Almost immediately after I published my 400 mile BackBone Grande bikepacking route last year, several people asked for a return route. Recently, the issue arose again. Really?
The short answer is no. A better answer is not yet. A more complete answer is that the BackBone Grande results from of years of riding remote gravel/dirt roads throughout the Black Hills, creating many routes for a variety of ride experiences, and receiving valuable feedback from seasoned cyclists. That process took some time. A return route, if any, deserves the same.
So, point-to-point it is, even with the logistical challenge of getting to the start and from the finish.
|The Southern terminus of the BackBone Grande.
County gravel begins in just two miles at the practically abandoned town of Ardmore.
I designed the BackBone Grande to create an experience akin to the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which is a point-to-point route across the entire country. Most through-riders of the Great Divide somehow find a way to shuttle to the relatively remote start and from the even more remote finish. If that works for the 2,500 mile Great Divide, then it should work for the 400 mile BackBone Grande.
Also, nothing prohibits one from pedaling to the start from anywhere. In fact, many Great Divide through-riders start their ride from a more accessible location than the start of the route, like a relatively close town with public transportation. Same with returning home from the finish. I've read of riders taking Amtrak to Glacier National Park and then riding a couple of days to Roosville. From the finish, many simply ride to El Paso for public transportation home. On my 2021 Great Divide ride, I even met a couple riding north bound who started from their home in San Diego, rode to Antelope Wells, north to Roosville, and then back home to San Diego. Again, such logistics are much more simple on the much shorter BackBone Grande.
|The northern terminus of the BackBone Grande.
A multi-purposed sign sits at the unmarked border of North Dakota.
An occasional Great Divide through-rider will even turn around at the finish and ride back to the start. The vast range of weather conditions over those 2,500 miles, times two, limit start/finish options for such an endeavor. However, at 50 miles or so per day, a touring cyclist could successfully complete such a yo-yo ride by riding northbound during June and July and then southbound during August and September. So, it's possible.
The much shorter BackBone Grande offers a wider weather window and many more options for start/finish locations and times. Indeed, the start/finish need not even be at one of the state borders. For example, one could start at the very accessible town of Hill City in the heart of the Black Hills, ride the BackBone Grande route to one end, turn around to ride the entire route to the other end, and then ride back to Hill City.
That actually sounds fun.
Perhaps a return route worthy of the BackBone Grande may be in the future. For now, enjoy that beautiful point-to-point.