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Take Your Mom Bikepacking (And She Might Just Surprise You)

Posted by Liam Kirkpatrick on January 19, 2019

For the uninitiated, bikepacking is bike touring’s lightweight backcountry counterpart. By combining ultralight camping strategies with mountain bikes, bikepacking opens up an entirely different way of moving through wild places. I’ve fallen in love with the sport. Since being introduced to bikepacking by a high-school teacher a few years ago, I’ve ridden the epic Colorado Trail, the length of Cuba, and countless shorter trips through the Sespe, Sierra-Nevada, and Southern Alps.

Mom Buys A Bike (Without Training Wheels)

Our plan raised eyebrows from the start. For my mom’s 50th Birthday, I promised I’d take her on a bikepacking trip. I picked out a 750 mile route across southern British Columbia. She’d never ridden a loaded bike before, and had very little experience on mountain bikes at all.

I thought taking my mom on my next one of these rides would be the perfect birthday present for a few reasons. She was my original outdoor mentor, one of the first people who took me into the wilderness and taught me to love adventure. With her and my dad, I learned to ski, hike and camp. As I’ve grown up, my focus has shifted to biking and climbing, but I continue to build upon the skills my parents first taught me. I thought sharing one of my new passions with my mom would be the best way to thank her for sharing the outdoors with me.

Four months out, I helped my mom buy a mountain bike, and she promptly began hundreds of miles of training. It was only with three weeks to go that I began to address the finer details of the trip.

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The most difficult thing to figure out was how to carry our gear. I wanted to have my mom’s bike light because a heavy load on tough trails is incredibly difficult for someone who’s still new to singletrack. However, wet British Columbia weather and long distances meant I’d be carrying more gear than I could fit in my usual setup. I settled on using a custom-fit framebag, a large seatbag, and a self-made handlebar rack. I also used my Dueter Race 12 backpack for water, electronics/maps, my puffy jacket, and leftover Tim Horton’s. Backpacks are usually something I steer clear of when biking for weeks on end. However, with a compact and stable bag, I didn’t experience any of the back pain I usually associate wearing backpacks on long riding days and the bike rode well; I carried my personal gear, the tent, kitchen, 4 days of food, and the repair kit, but could still shred the descents!

Mom Flys to Chiliwack

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We flew up to Chiliwack (just outside Vancouver), and assembled our bikes in a motel room. We made a final run to the grocery store, and after weeks of planning, finally set out onto the trail. Only a few miles from the motel, we dove into the rain forest and  picked our way slowly through moss-covered trails.

By the end of our second day, things weren’t looking great. We spent an entire afternoon pushing our way through Alder branches and bear scat on the way up Paleface Pass. Unable to make it over the pass that night, we camped beside the trail.

The next morning we resumed our uphill plod, spending an hour dragging the heavy bikes through steep snow (the trail no longer visible) before we reached the crest of the pass. By now it was raining, and the overgrown and snowy trail meant we had to push our bikes for miles on the decent. Honestly, at this point I was worried I might have spoiled my mom on this whole bikepacking thing. But she kept going, and we made it to the town of Hope for burgers that night.

Our troubles weren’t over. The next few days out of Hope involved waist-deep stream crossings, traversing steep eroded slopes, and (most terrifying of all) a few miles on the highway shoulder. I had plenty of practice carrying bikes on my shoulders, but mom didn't. She's at outdoor woman, though, and without complaint, she lifted her bike onto her shoulders and continued to crush the route.

Mom Crushes the Mountains

Soon we had reached a more mellow section of our trip; the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, which (along with another few rail trail systems) took us most of the way across the province. I loved watching my mom proudly conquer her first 30 mile day, then best it by 10 miles a few days later. Our long hours in the saddle were punctuated with frequent bear and deer sightings. We learned to visit cafés when in towns, and so our lunches were civilized affairs, complete with fresh scones and fruit.

The trail took us through the incredible Othello Tunnels and Myra Trestles, remnants of some of the most spectacular railways ever created. As a cyclist, it’s an incredible feeling to gaze up at a steep hillside only to realize someone has tunneled a path through it for you.

We enjoyed our visits to tiny British Columbia towns, though our time in them almost completely revolved around food. Once we bought an entire blueberry pie, ate half with our sporks right in front of the bakery, and then stuffed the second half my backpack for dinner.

The mountains grew bigger as we continued east. We flew up the biggest climb of our trip, the 5000’ Grey Creek Pass, in half the time I’d planned. By then, it was more summer than spring, and we only had to pick our way through small patches of snow on the way down. Yellow wildflowers filled valley-floor meadows. Before we knew it, were on our final day, rolling into the town of Fernie, almost on the Alberta border.

I don’t think this trip could have gone much better. We encountered just enough adversity to call our journey an adventure, but never descended into a full on suffer-fest. We’d seen hundreds of miles of wilderness totally new to both of us, and had fun all the while. I hope by sharing my passion with my mom, I conveyed to her just how thankful I am for her teaching me to love the outdoors. I owe it all to her!

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Follow Liam Kirkpatricks biking adventures and photogrophy on his site: https://worldbyphotographyblog.wordpress.com/ 

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