Sunday, December 1, 2013

First bikepacking trip!

Hitting the open trail
The weather looked good for Thanksgiving weekend, and it was time to hit the trail.  I decided on doing an overnight on the Black Canyon Trail.  My frame bag wasn't complete, and my gps mount was still in the mail, but who cares?  Get on the bike and go for it!

The first thing I needed was a way to mount my GPS on the bike.  A bit of sleeping pad, some tape, and 5 minutes time and I had a super-strong mount.  The tape started to slide off the GPS near the end of the ride, but it was pretty good while it lasted.  Duct tape or gorilla tape would've probably held up better.
As I started to pack my things onto the bike, I realized I'd forgotten the handlebar sling that I'd made!  It was in my house in Flagstaff.  I improvised with a canvas shopping bag and two straps.  Funny thing is, this setup actually secured the bag tighter to the frame than the sling I made, and it's simpler.  A new handlebar sling is in the works, using this idea.

The complete set-up, ready to go.  First true test of my homemade panniers.  I rode with a small pack and hydration system for my water.  All together, more space than I needed for an overnight (the pack carried only the hydration system, otherwise it was empty).

The route begins with nice singletrack through the open prairie landscape that I had only seen previously from interstate 17.

I met two guys doing a one-day trip down the trail while taking a break at this windmill.  I decided not to filter the cow-water and instead wait for a better source.
They soon left me in the dust; I'm not a very fast rider.

I think I'm headed down...

Sweet, smooth singletrack dropping into Black Canyon.

My campsite for the night, complete with a view of the Bradshaw Mountains, bike parking and a rock outcropping for protection from wind and redneck gunfire.  A mile or so earlier I found a pothole in a drainage with water from recent rain, and filled a water bottle for cooking.  That way I didn't have to descend down to Bumble Bee creek to find water and a campsite.  Staying out of the drainages is a very good idea in winter desert camping, since cold air flows down them at night.  My campsite was probably 10 or 15 degrees warmer than Bumble Bee creek.

Bumble Bee Ranch.  You can see cottonwoods next to the ranch; that's Bumble Bee creek, where I filtered water for the rest of the ride.

ACE friends note: this trail is built on a LOT of junk walls.  They seem to be holding up just fine.

More sublime saguaro singletrack.

The ride ended with an Agua Fria river crossing, complete with some bike-bushwacking along the bank to find the best spot.
I started where the trail crosses Highway 69, and finished at the Rock Springs trailhead in Black Canyon City.  40 miles in 2 days isn't a lot of distance for a mountain bike, but I was pretty knackered.  The biggest limiting factor was a sore neck and thumbs (oddly enough).  I attribute both of these to having not mountain biked in the last 3 years; this is one of the first rides I've taken on the new bike.  The panniers held up well, but I did lose a couple of straps from forgetting to tighten them up; my attachment method uses slider lock buckles and relies on tension to keep from unraveling.  I may look for a new method, or simply back up with tape next time.

Also, while I definitely like the panniers and will do more trips with them, for 1-2 night trips my framebag should be sufficient space.  And I need to make a small bag that sits in front of me while biking, for snacks and stuff.  It sounds kind of ridiculous, but digging into the panniers or a pack for a snickers is too tedious, and I don't eat as often as I should when food's not right in front of me.

All things considered, a wonderful ride.  Bikepacking is *so* much more fun than touring on a road. Riding singletrack, knowing that you can stop and set up camp any time, it's pretty cool.  It combines everything I like about backpacking and mountain biking.