Saturday, November 9, 2013


Many readers of this blog (if I still have readers with how little I post lately) probably "know" me exclusively because of my running. The reality is though, that as I came to endurance athletics I was at times as much or more of an endurance mountain biker as I was runner. In 2007 and 2008 I almost certainly spent more time on my bikes than I did running. My main focus as an endurance cyclists culminated in my attempt at the Great Divide Race in 2008. When that event was over for me I packed up my bike, shipped it back to Alaska, and have hardly ridden since. I would be surprised if I have ridden a total of 500 miles in the more than 5 years since that ride. Slowly these past couple months this has begun to change though.

I've actually started to go out and do some rides for the sake of going out for a ride (not just as a means to get around town). I've begun to walk into the garage once again and see my bike as something that can take me on so many great adventures (as opposed to something that I should probably just sell because I don't use it enough). This past weekend I even loaded up my bike and headed West, to Utah, for the specific purpose of travelling around in the desert on my bike for a few days. I wasn't sure what my health would allow, but surprisingly I felt really good and was able to do a 140 mile loop over the course of 3 days. In doing so, I was blown away myself to see how much I missed doing long self-supported rides.

Bikepacking is an unknown thing to a lot of people. It's essentially bike touring, but with much less stuff and through much more rugged terrain. Backpacking with a bike, but essentially more like fastpacking with a bike. To be able to ride on trails and rugged jeep roads on a bike you can't be carrying much gear and you need to be strategic about how you carry it. Racks and panniers are almost certainly not the best options and you really just don't want to carry much more than 10 or 15 pounds of gear or your riding ability is greatly diminished. The cool thing is that if you keep your weight low enough, and you have it positioned properly on the bike, you can pretty much go anywhere you would ever ride on a mountain bike and you have everything with you to stay out for as long as you desire. In a place like Utah this can get you to some pretty incredible places that even with a Jeep would take more effort to get to than almost anyone is willing to put in. In the 140 miles that I rode this past week I saw one other person and accessed some areas of the desert that probably see fewer than a handful of people a year.

I have no idea if this renewed interest is something that will continue to grow in me, but this whole week I've been almost constantly dreaming about bikepacking trips I want to do in the near future. At the very least I'm going to find a time in the spring to do this 500+ mile loop in Southern Utah that I've had in my mind for nearly 7 years now. This would include all three districts of Canyonlands N.P., The Henry Mountains, Glen Canyon N.R.A., The San Rafael Swell, Capitol Reef N.P., A large portion of The Kokopelli Trail, Canyon Rims R.A., as well as countless other miles of BLM and National Forest land. The route would be 99% on dirt and take me through some of the most remote, scenic, and inspiring land anywhere in the world. By packing light I'd be able to move quickly on my bike and could ride the whole route in 7-10 days fairly comfortably. With the exception of a motor bike there just isn't any other mode of travel that would be as efficient and as ideal as doing this on a properly equipped bicycle. I like that aspect of the whole thing. I really like to travel through places where my mode of travel is the most efficient and most logical, otherwise it just feels somewhat contrived. I thought a lot about this on my ride this past week. I was consistently aware that most of the places I was riding there was no other way to travel that would be as efficient and logical as the bike I was riding.  Here are some photos from my recent journey:

                                                            Typical Utah evening light

                                                         A very smooth stretch of trail

                                                          A not so smooth stretch of trail

                                                    Simple little campsite the first night

                                                                     Endless desert

                                                               The ride fully loaded

                                                                 Campsite night two

                              The sun going down at the end of an incredible few days