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Friday, December 27, 2019

Riding to Ride

Back in 2012, I converted my first mountain bike, a 1991 Specialized RockHopper, from a fixed gear commuter to a 3x9 geared bike intended for bikepacking. I dug out old backpacking gear and maps, looking for ideas for multi-day trips into the Black Hills and beyond. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and the Trans America Route were long term dreams.

Riding that geared, rigid mountain bike on unknown trails triggered a flood of memories from my early days of riding primitive single track in Colorado. Riding to explore. To see what's out there. To experience some unknown physical or mental place. To share a day with friends.

Just a day on the Colorado Trail. Sometime in the mid-90's.

Here, we started at Copper Mountain on the Colorado Trail, took a left onto a goat path and ended in Breckenridge.

More Colorado Trail rides in the mid-90's..

As the spring of 2013 approached, I eagerly anticipated a planned series of short bikepacking trips into the Black Hills. Before my first overnighter, however, I stumbled into the endurance gravel scene. Just like that, my cycling focus swerved.

The grass roots, small event, remote road, endurance gravel scene grabbed a hold of me and pushed aside my bikepacking dreams. I discovered that I could enjoy a remote road ride in an hour or two, occasionally more, and still honor family and work commitments. Every so often, I could join the gravel community at a loosely organized event for a weekend of fellowship, which created enduring memories and friendships. And I could ride remote roads year around, even in the wilds of Western South Dakota. It's been a great ride for 7 years. A Journey To Gravel - part 1part 2part 3part 4part 5part 6.

I love this gravel community. But there's a special allure to self-navigating a day-long remote ride through unknown country, recovering in the evening at a campsite created by gear you've carried, and waking to ride again as the sun rises. Yes, I'm back to dreaming of longer bikepacking rides.

This year, after the C.O.G. 100, Black Hills Gravel Series, and Mother Lode gravel events wrapped up in June, I enjoyed 8 overnighters and 1 two-nighter in and around the Black Hills. I found new-to-me roads and near-roads. I dispersed camped atop peaks and along ridges. I tested and analyzed my bike, components, gear, clothing, nutrition, hydration, navigation and mindset for longer trips. Those tasty appetizers worked. I'm hungry for more. 

In 2020, I'll ride local gravel, but also plan to continue those overnight rides and add the 500 mile Cloud Peak 500 in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. Cloud Peak 500. Maybe I'll add another longer ride, as the only limitations are imagination and commitment. If all goes well, I'd love to be able to consider a ride on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in 2021. Bikepacking The GDMBR.

Whatever the distance of the day, or length of the trip, I'll be riding.

2020, here I come. 

Hope to see you out there.

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