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Above, Teddy Roosevelt with his Rough Riders on horseback, and

The Remarkable Rough-Riding Life of Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of Empire America (Cheryl Harness Histories)

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  • Though much of Burkina is flattish, after my first year there on a single speed Surly Cross-Check my knee started to bother me a bit. So, I did the only sensible thing you could do and designed a Titanium S&S coupled, Rohloff-equipped adventure bike, which is still my main rough riding bike today. The bike was built by Black Sheep bikes in Fort Collins, Colorado, and I picked it up when I was back in the states for vacation one year:

    Heat aside, biking in Burkina was a lot of fun, and was the perfect way to get out of town and explore the countryside and small villages off the main roads. I miss being able to be “in the bush” after only 25 min or so of riding. I also miss being able to do so much mixed surface rough riding right from my front door. Here in San Diego, you have to work a bit harder if you want to enjoy low to no traffic dirt roads.

  • Given the paucity of paved roads in the country, riding in Burkina means mixed surface rough riding, as the only way to make a loop is to combine stretches of pavement and dirt road. This is no place for 700×23 road tires! The bike I first brought over with me was a Surly Cross-Check with 700×40 tires, set up as a single speed:

    The death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore police custody on April 12 has brought renewed attention to a police practice known as “rough rides,” offering the latest evidence that they may not be a relic of past.

    Theodore Roosevelt
    and the Rough Riders

  • Col. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders

    Paul Kimmage, the famously hard nosed anti-doping journalist and author of Rough Ride, talked in an interview in 2012 of his amazement at an impassioned speech by (reformed doper, and co-owner of Garmin-Sharp) David Millar. Following his individual time trial win at the 2009 Vuelta Espana, Millar had jumped from his bike, sought out the nearest TV camera and made the point that he’d “won this on bread and water, no syringes – nothing”.

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Rough rides have drawn scrutiny since at least the early 1980s, when the American Civil Liberties Union sued the city of Chicago for the police department’s use of the tactic. The city settled the suit in 1985 and agreed to replace the vans with a safer model that had roller coaster–type lap bars to ensure passengers would be strapped to their seats.