The Eastern Divide Bikepacking Route & Bikepacking Tips for Beginners [Podcast #154]

I talk with Daniel Jessee about an exciting project to create an long-distance, East Coast bikepacking route called the Eastern Divide Project. Daniel is an experienced bikepacker who has travelled all around the world, and he shares his expert tips for getting started.

On this Episode

In this episode of the Singletracks podcast, I talk with Daniel Jessee about an exciting project to create an long-distance, East Coast bikepacking route called the Eastern Divide Project. Daniel is an experienced bikepacker who has travelled all around the world, and he shares his expert tips for getting started.

Jeff 0:00
Hey everybody. Welcome to the Singletracks podcast. My name is Jeff and today I’m going to be talking with Daniel Jesse about bikepacking. So Daniel is the manager for the outdoor programs and outreach at REI here in Atlanta. And he spends his spare time scouting prime bikepacking routes all over the SE. Daniel and I first met while volunteering with our local bike club. And Erin recently completed the Cohutta cat bikepacking route, which Daniel created. Thanks for joining us, Daniel.

Daniel 0:29
And thanks for having me.

Jeff 0:30
So when did you take your first bike packing trip?

Daniel 0:33
My first bike packing trip was my first race which was on the Highland trail race in Scotland, and may 2013.

Jeff 0:41
Oh, wow. So what made you decide to do that race in particular? Well, about

Daniel 0:45
a year and a half before that, I’ve been training for the Colorado trail race, which I thought would be my first bikepacking race and I was actually hit by a car outside Atlanta and had a pretty bad injury. So took me about a year to get back on the bike and get back to the level that I could compete. And so that was kind of my kind of return to adventure, you know, it was going to do in the the inaugural race in Scotland. So wow, nice. How

Jeff 1:09
was that? Did you enjoy it?

Daniel 1:10
I hated every minute of it while I was there, until across the finish line. And then I’ve been addicted to mountain biking in Scotland since.

Jeff 1:18
Wow, that’s awesome. Addicted to bike packing in Scotland. So you’ve been back? I guess.

Daniel 1:23
I’ve been back once. Yeah, I did the Cairngorms loop last year. Oh, wow.

Jeff 1:26
How long is that one?

Daniel 1:27
That one’s 180 miles. Nice.

Jeff 1:30
That’s awesome. Did you ever get back to Colorado to do the Colorado trail?

Daniel 1:34
I haven’t done the Colorado trail yet. I did a road bike tour about the actually the same year I got hurt. But I haven’t been able to go back and do a mountain bike tour.

Jeff 1:43
Was it still on your radar? Is that something you want to do? Yeah, absolutely. Cool. So what do you find so appealing about bike packing? What got you interested and what keeps you interested in doing it?

Daniel 1:54
Well, I’ve always been into long distance adventures. So whether it’s cross country in high school running or rowing a lot in college, so it was a rower in college. So we did a lot of yards of practice and knowledge and sounds like you’d like to suffer, there was a lot of suffering. So I’ve definitely got a high pain threshold. And, you know, so I’ve also always been into backpacking, and really just, you know, what I found that I loved is just seeing as much terrain as I could and, you know, a fairly short period of time. And, you know, a lot of times I found that I was able to cover up very long distance on my feet, and you know, just moving fairly fast, and they’d be able to see a lot of terrain and you know, the same amount of time that it would take people to cover half the terrain. And then I got into biking a lot more and found that I could see three times as much terrain in the same amount of time. And so, you know, it was just a natural progression where I went from just endurance running and hiking and backpacking and just started strapping it all to my bike.

Jeff 2:51
That’s cool. You know, you said you started out backpacking? Are you doing less backpacking now like is bike packing more your preferred mode of transport,

Daniel 2:59
I find that backpacking has become almost too easy to me. I mean, the backpack, it’s a lot easier to get all the stuff you need in there. And walking is a little bit less complicated than trying to navigate some technical terrain. Right. So I think right now I’m just really appreciating the challenge that bikepacking still offers. I’m sure I’ll go back to backpacking someday.

Jeff 3:21
Interesting. So tell us about the Eastern divide project. This is something that you’ve worked with, along with a lot of collaborators. What’s the goal with that?

Daniel 3:30
Well, first of all, I’ve got to give huge credit to all the other collaborators, Brett Davidson, Karlos Rodriguez, Kim Morel, and Chris Tompkins up in Virginia, and a number of other route creators all up and down the eastern seaboard. But, you know, the idea is just that there’s a ton of trail, there’s a ton of dirt on the Eastern Seaboard. And we think that we can create a the mostly dirt route very similar to the Great Divide mountain bike route on the west, on the east coast. And so it’s really just looking at maps and what is already on the ground with the AML 400. And the trans North Georgia, the trans western North Carolina, a number of other routes, and really, you know, we started field realizing that it wouldn’t be that hard to link all these together. And so, you know, we’re just working to try and find a way to hit as much dirt as we can. And right now, the idea is to go from Nova Scotia to Key West.

Jeff 4:22
Wow, that’s incredible. How much of that have you personally written?

Daniel 4:26
I mean, a very small amount, you know, I mean, trans North Georgia, and some stuff in Western Carolina. But you know, there’s still a lot of the stuff I have not personally written.

Jeff 4:36
Yeah, sounds like a huge project and something that, you know, is obviously going to take years to complete. So, what are some of the milestones that people are working on to make this happen?

Daniel 4:47
I think right now is is trying to figure out what the corridor is. You know, I think that especially in Western Carolina, and Virginia and West Virginia, there’s a lot of options and I think that one of the first pieces of kind of a direction that it could go is the trans western North Carolina that was released last year. And so that’s one route where it’s going east of Asheville through the Linville Gorge area and mount Mitchell. And that’s one where, you know, we could go that way, and it’d be a lot more single track. But the other argument is you could go to the west and have more of like a gravel road gravel grinder a little bit more similar to the tour divide. So, you know, I think right now it’s just people playing with the route and trying to figure out what the best overall flow and I think that we’re not sure what the character of the route is. Yeah. So I think that that’ll be a key is once everybody’s kind of aligned with what the true character of the route should be. I think that’ll help us to figure out what those final pieces should be.

Jeff 5:42
Yeah, well, in with a route so long like that, it’s going to have a lot of variety to it as well. I mean, Nova Scotia and Key West are pretty different. So imagine the character is going to sort of change as you go along the road.

Daniel 5:54
Yeah, absolutely. And they’ll probably be chunks of it that get released at different times and kind of your womb, to your point, I think that some of those chunks will have their own character. And you know, somebody might choose to ride one section of it based on what they know of that section versus trying to ride the whole thing, because it’s, maybe they’re not technical mountain bikers. But as you said, there, there will be sections of it, that are not that technical, and they could choose to ride that section and kind of treat it like a kind of like a section hike.

Jeff 6:24
Yeah, interesting. One of the sections or potential sections, I guess, is the Southern Highlands traverse, which is an official semi official route that was recently created and released to the public. Can you talk a little bit about that route,

Daniel 6:39
I had no hand in creating the Southern Highlands traverse, I want to give a huge kudos to Brett Davidson, and Logan Watts and a few of the other guys, TJ Kearns, who really helped to put a lot of that stuff together. And there’s, there’s dozens of other riders that I haven’t personally met, but I know of that have contributed to the building of that route. But you know, the idea behind that is honestly probably one of the gnarliest most wild routes that you can possibly conceive and just predominantly single track. And I think that going back to what we were talking about, about the character of the Eastern divide, that’s where we’re starting to see two characters come to life where you’ve got just the gnarly Rudy Rocky, East Coast single track, and then you’ve still got tons of gravel, roads, and rail trails, and things like that, too. And so I think that people are realizing that we can create multiple routes along the way, as opposed to just gravel or just single track, or a 5050 mix, that you can really have independent routes to cater to each riders particular desires.

Jeff 7:39
Yeah, that’s really awesome. So what are some of the challenges that you see Elise, in creating the Eastern divide route? What are some of the things that make it more difficult maybe than doing this out west, even,

Daniel 7:51
there’s a lot more dirt roads out west, it’s a lot easier to link things together. And at the same time, there’s massive wilderness areas out west that cause you to have to go a long, long ways around and I think here, you’re probably going to run into pavement more than you’re going to run into wilderness areas. So you know, I think that probably the biggest challenge will just be trying to find creative legal ways to get it off of pavement as much as possible. I mean, it’s very easy to drop out of the mountains and hit some pavement for a while. But just trying to make sure that you preserve that mountain by character, I think will be one of the hardest things.

Jeff 8:24
Yeah. What about wilderness areas, too? I feel like there are a lot of those, you know, small ones, but they’re hard to route around, especially here on the East Coast. Yeah, absolutely.

Daniel 8:32
So I mean, the good news is that it’s it’s not that hard to go around them. You know, I mean, the Cohutta wilderness being the biggest wilderness area east of the Mississippi, and, you know, it’s, if you consider riding, if you were to ride a trail across it, versus going around it, like we do in the gotta get, I mean, you’re probably just an extra 20 miles, you know, so not that big of a deal. So as long as there’s a road that goes around it, you know, it’s not that bad. And I think one of the nice things about wilderness areas, too, is that usually they’re bounded by a gravel road. And so like in Lynnville gorge, you know, there’s a gravel road right along the rim, so you kind of get all the views that you would get in the wilderness area. And, you know, the only thing that makes it different from the experience of a hiker 20 feet away on a trail is that you’re on a, you know, obviously manmade gravel road, as opposed to just a little single track path.

Jeff 9:23
Yeah. Hmm. So that’s interesting. Have you found that there are people that are interested in promoting this like boards of tourism or people like that? Do you see any support from outside of the bike community for something like this?

Daniel 9:35
I personally have not run into anybody in particular with the Eastern divide project. The people that I’ve talked to with the HUD a cat, I’ve been very excited about the idea of having more you know, tourists coming in and especially adventure tourists, um, you know, the, there’s several cafes along the Connecticut route that are super excited to have us come through and they’re always asking about, you know, all the stuff we’re carrying and How the routes going and things like that. And same with trans North Georgia, you see a few businesses really come out in full force to support that community whenever it comes through. So I think that the the, it’s there, the interest is there. And really, I think the more interesting parallel is whether you’ve seen in a lot of small towns with various types of recreation, not necessarily bikepacking. But for example, what Columbus has done with blowing up dams on the Chattahoochee and having classics whitewater going through downtown, and the whole city is super stoked about that. And I think that there’s other small towns too, in Georgia that have just opened up Little River Trails in the middle of their downtown, and they’re, you know, 20 times smaller than Columbus, but they’re buying in on this outdoor recreation tourism concept. And I think that when you get this route, legitimized, like the Great Divide mountain bike route, I think that you will see a lot more interest in people catering to the riders, and helping to, you know, preserve the route. And I think that that’s my personal hope is that a lot of these bikepacking routes can become a little bit more legitimized, where the Forest Service and state parks and all the public lands that these touch will recognize that this is a valuable route for the community, and will hopefully, you know, keep that in mind whenever they’re making long term management decisions.

Jeff 11:13
Yeah. What’s your guess? How far out are we from having the first Eastern divide race along the route?

Daniel 11:19
There are people asking constantly about when the first grand departs can be on any given section of it. So rough guess I mean, I think it’s just going to depend on how quickly we get mapped. I think that somebody could probably hop in a campervan or a fully loaded bike and could probably come up with a route within two months if they really wanted to commit to it. And after that, you know, I would, I’d say two to three years, I could easily see some Grand Depart, starting in Canada and heading down towards the

Jeff 11:48
beautiful keys. Yeah, that would be awesome. Yeah. How many miles do you think it would be? Well, it’s going to be at least 4000 miles or 1000 miles. And the great divide is like, 27. Yeah, exactly. Something like that. So this would definitely be a big, big trail. Yeah. You talked a little bit earlier about the Cohutta. Cat. And that’s a bikepacking route that you created a couple of years ago. How long has it been around?

Daniel 12:11
start piecing it together? About three years ago? And we had our second official grand apart last year?

Jeff 12:17
How long is the route is 290 miles? Okay, yeah. So what was sort of your inspiration for creating that George already has the trans North Georgia and Pinhoti Trail? So what was the inspiration behind the Karateka?

Daniel 12:31
twofold? I say, I think first of all, I was just riding and training a lot. And, you know, we’ve always had the full score 100, near Demonica. And we used to, you know, always have the Cohutta 100. And before that, that got a death march. And, you know, I looked at a map and I’m like, there’s, there’s a way to get through here, you know, we’ve got to find a way. So it was just intrigued by the idea of trying to link these two 100 mile off road routes up. And then also, you know, trans mentors is a fantastic route. But very difficult, it is very difficult. At the same time, you know, it became difficult because I found that there’s really no way to make an easy bikepacking route on Georgia. But my initial goal was that I knew trans North Georgia was difficult. And I thought, Well, hey, why don’t we try to come up with a route that you know, maybe a little bit technically easier, you know, is definitely gives you options to cut it into pieces. And now I did achieve that with AutoCAD where it’s kind of a figure eight. So you can just do one section of it the eastern loop or the Western loop. And the Western loop is definitely the harder of the two loops and it’s a little bit longer, a little bit bigger, climbs a little bit more technical single track and then I eastern loop is not super technical at all. It’s got a little bit more pavement and a little bit more resupply, so yeah, that’s awesome.

Jeff 13:45
Yeah, no, we really enjoyed Aaron’s race report from that. He did a whole podcast episode while he was in the race. So he’s recording I definitely enjoyed that as well. Yeah, it sounded like a blast. I was really jealous. Seems like some I would maybe enjoy. I don’t know bikepacking It’s a bit of a suffer fest. It’s

Daniel 14:04
definitely type two fun. For the Cohutta cat, there

Jeff 14:07
is the Grand Depart, which you do in the fall. Right? But then are people writing this at different times of the year? Are you hearing from people who’ve you’ve tried the route on their own?

Daniel 14:18
Yeah, I’ll get emails from people you know, every so often throughout the year, you know, maybe one or two every other month just asking for information and are telling me that they’re gonna go give it a go. And, you know, I get an email from Kate and mulberry gap letting me know that they’ve got another rider head now. And to be honest, most of the people who have tried to bite it off on their own have not finished. Really? Yeah, I think a lot of them don’t know exactly what they’re getting into in the southern Appalachians. You know, some of them also have just had things come up with the last second and haven’t been able to do it. So there’s definitely interest there. I’ve been, I’ve actually been really surprised with how broad the interest has been. Yeah, how’d you come up with the name? So there’s this wild cat at mulberry gap Um, that’s one of the one of the many animals that live there at the getaway. And this cat can be really sweet. I mean, like, he’ll just, you know, rub up on your legs and purr and roll over for you to pat him and so super sweet. And then you know, next thing you know, he’ll be watching you from the rafters just ready to pounce. And I’ve got several friends who have real stories of this cat attacking them as they walked from, you know, their cabin to the dining hall. So that’s kind of what the cat route became was, you know, you’ll be just peacefully wandering along next to a stream and just thinking, Man, this is so rad. And this, you know, this isn’t that bad. And then you’ve got like a one mile hike bike up to the top of Fort mountain. And so it kind of just became this two faced, you know, little route. And since it went around the gutters, so we thought that that was a fun, cheeky name that we could we could call it and and Brad came up with a motto of don’t get scratched.

Jeff 15:52
Yes, nice. Yeah. And I love to how part of the race is to bring a patch with a cat on it. And then people get to pick which which patch they want, once they finish. I’m actually surprised there’s so many patches you can find with different cats on them.

Daniel 16:09
I’ve never would have thought you could find that many patches that were completely different for cats.

Jeff 16:15
So yeah, that’s really cool. What is sort of your recommended time of year to tackle this? I know the races in the fall, summer seems like it’d be really tough. But winter, that might be doable, right?

Daniel 16:26
Yeah, I mean, I think as long as it’s dry in the winter, absolutely. It’s really a route you can ride year round. I think that if you were trying to plan a really enjoyable trip, I’d aim for, you know, probably late March, April, or you know, probably sometime October or in early November, just so you get the cooler weather on either the shoulder seasons.

Jeff 16:46
Okay, that’s great recommendation. So we’re going to take a break real quick. But when we come back, we’re going to talk about some of the challenges that people face when they first start bikepacking. And also talk about some key pieces of bikepacking equipment that everyone needs. Stay tuned. You can’t see me but I’m wearing an awesome singletracks hat right now. It’s actually the reason my voice sounds so amazing. Okay, so maybe not, but you never know until you get to have for yourself. Go to shop dot single to find single tracks, hats, T shirts, stickers, tubular headwear and can coolers shipping is free within the USA and your purchase helps support the single tracks podcast, that And thank you for your support. And we’re back bikepacking is a relatively new thing, or I mean, I guess it’s been around for a long time, but it’s newly popular. And it seems like more and more people are getting into it. What are some of the biggest hang ups that people have about getting started with bike packing? What are some of the challenges people have?

Daniel 17:49
Well, I think the the first thing that people worry about is fitness, and being able to haul a bike that’s two or three times or four or five times heavier than it normally is up and over the mountains that they know exist out there. You know, people have that fitness concern. And, and also at the same time, I think some people under eight under estimating how much fitness that they need for again, carrying a bike that heavy or just the difference in that, I think second to that is really just what kind of investment they need to make to get their bike ready to go. And people overestimate like how much money you need to spend to get ready for bike packing.

Jeff 18:25
they overestimate us. Yeah,

Daniel 18:26
I mean, I think that you can, you can spend hundreds or $1,000 on you know, custom made bikes, bike packing bags for for whatever type of mountain bike you happen to own. But I did my first bike packing overnight with a backpack on you know, and so it wasn’t that fun, you know, but I mean, overall, the event was really fun, or overall, the the little trip was fun. You know, I started with that. And then I just tried to move from that and putting one more thing on my bike and, you know, one piece at a time. So that’s part of it is just thinking that you’ve got to buy a bunch of whole new stuff. And there’s lots of articles out there now about different kinds of recommended straps and accessories. And the cool thing is that there’s been this huge boom in cottage industries around not just bike packing bags, but small little accessories that allow you to modify bikes that weren’t built for bike packing. So you know, just changing where your bottle mounts are strapping things onto your bike wherever you have an empty space. And so you know, you can really just take that weight and all the gear and move it around on your bike and try to find the right balance. So there’s a lot of things you can do without spending a lot of money. Another thing that people think of if say you have to have a bike packing specific bike or something really, you know, special and

Jeff 19:42
right, we’re right, we’re definitely seeing more of those. Yeah, companies are coming out with these bike packing rigs and just another bike you need right?

Daniel 19:49
Yeah, I mean, of course, you know, there are several bikes that I would love to own. But at the same time I’m kind of have the mindset I’d rather spend the money on traveling somewhere to do my bike. Backing then on the bike itself sometimes so, you know, I think that if you’ve got if you’ve got a place you want to go, and the bike you have regardless of if it’s full suspension, road bike, cyclocross bike, whatever, if it can handle the terrain that you want to go on, without gear on it necessarily, then it will be fine for bike packing, you know, you can you can throw a backpack on, you know, you can fit handlebar and seat pose bags, and almost any bike will handle handlebar and seatpost bags. And then you can just figure out ways to put everything else along the bike. And again, I mentioned that the cottage industries I mean, revelate designs, of course, was probably the first and most well known bikepacking bag manufacturer and then we there’s there’s little cottage industries throughout the whole country. Got a rock guy step in Nashville, and you’ve got the spindle here in Atlanta that will be happy to make special bike packing bags specifically for your bike.

Jeff 20:51
Right? Yeah, it sounds like a lot of it, too, is just getting out there and trying it. You know, I mean, you dial in your setup every time. I mean, I bet even you you know, you’re an experienced bike Packer. But there probably parts of your setup and your rig that you’re not happy with. And you’re still like, Man, if I could just like dial this in a little better. It’d be even more fun.

Daniel 21:12
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think. So I started bike packing heavily in 2013. And I did a race last year. So it took me four years, it was the first time I ever felt like I had my kit. Totally dialed. I used everything in my bags, and nothing else. I didn’t need anything else. And I didn’t take anything extra. So yeah, that was the first time I felt like I got it. Right. But it took four years of doing regular backpack trips to kind of dial it in. Yeah.

Jeff 21:39
Well, and how much of that was just luck, though? I mean, were you prepared if it snowed or like something crazy happened?

Daniel 21:46
Actually, I believe I was CES, I was actually pretty well prepared for just about anything. If it had gone, you know, sub zero, I would have been in trouble. But beyond that, I was probably pretty good.

Jeff 21:57
Nice. Yeah. Well, yeah, you mentioned the cost aspect of it. And to a lot of people, that’s what they’re afraid of is going to be expensive to get the right bike and get the right gear and bags and stuff. But on the flip side, when you’re bikepacking, you really don’t have any expenses, right? You’re not paying for a hotel, you’re not buying expensive meals and restaurants, maybe the occasional convenience store gas station, and then there’s no need for like other entertainment during your trip. Like you’re you’re writing the whole time. So seems like one of those things where there’s a there’s a bit of an upfront investment. But once you do, then that’s kind of it right?

Daniel 22:33
Yeah, I mean, certainly it could be that way, you actually brought up another interesting point with staying at hotels are now with Airbnb and hipcamp. You know, you can find a pretty low cost alternative. And there’s another website called warm showers, where it’s a whole network of touring cyclists throughout the world. And it’s actually not that hard to find a free place to stay almost anywhere in the world with a cyclist. So it’s kind of cool, because you can share your stories. But that’s one way I’d recommend people try to get into bikepacking is, like start with the basics of you know, do you have just like repair, like repair kits and like carrying just enough food for a day, maybe not dinner, but enough food for a day. And just try that and instead of like, trying to eke out you know, 4050 miles to get back to your car or something like that. Just do 1020 miles to a cool little town, you know, stay at an Airbnb grab dinner. And yeah, you’ll be you might be spending a little bit more money on lodging, but then you haven’t invested in a whole bunch of bags and everything like that, that you’re not sure whether you’re ever going to use again. So

Jeff 23:31
yeah, that sounds kinda like you know, the European model of travel where you can like, you go from hostel to hostel, or, you know, I’ve done I’ve done hut to hut trips, here, which, that’s to me, that’s bikepacking light, that’s more my speed where you can have a place to stage now you don’t have to carry all your sleep equipment and that kind of thing.

Daniel 23:53
Yeah. But the idea of like, being able to go day in and day out and still be on your own. I think that’s a really good introduction helps you to build the fitness for being able to do that. Overnight.

Jeff 24:03
Yeah, speaking of the fitness, what, what does that look like? Obviously, you can’t just like ride all day for a day and see how you do. Yeah. And people don’t have time to train necessarily does do a bunch of really long rides beforehand. What is sort of the how do you know when you have that like minimum level of fitness to tackle a bike packing route?

Daniel 24:24
You don’t, you know, and there’s a lot of different schools of thought on how you train for a bike pack raise. You know, I Linda Wallen fells has done some one of the best jobs of creating bike bag specific training regimens that are designed for a variety of different types of trails. So she’s got one specifically for the Colorado trail is specifically for the Arizona Trail or like a five to seven bike five to seven day bike pack race. So you can get those on training peaks and you can, you know, have a little digital copy of that training plan and, and that one I’ve done is is really hard and that that one is the one When I would say of Ironman training for bikepacking. You know, there’s other things that you can do where you’re you’ve that I’ve done a pre prepared training plan for a stage race for a mountain bike stage race with no intention of doing stage race, but just doing a few days in a row of bikepacking. And that one was actually great, because it was a little bit shorter duration, but higher intensity. And then honestly, the last few where I’ve felt the best, I’ve actually done less specific training I’ve biked to work a lot. And just, I call it functional training. So actually, like going somewhere with crap all over my bike, that’s been really helpful for me. And then I would say that people need to study the route, I think that that’s actually a very underrated form of training, you will find that you’re able to do go a lot faster, feel a lot better in your mind, when you know where you are, and where you go, where you’re going, where you can get water where you can get food. So I think that I would encourage people to, you know, spend at least 25% of their time studying the route or planning their route, just so that they’re prepared for it, as opposed to just kind of blindly training for tough things.

Jeff 26:05
Right. Interesting. Well, yeah, I mean, you said a lot of great stuff there. And one of them that want to circle back to is talking about expectations of bike packing. So a lot of us, you know, that ride a lot we we know about how fast we can go and you know, can average 10 miles an hour or whatever, you need to adjust your expectations, right? I mean, you have all day to get from point A to point B, and it’s not like, it’s not like your normal mountain bike ride, where you’re like, Oh, I gotta get back home in time for you know, kids soccer game or something like, you can take your time, right?

Daniel 26:39
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you can take as much time as you want. I have a lot of a lot of friends who if they’re doing a race bikepacking Race that, you know, their plan is to just go really slow and like sleep very minimally, you know, 3040 minutes at a time and you know, get a little catnap and get back up and keep writing all through the night, I’ve found that I’ve got to get a full night’s sleep. So I pretty much say, you know, nine or 10 o’clock, that’s my goal is to try and find somewhere to sleep. And then I make myself dinner crawl on my sleeping bag. And you know, I’m not getting up much before dawn. But I think that again, coming back to you’ve got to just start bikepacking Even not one little small rides and small races, is the only way you’re going to figure out what your needs are and what your expectations are. So again, studying the route knowing that the next section is super climbing and starting at eight o’clock at night, if you’re trying to finish by nine or 10 is not necessarily the best idea,

Jeff 27:35
right? Well, in studying the route to it seems like they’re water stops along the way and you know, convenience stores to buy food. You know, it seems like it’s part of that just a mental thing where you’re like, you know, checkpoint to checkpoint? Do you find that that helps a lot with a tough bikepacking row?

Daniel 27:52
I really do. Yeah. So I on my GPS device that I use, I actually write in my cues that actually say, like next water 20 miles or next water next food or something like that. And that really helps me to know, okay, like I can make another 20 miles, I don’t have to pull out a map. I don’t have to do the math. It just tells me right there how much farther I have to go.

Jeff 28:12
Right? Sounds like you rely on your GPS a lot. Have you ever had any issues with that?

Daniel 28:17
Fortunately, I have not. I know plenty of people who have, I definitely always take two or three backups. I’m bad about not taking paper maps, but I know I should. But I definitely would say I encourage everybody to always have a paper map and or cues that will help them to navigate in the event that all technology fails. I always download the map on my phone, so I don’t have to have data. And then I really recommend having a good GPS and knowing how to use it. Well.

Jeff 28:45
Yeah. Yeah. Never never really been lost on the trail then I guess

Daniel 28:49
I know, actually. And bikepacking I haven’t really been lost. I’ve gone off trail. But I figured out very quickly how to get back it was usually just went straight past a turn. But I know how to work my GPS pretty well and read maps pretty well. So I’ve never had that problem. That’s awesome. Yeah. Now I’m gonna get lost on my next race.

Jeff 29:09
You mentioned that a lot of the bike packing gear doesn’t have to be expensive. But what are some key items that maybe are worth splurging on? Sounds like you’re a big fan of a GPS having a good reliable one that’s easy to use. Yeah, there are other items like that where you you don’t mess around and you get the best?

Daniel 29:25
Well, actually, you know, like I said, I do recommend a GPS. But, you know, it depends where you’re going. If you know the route really well, from just tons a day riding you don’t necessarily need a jeep. Right? But I would say that if you’re going to splurge on any equipment, I would say a seat post bag and a handlebar bag. And there are various different types that you know, people have to kind of test out and see whether they like the way that it rides on their particular bike, but you can’t recommend one particular one over the other, but they’re not cheap. I mean, you’re talking at 250 $300 investment for for both, but to me, that’s The first step to getting the weight off your back which most bikepackers will tell you should be a goal of yours. spending the money on that will allow you to just have a much more enjoyable time carry the weight better. Make sure it makes sure that the weight is balanced on your bike if you have it between a handlebar bag and a seat those bag if you have the space for a frame bag, I really really recommend that again, it’s getting that weight off of your back. But my my full frame bag, you know it weighs the same as a backpack. So I actually use use it for normal everyday riding. And that way I don’t have to worry about having any of that weight on my back.

Jeff 30:33
Right? Do you I mean, do you have anything on your bag? Do you have a Camelback or anything are you even have all the water on your bike and everything? I really tried

Daniel 30:41
to get it on my bike. It does depend on the route and the race and sometimes the water is so far between that I need a Camelback in addition to having bottles and things like that. Yeah, but and there’s a lot of riders who wear a fairly fairly substantial backpack just because that’s what they’re used to riding with. And so they like it. And or they need more space on their bike to carry gear as opposed to water.

Jeff 31:03
Yeah. What about clothing? Are there any like key pieces of clothing that you have? Or you know, really versatile stuff? I guess it seems like that’s sort of the name of the game to have something you can use for multiple situations.

Daniel 31:15
Yeah, I’m always looking for stuff that I can use for a few different things. I mean, for example, like for me, the way my body works, if it’s cold enough for me to have a vest on, it’s cold enough for me to have a full rain jacket on. And so I just carry one ultralight rain jacket as opposed to having a vest and a rain jacket. And so that’s one way that I kind of just cut down on superfluous things like that. Yeah, I mean, I think that you just got to kind of learn what you need and what you don’t Most bike packers that I know don’t carry two pairs of bike shorts, but I do because I have some undercarriage issues sometimes. So yeah, I think probably the most important thing with bikepacking. To consider if you had to think about like one thing to splurge on with with clothing is bike shoes that you can hike you and a lot of bikepackers have gone to flats. I know a lot of regular mountain bikers are going back to flats now too. But a lot of bikepackers are going to flats because they know they can hike the bike. Well, they know if they get off in town or something that they can walk around really easily. You know, I use a bike shoe that was specifically designed for enduro and bikepacking. So it works really well. I’ve walked up to 10 miles and with without a problem. So

Jeff 32:22
yeah, it sounds like there’s a lot of hike a bike in bikepacking, which maybe people aren’t ready for that too, you know, might just imagine being on their bike all day.

Daniel 32:31
Well, it totally depends on the route and the rider. No Micah had a cat route is, you know, it really only has one mandatory hiker bike. And that’s only because of regulations for the forest in that area. There’s another part that almost everybody hikes. And when I asked my friend about what he thought of that hike a bike he said, What hike or bike. So he didn’t read the whole thing. Wow,

Jeff 32:52
that’s awesome. What about food? Did you bring like a full kit? Do you prefer that? Do you need a hot meal? Or are you able to just, you know, go on bars and energy gels for days on end,

Daniel 33:04
in the bikepacking that I’ve been involved in so far, where I don’t have to go, you know, five or six days between towns, I’m usually getting a town at least once every other day. So I actually use it as a motivator to not take kind of real food. So I actually try to do cold food and usually don’t have coffee when I’m actually on the you know, camping out. And then as soon as I get to town though, I’m looking for like fried eggs and coffee and as much real food as I can find. And then I’m usually trying to strap like a Subway sandwich or, you know, a gas station burrito to my bag so that I can carry it with me into the woods for that dinner that night. So yeah, so real food is actually a motivator for me. But I know a lot of people who ride and and they they need that little comfort of knowing that they can make a warm meal at night and they can have a warm cup of coffee in the morning. For me that’s my that’s when I do luxury bike packing. So.

Jeff 33:58
Right. Cool. So do you have any big bikepacking trips planned for 2018?

Daniel 34:04
Yeah, and I’m really hoping to do the cross Washington mountain bike route sometime in the fall. One of my friends Troy Hopwood made that route, and it goes from the Olympic Peninsula, 700 miles out to the Idaho border, through every kind of ecosystem. You can imagine in Washington from the obviously the rain forest on the west coast to the high desert as you go cross over the Cascades. And you know, Troy is actually one of the guys I met doing. bikepacking and he lives in Washington, of course, and we met during the stagecoach 400 And I think that that’s really one of the coolest things about bikepacking is the people that you meet along the way and you form you know, more or less lifelong friendships, you know, in a fairly short period of time and probably got more interesting stories to share with each other than you do with a lot of people you’ve known your whole life. So that’s definitely something that will always keep me coming back to bikepacking. And in all the friends that I’ve got on I’ve got friends from New Zealand to Scotland that I’ve met through bike packing. And it’s just a really awesome family to be part of.

Jeff 35:07
Yeah, well, that’s, that brings up a good point. Because a lot of times when I think of bike packing, I think of like riding by myself in the woods is, you know, the middle of nowhere. How often are you like sharing the trailer with people riding with them and sleeping out at night and all that stuff? How do you build community, I guess, when everybody’s in such a hurry to like, get to the next checkpoint,

Daniel 35:29
everybody’s got their kind of different speeds, you know, and I’ve never met anybody in a bike packing ride that doesn’t want to ride with you for a few minutes and kind of see how your pace is even out. And I think most people are willing to slow down just a little bit, or push themselves just a little bit, stay with somebody for a little while and just, you know, share the suffering because it’s, everybody’s always complaining about something most of the time or talking about how beautiful the scenery is, it’s always nice to share with somebody, but in the longer races, you know, you’ll go two or three days without seeing anybody or, you know, not really getting to hang out with anybody. I did a 700 mile race in New Zealand last year, called the Kiwi Bravais. And I rode for the first, you know, two or three days really just passing people up and down, seeing a couple of the same faces over and over again, but never really riding with somebody. And then on the third day, I actually ended up riding with a guy Craig Moss, who we pretty much rode the whole rest of the route together just yeah, just kind of alternating, who’s leading and you know, who’s who’s drafting and all that kind of stuff. And it was really fun, made some lifelong friends through that as well.

Jeff 36:39
That’s awesome. Cool. Well, thanks, Daniel. We appreciate you coming in and sharing your tips for bikepacking with us and some of your adventures and definitely interested to hear more about the Cohutta cat and all the great things you’re doing to help build and promote bikepacking here on the East Coast.

Daniel 36:57
Thanks for having me. This

Jeff 36:58
has been great. Remember, if you’re enjoying the single tracks podcast, be sure to rate us on iTunes and Google Play. That’s all I’ve got this week. We’ll talk to you again next week. Peace

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