Changing Gears


Slowly I’m realizing the pain moving upwards from my arms into my back. „Love you bike, push you bike“, I’m swearing loudly into the woods, no answer. “Come on”, replies Jona, pushing his bike past me. “It won’t be far…” I suppress a scornful laughter “that’s what you said an hour ago!” However, it wouldn’t be fair to blame him for my frustration. Still, I can’t drop it and whisper so that he can still hear me “it was all your bloody idea”. I keep on pushing my fully loaded touring bike up the steep track.

The truth is it was Our idea. A few months ago we started in the North of Canada. We wanted to cycle the entire distance down to South America. However, we didn’t have a fix plan, and a few weeks later we realized that the wide long endless roads of Alaska and Canada were boring. Straight roads, still traffic to watch out for, the monotonous sound of our tires on the road, the gray asphalt. We needed something else, more uncertainty, more adventure and definitely more challenge than biking from one bad coffee to the next gas station.

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

The “Great Divide Mountain Bike Route” was just what we needed. It starts in the Rocky Mountains near Banff in Canada, crosses the USA down to Mexico and consists of small gravel roads, tracks and single trails. It sounded just like what we were looking for, maybe even a little bit more. The fact that most bikers access this route with minimum luggage and full suspension bikes, didn’t deter us trying it with our heavily loaded bikes. In the end it is the biker who matters and not the bike.

 

Another stupid comment, I think to myself. I keep on bumping against my panniers while I am pushing my bike. This is really annoying, the mountain is annoying, the bike is annoying, just everything. 30 minutes later we finally reach the top of the mountain pass that we longed for. We are exhausted and crash next to our bikes; looking into the distance Jona laughes satisfactorily and remarks “how are you feeling now?” “Actually quite good”, and I must admit, my anger has suddenly disappeared though my body still feels my battle with the mountain.

This night I am lying in my sleeping bag staring at the yellow tent tarp covered with dead mosquitoes, thinking about my gear. Do I really need 4 pairs of socks? Do you really need this or are 2 pairs sufficient? In the next few hours I am eliminating at least 50% of my gear and before I am falling asleep I decide to reduce my equipment. Each small US town has a thrift shop or a second store, so as soon as I have left my possessions behind – with a slightly uneasy feeling – I am also leaving behind the little luxury I had on this trip. However, the reward is a much lighter bike.

No traffic, no dirt, no noise

The „Great Divide“ often takes us to our limits. We take almost two months for this trip, but in the end we feel that this was the right choice. Roads are no longer an option.
We get the emotion of having nature to ourselves. No traffic, no dirt, no noise, just the wilderness, loneliness and tranquility. It is as if we have discovered this trip for ourselves in a new way. The daily distance that we cover on our bikes is suddenly no longer important. We are no longer noting down every mileage and it is as if we are discovering the country into the depth instead of by distance.

 

“Do you think we need a suspension?” I am asking Jona during our lunch break in the shade of a tree. We have now reached New Mexico, the last US-state of our trip. We have finally taken a decision.
The coming four weeks are a physical break for us, not a mental break: we will change our classic touring equipment and will replace it with a bikepacking setup. Sometimes we have our doubts, and we are spending long nights searching the web for various options and comparing products in order to come to the right decision.

Biketouring versus Bikepacking

It is hard but finally we are selling our bikes and invest in two mountain bikes. Our panniers and racks are replaced by frame bags etc.

Soon we are rewarded with our new bike packing setup, and as soon as we are biking across the “Baja Divide”, the border to Mexico, we are happy without any regrets.

By now bikepacking has become a real trend; the thing about trends is that there is a lot of discussion in forums and facebook groups about this new way of travelling. However, we believe that bikepacking is more than just a trend, it feels like a long overdue evolution. Finally it is no longer the road’s direction telling you where to go, but your own decision.

Written by Franzi from Tales on Tyres

 

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