The word 'touring' tends to conjure up images of wool-knickered and bearded guys laboring along the shoulder with a 100+lb panniered pig. The first time I saw a touring cyclist I wondered what was fun about it--it looked awful from my singletrack-centric perspective.
But that was almost 20 years ago.
Meanwhile, gear gets lighter and I've gotten older. I still have a singletrack focus, but day rides don't always cut it when exploring in the high country.
After cutting short a Crested Butte epic a few years ago due to lack of daylight (we'd been out for 12+ hours) I started to wonder about overnights. And that wonder has turned into my latest passion: Singletrack touring.
What if you went in prepared to say "Screw it--let's keep rolling" after the sun went down? You know, ride til the stars come out, find a little nook to sleep in, then wake with the sun and repeat?
Well, you might find yourself having the time of your life. I sure have been.
Last summer Scott and I loaded up the bikes and headed West outta Leadville--over Hagerman Pass. A short descent on gravel brought us to an unsigned turnoff onto singletrack, and for the next four days that's primarily what we rode.
Rain threatened the first few hours, but that was far from the theme for the trip.
Maroon Bells in the distance--more on those later:
Lots of alpine (and somewhat techy) trail:
A few moves that neither of us could quite muster up the gumption to attempt:
And some that we could:
Climbing away from Lenado and toward Four Corners:
Jumping for joy on the descent into Aspen:
Lots of nice stuff to look at--both high and low:
A brief pitstop in Aspen then we climbed a bit of pavement to get to the Maroon Bells trailhead:
Not far past the trailhead we decided to call it a night. I hung the tarp and unstuffed the bag, then settled in for some fresh vittles and stargazing:
Morning brought clear skies, warm light, and a long climb to the first pass--time to get moving:
This ~10-mile trail passes through Wilderness (no bikes). We didn't want to ride the 70+ miles around it on high traffic and dusty roads, so we improvised:
Union rules required a break here:
Scott working his way up the valley:
Nice views downstream--if you're into that sorta thing:
Closing in on the top:
Over the summit and down through oceans of wildflowers brought us to the end of Wilderness, and, not coincidentally, the top of the 401 climb near Crested Butte. Wheels back on, clipped in--let's go!
Scott's in there somewhere:
Arcing a corner as Baldy looks on approvingly:
All the way down 401, the Upper Loop and Tony's Trail into CB for a mandatory burrito, washed down by a sarsaparilla and topped off with a quick siesta in Totem Pole Park. Then it was back onto Tony's and Upper Loop, out Brush Creek to climb Strand and 409.5. Nightfall found us with a stunning view over the East River Valley, as well as a nice duff-covered camp spot:
Morning came about the time it usually does, presenting us with more of the same ho-hum alpine trail:
This day included descents of 412 and 410 to Cement Creek, a climb of the infamous Deadman's Switchbacks, a traverse of the Highway in the Sky (aka Julie Andrews Trail) then a descent of Rosebud to Spring Creek. Then we climbed/contoured/descended Doctor Park into Taylor Canyon. That section alone is one of my favorites on this planet.
Our only extended non-trail time of the trip came on this afternoon--cruising up Taylor Canyon on pave, then over Slaughterhouse Gulch and into Tincup on dirt road. Past Mirror Lake the dirt turns rough and just past the top of the pass night found us yet again. I think we both racked out pretty quick on this night--no surprise considering the epic flavor of the day.
Packed up and rolling for less than a mile the next AM brought us to the turnoff for the CDT, where miles more alpine skinny awaited us:
Filtering up high:
Mucho climbing brought us a brief but scary squall at the high point:
The weather was short-lived and we continued on across Hwy 50 to the Crest Trail:
The only thing I can say about the Crest/Silver Creek/Rainbow segments that hasn't been said before is that it's a bang-up way to finish a 4-day singletrack tour:
The last few years I've been experimenting with a lightweight touring setup, which to me means that it's light enough and un-cumbersome enough that I can ride *everything* I normally would unloaded, loaded. This approach allows you to cover ground pretty darn quick, but also opens up some amazing high country loops that, until now, I hadn't really considered. Like the one you just read about.
My current setup has evolved to look like this:
(Thanks to Scott for the photo.)
Bike + gear attached (including food, sleeping bag, pad, and tarp, stove/fuel/pot, GPS, camera, batts, etc...) is 35lbs. Pack (including 120oz of water, raingear, TP, vitamin I, etc...) is about 17lbs.
Pretty light all things considered. Most folks that saw this setup would assume that I (or any of the guys I ride these tours with) was just well-supplied for a long day in the saddle.
When you get right down to it, that's pretty accurate--we're just heading out for one long day after another, with a few naps and meals thrown in.
TEAM TOPEAK - ERGON
Posts like this are one of the many reasons I moved to CO back in October. Can't wait for the snow to melt in the high country.
I'll second that notion and yahoos like you and Scott have been great for touring plagiarism. I'm pretty happy with my set-up (I love the penny stove - gotta have my coffee in the morning) but I think my Atmos 50 has out lived it's usefulness - time for something smaller.
Originally Posted by mikesee
Last edited by YuriB; 05-08-2008 at 12:35 PM.
This is just need to know information: Am i supposed to enjoy the irony or pity the sincerity?
what are you usin for a sleeping pad? i like closed cell foam for it's cheapness, reliability, and weight, but it doesn't pack down anywhere near as small as what you've got on your bars there...
Fabulous post. Inspirational. Keep 'em coming.
fuggin' nice shots there Mike! well done
Beautiful shots. One of these days I'd love to get a group together to venture outside of FL and do something like this.
I'm a backpacker and know the feeling of transitioning from long days hikes to "why not just stay out" but you guys have taken it to another level by doing this with your bikes, very cool !! We've done some long days hikes in the Aspen area and it was like a dream or being in a calendar, keep up the hard work and good times, wish my wife could do more of the biking, but at least she'll backpack on foot. :-)
I don't huck.
EXCELLENT! I have been planning just such a set-up this year, but a new bike build is getting in the way a bit. Once the Lenz is done, I want to concentrate on organizing for trips like that, and emulate that bag-only/rack-less rig. Not sure if I can go with no tent, though. I just bought a one man tent with decent room, I have a good, stuffable, down bag, and I figure that with a moderate sized backpack, I can get away with a bar/frame/seat bag combo.
Where I live, the issue is water. That makes it more of a challenge. Not too many snow melt creeks in So Cal.
Not enough interest, most likely, but it would be nice to have a bikepacking forum one day where we could share set-ups, routes, tips, etc.
Keeping the riding fun is my main goal on these trips, so I don't mind sacrificing a bit of comfort (read: tent) to get there. I just use a tarp and it's been great in steady drizzle as well as wind-driven rain *so far*. Caught unawares or with a bad pitch it'd likely be miserable. That's what motel rooms are for.
Originally Posted by mtroy
I forget what size your Lev is but you might want to have a look here. As far as a seat pack check out Epic Designs (Eric posts frequently on the AK forum as Bearbait) or Carousel Design Works (Jeff posts on the Endurance board as Mountainboat).
I use the 20 x 60 mummy. I've used everything from Z-rests to car windshield reflectors to many sizes of Thermarest. I like the compromises of this one the best so far.
Originally Posted by sean salach
Amazing. Did you ever get tired of those redundantly spectacular vistas all day long for four days? Seems like your eyeballs would melt down from sensory overload after awhile.
Have you posted the GPS profile/map anywhere? That would be cool to look at.
Thanks for posting over here Mike. This is what Passion is all about.
"If it didn't hurt when you screw up, it wouldn't be half as exciting when you dont." cdburch
i also unicycle
as someone who's done the super fully loaded roadie touring for months at a time, i want to get into this type of thing, but the middle of iowa isn't exactly a haven for such activities. need to find a job in colorado or somewhere it seems.
This day included descents of 412 and 410 to Cement Creek, a climb of the infamous Deadman's Switchbacks, a traverse of the Highway in the Sky (aka Julie Andrews Trail) then a descent of Rosebud to Spring Creek.
You rode up Deadman's? I always thought that was suppossed to be a one way trail (down)? Also, if you did ride up it my hat's off too you! That trail has some incredibly steep switchbacks.
I ride dirt bikes (dual-sport) up there every year and that's one of my favorite trails (Reno Ridge to the entrance of Deadman's). I'll be up there again this September and plan on bringing the mountain bike this time.
I don't huck.
Originally Posted by mikesee
RYD W/ FLO
Not that my fire needed any more stoking, but you definitely just turned the blaze from a nice campfire into a diesel soaked bonfire with this post!
I cannot wait for my tour this summer. Nothing but what you described above for over 3 months linking together the singletrack of CO, UT, WY, MT, AB, and hopefully BC. Gotta love unemployment!
Thanks for the inspiration to chase my dreams. You will probably be hearing from me shortly looking for guidance.
Wolf nipple chips
First thanks, that is a seriously high quality ride report - the photos alone are inspirational. More! I say more! Just think, it won't be that long until the planet will be so populated that rides like this are harder and harder to do. do it now!
~I Ride In Circles ~
Thank you for sharing that!
Beautiful and inspiring! I hope to experiance that kind of stuff someday.
~ it's all good ~ [/SIZE]
puts me to shame, this is how my bike looks for tomorrow and a 2 night camping trip...still could be worse, camping gear all in comes to 6/7kg, plus and few clothes tools and food etc on my back, mind you i'm just cycling to trails and pictching a tents and dumping the stuff..
defo need to look in to your gear more for next time.
Killer of Chains
I would love to do that...only...I've never been out west. I would get lost out there.
I really need to get Colorado, and soon.
Yep--up it. For several years now (since the reroute?) that trail has been downhill travel only for motorized traffic. I think hikers/horses/bikes are legal both ways.
Originally Posted by Motorep
I was a bit intimidated by the thought of climbing it--hadn't attempted it since the first summer I lived in Colorado ('92) where it shellacked me but good.
Both Scott and I were thrilled to ride as much as we did--IIRC we both dabbed twice, and IIRC none of the dabs were on the hard moves, they were all when we let focus lapse (while recovering) on the tamer sections.
We both agreed that teeny bit of added mass to our bikes/kits helps keep the wheels planted and definitely assists with traction on climbs/moves like this.
Kudos for carrying your mechanized travel devices through the Wilderness! That'll show 'em!
Thanks for posting this Mike. It's about time you delivered a ride report from your ever growing backlog of trips.
This trip was a favorite of mine. Maybe it was the incredulous nature of the weather (one storm in five days!). Maybe it was the endless singletrack. Maybe it was riding the coattails of a great summer of touring and refining our setups. Maybe it doesn't matter -- it was just a great ride.
Climbing Hagerman Pass out of Leadville:
Following the "Nast E" trail, shown on USGS maps, but slowly being swallowed by the forest.
Dropping in to Hunter Creek, almost to Aspen. Past Hunter we continued following our GPS line onto some seriously technical creekbed trail. I think if we had been expecting it we'd have been all over it, but it was such a surprise that it threw us off guard.
Early morning hiking in the Maroon Bells...
Wheels as walking sticks.
Mellow, swooping descents are a challenge to walk when you know how fun they'd be to ride. At least the scenery was pretty OK.
This was my first time on all the Crested Butte classics. Mike put together an incredible route, and it was all done beforehand. All I had to do was follow the line on my GPS screen.
That line led to miles and miles of tasty alpine trail.
It's quite a deal to travel like this. Instead of fooling around in town, unloading bikes, finding the motel, we rolled out of town, schlepped up a big hill and crashed out under the trees. The next morning it was minutes and we were back on fabuloso trail again.
The CDT from Tincup to Monarch was a favorite of the trip.
Well, there was the small detail of climbing from Boss Lake back to the divide. That one was a healthy push.
We got strafed by sideways hail pretty much at the precise moment we reached the divide. It made the technical challenges up there even more interesting.
The rest of our ride down Monarch Crest, Silver Creek and Rainbow was pretty uneventful, minus the big grins. It was my first time on any of these trails. I felt like a gluttonous fool for the entire last hour on Rainbow.
Beautiful, inspiring shots. I've always been a mountain biker, but this past summer I had the opportunity to do some of that road-shoulder touring you seem not to be so in to. I will say, I had a blast. By the end of my trip (~50 days) I was down to ~45 pounds of gear (plus bike), but it was distributed through 4 panniers.
Being that I've always been a mountain biker (and now quite fond of epic rides), I've been eying some week-long offroad jaunts. Could you give me a full loadout of what you carried? Also, some shots of your bike, fully loaded down, from the side would be cool too. Was your primary water source filtered? Could you rely on town proximity for food? Was GPS your primary guide, or did you follow a trail/maps?
Again, beautiful, beautiful shots, and an inspiring post. Thanks