Archive | Salsa

Introducing The 2018 Beargrease

We’re excited to announce the arrival of the 2018 Beargrease line up. Around 2010 or so, Engineer Pete Koski declared that he wanted to design, “a fatbike that ripped like a modern hardtail.” Koski meant every word, and since its introduction in 2012, Beargrease has become the standard-bearer for fatbike racing performance. In any season, on any terrain, at any staring line, it’s the fatbike to chase.

We’re excited to announce the arrival of the 2018 Beargrease line up. Around 2010 or so, Engineer Pete Koski declared that he wanted to design, “a fatbike that ripped like a modern hardtail.” Koski meant every word, and since its introduction in 2012, Beargrease has become the standard-bearer for fatbike racing performance. In any season, on any terrain, at any staring line, it’s the fatbike to chase.

For 2018, Beargrease adopts the sure-footed rollover of 27.5 x 3.8” wheels and tires. For groomed snow or dirt, the increase in diameter provides increased rollover, a longer contact patch, and the floatation of a 5” tire without the added rolling resistance.

Product Manager Justin Steiner was on board to add a little horsepower to Beargrease. “We’re excited to offer Beargrease with 27.5 x 3.8” for 2018. With the change to 27.5” fat, we’ve updated wheel spec in a big way. HED’s Big Deal Carbon wheelset is truly baller on Beargrease Carbon GX Eagle, particularly with the custom graphics. Combined with SRAM’s new GX Eagle drivetrain, this Beargrease is all about speed. But the top-tier Beargrease isn’t the only model to see upgrades. Both Beargrease Carbon SLX 1x11 and Beargrease Carbon NX1 models roll on Sun Ringle’s venerable Mulefut wheelset. With Shimano’s 11-46t cassette, the SLX 1x11 group allows us to push a wider gearing range to lower price points.”

Beargrease Carbon GX Eagle...

2018 Beargrease models offer everything you already loved about Beargrease, with new features that make it better than ever.

Point the front wheel towards groomed snow or singletrack, or pack light and take on the challenge of a big distance overnight bikepacking trip. Beargrease shines when the pressure’s on.

The 2018 Beargrease is available in three build levels and as a frameset.

BEARGREASE CARBON GX EAGLE 27.5

MSRP BIKE: $4,599.00 

FRAMESET: $1,499.00

BEARGREASE CARBON SLX 1x11 27.5

MSRP BIKE: $2,499.00

BEARGREASE CARBON NX1 27.5

MSRP BIKE: $1,999.00

Please visit the Beargrease product pages for complete information, additional product photography, and more.

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Introducing The 2018 Mukluk

We’re excited to present the 2018 family of Mukluk. Many of us here at Salsa have had the pleasure of watching Mukluk evolve over the last decade, and we believe that today, it stands as the most progressive fatbike in the industry.

We’re excited to present the 2018 family of Mukluk. Many of us here at Salsa have had the pleasure of watching Mukluk evolve over the last decade, and we believe that today, it stands as the most progressive fatbike in the industry.  

Product Manager, Joe Meiser is a big fan and proud Mukluk rider and racer, and he plays an instrumental role each year in helping to push the line up to the next level. When asked what his favorite features of the current Mukluk are, the five that immediately came to mind were:

  • The clearance for tires ranging from 26 x 3.8 – 5.0, 27.5 x 2.8 - 4.0, and 29 x 2.2 - 3.0
  • The ability to change the chainstay length from 432 – 450 mm on the Carbon model with the Alternator 2.0 dropout
  • 197 x 12 mm rear spacing and a 100 mm BB shell keeps the Q-Factor narrow and open to a wide range of drivetrain configurations, including 1x and 2x
  • The Bearpaw fork is the first carbon fatbike fork to feature Three-Pack mounts for our Salsa Anything Cages, and its suspension-corrected numbers play nice with up to 120 mm travel suspension forks if the rider chooses to go that route
  • Thoughtful and useful features like toptube mounts for our EXP Series Toptube Pack, three waterbottle mounts, and the option to run our Alternator Rack 190 with a Rack-Lock seat collar

2018 Mukluk Carbon XO1 Eagle...

Meiser put together some killer builds this time around. “In 2018, spec highlights include HED carbon wheels on Mukluk Carbon XO1 Eagle and HED aluminum rims with DT Swiss hubs for Mukluk Carbon GX Eagle. All models now roll on Maxxis 26 x 4.8” Minion FBR tires, and wider range mountain 1x drivetrains (XO1 Eagle, GX Eagle, and SLX 1x11) will add to Mukluk’s off-road prowess. We’re stoked about our new thru-axles, and new handlebar, seatpost, and stem widths and lengths will help to dial in the fit across frame sizes.” He adds, “We carefully think through every price point of our bike specification to give a great ride experience and a product that will provide riders with season after season of enjoyment.”  

Mukluk is our most versatile fatbike, engineered to excel in just about any off-road scenario you can throw at it. Meiser can attest to that. “I have ridden the Mukluk on fresh snow, perfectly groomed snow singletrack, dirt, and pavement. Using the Alternator Dropouts, I’ve come to really appreciate how it carves singletrack with 26 x 4.0” tires in the shortest wheelbase configuration, and the amount of stability that it offers with a 5.0” tire in the longer wheelbase configuration.” When he’s got the fire for some fatbike competition, he goes for his Mukluk too. “I chose it to race this year for Fatbike Birkie, and our team riders have used it for Arrowhead and Iditarod. It is incredibly capable, versatile, fast, and tons of fun. At the same time, it’s also the fatbike I choose when I want to go off-trail and do some exploring in the woods.”

On any surface, in any season, Mukluk has the chops to tackle whatever lies ahead. If your answer to, “What are your fatbike interests?” is, “All of them,” then Mukluk may be the solution you’ve been looking for.  

The 2018 Mukluk is available in three build levels and as a frameset in carbon, and one build level in aluminum.

AVAILABILITY: Some models shipping to dealers in the next few weeks. Contact your Salsa authorized dealer to order.

MUKLUK CARBON X01 EAGLE

MSRP BIKE: $5,399.00

FRAMESET: $1,999.00

MUKLUK CARBON GX EAGLE

MSRP BIKE: $3,499.00

MUKLUK CARBON SLX 1x11

MSRP BIKE: $2,699.00

MUKLUK NX1

MSRP BIKE: $1,799.00

Please visit our Mukluk product pages for complete information, detail photos, and more.

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Bikepacking To The Australian Alps’ Enduro Trails

“Everyone look over here!” Adrian shouted into the megaphone, pointing at me with a crazed grin. “These two Americans are putting gears on their bikes! What kind of person even brings gears to the Singlespeed World Championships?!”

“Everyone look over here!” Adrian shouted into the megaphone, pointing at me with a crazed grin. “These two Americans are putting gears on their bikes! What kind of person even brings gears to the Singlespeed World Championships?!” He feigned being absolutely appalled, but it was hard to take him seriously in his black-and-white striped suit.

Adrian patted Kaitlyn on the back as folks nearby booed. Then he laughed, wished us a good trip, and sauntered off, megaphone and amplifier in hand. This weekend of shenanigans was what had brought us to Australia (specifically Kaitlyn getting free airfare to Oz by winning the Whiskey Off-Road singlespeed race in our hometown of Prescott), but it was a bikepacking adventure that was going to keep us there for two weeks more. Or so we thought. But we weren’t about to tackle a rugged traversal of the Australian Alps on singlespeeds. We borrowed some tools at the race to put gears back on our Redpoints, and eagerly headed their direction. Our planned route was the Bicentennial National Trail, a long horsepacking route that traverses the Alps and beyond. We’d follow that as far as Canberra, and then we’d hop over to New Zealand to meet Eszter Horanyi and Scott Morris for some more bike exploration.

But, not all adventures go even remotely as planned. After a few days on the National Trail, it was clear that we wouldn’t even come close to making it to the Canberra airport in our allotted time. A recent tornado had decimated the first part of the trail. Then tens of miles of riding through sprawling burn areas meant hopping massive downed eucalyptus trees every few hundred meters. Then couple that with the steep mountain tracks that seem to never use switchbacks.

What ensued was a frustrated Kurt and Kaitlyn staring at maps high in the mountains, trying to come up with a new plan. Then there was disappointed Kurt riding out of the mountains, followed by overly stressed Kurt trying to cope with suddenly being in downtown Melbourne waiting for a train to head farther north. Next was relieved Kurt after bumping into Adrian in a coffee shop and getting some very helpful route advice from him. And the day ended with exhausted Kurt, stumbling off a train at midnight in some unknown town, trying to find a tree to sleep under. I don’t think I made a particularly good travel partner on that day.

But with that strange turn of events, our trip completely morphed into pedaling from one mountain bike town to another, spending a day or two riding in each along the way. Instead of traversing the Alps, we spent just a couple days crossing them, aiming for Bright. We rolled into a campground that was coincidentally right at the base of the town’s famous trail system. The trails were steep and slimy, and our unloaded Redpoints were a perfect fit. We explored the enduro tracks and their built features, but the legitimate downhill track was a well beyond our skills. The fact that a local trail system has both legit enduro and downhill tracks was quite impressive to me, but I later learned that this is the norm in this part of Australia!

After a couple of rainy days in Bright, we hopped over a divide to the tiny town of Mt. Beauty to ride with Turi, a gal we had met at Singlespeed Worlds. Another destination riding area, Mt. Beauty boasts a trail system of old-school singletrack – steep, tight, and techy. It’s the kind of riding I love and am seeing less and less of in the States. But even the new trails in Mt. Beauty are old school. We stashed our bags in the woods and excitedly chased Turi around for the afternoon.

Eventually, we ended up on the outskirts of Canberra for a few days. Meeting up with Adrian again (this time on purpose) and a few of his buddies, they guided us around some rarely ridden trails in the Blue Mountains. Steep sandstone descents, windy ridgelines, and big views were the themes of the day. We followed that up with a day playing on the enduro tracks in the hills north of town, getting comfortable on the rocky drops and tangled roots. We wrapped up our time in Oz with Adrian’s brother showing us around some delightfully techy suburban singletrack near Canberra.

In very few ways was this the experience we had expected in Australia. We weren’t in the backcountry much at all. We didn’t spend our time riding from point A to point B as we had intended. And we didn’t see any koala bears. But all the shorter rides with new friends along the way was so much fun, and bringing along remarkably capable trail bikes paid dividends on the exciting enduro tracks that have become so popular in the region. It would have been impossible to plan a trip that played out this way, but that was part of what made it so memorable. And next up was New Zealand, but that’s a whole different story with more rain, more roots, steeper trails, and big earthquakes. 

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Ben Weaver’s Sees Like A River Tour

Salsa sponsored musician Ben Weaver has begun his Sees Like A River tour.

Saturday, July 8 marked the start of a month-long excursion for Twin Cities artist Ben Weaver as he takes to his Salsa Cycles bicycle, instruments in tow, to promote his ninth album, Sees Like a River. Along the tour route, which connects major bodies of water, Weaver seeks to meet with and start conversations amongst music lovers, cyclists, conservationists and others who join in along the way. 

Sees Like a River will initially be released on CD and packaged in a limited edition, handset and signed letterpress printed book. The album will be supported by a tour that follows the Great Lakes in performance venues both conventional and unconventional: Comrade Cycles in Chicago, Ill., the Orpheum Theater in Hancock, Mich., the Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, Wis., and even the homes of his fans. As he has done on past tours, Weaver will travel by bike; however, this time his route will include more miles of dirt roads and trails rather than paved highways to connect the communities where his performances will be held. 

“I want people to have deeper relationships with their community, land, water, and what they’re doing in their lives every day. I want them to be motivated and moved to dig deeper, to explore, to participate and be mindful,” says Weaver. “People will find that they want to do something more than they want to be afraid of it. I am hoping to help lead that charge.” 

Weaver’s tour concludes in early August with a special intimate performance at Creation Studio in South Minneapolis. That show will include reflection from his trip, other observations, and of course a live performance. More information is to come.

To preview Sees Like a Riverhttps://soundcloud.com/benweaver-2/sets/sees-like-a-river/s-7qQWA

Sees Like a River will be available on benweaver.net, at shows (see full tour schedule below) and in limited supply at Kopplin’s Coffee in Minneapolis.

The Sees Like a River tour is sponsored by Banjo Brothers, Bent Paddle Brewing Co., Big Agnes, Granite Gear, Kate’s Real Food, Red Table Meats, Salsa Cycles, Swrve and Teravail.

Tour Schedule:

July 8: Robinson Park, Sandstone, MN

July 9: Wilderness and the Anthropocene, Ely, MN

July 10: Spokengear Bike Shop, Two Harbors, MN 

July 13: Orpheum Theater, Hancock, MI

July 16: House Show, Yellow Dog Plains, MI

July 17: House Show, Marquette, MI

July 19: Broken Spoke, Green Bay, WI

July 21: Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center, Milwaukee, WI

July 22: Comrade Cycles, Chicago, IL

July 23: Wheel Werks, Crystal Lake, IL

July 24: Revolution Cycles, Madison, WI

July 25: Bluedog Cycles, Viroqua, WI

July 26: Out Post, Winona, MN

July 27: Red Wing, MN

July 29: Wild Springs Music Festival, Lily Springs Farm Osceola, WI

August 3: Creation Studio, Minneapolis, MN

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MORE ON BEN WEAVER 

Ben Weaver is a songwriter and poet. He has released eight studio albums of music and four books of poetry. 

Listen and purchase his music here. 

Follow Ben on social media:

Instagram @despoblado 

Facebook @benweavermusic

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Bikepacking Patagonia: Finding Everything in the Southern Andes

We’re excited to present our second ISSUU publication; Bikepacking Patagonia: Finding Everything in the Southern Andes. Follow Kurt Refsnider and Kaitlyn Boyle’s two-wheeled immersion in the geography, culture, and rhythm of the Southern Andes through their trip journal and photography.

We here at Salsa are excited to present our second ISSUU publication; Bikepacking Patagonia: Finding Everything in the Southern Andes. Follow Kurt Refsnider and Kaitlyn Boyle’s two-wheeled immersion in the geography, culture, and rhythm of the Southern Andes through their trip journal and photography.

Unfamiliar environments, mediocre maps, a language barrier, and resistance to a strict itinerary all played roles in how this bikepacking trip went. Though Kurt and Kaitlyn are never ones to hatch garden-variety travel plans, they faced much more than they bargained for.

When all was said and done, though, the impression this part of the world left on them was palpable. As Kurt said, “I was told there was nothing in Patagonia. But here, I found everything. In Patagonia, I found a place where modern exists with a strong retention of the timeless sense of frontier freedom.”

We hope you enjoy Bikepacking Patagonia: Finding Everything in the Southern Andes, and that it inspires you to pedal out, ready to embrace the unexpected. Some of the greatest rewards of bikepacking reveal themselves when you do.

Click the image below to check out Bikepacking Patagonia: Finding Everything in the Southern Andes...

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Arizona Knowledge Exchange

I wasn’t sure what to make of my first interaction with Pete Koski, bike engineer at Salsa Cycles. “What pressure do you run your suspension at?” he asked me. I paused for a second. Was he joking, being sarcastic? Or did he actually expect me to check my shock pressure each time before I rode my bike?

I wasn’t sure what to make of my first interaction with Pete Koski, bike engineer at Salsa Cycles. We were sitting at a trailhead south of Tucson setting up the suspension on a new Redpoint for me, getting ready for a shakedown ride before a three-day bikepacking trip that would serve as part of the official launch of the bike.

“What pressure do you run your suspension at?” he asked me.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

He paused, shock pump in hand.

“What do you mean you don’t know? Don’t you check your shock pressure before every ride?”

I paused for a second. Was he joking, being sarcastic? Or did he actually expect me to check my shock pressure each time before I rode my bike? I took a gamble; maybe he was just trying to be funny.

“No,” I said.

What followed was a stern lecture on how bikes were designed to work with a certain suspension setup and that I really should check shock pressure every time. I really wasn’t sure what think of it at the time (had I just committed the ultimate faux pas?), but as I’d come to ride the Redpoint over the next four days, it made me appreciate people like Pete who did pay attention to details enough to check shock pressure every ride and could create bikes that performed absolutely flawlessly over the terrain that we were about to take them over.  Pete handles the details, the rest of us get to benefit from it and just enjoy the ride.

A few weeks earlier, I’d gotten an email from Joe Meiser of Salsa explaining they were looking for a last-minute place to put together a trip for the Redpoint launch. What did I think of Tucson?

I generally jump at any opportunity to show off my backyard, so I quickly replied, “I think Tucson would be perfect.” They wanted beautiful scenery, appropriate terrain to showcase the 150mm of travel that the Redpoint had, and a unique, out-there experience.

We settled on a three-day, 70-some-odd-mile route linking up the Arizona Trail through the Gila Canyons south of Superior. Our crew consisted of Scott and me, Joe and Pete, Eric the driver of one of the big red Salsa demo vans, and two members of the BIKE Magazine Staff - photographer Anthony and gear editor Ryan. A big group with a wide range of bikepacking experience, ranging from Scott, Joe, and I who’d bikepacked plenty, to the BIKE guys, who’d set up their tent in the photo studio back in San Diego and taken a nap in it as a test run. They were in for an adventure, and that was the idea.

The day started off with a significant climb to the inner canyons on the AZT south of Superior. When I’d heard that the bike that was being launched was a 27.5, 150-mm travel machine, I questioned its ability to climb. Our route had a lot of climbing. But amazingly, it went uphill like a dream. Was I about to be sold on the benefits of a big-ish travel bike?

Picket Post Mountain overlooking the Arizona Trail...

The bike flew on the downhill. The loads we were carrying with three days’ worth of food did little to compromise the handling, and I found myself grateful for spending the time to correctly set up my suspension as we flew through corners and over the chunk that is ever present on the trail.

The Gila Canyons...

Near the bottom, I pulled up to Pete. “This bike is something special.”

We continued downward in the late afternoon light.

A photog at work...

“Welcome to camp!” Scott and I announced, pulling off of the Arizona Trail onto a side jeep road.

The crew looked around skeptically. Where’s the water? The muddy Gila was still far below in the distance. One of my favorite parts of taking people around the Gila is showing them Scott’s secret water source. Not on any maps and consistently flowing, it’s a special little spot down in a ravine surrounded by plants that have no business thriving in the middle of an otherwise arid desert.

The Gila River may or may not be the most ideal drinking water source...

The desert is full of surprises, and Pete would have been in for a big one if I hadn’t stopped him from picking up a ball of cholla cactus that had fallen near the water source.

Pete: What’s this? (Reaching for it)

Me: Don’t touch it!

Pete: But… (clearly resisting a strong urge to pick up the ball of spikes)

Me: Seriously, bad idea. Each of those spines has barbs on the end that will embed in your skin at the slightest touch. Then it’s pliers to get them out.

Pete looked skeptical but luckily heeded my advice.

The desert is also ready to hurt you if you’re not careful.

We spent a restful night under the stars before pointing west on a series of 4x4 roads that showcased the beauty of riding a bigger-travel bike. Aggressive bikes are needed for aggressive terrain. Scott and I have been preaching this concept for years, and based on the design of the Redpoint, Pete seemed to agree. It was great to exceed expectations with the roughness, remoteness, and tech of our route. Pete had been worried that the trails would be too mellow to really showcase the bike. He was no longer worried.

It’s not all ridable...photo courtesy of Scott Morris

We ended up in a giant box canyon, which took us down towards the Gila River. 

Box Canyon...photo courtesy of Scott Morris

Some roads, on which the Redpoints pedaled beautifully I might add, brought us to a beach on the river where we stopped for lunch and a swim.

Then onto Area 52, an area of slickrock covered in kitty-litter gravel that offers a multitude of free-ride opportunities. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas, and we were quickly scurrying for cover under a large overhang while rain hammered down all around us.

There are worse places to make coffee and watch it rain...

Adventure. Or something like that.

We emerged from our shelter after the storm had passed to assess our camping options. The rain had filled up many of the depressions in the rock with significant pools of water, and much of the ground was damp. Tents were set up on various flat spots, and we settled in to make dinner.

Area 52...

In a moment of quiet, Pete came over to Scott and my perch on the rock.

“So, I have 2L of water left. I need half a liter for dinner, half a liter for breakfast, then some for coffee. How much water do I need to conserve for tomorrow? Where’s our next water source?”

Pete Koski might know a lot about suspension and may design some pretty amazing bikes, but he definitely doesn’t know a whole lot about finding water in the desert.

Scott and I looked at each other, then down at the giant puddle of clear water by our feet that had just fallen from the sky, and pointed to it.

“There?” We asked. “There’s another deep one just over there.” We pointed to a few feet away as we watched the light bulb turn on in Pete’s head.

Ah yes. Water in the desert.

Area 52...photo courtesy of Scott Morris

We spent the next morning riding beautiful roads above the Gila making our way over to the southern end of the Ripsey segment of the Arizona Trail.

The canyons of the previous two days made our backdrop...

We made short work of the approach to the base of Ripsey, then played the no-dab contest on the way up and paused for a quick lunch on the high ridge.

From there, it was just a handful of miles, and a large, switchback-filled descent back to the trailhead where the Salsa van was waiting, stocked with water, beer, and snacks. I’ve ridden those switchbacks on a variety of bikes and never had I cleared so many of them, even with bikepacking gear. I was amazed.

Ripsey Ridge on the AZT...

We directed the crew to our traditional post-Gila Bikepack dinner spot, La Casita in Mammoth, where the food is fast and good, and the portions are large.

Did people get epic’d? Maybe. A little bit. Were people impressed with our little slice of Arizona? I’d like to think so.  As for the Redpoint, I fell in love and started plotting ways that I could keep the one that I was riding without anyone noticing.

I’d like to think that we all came away with new knowledge. Pete now knows how to work the pumps on cattle tanks to get water and how to filter out of puddles in the rock. He also knows to not touch cholla. I now know that I should check my shock pressure every ride, and even if I don’t, to tell Pete that I do.  

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Click here to visit the incredible storysite BIKE magazine created from this experience; UNBOUND

...or to read their reviews of the Salsa Redpoint see below...

First Impressions: Salsa Redpoint

Dream Build: Salsa Redpoint

2017 Bible of Bike Tests Review: Salsa Redpoint

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Practice – Greg Gleason’s First Run at the Tour Divide Race

Greg Gleason’s 2017 Tour Divide didn’t necessarily end the way he wanted it to. Racers have over 2,745 miles to experience challenges they could never have planned for, and in Greg’s case, it took 1,250.

Greg Gleason’s 2017 Tour Divide didn’t necessarily end the way he wanted it to. Racers have over 2,745 miles to experience challenges they could never have planned for, and in Greg’s case, it took 1,250. Neck pain kept him from being able to look ahead or quickly react to the terrain, so he wisely chose to keep himself out of trouble, and look at 2017 as “practice.” He’ll be back next year, and considering how well he did on this first attempt, and the amount of motivation that will inevitably build in him over the next 12 months, it would seem that things can only get better. After a little rest, he is finally looking ahead again.

Bug spray...don't leave home without it...

He shared his stats and memories from his ten days out on the route with us, and what his takeaways from this go-round are.

Times & Miles

In Banff, with none other than the official Tour Divide Race starter, Crazy Larry...

Day 1 & 2    337.79 miles. 32 hours, 15-minute ride time. 26,952 feet of climbing

Start in Banff to Whitefish Pass just before a snowy hike-a-bike.

  • Rained most the day, but the sandy trails allowed us to continue without many issues.
  • Physically, I felt good from the start to about 20 miles outside of Fernie. I started to feel my lungs tightening as I climbed. I was slowing up the climbs, but still managed to make each one.
  • Once at Fernie, I stopped at a convenience store, ate several pieces of pizza, and dried my socks and shoes. I loaded up for the next round of riding.
  • After calling my wife, I looked at Trackleaders to see that Josh was the only one not stopping. I decided I needed to ride more to try to get my chest to loosen up. I also wanted to see if I could push through the night to gain a small advantage just in case my chest issue ended up being serious. By the time I stopped, I was hacking up white mucus which meant I had bronchitis - just what I feared was happening.
  • I stopped at a Pharmacy in Eureka and picked up some over the counter Primatene to help start clearing up my chest issue.
  • I stopped for the first time, just shy of 338 miles, on Whitefish Pass before the first major snow hike-a-bike section. I slept for almost four hours.

Feeling good in Fernie...

Day 3  148.36 miles. 16 hours, 44 minutes ride time. 8,720 feet of climbing

Started on the north side of Whitefish Pass to Holland Lake Ranch.

  • Rained most the day on and off. My chest felt like someone had strapped a belt around it and I could only take half breaths. When climbing, I had to stop every ¼ mile to catch my breath. I was struggling, and going very slow up each climb. My frustration level was high. I stopped at Holland Lake Ranch, called my wife Kit, and we decided it would be best if I stop racing and get a good night’s rest to help my chest heal. I had an awesome steak dinner, a warm fire to dry out, and six hours rest.

Day 4  162.96 miles. 23 hours, 36 minutes ride time. 12,930 feet of climbing

Holland Lake Ranch to Helena.

  • Rained most the day again.
  • Slept in a hotel to get dry and launder clothes.

Day 5  81.72 miles. 13 hours, 17 minutes ride time. 7,762 feet of climbing

Helena to Butte.

  • Rained on and off all day.
  • Slept in a hotel to get dry, do some bike maintenance, and get a good night’s rest.
  • My chest was starting to wheeze, so I went to Walmart pharmacy, and called my doctor to get an inhaler prescription filled (I forgot to grab it before leaving). While sitting and waiting, I noticed my head and upper body started drooping forward. I just thought it was fatigue from the days riding. It was the beginning of my neck issues.
  • While doing maintenance on my brake pads, I discovered I did not have the right tool. I forgot to test that before leaving. Shit! My pads were gone! What was I going to do? I put out a message on Facebook asking what hex I needed. It turns out I need a 2.5 mm.  As I took off, I remembered that most Walmarts were open 24-hours, so I started riding the three miles off course to check. They were open and did have the tool I needed.  Amazing!  What a relief.

Day 6  140.49 miles. 17 hours, 39 minutes ride time. 9,902 feet of climbing

Butte to Bannack State Park Medicine Lodge Rd.

  • Slept in sage brush along the road.
  • After riding 100 miles with metal on metal brakes, I finally stopped at Bannack State Park campground to change out the pads, eat, and top off my water.
  • Felt pretty good on the bike, so I went into the next day with some confidence that the resting was working and I was ready to start racing again.  Still sitting in sixth place, my Day One time bank was paying off and allowing me to rest while others were still trying to catch up.

Day 7  171.72 miles. 18 hours, 03 minutes ride time. 5,712 feet of climbing

Medicine Lodge Rd to Warm River area.

  • Slept in an open barn.
  • 130 miles down, and feeling the best I had in days, I pulled into Island Park to refuel. It was only 4:30 in the afternoon, so I decided I still had time to get some good miles in before I needed to sleep. So, I went on to the nasty rails-to-trails section; a 40-mile loose sand quad trail.
  • This section had a very aggressive whoopty-woo section right from the start. After about the fourth “woo,” my neck was finished. I could no longer hold it up. I was freaking out trying to ride the very narrow and slippery section. The left side of the trail had a 20+ foot drop-off, and to my right, there were stretches with a drop-off into a body of water. While riding, I had to control my head. I could not look up, or to the left or right. I thought to myself, “How you ride or control a mountain bike without being able to see 30 feet in front of you? I was struggling. I kept repeating to myself, “Finish the rail trail and you can rest. It will be fine.”
  • Made it to just outside the Warm River area, and slept four hours in a barn away from the mosquitoes.

Another mountain pass down, many more to go...

Day 8  60.26 miles. 8 hours, 30 minutes ride time. 3.885 feet of climbing

Warm River area to Coulter Bay Grand Teton area.

  • Slept in a historic cabin at Coulter Bay.
  • Rained on and off again.
  • Started riding and my neck was tight, but I could hold it up again! Unfortunately, this only lasted about 10 miles. I called my wife. With tears in my eyes and a broken voice, I told her what was up and that I didn’t think I could ride without a functioning head. I told her I could manage my chest issue but this was unsafe and taking the fun out of the ride. 
  • I remembered that a friend had an issue with his neck (Schermer’s Neck), so I called him to talk about my options. We decided it would be best if I rested for a day or two, and shorten my rides to see if my neck would respond.
  • That night, I had an awesome dinner, and a full bacon-filled breakfast in the morning.

The healing power of bacon...

Day 9  53.59 miles. 6 hours, 52 minutes ride time. 3,809 feet of climbing

Coulter Bay Grand Teton area to Lava Mountain Lodge.

  • Slept in a room at Lava Mountain Lodge.
  • With all the rooms full at Coulter Bay, I had no choice but to move to the next stop. By my notes, it was only 52 miles and all road.
  • I left Coulter Bay with a plan to test my neck on the road.
  • My cue card was not correct. There were two large seven-mile off-road passes filled with snow and a 6-inch-wide trail. My head went numb thinking about pushing through these passes, but I did it.
  • My head started falling about 20 miles into my road riding, so my confidence wasn’t very high. The resting wasn’t working, but I was willing to give it another day.

Day 10 87.67 miles. 11 hours, 17 minutes ride time. 4,669 feet of climbing

Lava Mountain Lodge to Pinedale.

  • This day was the real test. I had to go over Union Pass. Union Pass had five-plus miles of hike-a-bike over some serious snow. Luckily, I set out early so the snow was still frozen allowing me to walk on top without post holing.
  • Again, my neck lasted about four hours. Frustrated but determined, I kept pushing and riding my bike.
  • The descent was nasty. Water flowing down the middle of the jeep trail, many large slippery rocks, huge puddles, rutted, with slippery tree roots exposed everywhere. True mountain biking!  The only issue was that I could not move my neck. I kept hitting lines wrong. I almost had three major wipeouts barely stopping the fully loaded bike in time. After the third high speed flub, I stopped, rested a minute, and thought, “What the hell are you doing?  Why are you doing this to yourself?”
  • I pulled out my GoPro and started recording. I was done. The thought of riding 1,500 more miles without the use of my neck was not possible, and I was putting myself in danger of a serious crash- something expensive and totally avoidable if I stopped.
  • With 20-plus miles to go to pavement, I was reflecting on my decision -  still questioning if it was the right one to make. So, I used my fist, pushed my head up to the sky, and repeated, “Dear Lord, please give me a sign that I’ve made the right decision!”  Mostly downhill, the gravel was flowing nicely until I hit a two-mile stretch of washboard that knocked my head all over the place. It was my sign for sure. “Message received loud and clear, Thank You!” 
  • When I arrived in Pinedale, I stopped at a local Café to collect my thoughts and start making plans to get myself home. While eating an amazing breakfast, my phone chimed with a Facebook message from my mom. My mom lives in Phoenix and has a friend that lived in St. George, Utah that had a nephew that lived in Pinedale. What are the odds? She shot me his number, I called, and he invited me to stay with his family that evening. He was trying to shuffle his families work schedules to get me to Jackson Hole to fly home. My phone dinged again with another message on Facebook. This time it was JayP’s Fat Pursuit 2017 200-Mile Champ Aaron Gardner. 
  • “Hey Greg. If you still need a ride tomorrow, I can come get you and take you to the airport. I bailed on the Divide in Pinedale in 2015. Karma dictates that I give you a ride just like a friend did for me.”
  • Wow! Aaron drove from Victor, ID and picked me up at 8 a.m. sharp in Pinedale at the Bennett’s residence where I was staying. He safely delivered me to the Jackson Hole Airport, and drove my bike to Fitzgerald’s in Victor to be packed and shipped back to me in South Dakota. He would not except anything but a hug from me! (Aaron, you are an amazing soul! Thank you!)

Moments like these are why you ride the Tour Divide Route...

Post-Race Reflections

I enjoyed riding the 1,250 miles on the Divide. My bike was perfect except for my gearing which will need some tweaking.  (Greg ran a 2x11 – 38t/28t x 11/32 – it ended up being too aggressive.)  Climbed most climbs, but I could have used another tooth or two for sure!

My bikepacking setup was perfect. I had everything I needed to stay warm and dry, and the load made for a nice light build. I experienced hand numbness, Achilles tendon soreness, and foot and hand swelling. My lung issue was manageable and improving every day. The only issue I had that I could not manage was my neck – Schermer’s Neck sucks! Many people pinged me with solutions, but in my opinion, none would have worked on the Divide.

Mountain bike racing requires you to have quick reflexes and full use of your neck to make good line decisions as you descend at high speeds down rocky, rooted, sandy, muddy, pot-holed, puddle-filled narrow trails. You have to hold your head high, and look 30 feet ahead or more to pick the safest line.  Without that, you will die or crash hard! Plus, I lost my ability to look around and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Why else do the Divide? It’s for the beauty of each pass you cross along the Great Divide.

I sit here today feeling good with my decision. It was the right one. The best decision for me, my family, and all who care about me. My friend Randy Ericksen sent me this message via Facebook - “Do whatever is best for you. Don't make your decision based on Facebook posts. Worst case scenario, we all get more sleep because we don't have to dot watch. Besides, we know you ride best when you have a practice start.” He said it best. I do better when I have a practice run at these long events! 

See you in 2018!

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Come meet Greg at Salsa RideCamp 2017!

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Do It Yourself Bikepacking – Not An Ordinary Vacation

It started as it always does with a simple question in an email.

It started as it always does with a simple question in an email:

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From: Davis, Brett

Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2017 8:38 PM

To: Diana

Subject: What do you think?

Check out the link below and let me know what you think:

http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/oregon-big-country/).   

Love,

b

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My adventure partner in life, Diana, was on the verge of graduating with her master’s in occupational therapy.  Wahoo!  It had been two years of hard work and sacrifice for her and for us as a couple.  Living in two separate residences that are eight hours apart for the bulk of two years, we were in need of some time together to reconnect.  We needed a vacation.  Originally, we had been accumulating airline frequent flyer miles for a trip to Europe.  But, as life would have it, between my work schedule and the start of her final clinical internship, our dreams of a European vacation would have to take a back seat for the time being.  

A western style family vacation photo on Oregon’s Big Country Loop...

For the past couple of years, I have been exploring remote areas of our planet by bike—creating adventures that take me deep into landscapes that few have ventured into.  To do such endeavors is a lot of work—hour upon hour is spent looking at maps; searching Google Earth; reaching out to locals, seeking out potential sponsors, training, etc.  I am my own travel agent and tour guide. 

No planes, trains, or automobiles needed here—just a loaded Salsa Woodsmoke ready for 360 miles of off-road fun...

Climbing onto the flanks of the Steen Mountains...

Our destination in the distance...

The capstone of day one of our vacation...

The word vacation is defined as a “period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel.”  Most people’s idea of a vacation is visiting beach resorts or taking a cruise where the emphasis is on the “rest” part of the definition.  Travel agents are consulted.  Plane fares are purchased.  Diets to fit into that new bathing suit are initiated.  The countdown begins to rest and relaxation.  Diana and I wanted that type of vacation…or at the least our own version of such a thing. 

Descending back to the lowlands...

The Alvord Desert...

Finding solitude...

Fast riding across a dry lake bed...

Given our personalities and inability to not be in motion, ours would have to be an “active” vacation.  The kind where “recreation” is the central focus.  As Salsa enthusiasts, I know that many of you can relate to such yearnings.  I would bet that like Diana and I, if you are not exerting yourself, sweating, and suffering a little bit, then your precious time off is not being maximized.  You know you had a great vacation when your co-workers shake their heads and look at you crazily as you recount what you did over the past two weeks.  You’re crazy, my friend.

It’s not a true bikepacking vacation without a little bike pushing...

The remoteness of the route is firmly felt with the negotiation of a bog after Big Sand Gap...

Diana choosing her line...

The “active” vacation market has become a big one in the recent decades.  Every imaginable recreation experience can be booked from scuba diving in the Galapagos to cycle touring through French wine country.  Open Outside magazine, and you will find a comprehensive list of tour operators just waiting to facilitate your vacation of a lifetime.  Itineraries will be designed.  Equipment lists created. Menus planned. Travel organized. It’s one stop shopping.  All you have to do is pick your price point, and you can be on your way—guided or unguided depending upon your experience level and willingness to pay. 

A highlight of this route is the abundance of hot springs in which to soak in along the way...

What a way to finish a day!

One of the amazing camps we found along the way.​..

Diana and I are cheap.  We can afford the commercial raft trip down the Grand Canyon, but can’t bring ourselves to pay the hefty price tag.  Our budget mindedness and experience don’t allow us to splurge into what most people consider luxury.  Rather, a vacation where all of the logistics are organized and our every need is catered to isn’t as rewarding for us.  It is a little awkward watching a young person set up my river chair when I am perfectly capable of doing it myself. 

A couple of curious friends...

We found a little more hike-a-bike in the Trout Creek Mountains...

Looking into Nevada and the route ahead...

All of the pampering is nice, I guess, but we need some element of “choose your own adventure” in our idea of a “vacation.”  Plus, these typical tour operator trips usually involve groups of people.  Our goal was to reconnect and just be together without anyone to distract us.  All we seek is solitude, exertion, a sense of isolation, and natural beauty.

Big Country...

Dropping in...

The growth of bikepacking has initiated an explosion of publicized routes and opportunities for guided “do it yourself” travel and adventure.  Logan Watts, the founder of bikepacking.com, has built an impressive resource of all things bikepacking related.  A visit to his web site leaves enthusiasts like myself drooling over all of the gear reviews, videos, and stories designed to educate and inspire the intrepid bike packer.  Perhaps the crown jewel of this information hub is the route section.  Enlisting such bike explorers as Mike Curiak, Gabriel Amadeus, Donnie Kolb, Casey Greene, and others, Logan has amassed a plethora of motivating routes in which to dream about.  For those lacking the time, know how, or motivation to put in the hard work to map out and strike out on their own two-wheeled adventures, the route section of bikepacking.com is a virtual tour operator/guide. 

The wildflowers were in full bloom and  abundance...

The colorful life of the desert...

Even the tiniest of flowers were out in full force...

Last year prior to departing on the Hard to Fathom Tour, I had been working on an exploratory route of southern Oregon.  Intrigued by its lack of significant population centers and its variety of landscapes (everything from high peaks to desert), I began to devise a potential route for the area.  Alas though, in a last-minute decision, my partner Travis and I decided to forgo the lengthy drive to Oregon and instead strike out for southern Utah.  The Oregon tour got placed on the back burner. 

A potential re-supply that had long since closed...

Just down the road in Denio Junction, NV we found plenty of sustenance...

Lo and behold at the end of that summer, Gabriel Amadeus submitted “Oregon’s Big Country Loop” to bikepacking.com.  There it was—the route I had been seeking to complete.  The hard work of putting it together was done.  Gabriel and his crew from Limberlost.co had linked everything I was considering together in one continuous loop.  I had to go check it out.

One of the many creatures we encountered along the way...

At the bottom of the loop we turned back north towards the Hart Mountains (seen way off in the distance)—our final mountain range of the trip​...

Thus, the email above was sent to Diana as I started to ponder a vacation for us.  The tour operator had outlined the entire trip…route description, suggested equipment, itinerary including must see and do’s, resupply options, campsite recommendations, etc.  It was all there on my computer screen.  There was even a downloadable GPS track for the entire 357 miles.  Best of all, the price was right.  This eight-day trip could be completed on the cheap.  Not accustomed to such help and ease of planning, I knew this trip exemplified our meaning of the word “vacation.”  Diana’s email response of “I’m game,” affirmed that we were on our way to Oregon. 

The abandoned ranches and homesteads along the route prompted our minds to wander into the past...

A window to the present.​..

For those new to adventuring by bike or seeking to get off of the beaten path with their time away from the office, bikepacking is a great pursuit to try.  As you can see from the photos, Diana and I had a great vacation.  It met all of our criteria, and we arrived home connected and reenergized for the next chapter ahead.  For me, it was a fun endeavor to follow in someone else’s tire tracks for a change—having let them toil away at putting the route together.  Oregon’s Big Country is a great ride, especially on the new Woodsmoke, which was my steed of choice for this route.  The terrain is stunning with nothing insurmountable.  Additionally, the hot springs along the route are a plus for soaking away each day’s tired legs. 

The Woodsmoke makes a great drying rack during its off-duty hours...

Who says there isn’t water in the desert?  Diana found plenty...

Hart Mountain Pass down.  Time to descend to the final hot springs of the route.  Wahoo!

With resources such as blackriver.cc, bikepacking.com, bikepacker.com, adventurecycling.org and other websites, there is plenty of information and “tour guides” out there to make getting out on two wheels an easy affair.  All you have to have is a willingness to exert yourself; a sense of adventure; and the inclination to do something out of the ordinary.  I would be willing to bet that when you return from such a “vacation”, your co-workers are sure to believe you are crazy.  J

Just doing what the sock says we should do...

A toast to a great “vacation”...

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If you enjoyed this tale from Brett Davis, consider attending Salsa RideCamp 2017 where he will be our Saturday evening presenter!

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