TL;DR : The first sign of progress is when you realize that "you don't know, what you don't know." I'm just starting with my bikepacking planning and am not even at the stage where I can identify my knowledge gaps. I have some initial ideas but fully expect it to exponentially increase as we dig in and continue our planning process.
Well, it is easy to say you will do something. Following through is quite another story.
The last Through 2 post covered the birth of the idea to bikepack the Colorado Trail, dismounting where required to hike, and covering the entire trail on two legs or two wheels.
Where do I start with the execution? Planning it out is obviously the first step but how do I begin? I think it would be easy to get caught in analysis paralysis here. There is so much to learn and so much to do in order to make this goal a reality. This post will just be my thoughts on paper about how to organize the effort that is to come.
In no particular priority, I grouped my initial thoughts into three categories: Gear, Logistics, and Training:
- What kind of bike? I have no idea how to pick out a bike but am confident that my old mountain bike from 2007 will not cut it. I will have to get smart on bikes in a hurry and also have a budget to worry about. I can't afford to drop thousands on a bike so will have to do even more research to find the right bike at the right price.
- Different load-out setups for the bike - My assumption is that your kit on a bike is similar to packing a backpack or a rucksack, everyone has their own way of doing it built from experience of what works best for them. That said, I am unfamiliar with all the different types of packs or load-out options for a bike and will have to do some research and test out different setups on the trail so I have the one I want by go-time.
- Shelter options - There are more than a few main choices here with dozens of variations each. Do we go with an actual tent? What about going the minimalist route and do a bivvy sack and a tarp? Hammocks could be an option as well. The fastest way to become miserable on a trip like this is to have consistently poor nights of sleep and poor shelter from the elements.
- Weight vs. performance vs. price - The normal trilemma is speed, quality, price. You replace "speed" with "weight" and now you have the backpacker's trilemma. I've said this numerous times already but we are two average dudes doing this trip. We have no sponsorships and no spare thousand dollar bills hiding in our couch cushions. Everything we need has to be propelled under our own power and that means careful consideration of weight, performance, and price.
- 30 days off work - It takes time to get time. I'll have to start planning my leave-tie from my job now to save a few days each year leading up to the start time.
- Money - Not only do I have to pay for gear and supplies but will also have to build up reserves in my household budget to sustain those 30 days off work
- How to resupply yourself along the trail - We won't carry supplies for all 30 days with us when we start on day 0. We may even need to change out certain pieces of gear. Ideally, we will link up with a resupply car every week, preferably one driven by our families so we can see them while out on the trail.
- How to shuttle the bikes to the finish points of Wilderness Area sections - Our initial plan was to dismount bikes and hike through the Wilderness Areas, which restrict bikes. An alternative, faster method is to bike around those Wilderness Areas. If we do find out that it is feasible to hike through, then we will need to meet a vehicle and load our bikes so that they can be dropped off at the end of the Wilderness Area trail.
- Drop off and pick up points - Do we start in Denver and finish in Durango or do the opposite?
- How to evac in medical emergency - Medical emergencies are always on my mind with something like this. It seems too easy to take a spill and break a bone when you are miles away from help. We need to have an established plan in place with the right tools to stabilize the injured person and get appropriate help.
- History and route recon of the Colorado Trail itself - We can't plan many of the things listed above unless we intimately know the trail. Additionally, you can appreciate the trail more if you understand some of its history. Route recon is probably the most important to-do on this entire list.
- Pedal and saddle time - The first thing that comes to mind when tackling a 500 mile bike trip is that I have to be in shape to handle 500 miles. Each day will be long and there will be no planned days off so I will have to get on some type of training plan that will result in me handling big day after big day until the 500 miles are finished.
- Technical skill level required - Route recon will expose challenges to us and let us know what kind of technical skill will be required on the trail. In short, I am not confident that I will ever be a boulder hopping mountain biker who is able to bounce his way down rocky paths. I will be a hike-a-bike monster in those cases. I have to develop some strong technical skills though, because hiking with your bike on your back all the time is just not how it should be done. The more time I can be in the saddle, the faster we can go. Technical skills are required, even if they're not GoPro worthy.
- Basic backcountry skills - These could be called "Basic Outdoors Skills." It has been a long time since I put all my gear in a pack and hiked off into the backcountry. Basic weather reading techniques, emergency medicine practices, and map skills are all required when you are miles away from support.
What other considerations would you plan for?