If you’ve ridden a bicycle you’ve felt it — the magnetic pull of the open road or trail. Whether you are 3 or 93, there’s something inherent in riding a bike that makes you want to explore, to see what’s around the block, in the next town, over the far mountains. It’s no surprise that shortly after the bicycle’s invention, cyclist Thomas Stevens became the first person to chase the horizon around the entire planet, circumnavigating the globe in 1886.
But while road cyclists with panniers and trailers have been indulging their wanderlust and rambling freely over the Earth for over a century, mountain bikers have been more or less limited to day rides, forced to return to civilization each night. Sure, there are dirt roads, but the wild trails leading into the backcountry, the mountains, the alpine, were out of reach for multi-day riding.
Thanks to gear breakthroughs in the ultralight backpacking world, it’s now possible to carry a complete camping setup into the backcountry that weighs ten pounds or less. For the last few years a fringe group of mountain bikers in the Rocky Mountain West have been experimenting with this gear, riding for days at a time into some of our wildest mountainscapes with everything they need on their bikes and backs.
It’s called bikepacking, and this is what it looks like.
In other news, the new-ish magazine Bicycle Times, published by the fine folks over at Dirt Rag, included me in a panel of bicycle touring "experts" for a piece in their current issue. They ask a few people what they bring on tour, how they pack it, etc. When I answered the questions, I didn't know they were publishing them verbatim, so I didn't answer very colorfully. When I saw the article, I realized I should have put more verve into my answers; I come across like I'm all business. Regardless, the piece is a good one for people looking to learn more about touring. They used a couple of my images in the piece, including one of my son Silas standing by our tandem up in Banff. The article is now online and whaddya know, they used the picture of Silas to illustrate it....
I'll wrap up this post with a bit from Bicycle Times where they asked me to define my touring style...
"I love exploring wild places, the wilder the better, so I always go as light as possible. But unlike a lot of the ultralight crowd, I'm not interested in speed. You miss everything if you go too fast. So call me a light-and-slow wilderness bikepacker."