Everything you need to know for multiday cycling trips Leave a comment

How often do you try something that’s difficult and completely new to you — like loading your camping gear on a bike and riding 75 miles in a day — and have a wonderful experience, avoiding tantrums at best, and disaster at worst?

I grew up riding my bike, but never considered myself a “cyclist.” I rode a cheap (think: heavy) mountain bike around town and beyond, averaging maybe 20 miles on a dedicated ride, with just a couple topping 30. I never invested in any real gear. But I enjoyed it, which is why I jumped at the chance to go bikepacking — a combination of biking and the backpacking and camping that I was a lot more familiar with.

That quick “I’m in!” was made in a moment of excitement rather than after serious consideration. I packed too much and didn’t know how to organize it. A lot of my backpacking gear was next to useless. I could barely change a bike tire. And on top of all that, our trip entailed daily rides of up to 70 miles — more than twice my prior experience.

According to Peter Driscoe, the founder and organizer of Fort Collins-based Ramble Rides, my experience wasn’t unusual. Rambles, as he calls them, are multiday, fully-supported bike rides, with top-to-bottom planning and catered camps. The Ramble I signed up for, exploring North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, was basically bikepacking lite: Driscoe and his team mapped and marked our route, picked out our campsites, met us for regular midday rest (and snack) breaks, and cooked our meals in the mornings and evenings. That left me to focus on fine-tuning my gear each day (more than once I passed off some unnecessary piece of gear to the supply vehicle) and pushing through the longest days I had ever spent on a bike seat.

Ramble Ride participants do not need ...

Provided by Ramble Rides

Ramble Ride participants do not need bikepacking experience or even camping experience, but they do need to be fit enough to ride 50 or more miles a day for three or more days in a row.

Bikepacking as trial and error

“I’m a big believer in doing and failing, to learn,” Driscoe said. “Rambles limit what you’ll fail at and give you first-hand experience in a controlled environment.”

Because the team handles logistics and supplies, riders can focus on cycling and learning what goes into bikepacking along the way. It’s a great environment for trial and error,. “Yeah, we throw folks into the deep end in terms of difficulty, but we’re there for you,” Driscoe said. “Our route support will do what it takes to make sure you have an enjoyable ride and learn something about yourself along the way.”

Rambles riders often realize they don’t like bikepacking, he said. But many of them return to ride again, handing most of the gear to the support team. Driscoe calls this group “adventure riders.” Others are excited by bikepacking and return with lighter gear and are more prepared for self-supported trips. Most Rambles are roughly 50/50 bikepackers and adventure riders.

Ramble Rides might lead riders along ...

Provided by Ramble Rides

Ramble Rides might lead riders along dirt roads, Jeep trails and singletrack paths and include scenic beauty, organizers say. Colorado routes set the gold standard for the company’s rides across the country.

Colorado routes are the gold standard

While Driscoe has organized Rambles across the country (he recently returned from a scouting trip in New Mexico), he calls the Colorado rides the standard for the others. “They’re the bar by which I measure all our events. I try to make all our routes as emotive as our Colorado rides, meaning the route has to speak to the beauty and challenge of the location,” he said.

The flagship ride, tweaked this summer in response to last season’s wildfires in Northern Colorado, starts and ends in Walden, looping through Steamboat Springs and into Wyoming over four days. “Before I knew it, we’ve become a destination event, and roughly 70 percent of our riders travel from out of state to do them. That speaks a lot to the route and experience of riding in Colorado,” he said.

Beautiful scenery and riding with friends ...

Provided by Ramble Rides

Beautiful scenery and riding with friends old and new help make the miles go by, even on days when riders pedal more than 70 miles.

Am I ready to go bikepacking?

“Fitness is more important than experience,” Driscoe said of the Rambles. People with even less experience than I had before my first ride have successfully completed his trips. Often, riders have never been camping, ridden off pavement, or ridden long distances for consecutive days.

“We want riders to have a base level of fitness that enables someone to ride, say, two 70-mile days of gravel on the weekend and not feel cooked on a Sunday night,” he said. “More than anything, it’s riding consecutive days that gets to folks.”

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