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Bikes. Parts. Chaos.

Meet Slim Wonder, Humanoid of Surly. You may remember reading his weblog for Surly Bikes in 2018, or perhaps his well-traveled Midnight Special in Perry’s Winkle Blue has materialized on your Instagram feed. Maybe you’ve seen it rolling along the Carolina coast.

A talented photographer, Slim recently wrapped up work on his first short film, Home Again: A Bike Ride to a Bike Race. Beautiful and inspiring, it documents a bikepacking adventure through Sierra Leone in March 2022, exploring how Slim and his companions find and define community both on the bike and away from it. There’s also a bicycle race — the Tour de Lunsar — but rest assured, party-pace is always welcome at Surly.

Loaded bikes parked outside next to building foundation

Surly is honored to support Slim’s work and share it here with the rest of you. Grab a cold one and settle in for the show whenever you’re ready. And if you’re into it, scroll down for Slim’s own reflections on the experience.

I am from Sierra Leone. My last visit was in 2018, and this was my first trip home without my parents along.

It started as a wish Eric expressed on Instagram — to ride in Sierra Leone — but we were all isolated at home then. No one was traveling at that time. When we saw [the Tour de Lunsar] was held in 2021 without event, we started planning for 2022 via Instagram messages. We proposed a real-life meeting 4,000 miles away.

The trip is what it’s about, though. Not the race. The primary goal was to reconnect and get people back together after being isolated — to discover and reaffirm what binds cyclists together as a community across the diaspora.

In some ways it was a family reunion with bikes. We can all trace our heritage back to this part of the world.

 Beach front homes on stilts, bikes parked out front, people sitting at table

People standing outside, person working on Midnight Special bike hanging next to building

I chose these folks for this trip and this community because I knew they wouldn’t lose their cool. Nedra, Damon, Zahra, Eric, Lehi, Dub — we all faced challenges to make this work. COVID, finances, the need to quarantine for a month before departing. And we all ran into issues with travel. The airline lost Dub’s bike and it didn’t arrive until a day before the race, so he raced on a borrowed bike.

Slim Wonder walking bike on sandy beach with children

Loaded bikes parked next to building taking a break

Person standing with three bikes, houses in background

Everything rolls downhill. The war in Ukraine means fuel is expensive in America, but in Sierra Leone, gas is in low supply or unavailable. There were rolling blackouts. There was no power and no diesel for generators.

I was totally unprepared for the race [laughter]. I had a nice time touring the town at a party-pace, but once the race section started, I tapped out. Party-pace is my race speed. So many people turned out and were excited for Lunsar. It was cool to ride through a large crowd and feel their support.

Midnight Special parked outside building

Loaded Midnight Special parked outside building, three water bottles, frame pack and seat bag

Midnight Special parked outside, side view

Midnight Special parked outside against tree at night

Midnight Special parked outside in front of Welcome to Marampa Mine Site sign

I thought [Midnight Special] was the perfect bike for this. It’s fast enough for the road sections. Maybe not fast enough to win the road sections, but fast enough. It felt great on gravel, rutted roads, and the iron ore mines in the backcountry. People were checking it out. It’s a capable bike. The 700 x 44mm tires worked well for the different sections.

Editing the film has consumed me since I returned home. I’m looking forward to crawling out from behind my computer and going for a ride. I see the other folks from the trip are all out riding more. This trip definitely rekindled some passion.

Something Eric said while we were over there has stuck with me: “Your community isn’t given to you. Community is chosen.”

Slim Wonder standing on beach  with loaded Midnight Special

Since I came home, my rides and scenery feel bland now. Everything was more romantic over there. But I keep reminding myself: You don’t need an epic trip to have an epic ride.

Beach front buildings, Slim Wonder standing on sand beach with bike and waves come in

Fully loaded Midnight Special leaning against tree on rocky shore

Editor’s Note: Thanks for sharing your film and talking with us about it, Slim! We hope all you Humanoids out there make some time to check it out and enjoy it. And if you feel like going for a ride with your associates, we hope you do that too.