Rookie Lessons in Bike Packing Part One


August arrived too quickly and I realized I’ve only done one Bike Touring trip so far. I blame the weather partially, everywhere I wanted to go earlier this summer was still covered in snow. We’ve also been incredibly busy at work – and yes, we’re super grateful for that! Banging out at least 2 bikes per week since the beginning of summer has been great. Although it leaves little time for longer bikepacking trips.

Brad and I were scheduled to fly to Portland out of DIA July 27th for his Mom’s Birthday. I recently signed up for The Bear Endurance bikepacking event – a free local grassroots event hosted by Steamboat local Jon Kowalsky. The Bear was the following weekend on August 2nd and I hadn’t even ridden the bike I planned to ride more than 25 miles at a time (see Rookie Lesson Number One). Crap. I needed to get out on this bike before the Bear!

Here was the plan: we would ride to Boulder, about 200 miles, where some friends would drop off our truck. From there we could clean up, grab the truck, and head to DIA to catch the red-eye to Portland.

The Setups: Brad’s custom gravel grinder w/ 38mm tires and my Hannimal w/2″ tires, 80mm front travel. The Ride to Boulder – 200 miles, 15,500ft. elevation gain. The Route – Great Divide Mountain Bike Route to Williams Fork Reservoir, over to Winter Park, up and over Rollins Pass and descend into Boulder.

For the detailed route, info see my Strava activity here & here

Taking cover under a tree during an unexpected Thunderstorm on Lynx Pass. (see Rookie Lesson Number 2)

Without Further ado, here are some of the lessons I learned on the Bikepacking trip from Steamboat to Boulder:

Rookie Lesson Number 1: Make sure you ride the bike you plan to bikepack with A LOT before you go bikepacking.

25 miles for the longest ride on my bike wasn’t ideal. Ended up tweaking the position and also tweaking my packing job quite a bit.

Rookie Lesson Number 2: The weather report is not always accurate. Especially at higher elevations and climbing over mountain passes.

The thunderstorm on Lynx pass was totally unexpected. I checked the weather before we left and it said 0% chance of rain on Friday. We got drenched.

Rookie Lesson Number 3: Remember to fill up your water bottles before you leave the house. Duh. No but seriously.

I didn’t notice my bottles were empty because I had been drinking out of my camelbak. It would have been totally fine but the water spigot at Lynx Pass Campground was broken. We had about 35 miles and some climbing until the next fill up spot, with about 22oz between the two of us. Ended up filtering water out of a questionable stream with cows standing it and also met some nice campers along the Colorado River who gave us some water.

Rookie Lesson Number 4: When using Strava to create a route, double check somewhere else to see if the road/trail actually exists and is rideable.

We came to a closed gate and an essentially unridable section somewhere around mile 100 around 10pm in the dark. When mapping the route on Strava, it seemed like the best way to get to our destination. Luckily there was cell reception so we pulled up Google maps and found a better road to take.

Rookie Lesson Number 5: Riding a fully loaded bike is very slow going – especially with camping gear. Allow for more time. I mean a lot more time, like more than you think.

Especially if there is a lot of climbing. It took almost twice as long as expected climbing up & descending Rollins Pass.

Near the top of Rollins Pass Rd. 11,676 ft.

Recommended places to eat along the route:

Kremmling – Grand Adventures Brewery – super yummy burger, fries, & beer

Fraser – Rocky Mountain Roastery – really good coffee and brekkie burritos – one of the few I’ve found actually makes burritos without bacon.

Beer and cookie hits the spot after a long day!

We made it to Boulder around 3:30pm right before a thunderstorm rolled in. We rode straight to Boulder Bike Works, where our buddies parked the truck. Our good pal Brian Hannon from Boulder Bike Works greeted us with a big smile and some homemade cookies. He was kind enough to let us shower and take a rest at his house before we headed to the airport. After dinner and dessert at Whole Foods, we headed to the airport to catch the red-eye to Portland. What a trip. 

That was one way to get to the airport, and a darn good one if I say so myself!

A few good lessons learned on this one. Stay tuned for Part two of Rookie Lessons In Bikepacking…coming soon. If you have questions about our route, gear, or anything else, don’t hesitate to ask!

Until next time!

Peace ✌🏻

Hannah B

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