Backpacking or bikepacking – that’s not the question

Backpacking or bikepacking – that’s not the question

Just do it, the art of hike-a-bike

“Bon courage” calls a group of hikers from the far distance. I’m getting a bit upset by their motivating calls and I hardly manage a wry smile. Once we reach them, I carry my bike past their surprised faces, feeling relief when they finally move on descending. Our trip has been going uphill for the last few hours, no end in sight. I dare not look at my GPS, how far it is from here to the summit. I cannot cope with hard facts at the moment, don’t even want to hear such hyperactive comments, I’d rather need somebody tell me that it’s not a shame to give up.

Tour de Mont Blanc

We are in France biking around, or at least trying to bike around Europe’s highest summit, Mont Blanc. The notorious “Tour de Mont Blanc” is no longer an insider’s tip among mountain bikers, but it is rather new and hasn’t been tested for bike packing. We intentionally ignored the recommendations to use full suspension mountain bikes for circling the Mont Blanc, and to go for the comfortable version with a credit card and a light weight backpack staying in mountain cabins. For us bike packing means: independence, adventure, sleeping outdoors, getting around on a low budget. Besides, deliberately ignoring advices is a bit rebellious, even if the advice was given by specialized bike magazines and not by parents.

The next group of happily chatting hikers is approaching, and I feel my mood changing from envy to rage. Envy when I look at their perfectly packed hiking backpacks and the constant click click noise of their trekking poles on the rocks. But the worst is the awareness that they chose the right gear for the trip. However, I don’t want to admit any failure, won’t allow them to pass me and try to hide my feelings.

Keeping one’s countenance is the biggest challenge

After several hours of hard work we finally reach the top of the pass. A glimpse to the other side and I feel down again. The descent is a steep rocky downhill trail interrupted by 20 cm high barricades which are supposed to prevent erosions of the hiking path caused by strong rain. No way, after all this hard work this downhill ride won’t be fun. I try to keep my countenance and decide to have only a short break, a handful of nuts and then try to manoeuver my bike downhill, walking and pushing.

My pedals keep on bumping into my calves, a painful trip. But we keep on going, today and tomorrow. We are talking about giving up, but it would be a hard decision, the view onto the white brilliant peak towering over the surrounding mountains. So we continue, hoping every day for at least one nice downhill ride and taking in the breathtaking mountain scenery around us.

Boot camp mentality instead of holiday feelings

My initial dysphoria is soon replaced by a radical boot camp mentality. The “Tour de Mont Blanc” is a training camp instead of a holiday. At night we are lying exhausted in our tent with burning calves and cramps in our arms, sick and tired of walking, carrying and pushing our bikes. But despite all the pain we are surprised to be satisfied in an almost masochistic way.
Four long days we carry our bikes up the mountains in order to carry them back down on the other side. Then, on our last day before we get to Chamonix, we encounter a group of mountain bikers, the first on this trip. Four young British guys who want to do it right, they have fullys and small backpacks only. When I look into their eyes I remember my emotions of the first day. “Don’t even think about it” they explain their strategy in a humorous way. They comment on our hardtails and our relatively heavy luggage. Then we separate, they go uphill, we are heading downhill to our final destination.

Backpacking or bikepacking – that’s not the question

„Just do it“ is our personal slogan for the ‘Tour de Mont Blanc’. If you manage to successfully suppress the thought that a lightweight backpack and hiking would have been smarter than walking and carrying a fully loaded bike, you might experience a little joy during the trip as the mountain scenery is fantastic. However, we do not recommend the tour for biking!

Written by Franzi from Tales on Tyres

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *