Soil Searching: Home, Home in the Van

Will Cadham and Mark Taylor (the “Free Radicals”), are nomads on a trail riding — and trail building — mission.

“Vanlife? That thing on Instagram? Nah, man,” say Will Cadham, “we’re not into that, eh.”

Will Cadham, along with Mark “Sharky” Taylor and Thabisa (that’s their RV’s name…trust us, it’s a long story) are collectively known as the Free Radicals.

While transforming ailing Westfalias or shiny Sprinter vans into rolling homes on wheels may be many riders’ fantasy du jour, Will and Mark have been nomadic for the greater part of their young adult lives. Not because they’re looking for creative ways to fill their social media feed, but because for Will and Mark, life on the road is a way of life — an absolute conviction.

Let’s start from the beginning.

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Will and Mark grew up racing mountain bikes together.

After school, Will bought and moved into a van. Moving into a van, however, is easier said than done. After nearly succumbing to a brutal east Canadian winter, Will followed in the footsteps of many Quebecers before him: He migrated west to what may well be the promised land of mountain biking — British Columbia, with Whistler at its very center.

Mark soon followed and joined Will in his new home. Together, with a few friends, they were ready to take on the world.

“It was a pretty logical decision to move into an RV,” recounts Will. “Rent is the biggest monthly expense. By cutting that out we had a lot more freedom to chase the Enduro racing scene, in the hope of picking up a good sponsor.”

And with that, a young and eager indie-race team, the Free Radicals, was born.

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But after traveling to the first few big races on their own dime — mainly living off chips, salsa, and cheap beer (and finishing mid-pack) — both Will and Mark knew they needed to readjust if they were going to keep their dream alive.

The two riders started filming some of their travel adventures and shenanigans, meeting local legends in riding communities, working on trails, and just being polite Canadians. After all, saying “Please”, “Thank you” and “Sorry, eh” can go a long way when you desperately need to take a hot shower, or wash a week’s worth of dirty riding shorts that are fermenting in your van.

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All of this led to another revelation. After some deep introspection and consultation with “Uncle Stan” (that’d be the hip flask they share), both Will and Mark realized they could combine their passion for riding, their ability to produce unique content, and their knowledge of sustainable trail building. The Free Radicals could travel with a purpose.

Moving forward, and sideways at times, the “Free Rads” now travel to mountain biking destinations to meet up with local trail builders and advocates, throw dig day parties, possibly consume their own body weight in chips and salsa, and then ultimately share the story of the trails and local heroes with the world. They are riders, storytellers, trail builders, and their very own, unique, rolling media house.

So, when you see Thabisa pulling into your neck of the woods, consider offering these friendly Canadians a hot shower and a place to wash their clothes. And while Will is cooking up a storm in the kitchen, Mark will do a quick oil change on your vehicle, as payment for your hospitality.

The Free Radicals are, as always, ever so polite.

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Learn more about the mission of Soil Searching at Specialized.com

We think, talk, love, live, and breathe bikes. Always here to connect with you: https://bit.ly/2goIshk

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