One of my favorite things about mountain biking is the opportunities it gives me for adventure and exploration. I love finding remote and beautiful places that are hard to get to by foot and impossible to reach by car. For this reason, I've been thinking about riding all the segments of the Colorado Trail for awhile now.
I started considering it last summer, but bikepacking didn't appeal to me at the time. I couldn't imagine having fun on a bike that's loaded down with a bunch of camping gear. I thought I'd try to ride as many segments as possible by setting up shuttles on the weekends, but that idea didn't get me very far--setting up big shuttles weekend after weekend is pretty time consuming, and finding friends who were consistently available to make those long drives was difficult too.
So this year I've decided to give bikepacking a try, and ride the Colorado Trail in one push, hopefully in August. To get ready, I'm planning a few shorter trips to test ride my loaded-down bike and to make sure I enjoy this style of riding.
The Kokopelli trail from Fruita to Moab was my first of these trips. I rode it in three days over Memorial Day weekend. I thought it would be a great first bikepacking trip, since a significant proportion of it is on dirt roads and wouldn't be too technical, yet would still give me a feel for riding with all my gear.
After getting lots of advice from friends and the internet, I had a setup I was pretty happy with. Since the trip was relatively short, I thought I could overpack it a little, deal with the extra weight, then figure out afterwards what I can go without for next time. I brought along a lightweight sleeping bag, mattress pad, bivy sack, rain fly, backpacking stove, water filter, some various spare parts and tools, a change of clothes, rain jacket, and lots of food and water.
The first few hours of the ride were really slow going, but we expected that. Two of us were completely new to bikepacking and hadn't had much time for test riding, so we stopped a lot to adjust our packs. I was surprised at how much fun I had descending with all that weight on my bike--I thought I'd be nervous to corner or ride fast, but I got comfortable with it pretty quickly. I even started to love the momentum my heavier bike carried and the feeling of my bike digging into the ground through the corners. I struggled a little more on slower speed riding, and getting used to the uphills (and the more than occasional pushing) took a little longer. I certainly had some moments of grumpiness and frustration when I struggled to push my bike up the steeper hills on the trail.
But, over the course of the 3 day trip, the beautiful scenery and the simplicity of doing nothing but riding all day won me over, far outweighing the frustrating moments. Although most of the Kokopelli trail is on dirt roads that aren't too far from a highway, the riding was fun and the roads felt remote. All along the way, we had the most incredible views all to ourselves. And by the end, although I still didn't feel ready to ride down the Porcupine rim trail (an option at the end of the Kokopelli trail) with my bikepacking setup, I started to feel a lot more comfortable riding with all my gear, and ready to test it out on some slightly more technical trails.
This trip also helped me satisfy my desire to gain experience in all different types of riding--from xc to dh to dirt jumping, and now bikepacking too. For me, all these disciplines come with a unique learning experience, and each offers a different way to enjoy riding. I'm feeling really excited for the next bikepacking trip, and for all the other types of riding I hope to do this summer.