I have just introduced my vocabulary and my body to a new and beautiful word: bikepacking. Maybe you’ve been introduced, maybe not. I had not, so after several years of cycle touring on the road, my ambitious friend and I decided to take a break from the cars, trucks, and RVs. With no vehicles cascading along beside us as we rode, this bikepacking, off-road, mountain bike touring thing would be easy, right? Well, sort of.
For our first endeavor, we chose the Kokopelli Trail, which connects the two mountain biking utopias of Moab, Utah and Fruita, Colorado. We got lots of advice from riders who had done the entire 140 mile trail in one or two days with support vehicles, sag wagons, food caches and the like. While this sort of outing sounds like a tempting challenge, we wanted to achieve something slightly different. We sought to enjoy the sanctuary of the desert in spring; to hear the calming song of the wind and the meadow lark, as well as the quiet delight of warm sunshine. No problem, right? Well, sort of.
Our main miscalculation, or better yet, our understanding that cannot be understood until one is fully immersed, is that riding a loaded mountain bike on rocky, sandy terrain is a different experience than cruising along with a tailwind on a paved surface. There is undoubtedly some discomfort and challenge involved, but what is any bike tour if not an experience to enliven the lungs, legs, heart and mind? And, miraculously, we did have a tailwind on each of our four days of riding as we travelled Northeast toward Fruita!
There is something special about stopping right in the middle of the trail to take in a view, and to realize while standing there that you are alone in the middle of the desert with your friend and your bicycle. There are no billboards, overpasses, or roadside taverns (an acceptable bummer). As our guidebook suggested that we might, we did indeed enter into a desert trance. Time became our own. We fancied ourselves as modern day cowboys riding across the colorful vastness. We did find some terrain far beyond the riding ability of these two buckaroos, so we were at times obliged to walk, push, or lift our heavily-burdened ponies. We rode into camp every evening happy, dusty, and hungry.
I remember fondly one particular campsite called Fish Ford, where we arrived early enough in the afternoon to enjoy tea and conversation while sitting barefoot in the sun. That evening, before bed, I wrote the following:
Colorado River nearby,
shade of old, hard
Coffee made from the
river in the morning.
So, that’s bikepacking, or at least that’s what it is for me. Now that you’ve been introduced…..
Zachary Gayne is a self-proclaimed nature and bike geek. He thinks that we can all learn more about each other and our world by taking a bike ride and stopping to smell and stare at the flowers. He’s fortunate to have some good friends and a wonderful partner to share these experiences with. He’s a novice, but constantly improving teacher, student, gardener, and bike mechanic.
To contribute to CYCLE SWIFT with a bicycle tour or adventure write-up just email is 500 words with a few photos and we’ll review the submission for publishing and email in to info(at)builtbyswift.com