Today was a dress rehearsal for next week's overnight ride. The goals were simple: pack the bike and ride to identify any significant packing issues or load-out challenges that would hit me in the following week.
The mileage wasn't important to me, although I was interested to see how I would do with increased weight. I certainly wanted to get further on the trail than I did two weeks ago due to my moose encounter so I could add a little bit more to the map recon I did earlier in the week.
Weather was in the high 30s (Fahrenheit) when I drove in but was sitting at 40 at 7AM when I parked. I packed my bags and attached them to the bike, only to realize my tires lost air pressure in the temperature and altitude changes. Of course I didn't bring my air pump so I had to use my last cannister of CO2 to get the bike trail ready.
As you can see from the picture, I was rocking the "basic" setup from Bikepacking.com. I have a Revelate Designs Salty Handlebar Roll on the handlebars and a Sea to Summit 5L dry bag as my seat post bag. I haven't quite figured out optimal packing yet but I took May's advice and tried to pack lightly on the bike with high volume items and keep the heavier stuff on my back.
My legs were pretty heavy as I started the uphill. I had to dismount on the first section of the trail because my cell phone almost flew off my handlebars; once I got off the bike I was screwed and was no longer going to be able to bike up. My limited technical skill on a mountain bike was no match against all that weight on an uphill with rocks. That ended up being a blessing. I walked most of the switchbacks and noting that I can barely do uphill, rocky switchback routes without weight, let alone on a fully loaded bike. It was slow going, but I basically walked the first mile to get beyond the switchbacks and then got back on the bike for a continued uphill progression, some rocky and some smooth singletrack.
I made it to my initial goal of crossing the jeep trail on Serendipity and took a breather. The uphill climb made my lungs feel like they were going to explode. I had to take frequent breaks but made the first 2 miles in 40 minutes, or about a 3mph pace. I can't say I'm super happy about going an average of 3mph on a 4% incline but it is what it is at the moment.
I continued on through the woods on a few turns on different trails, following the path that we'd have to go and getting some general route recon done. The quick ride confirmed our map recon takeaways that we would likely get slowed down mostly by stopping and checking that we were turning on the right trails since there were a ton of quick turns before we'd hit our main section of Rollins Pass Road.
I turned around at 3.5 miles and headed back. The downhills, as I found out on my little stretch between the 2 and 3 mile mark, were a bit more difficult to manage with a lot of weight on my back and a different handlebar feel. The switchbacks were especially precarious for a guy who already is terrible at cornering, even on pavement with no weight. This is where I swallowed my pride for the umpteenth time and got off the bike.
You know - one thing I observed while walking down the trail with my bike pedal crashing into my calf over and over again is that it is good I'm trying this when I'm one month away from 36 years old. There's a fine line in life to know your limitations and selectively push beyond them. This was not the time to push beyond my comfort zone. In my younger days I would have been frustrated and tried to become an expert in one day and probably crashed half a dozen times on the sharp, decent sized rocks on those switchbacks and then got mad I wasn't an expert by the end of it and ditch biking for a month or year. Today, I realized that I accomplished my goal of getting the bike packed out and getting acquainted with the new feel and identifying some of those challenges I'll face on the long, overnight ride next weekend. There was no point to being a hero and crashing my way through switchbacks.
Sometimes getting old is actually pretty awesome. I enjoyed the walk down through the switchbacks, got on the bike at the gravel road and headed back to the jeep, ready to rock and roll next weekend.