Words and photos by Paul Poletes (@poletespe)
Hello, I’m Paul. In addition to being a husband and father, I’m a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. Since 1998, I’ve lived and worked in seven different countries worldwide, plus a few stints in Washington, DC.
Since last July, my family and I have been in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. I grew up in South Dakota but now call Virginia home. Like most kids in South Dakota, I grew up on my bike – a yellow Tripper with a banana seat, then a generic dirt bike (of course) before graduating to a series of heavy, creaky, but bombproof Schwinn ten speeds. After college, however, I put my bike away and rarely rode at all for nearly 20 years.
In 2011, I moved back to Virginia after three years in Albania. I bought a Specialized Sirrus, hoping to get some exercise and tool around the neighborhood with my two young children. I took up group rides with friends and started exploring local trails, and then things really got out of hand – I got a carbon road bike and rode nearly every day during my next tour in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. I first got into bikepacking after we got to Riga, Latvia, in 2017. I brought a Jamis Renegade with me to Riga and took it all over Latvia on bikepacking trips and other ill-conceived adventures, including a four-day group ride across the country during what turned out to be the hottest week since 1896. Nowadays, I do a mix of road and gravel riding.
While hunkering down from COVID in Riga in early 2020, I caught Chumba Director of Operations Vince Colvin’s interview on the Bikes or Death podcast. I liked the idea of a titanium bike do-it-all drop-bar bike but was especially taken by the Chumba story and the idea of owning a bike that was handmade in the United States. I convinced my wife that yes, I truly needed another bike, and after emailing Chumba, I spent almost two hours on the phone with Vince going over every last detail of my Terlingua. I knew by then that I was headed to Uzbekistan for my next assignment, so I told Vince I was looking for something versatile and comfortable that could take a beating on rough roads.
- Frame Chumba Terlingua Titanium
- Fork Whisky MCX
- Rims NOX Teocali 650B
- Hubs SON Deluxe (front) / DT Swiss 240S (rear)
- Tires WTB Venture 37mm
- Handlebars Redshift Sports Kitchen Sink
- Headset Chris King
- Crankset Shimano GRX 800, 40T chainring
- Pedals Garmin Rally
- Cassette Shimano XT 11-42
- Derailleur Shimano GRX
- Brakes Shimano GRX Hydraulic
- Shifter(s) Shimano GRX
- Saddle Brooks Cambium C17
- Seatpost Redshift Sports Shockstop
- Stem Thompson X4
- Front bags Revelate Sweetroll, Harness, or Egress Pocket
- Frame bags Revelate Tangle or custom Rockgeist Wedge
- Rear bags Revelate Terrapin
- Accessory bags Footlong JPaks top tube bag, extra-large JPaks stem bags
- Other accessories Sinewave Beacon headlight, Garmin Varia rear light and radar
After eight months in Uzbekistan, I can say the Terlingua is the perfect bike for this beautiful but rugged country. It rides fast and smooth on good roads, and it rolls over and soaks up potholes and chunky gravel when I take it out of town. I especially love the Redshift Sports Shockstop seatpost combined with the Brooks Cambium C17 saddle. Together, they feel like a La-Z-Boy. I ordered the bike with Ritchey Venturemax bars but swapped them out for the Redshift Kitchen Sink bars, which are comfy and have lots of extra room for mounting gear like my trusty Sinewave Beacon headlamp.
Uzbekistan rewards the patient cyclist. The roads can be rough and crowded, and the scenic routes not easy to find – but they are out there if you look. The people all over Uzbekistan are incredibly hospitable. I’ve often had random strangers invite me into their homes for tea or even offer to buy me lunch on the street. Pulling up to a tea house dressed in cycling kit and riding an odd-looking bike is a great conversation starter, and I’ve met some wonderful people on my treks out of town. With the snow melting now in the mountain passes, it’s time to start visiting all the places I missed in the fall.
You can find Paul on Instagram @poletespe.
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