You’ve heard about the Colorado Trail Race. And you’ve thought, “I should try that.” And then you talked yourself out of trying it over and over. And over. But the lingering desire to ride across Colorado won’t leave you alone. What to do? Ride the CTR, of course! It will be the best week you’ll ever spend on a bike. It will also be the worst week you’ll ever spend on a bike.
The CTR is grueling. Get in shape. That doesn’t mean you will have to become something you are not. Riders of all sorts of fitness levels have been successful on the Colorado Trail. Ride your bike. A lot. Hike up rocky trails with your loaded bike. A lot. Make sure your knees, hamstrings, achilles, and every other part of your body can handle pushing a heavy bike up a mountain. Get your body ultra-ready with Lynda’s 12-week CTR training plan. Oh, and if possible, get high. Like, 12,00 feet high. The CT has an average elevation over 10,000 feet. A little acclimatization will go along way.
Bikepacking gear is in the middle of a revolution. It’s glorious. There are many options for sleep systems, bags, lights, and navigation. Get into your gear early, test it, tweak it, refine it. Having a system that is dialed in before race day will save you time and frustration on the trail.
The mountain bike you have will work for the CTR. Especially if the bike you have a is a full suspension 29er. Riders have ridden bikes that are rigid, singlespeed, have big wheels, small wheels, that are carbon, steel and aluminum. Make sure that you are comfortable on the bike you choose to ride and that it is in great working order. The CT is rough. It will beat you and your bike up.
Every bikepacking set up has bags at its core: frame, seat, handlebar. Make sure your bags are water-resistant, light, and durable. My favorite bags are made by Revelate Designs. There are many different options to choose from. If you have a full suspension bike, you may need to get creative, or go custom, with a frame bag. In addition to the primary bags, there are many accessory bags, such as the Revelate Jerry Can and Gas Tank that are superb. I highly recommend using a top-tube bag for storing food, tools and other small items.
How uncomfortable are you willing to be?
A basic bikepacking system uses a bivy, bag and pad. An adequate combination can weigh as little as 3lbs. But such a light set-up won’t provide much protection in torrential rain or against unseasonable cold. A system with more protection will weigh more. What trade-offs will you make? The only way to know for certain, is to test different gear on pre-race trips.
If you are new to bikepacking, it’s a good idea to schedule your CTR a year or two in advance. In the mean time, get your gear, and start doing mini-trips. A 1-night trip can be super valuable. In less than 24-hours, a bad system will be exposed, and a good system can be refined.
Learn the route. The Colorado Trail Foundation has an excellent pocket guide. With this book, a GPS is not needed to ride the route. Of course, a GPS, with the track loaded, saves time while pedaling. I recommend having both while on the trail. Lean about the Wilderness detours, resupply options, water sources, and trail character along the route.