Spoke Talk: Freedom in the backcountry
I have a serious passion for bikepacking. Days on end where the only thing you need to do is ride yourself to exhaustion, maybe smell some flowers, eat, sleep, repeat. Bikepacking affords the opportunity to ride sections of incredible trail rarely touched by the day riders.
Like backpacking, bikepacking offers an opportunity to get deep into the backcountry to see things you would not be able to see otherwise; endless peaks glowing in the alpenglow, sunrise over valleys that show no signs of human activity and incredible wildlife. It takes you to places where your phone won’t work; life becomes simple.
I have been bikepacking since the mid-90s. We would put Old Man Mountain racks on our mountain bikes and panniers and would hit the trail. The panniers inevitably would be flopping around on any rough downhill. We must have been extra strong back then because that gear was heavy. Fortunately the gear has gotten much better as the sport has grown.
That set up took me through some beautiful places in the West, over the Alps to small European villages and around the south island of New Zealand.
On a bike, you get to places less traveled, you get a different perspective than traveling from place to place on major roads in a car. You take your time coming and going and really get to see a place.
All these years I have been heading out on the trail usually with my favorite adventure partner, my husband. A few years ago for the first time I felt I was ready to head into the backcountry solo.
I rode the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango. I went over more passes than I can remember. I saw parts of this state that were more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I was cold, hot, slow, fast, hungry, exhausted and happy. I saw foxes, coyotes, deer, elk, a mountain lion, bunnies, hawks, eagles and the fattest marmots on the planet. This type of experience is unforgettable and life changing. The knowledge that you can travel such great distances on your own is empowering.
As a woman I always felt a bit nervous about heading out there alone but at some point the desire to feel that freedom overrode the fear. Heading into the backcountry does not come without risks but we can head there prepared and minimize the risks.
It’s time for women to realize the backcountry is there for them. In terms of adventure sports, men are still out numbering the woman by a lot. How do I teach the next generation of girls that they can do anything the boys can do? They are strong enough, smart enough and brave enough. Or even my friends who are old like me?
There is nothing better than an adventure on my bike. Give it a try, I guarantee you will like it too.
Jessica Lobeck is a board member and the chair of the marketing committee for Routt County Riders. She is also the owner and creative director of j.milo creative, a graphic and textile design company.
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