Partnership: Myth Cycles
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Although we sell world-wide, we will always have a soft spot for local business and local partnerships. In that spirit, we’ve partnered with Durango builder Eric Tomczak at Myth Cycles. Eric builds some very nice steel frames, TIG-welding full- and semi-custom frames one by one just minutes from our own production shop.

If you’re in the market for a high-quality, American-made hardtail, you owe it to yourself to take a look at Myth Cycles. You won’t be disappointed. And if you need some high-quality, American-made bikepacking gear to complement that bike, we can build to suit for any of Eric’s bikes, and each piece will be co-branded with the Myth logo.

For more info on the partnership and more eye candy, click here. For more info on Myth Cycles in general, visit: www.mythcycles.com

Bedrock Bags
Ride Out The Door

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bedrock Ambassador Brett Davis shares the experience of just getting away from it all for a while. Enjoy!

The goal was simple: Maximize the little time I had to take in the splendor of a Colorado fall. With an unexpected two-day break from a very intense and extended period of work, my mind and body were ready for an adventure without any responsibility to others. This was going to be a solo trip. Given my limited time, any amount of driving to get to a trailhead was out of the question. After a quick perusal of a local map, a plan was hatched.

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This sojourn was going to be perfect for an old friend of mine. In 2011 I rode the length of the Great Divide on a custom Salsa Cycles Ti Fargo. After 2800 miles of flowy single track, rough two-track, punchy gravel, and smooth pavement, this bike was like a well-worn in pair of hiking boots. It was my trusty steed that I had confidence in to carry me safely through any environment. At the conclusion of our grand ride, the Fargo would continue to serve me well as we took on other multi-day bike packing adventures. Over the years though, with the progression of new technologies and innovations in the cycling industry, my ti friend was retired to the role of a commuter bike with only occasional forays onto gravel or easy single track. It spent more time hanging in the garage than it did feeling the ebb and flow of its wheels across the landscape. It was time to change that.

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The pack was easy as my body immediately went into auto pilot…on went my Bedrock frame bag; next came the Coconino seat bag; the Entrada handlebar bag was secured to my drop bars by the ever-versatile pocket; and lastly, the Dakota tank bag found its place full of snacks onto my top tube. Within an hour, the Fargo was loaded and ready for the adventure ahead. With a simple twist of a key and the ensuing click of a deadbolt, my responsibilities and cares of everyday life were locked away. As I swung my leg over the Fargo, I relished the feeling of freedom that came like a torrent as soon as my house key was removed from the lock. It was going to be a special 48 hours.

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The first ten miles quickly flew by on the quiet country road as my old friend and I got reacquainted. My chamois found its old grooves in the well-loved Brooks saddle. My hands found an old familiarity with the aging bar tape on the drop bars. My body easily returned to a riding position of comfort that was born out of countless hours in the saddle. The bike and I melded back into adventure partners. Looking down at the haggard sticker on the chain stay, I smiled thinking, Yes, I am an adventure cyclist once again.

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Turning off of the pavement, I set my sights on the myriad of colors above, each pedal stroke propelling me further into Fall. Grasping the bars with a light touch, I pushed the cranks over reveling in the feel of my heart pumping oxygen to my hard-working muscles. I climbed ever upward, stopping whenever I felt the urge to shoot a photo or just take in the stillness around me. I needed this. We needed this.

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At the top of the climb I found what I had been seeking. My mountain road was engulfed by autumn’s golden light. I was riding into the daydream I had been visualizing for weeks as I toiled away at my profession. The colors were beginning to peak. The aspens shimmered in gold as a light breeze caressed the mountainsides. The vibrant red and orange scrub oak provided a stark contrast against the cobalt blue sky. Clicking shutter after shutter, I struggled to capture nature’s beauty, knowing that my processed photos would pale in comparison to what I was currently witnessing.

My camp was in a high mountain meadow overlooking the expanse of the Southern San Juan mountains. As the last rays of the day faded into the western horizon and the surrounding colors were extinguished for the night, the lone bugle of an elk echoed across the dark sky. He too seemed to mourn the ever-shortening days. If only for a few more rays of light to be able to absorb more of fall’s beauty. But such is the way of the changing seasons. With the plunge into darkness, the temperature began to drop. It was time to retreat into the embrace of my down tomb. With consciousness fading, I discerned the faint hoot of an owl awakening for the evening hunt. Good luck Mr. Owl. It won’t be long before these mountains will be dormant under a blanket of white. Old man winter is coming.

I lingered at my camp the next morning waiting for the warmth of the sun to melt away the evening’s hard frost. The sound of something plodding through the wilting grasses awoke me to action as I looked over to find a skunk heading into camp. It was time to get on with the day and let the creatures of the land get to their business, their work hours were dwindling with each passing day.

Turning south I pointed the Fargo towards home. During this time of year, the sun begins its migration to the southern horizon as it strains to take its place high overhead. With its brightness in my face, my rocky double track slowly fell away to a single ribbon of dust perched along a steep hill side. The Fargo demonstrated its versatility, as fully loaded it absorbed the ruggedness of the terrain. Without a suspension fork I bounced towards home on the rigid frame. My familiarity with my old friend, allowed me to be in control and press the pace. I rode in a kaleidoscope of color punctuated by the charred remnants of the once proud ponderosa pines. Fall seemed to fly by in a blur.

Descending the final paved miles to the house, I reflected upon my escape from the busyness of life. I had accomplished my goal of riding right out of my front door and into a season that I had been watching transform from the confines of my office. Though it was a quick get-a-way, the intimate exposure to this profound season of change, would be enough to sustain me through the next extended period of work. With gratitude, I unlocked my front door and as if on command, my phone began to ring. It was time to get to work.

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Bedrock Bags
Behind the Lens

BEHIND THE LENS: HELLBIKING IN ALASKA

Bedrock Ambassador Brett Davis gives a whole new meaning to "bikepacking".  Photo: Mike Curiak

Editor's note:  Most of these images (unless otherwise credited) were taken by Bedrock Bags Ambassador, Brett Davis, on a recent trip to Alaska to duplicate a route pioneered 30 years ago that led to the term “Hell Biking” - and, perhaps, was one of the first true bikepacking trips. At the very least, it was a cutting-edge endeavor and well before its time regarding the use of bikes in the late 1980’s. We asked Brett to share the words behind his images…

Olympus OMD-EM1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm F2.8 Pro Lens—ISO 200, F14, 1/200 sec
The goal was simple: to get from the end of the road in Nabesna, AK to the beginning of the road (or ending, depending upon your perspective) in McCarthy, AK utilizing bikes and a single pack raft. If one looks at a map, this goal thirty years ago looks to be preposterous as it goes through the heart of the wild and remote Wrangell St. Elias mountain range—over 20,000 square miles of mountain wilderness void of all roads. The route was pioneered in 1988 by Alaska hard men: Roman Dial, Carl Tobin, and Jon Underwood. At the time, these visionaries were the first of their kind to attempt such an audacious goal with bikes. Sure, you could hike it, but ride bikes through this terrain?! Crazy! Consequently, the young guns pulled it off with their victory chronicled in the magazine, Mountain Bike (http://packrafting.blogspot.com/2009/08/hellbiking-lives.html). Since then, the route has only been attempted and repeated by a handful of hardy souls. Eric Parson and Dylan Kentch persevered through ice, snow, rain, and cold weather to successfully arrive in McCarthy during the June of 2009. A couple of Spaniards suffered through the perils of the route during the summer of 2016. In tribute to our friends (the route originators), myself and three other adventurers, who are known to never shy away from the absurd suffer fest, decided to duplicate the route in true pioneer style: four bikes and one pack raft. This first image was taken on the morning of our first full day on the route as we began to negotiate the endless braids of the Nabesna River. Upon starting at the at the end of a gravel road the previous night, we had ridden and bushwhacked to the first crux of the route—which was to cross this broad river and make our way downstream to Cooper Creek. Essentially, these initial wades set the tone for what would be the norm in the ensuing days, as we crossed every waterway we encountered hundreds of times. Some crossings were simple affairs that could be ridden across. Others were potentially treacherous and would involve the inflation of our single pack raft to ferry both bikes and bodies across the swift and deep currents. Needless to say, we had our close calls and plenty of days where none of us could feel our cold feet, as with each entrance into the glacial melt our feet would go instantly numb, compromising our ability to find secure footing on a river bed of ever moving cobbles. It was a delicate dance to arrive safely on the other side of the braid.

Brett keeping his feet.  Photo: Mike Curiak

Olympus OMD-EM1, M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm F2.8 Pro Lens—ISO 200, F8, 1/800 sec
Upon intersecting Cooper Creek, we rode its cobbles upstream to its headwaters and Blue Lake. Once past its stunning turquoise waters we began an alpine descent towards Notch Creek. The game trail single track that we descended was some of the best riding that we had encountered thus far. I believe John rated it an 11+ out of 10. It rivaled any alpine single track we would find in our own back yard on the Colorado Trail. Absolutely sick! Once at Notch Creek we resumed our cobble riding as we headed down stream to the Chisana River. After picking up and following an old ATV trail through a marshland and forest, our smooth riding and wet pushing came to an end as the trail plunged deeply into an ice choked river. The Chisana was still partially frozen from its winter hibernation. For the past couple of summers my crew has traveled to the land of the midnight sun to attempt similar wild objectives. Learning from these previous experiences where the weather in late July and early August can be fickle, we decided to move our time frame upwards into June and take advantage of what the locals said would be more stable weather patterns. As with everything in life, there is a tradeoff…earlier in the summer = more stable weather, but could possibly mean higher water due to the spring melt off, as well as, the potential for residual pack ice. We had already encountered the high water affect and now we had come to a partially thawed river. Upon watching our trail disappear into a mass of glacial melt flowing quickly downstream, we scanned up and down for our options. Looking upstream towards the glacier we saw ice…rideable ice. Finding a game trail paralleling the river we made our way upstream and onto the ice. The surface was solid and our big tires took us across the river plain. Eventually, however, all good things come to an end and we had to unfurl the pack raft and begin the ferry process. It was sweet while it lasted though…

Olympus OMD-EM1, M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm F2.8 Pro Lens—ISO 200, F5.6, 1/400 sec
Occasionally, as adventure cyclists, we encounter our biking equivalent of nirvana. A place where the work to get there is justified and all of the sore muscles from hard exertion are forgotten. A place where the views are indescribable and the riding is what can only be experienced in our dreams. It’s a place that our mind creates in its deepest corners and consequently, we spend our lives seeking, like a dog chases his uncatchable tail. I lived this dream on day three. After crossing the Chisana, we began making our way up yet another river bed. Geohenda Creek, like Cooper and Notch Creeks, was negotiable by bikes. I am not sure how Roman and the boys did in 1988 on their 26 inch, 1.9” tires, but modern day fat bikes had little trouble riding the bruiser boulders and cobbles of this massive drainage. Up and up we pedaled, ticking off the miles slowly but surely. This type of riding isn’t for everyone. It is a full body affair…before you lies a sea of cobbles from 6 inches to 12 inches in diameter. You scan ahead and pick your line, taking your first pedal strokes with purpose and fortitude to stay on line. Within seconds though, your front tire careens off a cobble and changes your planned trajectory. You are now free styling. Going with the flow. All plans are abandoned with only a mindset to maintain forward motion remaining. Frustration can come easily, but a willingness to relax and succumb to the whims of the terrain can keep such feelings at bay. Only then can forward progress on the bike rather than off the bike be made. When the Geohenda was but a trickle, nirvana was realized. A faint trail of alpine single track began to materialize. It was heavenly. Before me, the ribbon snaked its way across tundra and tussocks flowing towards a massive skyline dominated by a 16,000’ glaciated peak. The riding was smooth and effortless as we pedaled into each camera frame. The early evening light only added to the etherealness of the landscape. We had found 11++ riding for sure.

Olympus OMD-EM1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm F2.8 Pro Lens—ISO 200, F11, 1/125 sec
The most feared portion of this route is the mountain goat trails out of the Chitistone Gorge. There is no riding to be had here. The antithesis of riding nirvana. The trails wind through loose cliff bands of rock. The exposure was daunting at times forcing pinpoint focus on shuffling one foot forward after another on a twelve-inch wide path. A rough, slow and unstoppable tumble into an abyss is the outcome of a misstep to the left. To the right is a steep hillside of ever shifting rock and earth in constant transition. It is treacherous. Two days before we tackled this formidable challenge, we negotiated our way along the lateral moraine of the Russell Glacier. Intimidating and unnerving with mud slides upon ice. Over Skolai pass and then the Chitistone pass we post holed through deep snow. Only by following the tracks of a lone grizzly bear were we able to find our way in the misty and wet landscape of nothingness. The rain gave no sign of abating. With all of us on the verge of hypothermia, the walking came to an end a mile before the gorge began. At midnight we quickly set up our shelters and exchanged wet clothes for warm sleeping bags. Relief at last. At 4 AM I was startled awake by Mike shouting to shake off the mid. The world had gone suddenly quiet. The day’s companion of rain had faded into the atmosphere only to be replaced by the acoustics of falling snow. Our world was blanketed in a layer of white. Not good. Throughout the rest of the early morning, the snow continued to fall. Ten inches in total. With each wet flake our indoor space was encroached upon. With a crack of our kayak paddle, which was used as our lone tent pole, the heavy, wet snow made its presence known. We weren’t going anywhere for a while. At 7 AM I emerged from our cocoon to dig out our shelters. The landscape had radically changed over the dusk hours with point release avalanches dominating every steep face surrounding us. We were lucky that only ten inches had fallen. A more substantial snow would have put us in the direct firing line of several different avalanche paths. Having been warned of the perils of this portion of the route, we chose to stay put until the snow melted. To attempt the exposed trails ahead would have been a fool’s errand, most likely ending in a mortal disaster. The only option was to lay prone, conserving both energy and food, until the conditions safely warranted passage around the gorge. This would take 36 hours of waiting. Please note the cyclist on the steep hillside in the foreground. Mike was just beginning yet another highly exposed and loose section of hike-a-bike.

Brett makes his way along the goat trails.  Photo: Mike Curiak.

Olympus OMD-EM1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm F2.8 Pro Lens—ISO 200, F7.1, 1/2000 sec
A day before our departure to Anchorage, a conference call took place with myself, Mike and Steve. The central topic was how many pack rafts to bring on the trip. Should everyone have their own craft or should we save significant weight and potentially increase our ability to move fast by carrying only one raft just for the deep river channel crossings? Forward movement on the route by water would be compromised, but we would possibly move quicker through both the hike and rideable terrain because of our lighter kits. Roman and Co. had used one raft. Eric and Dylan each had rafts and foreshadowed that we would be kicking ourselves for only bringing one craft—especially in the final days of the route when we had reached the Nizina River. The final outcome of our call was to do the route in true pioneer style and bring only one raft. This was a decision we would live to question during the final two days of the route. Once past the lofty trails of the sure-footed mountain goats we thrashed and bashed through a steep hillside of alder to regain the Chitistone River. Watching Mike huck his bike into a tree as he scrambled down a short cliff, I could only hope that our two-wheeled machines would last long enough to get us to McCarthy. Turning down stream, we began the slow descent towards the Nizina. Good riding was interrupted by hour or longer bushwhacking tortures. The mosquitos were plentiful and thirsty. These full body efforts in the bush only seemed to ramp up the suffer factor and were mentally challenging to push through. The going was slow, but possible. My mantra was simply, keep moving forward by any means. It didn’t have to be pretty. At 5 PM we came to the Nizina and a sandy expanse of river channels and braids. We had been told that we would have to do at least one mandatory raft crossing, but after that it would be smooth sailing to a road that would deliver us to McCarthy. Turning west, we made our way towards an obvious constriction in the river corridor. There, we figured, would be our mandatory crossing. Way shy of our destination however, the pack raft was removed from Doom’s back and inflated. For the next seven hours or so, we would engage in a dance with the river…wade with the bikes until too deep; retreat; inflate raft; ferry. Finally, at 2 AM, we called it quits for the day, all of us cold and exhausted from
fighting to cover a mere two miles. Under a deep dusk, we consumed our final meals of the trip. We were officially out of food except for the scraps of a snack or two. As I drifted off for a couple of hours of shut eye, I imagined each of us in our own pack rafts bobbing down the river channels to McCarthy. We would have been there a day ago. The above shot was taken the following morning as we were forced to inflate yet again after having been shut down by fast and deep currents. Consequently, a few hours later, we hungrily and happily rolled into McCarthy just in time to eat and then drive back to Anchorage to catch flights home that evening. Talk about cutting it close to the wire. 

You can follow Brett and see more photos from this adventure and others on his Instagram (@brettrdavis) or his website: www.thelessoncollective.com.

Bedrock Bags
Dana's AZT, Part 2
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Editor's note:  Dana Ernst (no relation to Joey) is one of our Bedrock Ambassadors - he's out there using our gear all the time, including on events like the Arizona Trail Race.  In his spare time (ha!), he's a professor at Northern Arizona University.  Given his busy schedule, we're lucky to get such an in-depth race report.  Read on for the 2018 AZT blow-by-blow, Part 2... easiest to read by clicking on the title to open a new page.

...I think in general, Dion is a slightly better rider than I am.  He’s certainly better at descending than me. However, when we had last seen each other on Thursday evening, I think I was riding slightly stronger than him.  That’s what I unconsciously remembered and I was looking forward to some slow miles.  But now it's Friday evening and Dion is feeling fantastic.  About 30 minutes after leaving Tiger Mine I realized that there was no way I could keep the pace up and I was starting to feel awful. I told Dion to feel free to drop me, but he stuck by me.  He slowed it down a bit, but shortly thereafter, the wheels completely came up off the bus.  I started getting super dizzy and my vision was totally messed up.  My sense of balance was out of whack and I was having a hard time keeping my bike upright.  Dion was pretty far in front of me and I was getting really worried.  I had never felt that way and the thought of being alone in the dark in the middle of nowhere (with no tent or sleeping bag!) was pretty f*&^$g stressful. 

I decided I would try to lay down at the top of the next hill.  When I pulled over the top, Dion was there waiting.  I collapsed into the dirt and laid there.  Dion was futzing around with gear and debating what to do.  Meanwhile, the sky was spinning for me and I couldn’t really get up.  15-20 minutes go by and I start to feel way better. I get up and we ride pretty slowly for maybe an hour and then another dizzy spell hits me, but this time it is worse.  I tell Dion to leave me behind and hope that sleeping for a couple hours does the trick.

So there I am just laying in the dirt in my puffy.  Not really my thing!  I was so tired that all the fears of the scary shit that lurks in the dark didn’t matter.  I fell asleep instantly.  30 minutes later I was startled awake by a coyote yip that sounded like it was right next to me.  Now I’m wide awake!  Another yip.  And another.  From 3 sides of me!  I jump to my feet and shine my light and count four of them circling me about 50 yards away. I threw rocks at them, yelled, and jumped onto my bike.  I was convinced they ignored me and just let me pedal away, but reflecting now, I have no reason to believe they didn’t follow me for a bit.

After the coyote incident I’m feeling quite a bit better, but I have no “go” juice. I am riding really slowly and walking pretty much everything that goes uphill.  I’m shattered and alone in the dark in the desert.  I’m fighting to keep moving, fighting fear, and fighting the sleep monsters.  I convince myself to try to ride to Freeman Road.  At some point, I fell asleep while pushing my bike up a hill.  I have no idea if I fell asleep for 2 seconds or several minutes.  I startled myself awake and then couldn’t decide which way I was supposed to go.  I was staring at my GPS for what seemed to be an eternity, trying to figure out which way to go.  My mind was mush and nothing made any sense.  Eventually I decided that I should just keep riding in the direction that my bike was facing.

I made it to within about 3 miles of the Freeman Road cache when I started to hallucinate. For about 5 minutes I saw women in 50’s style clothes and kids wandering in the desert as if each cactus was a rack of clothes. So weird!  The apparitions were completely silent.  At that point, I decided to sit down for a minute.  45 minutes later I woke up. I hopped on my bike and rode the last few miles to Freeman Road (roughly mile 223).  Dion was there sleeping and I woke him up when I arrived.  Somehow he had only been there for 2 hours.  The last few hours seemed like an eternity.  I collapsed in the dirt and slept for about 30 minutes before I started shivering pretty intensely.

Dion and I got up around 5:30am (I think), gathered up our stuff, and pushed off for Kelvin.  Within 5 minutes, I felt absolutely fantastic as if it was a fresh start.   It seems impossible that I could go from feeling so crappy to feeling so good.  We were flying! Thankfully we made it to the bottom of the “Big Hill” before it got to hot.  We dispensed with the hike-a-bike with ease and then descended Ripsey Ridge.  I almost never enjoy descending, but I was loving the Ripsey descent.  

When we reached Kelvin, we pedaled to the water spigot at the ADOT yard (roughly mile 251).  There was some shade and the water was cold.  Life was good.  We decided to chill for a bit and ordered some pizza and soda from Old Time Pizza.  As we waited for the pizza to arrive, we started to realize how hot it was.  Both of us were feeling sorry for anyone that was out on the section we had just ridden.  Hiking up the Big Hill in the heat would be soul crushing.  The pizza arrived and we devoured all but a couple slices, which we wrapped in tin foil and saved for later.  

Rested and recharged, we departed Kelvin and entered the Gila Canyon section of the AZT. Our plan was to ease into things and then speed up, but we started slow and got slower.  It was hot!  According to my Garmin, it was 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit in Gila Canyon. This pretty much crippled Dion and me.  It took us 5.5 hours to go the 15 miles from Kelvin to the base of the final big climb. We basically slithered from shady spot to shady spot, often stopping for 15-20 minutes at a time.  We tried to be extremely conservative with our efforts. Being out in that kind of heat is dangerous, especially given the state we were in.  Before the final big climb, we cooled off in the Gila River and then waited quite a little while before starting the final push. We were hoping for some shade before climbing up Picketpost Mountain. I had saved a Coke that I ordered with the pizza. I had been looking forward to drinking it for hours and decided now was as good a time as any.  Unfortunately, it was more like warm bath water than a refreshing cold beverage.  Oh well.  I also finished off the rest of the pizza I had been saving. 

Dion and I were on pace to finish in under 2.5 days when we arrived in Kelvin, but it just wasn’t in the cards for us with how we timed the heat. We only had 21 miles to go.  At this point, I think both of us were just going to be happy to finish and any concerns about our time or placing were absent.

We were pretty spent from the heat when we started up the climb out of Gila Canyon.  I had descended that section once before during the Gila 100 race, so I thought I had some sense of what was in store.  However, reality and my memory didn’t line up.  It got dark on us a couple miles before the “top”.  We turned on our lights and continued on our way.  I was anxious to reach the high point and then rip the descent to the finish.  Ha! Not long after turning on my lights, my Sinewave Beacon dimmed quickly and then turned off.  I was walking and pushing my bike at the time.  I stopped and fiddled with the wires, flipped the on/off switch a few times, but nothing happened.  I picked my front tire up and spun the wheel to see if dynamo would power the light.  Yep, that worked.  Shit, my cache battery was toast.  It should have been charging all day, but apparently that didn’t happen.  It appears that my cache battery never recharged during the whole race.  If that’s the case, my cache battery (with help from the dynamo when I was going fast enough) powered my handlebar light for two full nights.  A little testing post-race with the help of Sinewave revealed that my cable and battery combo was the culprit.  Unfortunately, I didn’t do adequate testing before the race.  After the race, I swapped out my cache battery and replaced the cable I was using.  I’ve used the Beacon a few times since then and everything works great.

I wasn’t in panic mode yet since the light would work as long as I was rolling fast enough.  And I still had my headlamp…or so I thought.  As I was pushing my bike, I realized my headlamp was extremely dim.  The night before I swapped the batteries in my BD Storm headlamp.  I was carrying lithium batteries as a back-up because that’s what the Spot requires.  Unbeknownst to me, the lithium batteries and my headlamp don’t cooperate.  I seem to burn through the lithium batteries in the matter of a few hours.  This isn’t the first time this has happened to me, but it’s the first time that I figured out why it was likely happening.  I haven’t been able to confirm that this is a documented issue, but I’m confident the batteries are an issue for my headlamp.  

The lack of light was a bit of a bummer at this point, but I definitely had enough for hike-a-biking.  Besides, soon we would hit the top, and then we would be descending fast enough for the dynamo to power my Beacon and I would have bright light all the way to the finish.  Right?  Nope.  

We hit a high point and both of us assumed it was the top.  We descended a bit (with bright light!), but then soon dismounted and started walking back uphill.  We hit another high point.  Ah, this must be the top.  Descend a bit, then back up hill.  This happened a few more times.  Descend a bit.  Hike up a bit.  Dion and I wondered if we were going in circles or experiencing groundhog day.  I was pretty discouraged at this point and on the verge of having an emotional meltdown.  At one point, we looked down and saw a light.  Fuck, was someone gaining on us?  This spurred us to move a little faster, which maybe lasted 5 minutes.  Back to snail pace, I kept looking around for the light, expecting whoever it was to catch us at any moment.  After the fact, I’m confident it wasn’t another racer as the next rider to reach Picketpost after Dion and me was Dustin Eroh nearly 3 hours after us.  In fact, I’m not even sure the light was behind us.  We were so turned around up there in the dark, it’s possible the light was in front of us. 

Somewhere near the top, my heels started screaming at me when I was pushing my bike.  I figured I had blisters, but there was no sense stopping to address the issue with how close we were to the finish.  I’ve never had blisters before and was shocked at how painful they were.

Eventually, we really did reach the high point and “down” we went.  Dion was flying and I was desperately trying to keep up.  When I was going fast, my Beacon was throwing plenty of light.  The problem is that every time I slowed down, the light would dim so much, it was extremely hard to see. The frequent change from really bright to essentially non-existent was very hard on the eyes. Every time I’d get to a switchback, I’d slow down so much, I more or less couldn’t see where I was going. I crashed multiple times. I’m guessing I lost over an hour on the descent to the finish due to the lack of light. 

I couldn’t believe how long the descent from the top took.  As close as we were to the finish, I was feeling like I was never going to make it there.  I was having trouble believing that I had ridden my single speed up what I was currently trying to ride down. Of course, it wasn’t all downhill as I was hoping.  There were also plenty of short uphills, which I mostly walked.  A couple miles before the finish, I tried to power up a short technical section but my cranks came to an abrupt stop.  It felt like classic chain suck, but when I dismounted, I was surprised to see that my chain was jammed across three or four cogs of my rear cassette.  That was a new one for me and it took me a few minutes to pull it off.  I gingerly remounted and was relieved that things seemed to be working fine.  I assumed Dion was long gone, but was thankful to see him a few minutes later.  My chain stuffed itself across my cassette a couple more times and each time it took a little longer to unjam.  

After 2 days, 15 hours, and 13 seconds, Dion and I rolled into Picketpost.  We were the 4th and 5th riders to reach Picketpost and tied for 3rd place in the AZT300.  Neil Beltchenko won the AZT300 with a blistering fast time of 1:23:13.  It appears Neil is only the second person to ever finish under 48 hours.  Kaitlyn Boyle set a new women’s course record with a time of 2:02:57.  Well done Kaitlyn!  Kurt Refsnider’s split time from Parker Lake to Picketpost was 2:04:55.  Kurt went on to set a new course record for the AZT750.  Nice job Kurt!  

 Finished!

Finished!

When Dion and I reached the finish, it was pitch black and eerily quite. I felt like I should stop for a moment and take in what I had just accomplished, but instincts took over.  Where’s the food?  Shit, I didn’t have any food…or water. I rolled over to my car and fumbled around looking for my car key while Dion rode to the other end of the parking lot looking for his wife.  After dropping all my stuff at my car, I wandered over to where Dion and his wife were hanging out.  Dion’s wife brought me some Wendy’s!  We laid in the dirt wedging some fries, chicken sandwiches, and giant Cokes.  So good. After chilling out for a little while, Dion and his wife departed. Thankfully they left me a bottle of water since I had none of my own.  Note to self: always leave food and water for after races and bikepacking trips.  

I bumbled around at my car for a bit while pondering what to do.  My son was playing in a soccer tournament in Prescott the following morning, so I decided I would try to catch a few hours of sleep and then drive to the morning game.  It took me forever to get changed.  I was a total space cadet.  It felt great to get out of my cycling shoes.  Within a few minutes my feet were super swollen. I was about to set up my tent that John Schilling had delivered from the start to my car (thanks again John!), but then realized that Bill’s truck was parked next to my car.  I blew up my sleeping pad, grabbed my sleeping bag, and crawled into the bed of the truck.  I elevated my swollen feet,  stared up at the stars ,and slowly drifted off to sleep.

A couple hours later I was awoken as Dustin Eroh rolled into Picketpost.  I sat up in the truck and congratulated him on his progress.  We chatted a little as he sat up camp next to the truck.  I’m sure I was a muttering fool.  He sounded surprisingly fresh.  Dustin would go on to finish second in the AZT750.

I woke up before the sun came up and hobbled out of Bill’s truck.  I could barely walk.  My feet were completely f*&^$d. There’s no way I could have put my shoes back on.  I was shocked at how massive the blisters on my heels were, but it was the swelling in my feet that was causing all the pain.  I had similar swelling at the end of the CTR.  I need to figure out this swelling thing.  I might have to try compression socks.  I was an absolute zombie driving to my son’s soccer game.  I made it there in time for kick off and cheered on my son’s team.  It was nice to be with family and friends.

Closing Thoughts

  1. Gratitude: I’m extremely grateful to have the opportunity to experience these types of adventures. It wouldn’t be possible without support from my wife and family. Events like the AZT300, the lead up to them, and sometimes the recovery afterwards are taxing on family, too. Thanks Jen, I love you!  Also, thanks to the dudes at Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution and Bedrock Bags for the support. I’m also indebted to Mike Vanderberg for helping out with an abbreviated training plan. I had foot surgery in December and wasn’t able to start training until the middle of January. My early training was slowed due to a recurring saddle sore turned staph infection. In reality, I packed all of my training into 8 weeks. Thanks to Scott Morris for organizing this crazy event. 
  2. Companionship: I had a blast riding with Dion. I hope we can share some adventures in the future.
  3. Feeling proud: I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished. Squeezing in time to train when you work 50+ hours per week isn’t easy. Balancing work, family life, and play isn’t easy. I’m 43 years old and I’ve had two surgeries in the past year and a half (lower back and left foot). Also, I don’t think I’m really that good of a bike rider.  But I do have an abundance of “try hard”.
  4. Room for improvement: There are lots of little things that I can improve upon, but one thing that stands out is my descending.  I’m awful.  A huge part of the problem is that I don’t really like going fast. I’ve always been conservative when descending, but since my back surgery, I’m definitely overly cautious.  I really need to work on riding switchbacks.  I bet I could take an hour off my AZT300 time just by riding all of the switchbacks faster.
  5. Animals: I saw 3 rattle snakes (2 of which seemed to be mating along the trail in Gila Canyon), 2 scorpions, 1 gila monster, 4 coyotes, hundreds of wolf spiders (their eyes twinkle at night), and mountain lion tracks on top of cycling shoe prints. Whoever was using Speedplay pedals may have had a mountain lion following them in Gila Canyon! I was hoping to see a desert tortoise, but that didn’t happen.
  6. Community: I think the bikepacking community is awesome and I’m proud to be a part of it.
  7. AZT750: I have massive respect for every rider attempting the 750. I’m happy with how my race in the 300 went, but given the state of my feet, I’m not sure I could not have finished the 750. I’ll admit that bums me out a bit, but it’s irrelevant.  Someday I’d like to do the 750, but I’m not sure it’ll ever happen since I just can’t miss that many days of work in the middle of the semester.  Missing one day for the 300 was already a problem.

Gear List

Here’s a more-or-less complete list of the stuff that I took with me:

  • Clothes:
    • Bike hat
    • Buff
    • Bibs
    • Wool Rapha shirt 
    • Wool long sleeve base layer
    • Socks
    • Knee warmers
    • Gloves
    • Cycling shoes
    • Helmet
    • Puffy jacket
    • Insulated pants
  • Osprey Syncro 10 backpack
  • Two 3-liter bladders
  • Sinewave Beacon Light
  • Garmin GPS
  • Spot Tracker
  • Black Diamond Storm headlamp (strapped to helmet)
  • Batteries for Spot and headlamp
  • Sunglasses
  • MSR Trailshot and Aquatabs
  • Dude wipes
  • Minimal first aid kit
  • Lighter
  • DZ Nuts
  • Sunscreen
  • Money, drivers license, credit car
  • Repair stuff:
    • Spokes
    • Nipples
    • Pump
    • CO2
    • Tubes w/ sealant
    • Patch kit
    • Tire boot
    • Sealant
    • Valve core remover
    • Valve core
    • Leatherman
    • Chain link
    • Lube
    • Rag
    • Zip ties
    • Gorilla tape
    • Curved needle and nylon thread
    • Brake pads
    • Cleats and bolts
    • Superglue
    • Shifter cable
    • Multi tool
    • Derailleur hanger
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