favorite packing materials to keep those bikes from moving around during shipping. Part of our weekly tasks in the shop including receiving, unboxing, building and fine tuning bicycles, then repackaging to get them safely to your homes. 

Happy New Salsa Day! – May. 3, 2024

Happy New Bike Day LB! When we received our first Salsa Confluence at the shop my first thought was “wow, I can hardly tell it’s an e-bike.”  Salsa’s new electric assist gravel bike is lighter than any I’ve lifted and has a sleeker look.  I thought of a good friend who has been seeking ways to get out riding longer distances in the aftermath of an injury that has continued to pose challenges. It’s through this friend that I learned about the Southern Arizona Adaptive Sports handcycle team they trained with for El Tour de Tucson . I invited L.B. to come check out this new bike.  They came in soon after for a test ride and returned with a huge smile on their face.  It was so exciting to be able to join them for a first spin on some dirt roads, I could barely keep up.  I’m excited to learn more about these bikes through their experience and feedback as well as to learn more in regards to how e-assist bikes are opening up more opportunities to adaptive riders.  

The Mariachi Returns – Apr. 26, 2024

It has been 8 years since I first rode the Tombstone Hustle on my brand new Salsa Mariachi.  It was a blast to return to this route on the same bike but this time in the wonderful company of the Campfire Intermediate Bikepacking crew. Everyone who made it out worked hard pushing through the heat. I noticed so much more this time around with the input of my fellow riders pointing out interesting road side attractions, plants, and birds and swapping stories of our favorite rides and routes. Hope to ride with all you again soon. 

Team Building – Apr. 19, 2024

More team building activities this week as we corrected the rake on a fork for a beautiful custom build that Jake designed. I love how much we swap ideas in the shop, weigh in about decisions on projects, and loan a helping hand to support each other through the challenging repairs. 

Feeding Ghosts – Apr. 12, 2024

5 years ago I got to participate in a 5 day group ride from Seattle to Portland via mostly Forest Service roads with 10 riders who were headed to the WTF bikepacker’s summit (precursor to the Radical Adventure Riders). I rode a lot with Tessa Hulls, artist/writer/adventurer, who just published a graphic memoir and it’s incredibly! Check out Feeding Ghosts: A Graphic Memoir

In the Dirt Screening – Apr. 5, 2024

Last week I attended an inspiring and thought provoking community screening of a new documentary film, In the Dirt, co-hosted by BICAS-WTF and @rar.tucson.  “IN THE DIRT is a documentary film about a group of passionate Native American cyclists who attempt to bring the sport of mountain biking to the Navajo Nation, where no bike shops exist.”  Check here for a screening near you or to stream the film.  Proceeds from the event were collected to support Silver Stallion, a 501C3 non-profit that “provides free bikes for kids, free bike repairs, youth programming for kids, and race programming for kids on the Navajo Nation and surrounding communities.” 

Ruta Shoutouts – Mar. 29, 2024

It’s hard to choose one thing to share from last weekend’s Ruta Del Jefe. I’m so grateful for the opportunity I had through Campfire Cycling to support the riders and this incredible event. Such a big shout out to the organizers for all their hard work and the evolution of this event over the years as one of the more informative and inclusive cycling spaces I’ve participated in. For all the tragedy caused by the border wall, RDJ helped ignite some sparks of hope, sharing successful bi-national conservation efforts and humanitarian responses in the borderlands, with an emphasis on coming together versus divisiveness. May we all bring some inspiration into our daily lives and commitment to long-term responses. 

I’m hopeful that many of the connections made are only the beginning to future friendships. An additional shout out to the RAR.bay area chapter. They made it all the way out with nine riders who stuck together the whole route with incredibly supportive energy. It was so fun to see them out on the route, riding hard and celebrating at the end of the day. Thank you for the special zine you gifted us honoring your friend and sharing a favorite local route. This is what community feels like. 

Back-to-Back Outdoor Festivals – Mar. 22, 2024

This week I’m feeling inspired and appreciative of the opportunity to participate in two back-to-back festivals based around two of my favorite outdoor activities. As I get ready to head out for Ruta Del Jefe this weekend with the Campfire team, I have a lot on my mind from a spectacular weekend spent in Bishop California for the Flash Foxy Climbing festival. Flash Foxy celebrates and provides resources for women and gender queer climber. One of their mottos is “creating space to be our full selves”.  I gained so much confidence in my climbing skills and knowledge through a weekend of clinics, conversations, and practice in a supportive community. I’m looking forward to bringing my full self in all my identities to this weekend’s festival of adventure biking, education, community, and advocacy and to continue pushing against definitions of what it means to be a “cyclist”. Ruta del Jefe is not about how fast you are, how far you can ride, or ideas of what an athlete looks like, but instead an opportunity to come together through our shared love of riding bikes and learn more about the region we ride in. Thank you to all the organizers of these two great events. 

RAR Tucson’s 1st Intermediate Bikepacking Trip – Mar. 15, 2024

A shoutout to the Tucson Chapter of the Radical Adventure Riders (RAR) who head out this weekend of their first Intermediate Bikepacking trip. With over 20 chapters, RAR is part of a “movement towards gender inclusivity and racial equity in cycling and the outdoors”. This weekend’s overnight trip is organized by and for women, trans, and gender expansive riders. Wishing the riders an excellent weekend and memorable time. Find a local RAR chapter near you. 

Squeezing in those spring rides – Mar. 8, 2024

We may still have some snow capped peaks but it’s warming up fast out here!  Squeezing in all the rides I can before the Arizona heat strikes back. I revisited a favorite route last weekend in the eastern foothills of the Santa Ritas. Highlight was the herd of some 20+ Pronghorn to cross our path!

1st AZT Adventure, 7 Years Ago – Mar. 1, 2024

This week marks the 7 year anniversary of my first time riding on the Arizona Trail. I had recently moved back to Tucson and was invited to join two friends to ride sections 15-17 of the AZT, from Freeman Road to Picketpost. Some may know this section as part of a popular bikepacking route named the Gila River Ramble. We rode it over three days with a generous pickup and shuttle ride from a friend at the end. In the short time of this trip I gained so much confidence biking loaded on singletrack, and also took a gnarly crash that resulted in a bent frame. I was able to straighten the bend back home and still ride this bike today… steel is real! This trip also marked a new chapter in my friendship with these two buds as we continued to meet up every year from our various home places to ride together. I’ve grown so much with these friends, shared so many challenges and highlights, and built so much trust which Is key to our riding relationship. It’s an ideal time of year to check out this route if you’re local, and hopefully you can do it with some of your favorite people. 

Bikepacking Root’s BIPOC Grant – Feb. 23, 2024

Bikepacking Roots is raising money for their BIPOC Bike Adventure Grant Program. “For 2024, the grant program will focus on providing grants to BIPOC Community Leaders to host trips, develop gear libraries, and other community building activities.” Check out the cool work this non profit is doing around routes, events, clinics, and webinars to gain confidence in all things bikepacking, and donate what you can to the grant fund. 

Ironwood Weekend Ride – Feb. 16, 2024

While it was disappointing that last weekend’ Sky Islands Adventure Ride had to be canceled due to weather and muddy conditions, I did get the chance to let the ground drain a couple days and try out a ride from earlier in the series that I had missed. I had a blast with one of my favorite riding buddies out in Ironwood. I’ve never seen it so green out there! I think we’ve got a super loom year on the way. Thank you Sarah Swallow for hosting these rides and especially for the incredible panel presentation last week where we learned better practices for respecting the lands we ride in and how to show up to protect the land, animals, and people we encounter. 

Fargo Decision Finally Made!!! – Feb. 16, 2024

After half a year agonizing over the decision to purchase a new bike, last summer I decided on the Salsa Fargo and managed to snag the last in my size before stock ran out for the year.  I’ve been slowly exploring the capabilities of this bike. This past weekend I decided it was really time to get it dirty and took it out for an overnight trip in the Galiuro Mountains. I was so impressed with its handling on steep and rugged surfaces, with the comfortable positioning for long days, and I finally got over my fear of overloading the carbon fork. With all the rain we’ve been getting this winter there were many stream crossings. Found out the Fargo even shifts well underwater! Couldn’t be happier with my decision. 

Bike Club Joy – Feb. 2, 2024

Throughout the school year I have the joy of co-instructing a bike club with 2nd-4th graders from Ochoa elementary school as part of the programs offered through the John Valenzuela Youth Center in collaboration with BICAS and the Living Streets Alliance. In each session we practice new riding skills before heading out into the neighborhood to focus on road safety and interacting with one’s community and surroundings via bike. Many of our participants are learning to ride a bike for the first time as they piece together how to move between their favorite parks and family homes. Shout out to all the projects working in the community and with schools to build our youth’s confidence on and off the bike. Always the highlight of my week. 

On the Odessey – Jan 26, 2024

Spent a weekend with visiting friends on one of Southern Arizona’s most popular routes, the Sky Islands Odessey.  Check out the route at Bikepacking.com. They’ve got some great resources to begin educating yourself on the Borderlands and how to help care for the land as well as the animals and the people who pass through it.

Appreciating the Color Splash – Jan 19, 2024

My coworkers know well that I’m not usually drawn to bright colors. But sometimes our customers just really nail the perfect combo. With a full rainbow of color options to chose from, Raceface Chester pedals have been a popular option here at Campfire to give your bike some extra flare. Love what this customer did…

Stoking Out Jim! – Jan 12, 2024

Happy New Bike Day! 
After struggling to find a hardtail in their size at a desired componentry level, Jim Mayerstein noticed online that Campfire had an XS Salsa Timberjack in stock a week before their visit to Tucson. I met them at the bus stop with the bike, one test ride and they were sold. Jim has been searching for a hardtail mtb in preparation for this year’s upcoming https://www.rutadeljefe.com/. This is the first year Jim will be joining from Mexico City to participate in the binational festival of adventure cycling that promotes education, community, and advocacy. Help Jim raise funds for their registration pledge by donating at https://www.pledgereg.com/4959/jimmayerstein