Hazel AF: Biking with Fierce Freedom

Hazel AF: Biking with Fierce Freedom

Seth in Snow
Kristie, Seth’s fierce riding and life partner, gives the Echelon Ballistic Pouch an equally tough test as they cross snowy, southern Sierra.

Seth Davidson: Cycling to Self Discovery

Written by Senta Scarborough
Photos courtesy Seth Davidson

We spend a lot of time focusing on what’s bold and brave about Fierce Hazel. I mean, we’re Fierce AF right?

We are also Hazel AF.

This month, we deep dive into the other inspiration for this brand: What does it mean to be Hazel?

To answer that question we are featuring longtime Fierce Hazel supporter and self-proclaimed FHZ product tester, Seth Davidson. At first glance, even with his Hazel eyes, the Southern California lawyer for cyclists, proud father and blogger might seem more fierce than Hazel.

But his journey embodies all that is Hazel

Hazel is Kind. That means being kind to the environment, not adding more waste to the planet.

Ever heard of the book, Gemba Kaizen? It’s a low-cost, high-productivity management approach to cutting waste developed by Toyota. Seth, who once lived in Japan, read the book and set out to reduce his carbon footprint. 

“There’s no such thing as a zero (carbon footprint) or living ‘off the grid.’ Everyone has a carbon footprint,” he said. “It’s in the food you eat or how you get around or the type of place you live or the products or services you buy or your investments.”

His quest to reduce started when his son got admitted to an expensive college and Seth didn’t want him to graduate with debt. So he set out to pay cash for college. 

That meant the family moved into a two-bedroom apartment and threw out or donated every item in their rental home that they hadn’t touched in six months. He minimized even more when his second son went to college.

He spent less and less money on stuff until he reached a tipping point: August 19, 2019. He had just dropped his younger son off at college in Santa Barbara. They had already massively downsized. He said his was the only family of five he knew of in Southern California that only had one car. 

The traffic on the 101 was horrible.

“I turned to the rearview mirror and I said to myself ‘This is the last time in your life you will ever sit behind the wheel of a car,’” he said.

He got home, gave the keys to his wife, and never looked back. “I began riding to client meetings. Cyclists recognize each other and when you show up on a bike getting there...it was one of the best things I could have ever done. They could see by my actions that my life is just as much on the line as theirs.”

Not too long after he gave up cars, some other parts of his life fell apart. His 32-year marriage ended in April 2020. Many of the things driving his life were coming to an end.

“Aside from being a dad, husband and lawyer, I got most of my life satisfaction out of riding and doing social group rides,” he said. “Suddenly everything I thought I was and everything that had given me meaning didn’t work anymore.”

He placed what few remaining sentimental belongings he had in storage and sold the rest. On July 9, 2020, he took off from LA on his cyclocross bike, now loaded with touring panniers, not having any idea where he was going to end up. Canada seemed reasonable.

Seth High and Low

Hazel loves the outdoors. A way to be free, feel alive and tune into something bigger than yourself.

Seth bought a set of ACA Pacific Coast touring maps and the minimum gear, including a Fierce Hazel Ballistic Black Echelon Pouch, and was off to Canada. When he arrived, the border was closed because of the Covid 19 pandemic. He had a choice: take the train back or bike home. He chose to ride the long, arduous route through the Cascades and the Sierras to Los Angeles. 

“I’ve raced most of my life and I ride every day, and I’d already pedaled from LA to Canada, but going from Washington through the Cascades and Sierras to LA was as grueling as anything I’ve ever done,” he said.

He was riding and climbing some of the steepest mountains of the West for 82 days. That’s wind, rain, 10-mile unpaved mountain pass climbs, and forest fires with only three nights spent under a roof—the rest of the time he camped, often “wild camping” as parks and campgrounds were shut due to the pandemic.

“The hardest thing was the relentless climbing. I’m a good climber. It’s not my weakness, but fully loaded I had some extraordinary passes to climb. It was the hardest thing I’ve done. I was at Monitor Pass wondering if I could do it and it was already late in the game when I should have known I could do it,” he said.

Seth also rode through some of the West Coast’s worst forest fires last year. “I rode through the horrible devastation the day after the fire destroyed the communities along Bear Creek, between Ashland and Medford, Oregon. I rode along the bike path and all the homes and trailers were smoldering—some doubtless with bodies still inside. It was one of the most awful things I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Tioga Pass
The Tioga Pass is 
the eastern entry point for Yosemite National Park. Photo by Roy Zeigerman, Unsplash

This was fully into the Covid-19 pandemic. Some things that at first appeared downsides ended up as blessings in disguise. For instance, parks were closed because of the pandemic. Yosemite was closed, but Seth rode into the park and camped just outside the entrance at Tioga Pass.

“I had terrifying things happen. I was looking for a place and ran across a bear. I’ve never been so scared in my life,” he said. “I’m all alone and no one knows I’m there and the park is closed. And this 500-pound bear walks in front of me. It scares the shit out of you.”

But Seth said he saw things people have not witnessed in a hundred years. “I saw the Valley of the Giants without a car, or a human being, in sight. It was awe inspiring.” 

Seth with coffeeMaking smart use of the pouch's hidden Tamp's Pocket, Seth stashes coffee packets for on-the-road caffeine emergencies.

One thing he loved having on his trip: his all-black Fierce Hazel Echelon All-Conditions Ride Pouch. It’s made from unused material left over from the factory’s larger clients. 

“I’m not a big product person but it’s amazing. I use it every single day. I use it when I am riding or just living my life. It’s withstood incredible conditions and I take incredibly good care of it—shower it with love and care,” he said. “A lot of people think that because an item is bulletproof they can beat it up. But everything has a lifespan, and I take care of the quality, well-built things I own. That wallet will last forever if I take care of it. So I do.”

It’s functional, light weight and has what Seth thinks is a great hidden feature—the hidden pocket aka the tampon holder.

On one trip, Seth found himself on a ridge really wanting some coffee and thought he had run out and searched his pouch. That’s when he found the emergency stash of instant coffee in the tampon pocket.

“I think it’s a perfect example of how you can design something for women that men can use. It’s the perfect size,” he said.  “The tampon pocket is so good and up front and doesn’t get into the whole silliness of women having to pretend they don’t have periods. It created space doing it in a way that breaks down gender roles and helps us think about equity, not to mention coffee.”

Seth'd PouchLeft, Seth's Ballistic Pouch when it was brand new in November, 2019. Middle and Right, The very well-used pouch today after many miles on the road and even more hours in the saddle.

Hazel seeks self-discovery

He experienced the closest he’s ever come to being homeless and that is what “affected him most profoundly.”

“I don’t have a fixed address. It’s not fair to say I am truly unhoused (he lives with his girlfriend), but when you don’t have a place to live for a majority of this past year you realize a couple of things,” he said. 

The most important, he says, is the “incredible stigma of poverty” towards people who are truly homeless and don’t have options.

“People are doing their best and working harder than most of us have ever worked and there is contempt because they are poor. I’m an unusual homeless person. I am without a place by choice. I’m not rich and I’m not poor,” he said. “But there are these social norms that demand we be rich in things and in money.”

It reinforced his commitment to minimizing his carbon footprint and doing what’s good for the planet.

Seth believes that the “fewer things you have the happier and richer you will be. No exceptions.”

He’s also upfront that having money makes a huge difference; his bicycle setup cost $5,000. “I’m riding in a Bel Air mansion compared to what truly unhoused people face in their daily lives. I have nice stuff. I eat well and I have warm clothing,” he said.

But what really matters to Seth is the basis of his love of cycling and riding bikes: freedom.

We asked Seth why he loves bikes. 

“Every child that rides a bike for the first time knows that freedom. They know they are free to move and do other things, and that is what makes civil society free,” Seth said. “It doesn’t matter if you are riding a rusted-out clunker or a really nice, well-made bike.”

Bikes are democratic. Anyone can ride one and it can take you anywhere. Freedom, Seth says, is based in movement.

“Society can’t and shouldn’t control the movement you are born with and born to do,” he said. “Movement is the ultimate expression of freedom.”

And there is no better vehicle for movement than a bike.

“All human rights are predicated on the freedom of movement,” he said.

On a bike, Seth says you can choose whether or not to sleep inside, cook your own food, and/or patronize big box stores. If you take away the material stuff, get beyond capitalism, you can start to live in a place where you can really “know thyself,” said Seth.

“You can’t buy freedom. You have to take it and you have to give up a lot to get it,” he said. “The things that hold us most tightly are our prisons like the home we live in, the car we drive and the job we go to.”

Seth's 7 Deeds

We wondered just how many miles Seth had traveled on his epic pandemic bike tour.  Seth’s response: “I left the data bullshit behind. I don’t pay attention to how far I go or my speed.”

He graciously totaled up the miles since many of our readers are cyclists: a mind-blowing 4,300.

But back in LA, Seth wasn’t finished with his cycling self-journey. Six weeks back in LA, Seth had a premonition that he might never see his dad again. His father suffered from dementia. So he jumped back on his bike and rode to Texas (that’s another 2,000 miles in 40 days). It was a good decision—his dad died a few months later.

In March, Seth set out on another 53-day, 2,500 mile trek of Southern California.

“I’m just trying to figure out who I am,” he said. “It’s not easy because I’m an old dude and I have a lot of problems and made a lot of mistakes and I think I wasted a lot of time, but you can use the past and try to mold the present.”

Next up, Seth’s planning to circle the globe by bike. “I don’t know exactly when it will happen, but the planning has already begun.”

seth snow square

Senta Scarborough is an award-winning journalist and Emmy-nominated producer.  She is the founder of Sentamatic Media focusing primarily on screenwriting, journalism and non-fiction projects. Her work has appeared in Adweek, Into, USA Today, E! News, US Weekly Magazine and Asheville Poetry Review, among others. She is a lifetime member of the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist’s Association where she served as a board director for two terms. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California Riverside/Palm Desert. 
Find her on social media @sentascar

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