Posted by Miles Arbour
Words and photos by Jan Bennett
As I was wrapping up my scouting ride of the Pony Express trail at the beginning of this summer, I started thinking about how I could encourage more women to dive in and give bikepacking a try. How could I lower the barrier to entry to the point that folks would be more likely to step out of their comfort zone and try their hand at the thing that I hold so dear?
Thus, the idea for the Ladies Introduction to Bikepacking Adventures was born. We would encourage women, transgender, femme, and non-binary cyclists who were looking to learn more about bikepacking to connect with others and strike out on a sub-24-hour adventure close to home. The North Texas area is home to a myriad of state parks that happen to be the perfect distance from civilization for such an adventure.
The morning of our adventure was quite chilly compared to the warm and muggy days we had experienced just a few weeks prior. Some showed up with car camping gear, which was loaded into our support vehicle, while others carried what they could on their bikes. We struck out on the 27-mile ride to the Johnson Branch State Park on Lake Ray Roberts just north of the Dallas/Fort Worth metromess. While the route was mostly paved, there were a few gravel stretches that allowed for riders to get the feel of traveling over a lose surface with gear on their bikes.
Upon arriving at our primitive campsites at the state park, everyone set to work setting camp while I got to work on the campfire. We all worked together to help get tents and sleeping arrangements sorted and were ready to gather around the campfire before the sun set. As I had waited to unpack my bike and set camp for myself, I was able to provide a demonstration about how I pack my bike for my adventures. I went through my gear and gave quick explanations about why I chose the gear I did and what led me to make those decisions. The question and answer session went into the evening as we enjoyed some homemade chili provided by Jan Lee.
One of the highlights of the evening was an opportunity for some to experience their first Frito Pie (a bowl of Frito Lay chips with a heaping helping of steaming hot chili, sprinkled with cheese, a Texas staple) and the time-honored tradition of s’mores over a campfire. We even had a few who had never been camping!
The next morning, we packed up camp and rode 30 miles back to our vehicles in Denton. We even experienced a slight drizzle as a cold front was making its way through the area. The perfect end to provide the full bikepacking experience for these adventurous souls!
Many thanks to Sprocket’s Bicycle Shop in Denton, Texas, for allowing us to use their parking lot overnight and for providing us with some last-minute parts to help ensure we all arrived safe. I would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Heather Nicole and Tricia Tofte for helping to encourage other riders on the trip! A special thank you to Kevin Lee of The Spinistry for providing some equipment to help make our camping experience one to remember, and to Jan Lee for providing a means to transport gear and a follow vehicle for certain sections of the route. This trip would not have been possible without all of you.