When we pedaled off on the first morning, we immediately began climbing a gravel road and we stayed there for some time. In my mind, this was bike packing - riding on gravel roads. Even the word "bike packing" conjures a mix of bike touring with back packing gear.
But it's certainly not "mountain biking," right?
Sure, you generally bikepack on a mountain bike - but most riders opt for a rigid frame. When I think of mountain biking, I think of bombing my full suspension bike down a dirt ribbon of single track. Riding around on some gravel roads is not mountain biking.
However, a few hours into our ride, we turned off those casual gravel roads onto less casual double track, meandering through the White River Wildlife area. We were navigating over rough ruts and rocks. Our strong road riding team members with little (or no) mountain biking experience slowed and took up the tail end of our group. But still, in my mind, we were not mountain biking.
Then we found ourselves on an abandoned road, super overgrown but passable on two wheels. We were riding over small downed trees, descending through thick brush and over small rock gardens. The inexperienced off-road riders fell further back. But still - just bike packing.
We camped along Fifteen Mile Creek in a small valley, next to what turned out to be an irrigation channel for some nearby farms. In the morning, a weathered-looking farmer appeared from seemingly out of nowhere on a dirt bike to check the dam for leaks. We told him our route plan for the day which including riding another defunct road that runs along the creek. He said it was passable - IF we liked to carry our bikes...
Despite the ominous warning, the road was gorgeous and possibly one of my favorite parts of the ride. There were lots of rocky river sections to ride over, and one boulder slide that required heavy lifting of our loaded bikes to cross. While we waited in the bright sunshine on the other side for the slower riders to catch up, it finally dawned on me.
Oh yeah, bike packing is mountain biking. Those riders who had pretty much never mountain biked before were learning how to on fully loaded rigid bikes. Now that is brave. The thing is, they hadn't really thought of it as mountain biking either - none of us had. Until we found ourselves riding down steep slopes of scree, scaring ourselves silly.
Bikepacking is not just about the bike or gear that everyone gets excited to talk endlessly about. It's about the trails and forest service roads and abandoned jeep roads waiting to be explored. It's about charting a possibly impassable course on a map just to try and see what's out there. It's about getting away from traffic and crowds and finding yourself way out in the middle of anywhere, with nothing but the songs of the birds, the smell of the trees, and the sweet, sweet sound of your wet disc brakes squealing down the trail.
Post by Kristin Valentine.