Bike-packing is something I’ve been meaning to give a go for ages but never put the time and thought in to make it happen. After the recent coverage on Pinkbike of Joey Schusler’s adventures to Kazbegi, Georgia, I felt inspired to make it happen.
Joey Schusler, my new hero, sets out on a self-supported mountain-bike adventure through proper wilderness in the Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. The guys travel through spectacular surroundings, riding some amazing trails and barely encounter another person.
Full of motivation and mind beans I rallied the troops and got a staggering amount feedback. A whole one person pledged his support to this mighty adventure. The rest of team backed out in the most noble way possible, mockery or unanswered text messages.
With the troops assembled and adventure seeds planted in our mind pots all we had to do was plan the ride and get the gear. After a bit of research we went for a handlebar harness for the sleeping bag, a fuel pod for tech stuff, a seat pack for clothes along with our own backpacks for the rest of the stuff. The specialist kit was bought from Alpkit and the quality was impressive.
After putting our online shopping baskets neatly back into the virtual pile I grabbed a map and started to plan. We had a rough idea that we wanted to start from Sheffield Station, stay the night in Edale at a barn, then ride back to Sheffield. Seen as we were on mountain bikes though we still wanted to get as many fun descents in as possible. The maps below shows the route which takes in Lady Cannings trail, Stannage Edge, ‘Les Arcs’, Hagg Farm and Hollins Cross. The route back to Sheffield is pretty similar but takes in few extra descents such as Screaming Mile and Totley Moor.
After arriving at Sheffield Station we had an extra cup of coffee then hit the road. Soon enough we were encountering wild and wonderful scenes such as the Kwik Fit on Ecclesall Road. Before long we got off the tarmac and out into the hills. As soon as we were out of Sheffield we were amongst some great riding and some genuinely spectacular scenery. The bikes were riding well too in spite of being loaded up like Mary’s Enduro Donkey on the last downhill to Bethlehem.
We took in some great descents, struggled up some big climbs and were really enjoying the change of pace and tact associated with an all day ride only limited by daylight. We were even already planning our next big ride and organising our new career as the poor man’s Joey Schusler. Right up until the big climb up to Hagg Farm, the second to last climb of the day.
Three quarters of the way up the climb to Hagg Farm my free hub engaged one last time and gave up on it’s miserable existence. I hope it will get reincarnated as a more glorified component like some carbon rim or a trendy oval chainring. It deserves a better life. Crunching up climbs all day with a fully loaded bike and a 1×10 gear set up must have taken it’s toll on the rear hub. We also theorised that this may be something to do with the new expander cog adding extra pressure on the pawls. Controversial. This all but ended the ride and the only option left was to walk.
The new plan was to walk the last two climbs and descend into Hope to see what the bike shop could do. We walked up the last two climbs and enjoyed two more great descents before making it back into Hope just before the sun set. Unfortunately the guys in the shop couldn’t do anything to help out so the adventure effectively died there and then on their shop floor. Sorry for the mess.
Overall, we both really enjoyed the ride and even though it was a failure it was still something different and new. Riding trail centres or familiar trails every weekend can make mountain biking stale and sterile. It takes the adventure out of it. Giving something like this a go put a bit of adventure back into what is supposed to be essentially an adventure sport. However, the plans for month long bike-packing trips in Colorado have been put on hold until we can successfully navigate 30 miles away from Sheffield Train station.