Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bikepacking on the Horizon

A while ago I decided to get back into bike mounted camping trips. I had a ton of experience doing this in the past. Well, actually, one overnighter, but I absolutely loved it.

It was three of us that made the journey. We began by dropping a truck off at Lions Camp where we would come out after 2 days of riding. We drove to the top of a local mountain, Mt Pinos in the Los Padres Natl Forest (8000' or so) and began from there. I was riding my Schwinn Paramountain, a full rigid 26er cuz that was all there was back then. It had front and rear Blackburn racks and very cool Jandd saddlebags. The trail began with a couple miles of dirt road climbing and I remember being surprised at how much I noticed the extra weight on the bike. It was definitely not zippy.

The real surprise came later when, on the long and steep singletrack descent off the backside of Mt Pinos, I ran out of brakes big time. It was kinda hectic...waaay off the back of the saddle, brake levers back to the bars, eyes wide open until the barely controlled drop down the trail finally ended with me (mostly) intact. It was kinda cool in that the extra weight was almost a motorcycle experience in the way that the bike rolled over and through all kinds of stuff I could not steer around. But it was only kinda cool, the rest was just scary. The panniers hit things trailside and even my heels if I used a lot of english or had to hop off the bike quickly.

With cooled off brakepads, we dropped out onto the pavement at the Boy Scout camp and made our way back to dirt past Mutah Flats and down to the Sespe Creek by way of the Johnson Motorway. The next day we rode out to Lions Camp and the waiting truck. It was a great trip. Hot springs, stars, bikes, and blackberry brandy.

That trip is now only a memory as the greenie weenies had that area of the country designated wilderness quite a few years ago. But, that leaves a lot of territory to ride bikes in and I plan on camping off the bike once more. This time I will have a different approach. How does no racks and no panniers sound? How about a bike that still feels like a mountain bike on singletrack, not a pregnant Yak wallowing along? How about a lighter, sleeker way of getting into the backcountry on a bike and loving it?

Welcome to the world of Bikepacking. A while ago I came across this guy and it got me thinking about a better way of setting up a bike for off road travel. No racks to break, panniers to catch on branches or over laden bikes that can barely be portaged, much less swoop down a singletrack with grace and balance.

Check this out...

Now tell me THAT does not look like an adventure machine? Anyway, keep your eyes peeled for a lot more on this. I am expecting the first of the bags to get to me in the next couple of weeks, then it will be time to put it all into play.

Very cool, eh?

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