May 15, 2012 at 4:48 pm #1289948
@maiaLocale: Rocky Mountains
Companion forum thread to:May 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm #1878072
@cameronLocale: The WOODS
Great article! Well written (as usual) and I appreciated you keeping it simple enough that mere mortals like me could keep up. I'm inspired to go out and try bikepacking after being off a bike for the most part since I was a teen.
One area that wasn't mentioned was Idaho. I saw some very remote and rough dirt roads along the Idaho-Montana border and I'm sure a good trip could be put together there. Off the top of my head I'd be thinking about that dirt road between the Selway Bitterroot and the River of No Return Wilderness areas. That would give you a nice stretch of riding in a remote area.May 16, 2012 at 7:18 am #1878163
@legkohodLocale: Eastern Europe / Caucasus
Great article. I was hoping there would be recommendations for bike-campers: how best to carry your gear, what shelters are good for protecting your bike, etc. Will there be a separate article on this sometime, or is the subject too narrow?May 16, 2012 at 7:30 am #1878170
Richard, as mentioned (perhaps briefly) above two more articles on packs and rackless carry bags will be appearing in weeks to come. They'll review specific pieces, discuss techniques, and build on the themes touched on here.
Luke, the Magruder corridor road splits the Selway and Frank Wildernii, and is an excellent dirt tour. Especially in the narrow window when almost all the snow has melted out but before the road is open to vehicle traffic.May 16, 2012 at 10:31 am #1878232
Does this mean coaster brakes are back too? I really miss those, and am jealous of my kids' bikes!May 16, 2012 at 11:05 am #1878241
For a pack option that may not be covered in the follow-ups, check out the salsa anything cages. Great for carrying a tent and sleeping bag low on the front wheel. Inexpensive, fairly light, moreso than a full front rack, and the low weight adds stability without widening the bike's profile too much. The softpack approach at Revelate etc. also works well, but this can be a good supplement to that without much added weight. I took them largely off-road over the Pyrenees last summer. The welds are weak and failed after about 2 weeks combined on the trail and road. I replaced them with some bits of wood, rubber, and hose clamps and they've worked well ever since.May 16, 2012 at 11:49 am #1878259
@truenorthLocale: San Francisco, CA
I had the Salsa Anything Cages fail at the weld points after a few days of dirt touring. They were replaced and failed again after another 3 days. My experience is that although a good idea they are not suited for real world use until Salsa changes the design and/or manufacturing quality. Cass Gilbert agrees: http://bit.ly/Kg20ZhMay 16, 2012 at 2:13 pm #1878309
@sharaldsLocale: Gallatin Range
Good primer, Dave. One error though. There was at least one more Lost Coast ride done by two Bozemanites. Granted they repeated the original Lost Coast route but their journey is worthy of mention.
bikingthelostcoast.com/May 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm #1878321
I wrote three, but in fact four bike trips have been done on the Lost Coast: Parsons-Kentch (Yak-Cordova), DeWoody-Lawson (Yak-Cordova), Dial et all (Yak-Gustavus), and Mauri Doro (Yak-Cordova). Doro was solo and on a 29er with snocat rims. He has a blog and youtube vid in Italian.May 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm #1878360
@drongobirdLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Excellent article. Thanks for taking the time to write it and thanks to BPL for publishing it.
I had taken several paved road camping bike trips in the 70's, but gave up on it in favor of hiking because I really don't like riding near cars. In 2006 Jim and I learned about the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and it inspired us, so in 2007 we took our first joint bike trip – Banff to Antelope Wells on the GDMBR. We LOVED our GDMBR ride, and would put it in our top five trips ever. We've since taken two more bike trips that mixed dirt roads and very quiet paved roads (2 weeks in Northern California and one week in Central California).
To bucket myself, I'm a Dirt-Road rider, no interest in and no skills for technical riding. The GDMBR is a masterpiece of non-technical dirt road routing. It's ridable by a reasonably fit person with regular old riding skills and a solid reliable bike. I'd say anybody who can backpack for a week and who rides a bike on a regular basis (like commuting to work) can ride the GDMBR. Don't get intimidated by the fantastic videos David included of HellBike trips! The GDMBR includes some technical sections (that can be hike-a-biked by the likes of me), but most of it is ridable by people with no technical skills. The more fit you are, the less time it takes (and more enjoyable it is), but it doesn't require the 80-100 miles/day strength and endurance that one might infer from David's article. We didn't take a camera on that trip, so no photos to share. There's a lot more information about the GDMBR over at bikepacking.net.
Also, I just posted a long-overdue trip report about a one week Central CA trip we took a couple years ago.May 16, 2012 at 5:09 pm #1878375
A combination of bad knees and wanting to drive less has made me seriously think about doing bikepacking lately. So this is an amazingly well timed article for me. It isn't a short ride to the mountains for me, about 60 miles, but I could be interesting.
I'm excited to see the new couple of articles.May 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm #1878385
I think lower 48 wilderness areas are perfect for hellbiking. Ride to the Wilderness boundary. Put the bike on the back. Come out the other side. Get back on the bike.
Last weekend in the Selway-Bitterroot:
ps. My work may or may not share my views with due to the legality of this practice.May 16, 2012 at 6:19 pm #1878405
btw, Great break down Dave, and as usual, well written. Wish this one wasn't lock into a BPL subscription. I'd be sending it out to the many folks who are calling ACA with bikepacking questions. All signs pointing to a rise in popularity. If all things go well, by this time next year the GDMBR will not be ACA's only dirt route.May 16, 2012 at 7:59 pm #1878445May 16, 2012 at 11:22 pm #1878490
Awe-inspiring. I am looking forward to reading about even more great places to go – especially for wuss "dirt-riders" like me.
For the upcoming write-ups on equipment, I will be very curious to hear what is currently *affordable* in the lightweight category. While bikepacking I have found that I cannot carry more than 10 pounds, tops, on my back, otherwise my shoulders start to hurt and my balance is really thrown off on the downhills. Therefore I try to move as much weight as I can to the bike – water goes into the bottle cages; bike repair items go into the underseat bag; etc. But I'd like to move a lot more weight from my back to the bike frame, and what I've found is that the two obvious solutions – those "triangle packs," and the larger under-seat bags that stick out over the back tire – are really expensive.
My Osprey Talon has been a fantastic pack for bikepacking, though – no complaints there.
Riding in Canyonlands aside, the most practical aspect of bikepacking, for me, is (a) the ability to ride my bike, instead of driving a car, to a trailhead, before starting to hike. And (b) the bike makes it a lot easier to do one-way hikes; when finished, you just get on your bike and bike back to your car.
– ElizabethMay 17, 2012 at 2:29 am #1878510
Great article, I think the quote at the beginning captures everything written above in a small universe:
“Slow enough to see the trees, fast enough to get through the forest.”
Casey, that's an interesting way to carry your bike. I was wishing I had such possibilities while lugging my bike thorough some very exhausting terrain. How are you strapping your bike to the backpack? Don't you have any issues with stability or the bike hitting you legs?May 18, 2012 at 10:48 am #1878981
Yeah I had the welds fail too as I said – best thing I found is to replace the welded pieces where they attach to the fork with some small pieces of wood, rubber, and hose clamps. After this they've worked perfectly for me, and still at less weight than a rack. Having some weight on the front also helps balance the bike, and adds stability because it's so low. For me they free up weight and bulk on my back and lead to more stable riding without a big weight penalty…May 18, 2012 at 11:08 am #1878985
Thanks Casey. That GT looks pretty sweet. Eno hub?
Carry systems will be addressed in more detail soon, but I will say that the concept of the Anything Cage is for me less than impressive. Too much weight and complication (and failure points) for too little useable volume. But I also hate having any weight of consequence on the front end.
Elizabeth, you are correct that the custom frame bags and seat bags from the big three are expensive, but quite simply you get what you pay for; namely, cutting edge materials and construction quality which puts many cottage and mainstream backpacking gear makers to shame.
Fortunately a simple, one compartment frame bag is a very easy MYOG project, and there are plenty of ways to cludge a compression sack strapped under the saddle as a decent seatbag. I used that rig myself for many years. Not as stable or capable of carrying as much weight as a proper seatbag, but perfectly serviceable for hauling an UL sleep kit.May 18, 2012 at 2:04 pm #1879034
@ewolinLocale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
I hope things have changed!
I have been against bikes on backpacking trails due to bad experiences in the early 1980's. I am now rethinking my (hopefully!) out-of-date opposition.
Riders then seemed most interested in whooping and hollering and taking risks, paid no attention to trail etiquette, scared all the wildlife, thought they owned the trials, routinely violated trail rules and laws, would run you down if you didn't get out of their way, etc. I had no problem with them riding on logging roads and such, but I didn't want them anywhere near me on a regular trail, and I stayed away from trails that allowed bikes. For the record I was an avid road biker then, went on multi-day road trips, and I commuted to work by bike for decades.
I'm hoping those types have been forced out via peer-pressure and that the remainder are thoughtful and courteous users of the trails, as are most (not all!) backpackers I come across.
But I haven't come across bikers on trails in quite a while, perhaps because the trails I use are too rough for bikes (e.g. Adirondack High Peaks, White Mountains). Have they changed? What is your experience?May 18, 2012 at 2:46 pm #1879045
Forrest G McCarthyParticipant
@forrestmccarthyLocale: Planet Earth
David – Great read, as always.
I do challenge the idea that you need to go to Alaska for a true hellbiking experience. In Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada there are some fantastic (even legal) opportunities for trail-less adventure rides. All is needed is an adventures spirit, willingness to suffer, and imagination.
My favorite "hell bike" to date is the Wyoming Range "Trail." More of a route then a trial this ride follows the crest of the Wyoming Range for seventy-five wild miles. Many of these miles are essentially trail-less and the rider is required to navigate a maze of game trails, barren ground and alpine tundra. (http://youtu.be/luEJ2vCr-Zw)
In the Red Desert hundreds of miles of un-mapped wild horse trails and fading jeep trails provide intrepid cyclist days of adventure and exploration. A GPS and lots of water are essential.
Even Roman in the peak of his hellbiking didn't limit himself to Alaska. Among other epic adventure rides in the desert he completed the Canyonlands Grand Tour. (http://packrafting.blogspot.com/2010/06/canyonlands-grand-tour-1991.html)
More recently Andrew McLean completed a bike/packrafting tour near Canyonlands that is best described as hellbiking.(http://straightchuter.com/2011/08/candy-hearted-rustler/#more-4843)May 21, 2012 at 9:25 am #1879801
Ah yes, mountain bikers. Nothing beats the thrill of having to jump out of the way of a mountain biker going 30 mph downhill on a blind corner on a trail he's not supposed to be on in the first place. Like the PCT for example.May 21, 2012 at 10:51 am #1879829
I'm a bikepacker, but I admit the thought of riding around off-trail on the tundra makes me cringe. All those fragile tundra plants.
I'd love to see a discussion of Bikepacking LNT – especially, off-trail.
– ElizabethMay 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm #1879882
I see no reason for different rules here. Aside from a few isolated instances (egregious mud, steep corners which encourage unskilled riders to skid) bike tires do not have a larger impact than feet. Just as off-trail hiking is discouraged or forbidden at Logan Pass or off Trail Ridge road, so to is cycling in such places inappropriate. I can't see a substantive case being made for the environmental degradation of riding on Arctic tundra. Similar guidelines would apply to deserts with sensitive soil crusts.
I'd like to see a similarly judicious process applied to bike access generally. The South Kaibab is probably not a good candidate for mountain biking (though it is rideable). Lamar River, on the other hand, would be ideal. Ditto the wilderness stretches along the Colorado Trail. For the JMT, maybe restrict bike access to after September 1st.May 22, 2012 at 9:59 am #1880130
Yep Dave, Eno. Love it so far.
Got crazy lucky on finding the bike. Chad at Red Barn built it around a NOS 97' Xizang frame that had been sitting at the shop for a few years. When i saw it knew there was no way i'd be able pass it up. Just what i had been looking for: light, simple, durable.
Przemyslaw: The Osprey Variant 52's buckle-based ice axe loops are what makes it great for packin my bike. I put my toptube in one and the downtube in the other. From there its straight forward. Couple more built-in straps around the seattube tube, a couple loose straps for the wheels, velcro strap for the chain, and plenty of attachment points for other gear i didn't bring: skis, packraft, fly rod, ATV, hot tub, etc. Never hit my legs with the fork or hbar. Load felt super solid. Even while bushwacking.May 22, 2012 at 11:05 am #1880152
drowning in spamMember
No David, bikes should never be allowed on the JMT. Even if you take away the potential for tire damage, crashes with hikers and scaring horses and mules, there's still the big problem of trail maintenance. Hiker and biker maintain trail differently. Lots of volunteer time would be wasted undoing what the other group did. We already have a problem with runner groups cutting brush incorrectly–it'd be a nightmare if another group started screwing up the tread.
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