bikepacking


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Pack it up, grab some friends and roll out! There’s something magical about a sub 24 (under 24 hours) bike camping trip. It takes just as long to make a list, check it a thousand times and talk to everybody about the stuff they’re taking, need, don’t need, wish they had, wish you had etc. etc., packing up the bike, making sure it’s secure and stable and checking your list again than it does to actually ride, camp and ride back! So what’s the point? Why put so much energy into such a short ride? Because it’s. A. Blast. It feels like a mini family vacation; you let loose and get weird like nobody’s watching. And for those that take longer bike trips it’s a way to test out new gear, packing philosophies and general bike set-up in a safe environment. In case something fails, you’re not miles from nowhere trying to figure it out. It happens in a flash so enjoy every blurry second of it. At one point we were sitting in the middle of a country road staring up at the starlit sky chatting about whatever was on our minds. It was pretty and perfect.

SO, WHAT DID WE RIDE AND PACK?

The beauty of the these short rides is the freedom to pack as little or as much as you want. Riding with at least one other person is a good idea in case you forget something important because It’s likely your riding partner will have it.

Tanner was pulling a trailer behind his fixed gear Miyata! One tough cookie. He simply packed his tent, sleeping bag, pad and a comic book – he also hauled beer for us – Easy, fast, no frills. It’s a perfect example of making due with what you got!  Dylan and Alex packed just as light too. They both had their gear packed on the handlebars (Dylan rode his SS Krampus and Alex his Twin Six) keeping the weight up front and stable. They packed their sleeping bag, pads, pillows, extra clothes and tools. Alex had coffee, cup and some hidden bottle rockets too. Matt (bike not pictured) rode his Ogre packed with his tent, sleeping bag and ukulele. Matt is sort of uncanny, he can sleep in temps that a wookie would cower at. I’m surprised he actually brought a tent. I packed the Ice Cream Truck for the apocalypse: tent, pad, pillow, tools, bug spray, clothes, Toms, saw, stove, coffee, coffee cup, hard-boiled eggs and of course, fireworks. All necessities, right? Especially the fireworks.

It’s all about fun

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We stopped three times on a 20 mile ride. Three times! We stopped once on the bike path, once at a bar where we saw another rowdy group of Madisonians on a ride. And once in the middle of a country road. We drank, laughed, stumbled and shot off fireworks. It was 14 hours of shenanigans and I can’t wait until we do it again. Pack it up, grab some friends and roll out!

-Mitch

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1187If I could sum up RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) in one picture, this would be it…for me. Is RAGBRAI a race? A Party? A slow ride? Fast ride?  It’s all of those things. It’s whatever you make of the seven day ride across NOT FLAT Iowa. One thing’s for sure, it’s a blast. You meet new people, see old friends, elevate yourself and conquer new challenges, eat food; lots of food, drink beer, see new towns and most importantly, ride your bike!!

RAGBRAI is not easy, it’s rolling hills, sometimes very steep hills, heat, rain, lot’s of people (up to 20,000 during the popular days!), and not short; about 500 miles total with the longer days being around 80-85. You have to make sure to keep hydrated and fed. Bonking is no fun. No fun at all.

 

Our loaded bikes

There’s something liberating about a self supported ride. You can play by your own rules and make time to do whatever you want. John and I split up day one and didn’t see each-other until day four and it was great for both of us. I learned that RAGBRAI is personal for me. It’s time to be exactly who I want to and take my time or hurry up or stop for two hours – which I did very often – or talk to people or be alone. I think John felt the same way. I know this year was one of his favorites.

But riding bagged doesn’t come without it’s challenges. By day four, my gear was water logged and I just wasn’t having much fun. I decided to unload my front and rear bags and ride only with the frame bag. It was again, liberating. A good choice. A choice that increased my fun and kept me rolling with a smile on my face.

So what’s on the bike?

John brought the kitchen sink. Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad and pillow, clothes for everyday, tools, food (for every day?) gadgets and gizmos… I don’t know what else but if you think of it, he probably had it. His bike was quite impressive to look at, that’s for sure.

Up front I had all my camping gear: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad and pillow. I also had two water bottles, sun block, toothpaste and brush and handy nutrition. Finding the tiny item isle wherever you choose to shop is key. In my opinion, the smaller the better.  On the center of the bike I had food, tools, first aid, coffee, money and fireworks. At the rear-end I had clothes, camp stove, boiling pot, baseball hat and slippers. Coffee mug too.

Trying to keep stuff dry

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Camping is part of the RAGBRAI experience. You begin to love and hate your tent. By the end of it you’re a pro at setting up and breaking down. Trust me, you get to know your tent well. Things also get progressively more wet. As each day goes on clothes get more sopped and sultry as they fester in their bags. By night six my entire wardrobe was suspended in trees, draped over my tent and hanging from my bike. It’s all part of the deal. It’s something I’d love to figure out…keeping everything dry!

Here are the before and after pictures of us; just as happy at the finish as we were at the start . Just a bit more greasy and gross. RAGBRAI will make you a bit goofy, it allows you to lower you guard and let loose. I loved (not) doing RAGBRAI with John, I hope we do many more and we hope you do too!

Mitch