Spoke Talk: Bikepacking
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It takes all kinds to be a board member of Routt County Riders, which is important because we advocate for all kinds of cycling. What kind am I? I am the dirtiest of the dirt bags. I am a bikepacker.
While some of our board members are deciding where the porta-potties should be placed for road riders, I am thinking about trail connectivity and how to advocate for bigger loops. I am dreaming of longer distances to travel without getting anywhere close to those porta-potties.
Bikepacking is the synthesis of mountain biking and lightweight overnight backcountry travel. For me this is the most perfect way to travel in the backcountry; combine the access of backpacking — other than wilderness — with the freedom of riding your bike.
All the weight is on your bike rather than your back. Twenty miles to the next water source is an easy bridge to gap, and the landscape flows by at a pace slow enough to appreciate but fast enough to be exciting.
When I started bikepacking, the gear was heavy, awkward and regularly coming unhinged in the middle of any rugged descent. Fortunately, things have changed.
These days, most bike shops carry a variety of bikepacking packs. They fit into the frame, on the handlebars and below your saddle in a streamlined way, making it easy to pedal. They are light, and the contents — sleeping bags, tents, stoves — can also be very light.
Like backpacking, it is important to pack the minimum of gear needed to keep warm, dry and fix your bike — or yourself — should something go wrong. When I go with my husband, I encourage him to pack extra beers for the top of the mountain. This is a tactic to slow him down, if only a little. In general, it is a question of bringing only the essentials. Beer may or may not fall into that category.
As bikepacking has grown in popularity, so have the resources supporting the sport. There are endless resources online with suggested packing lists, which are a great starting point.
Amazingly fun and established routes are published, ranging from two days to two months, often listing a difficulty rating so you know what you are getting into. These established routes usually have downloadable GPS tracks. You can also create your own route using online mapping tools to create your own adventure.
My happy place lies in exploring beyond the close-in day rides, finding harder-to-reach single track, seeing fewer people and more animals, big beautiful landscapes, hearing the wind and the birds — ride, sleep, eat, repeat. That is my happy place. Maybe it will be your happy place as well.
I am always happy to share my passion and knowledge about bikepacking, so feel free to reach out to me through Routt County Riders at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessica Lobeck is a member of the Routt County Riders board.
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