2015 Bikepacking Awards
In appreciation of all that 2015 has brought us, we’re delighted to announce our first ever, year-end bikepacking awards. Read on to find out our 25 picks, including the ‘Most Inspiring Photo’, ‘Best Short Film’, ‘Ballsiest Trip’, ‘Explorer of The Year’, and more…
Explorer(s) of the Year
Our top award goes to those who simply inspired us most to explore… To connect dots on a map and establish new routes for others to aspire to, and enjoy.
Tom and Sarah Swallow
Tom and Sarah’s journey was one of the most inspiring this year. In August, they set out from the shores of North Carolina to ride the Trans America Trail, a moto-specific route previously uncharted by cyclists, in what was to become an 87 day, 4,970 mile, off-tarmac adventure. Not only that, but they also documented their journey beautifully along the way. In case you missed it, read about their story here.
ULTRA-ACHIEVER OF THE YEAR
Sometimes finishing isn’t enough… This award goes to a bikepacker who has redefined what we imagined possible – for herself as much as the community at large.
Lael Wilcox (rarely without a smile)
Over the summer, we all watched a colorful dot with the initials ‘LW’ tearing across our screens… that little dot was the Trackleaders.com GPS map icon for Lael Wilcox, as she flew through the Tour Divide bikepacking race at an astonishing speed. Lael made history, completing the self-supported Tour Divide bikepacking race in a record-setting 17 days, 1 hour, and 51 minutes. Not only that, but as a warm up to the Tour Divide, Lael pedaled over 100 miles per day for 19 straight days from her home in Anchorage, Alaska to the start of the race in Banff, Alberta. And, if that wasn’t enough, she then rode the GDMBR again later in the summer, bettering her record by over a day and a half…
Top Finish of the year
Sometimes records are broken… and sometimes they’re shattered. Our next award goes to this year’s most impressive finish in the race calendar.
In a nail biting finale, Josh Kato, a 40 year-old full-time nurse from Washington, won this year’s 2,745 mile Tour Divide, setting a new course record of 14 days, 11 hours and 37 minutes (14:11:37). Josh beat the former record by over 24 hours, held by Jay Petervary, who finished a close second. Way to go Josh! In case you’re interested, read about Josh’s pack list here.
The Big Trip
Long journeys don’t just happen. They take dedication, focus and drive. This award goes to the person with the most oomph to make a big trip happen. The kind of trip that makes us say: ‘I wish I could do that’.
Markus Stitz, Around The World by Singlespeed
On the 3rd of September, Markus Stitz set off on an around the world bike trip. No big deal, right? A handful of folks have completed such a cycling adventure. Markus, however, has chosen to carry out such a mission on his trusty singlespeed. Since his departure, he’s already racked up over 8,000 KMs throughout Europe and the US, cycling over 130KM per day. At this rate, Markus is on course to finish the journey in New Zealand, in September of 2016. Read about the highs and lows of his ride at MarkusStitz.com
The Ballsiest Trip
Every trip, whether large or small, has challenges that place us outside our comfort zone. For some folks, searching out these extremes becomes the bread and butter of the ride… Our next award recognizes such undertakings. These sorts of journeys aren’t for everyone, but we’re grateful that there are people in the world driven to devise them.
Steve ‘Doom’ Fassbinder, The Brooks Range Traverse
In the summer of 2015, Steve Fassbinder, Jon Bailey and Brett Davis set out to cross the Brooks Range, a vast expanse of remote mountains, stretching 700 plus miles east to west across northern Alaska and into Canada’s Yukon Territory. The planning and risks involved in this bikerafting trip were more than intense. Fortunately, on the ground, the trip went butter smooth. As Steve put it, “… the trip did go well, but it could easily have not! There were several times leading up to the trip where I was thinking ‘I hope we don’t have to abandon our bikes out there.’” Learn more about the adventure at SeekAndEnjoy.com.
Innovator of the Year
Given the bike industry’s propensity to jump on bandwagons in the quest for the ‘next big thing’… this award recognizes a manufacturer that has been there for the long haul – and continues to create great new products intended for adventure.
With the tagline ‘Adventure by Bike’, Salsa Cycles has certainly lived up to their mantra. In 2015, they released three capable bikes designed primarily for bikepacking – the sleek Cutthroat, the drop-barred, plus-tired Deadwood, and the long distance Marrakech. Salsa also published a book on the intricacies of bikepacking, as well as releasing the new Anything Cage HD, which has set up residence on all our bikes over the last year.
On The Rise
As bikepacking captures the imagination of more and more riders, we’re seeing an ever growing plethora of companies releasing specialized products. Amongst the many striving to make their passion a successful business, here are two that really stood out to us in 2015.
Although Bedrock Bags’ Andrew Wracher is no newcomer to sewing, we’ve noticed a distinct upturn in this year’s offerings. Products that particularly stand out include the Entrada handlebar system, the new Dakota top tube bag, and the origami-like Tapeats To-Go bag. Stay tuned as Bedrock and Velorution Cycles join forces in a new creative workshop, tucked high in the mountain biking mecca of Durango, CO.
Oveja Negra Threadworks
In business for the last few years, Oveja Negra quietly upped their game over 2015 and moved into a gorgeous new workshop in bike-friendly Salida (be sure to ride there if you haven’t already). We’ve been consistently impressed with their classy designs, and the general quality of everything they lay their hands on.
Most Inspiring Image
A moment caught in time can touch our psyche more deeply than we might expect. A simple photograph can drive us to explore, challenge ourselves, and seek out new experiences. Amongst the wealth of wonderful imagery we’ve seen this year, here are three picks that have wielded such a power over us.
Cover of Bike Mag, September, 2015, by Joey Schusler
Aside from being a strong and evocative image, this photograph by Joey Schusler stands out because it was chosen as a cover shot for the Bike Mag, bringing the notion of traveling by bike to a wider and more mainstream audience than it’s reached before.
Cass Gilbert, Trans-Ecuador
You’ll be hard-pressed to find another bikepacker who’s put out the quality, or quantity, of inspiring bikepacking photos into the ether. Being a part of this site, Cass didn’t want to toot his own horn, but given his accomplishments this year, I insisted. In addition to finishing his Americas tip-to-tip odyssey in 2015, Cass took off to Mongolia to gather even more stunning photos. There is an incredible collection on his Tumblr; the image I chose is a mind-blowing capture from his Trans-Ecuador trip. – Logan
Our goal was to pick three photos from across the world of bikepacking, but as you can see, we failed. There are so many good ones out there, that making a decision proved too hard. So we thought we’d ask for some help from our readers. If you’ve bookmarked, created, or know someone that captured a great photo in 2015 that embodies bikepacking, send it to pedalingnowhere at gmail dot com. At the beginning of 2016, we’ll make a choice based on your suggestions, and post it here as well as our email newsletter.
Best In Film
The sheer professionalism and quality of storytelling in adventure filmmaking never ceases to impress us. Given the advent of drone footage and miniaturization of professional-grade cameras, bikepacking is certainly reaping its benefits. In our next award, we’ve chosen three different films that we feel capture the spirit of bikepacking in their own special way.
Best Picture: The Trail to Kazbegi, by Joey Schusler
Mind-melting descents. Gorgeous scenery. Tense encounters with overzealous border-patrol guards. Dogfights – literally. It’s all here… if you haven’t already, find 15 minutes and watch this finely crafted film of a journey across Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains.
Best in Cinematography: The Cold Vein, by Montanus
“The call of the mountain is even stronger during winter, when the snow breaks the tree-tops and the cold weather freezes the bones.” The Cold Vein is a short film about a winter bikepacking adventure, beautifully filmed by an Italian duo who go by the name of ‘Montanus, The Wild Side’.
Best in Storytelling: MegaMoon, by Hannah Maia
A must-watch, short-format film. So often overshadowed by the popularity of racing the Tour Divide, it’s refreshing to glean a more personal insight into riding the GDMBR at a more leisurely pace – and seeing the way in which its two British protagonists react to the sweeping landscapes of the Great American West. Read more about the story here.
Best Documentary: Mountain Bikes & Bothy Nights, by Al Humphreys
Champion of the Micro Adventure, Alastair Humphreys’ Bothy Nights captures perfectly both the majesty, and the bikepacking potential, of the the Scottish Highlands. It poetically recounts the remarkable story of its bothies, the simple houses and huts that dot its glens and coastlines; sanctuaries from the elements open to whomever makes the journey to them. With its stunning drone footage and inspired storytelling, Bothy Nights has us itching to visit Scotland for our next adventure.
Best New Route
Each season hundreds of intrepid, amateur explorers set out on two wheels to weave together bikepacking routes, for personal satisfaction, or to share. We’re grateful for all the wonderful contributions we’ve posted to the site in 2015… As fanatical bikepackers ourselves, here are three that have really stood out to us; two are on the more accessible end of the spectrum, and one is distinctly on the wild side…
Three Sisters Three Rivers, Oregon, USA – Limberlost
Three Sisters Three Rivers is a new route, devised by Oregonian experts Limberlost, linking up some of the state’s primo mountain bike trail systems. Set over 325 memorable miles, terrain covers loose, sandy singletrack outside of Bend, to the lush, wet, mossy trails of the North Umpqua River. What’s more, the whole region is incredibly bike friendly, making this ride one that should definitely be pencilled into your 2016 calender.
The Capital Trail, Scotland – Markus Stitz
Just a stone’s throw from Edinburgh, the Capital Trail guides you through some surprisingly remote and beautiful spots, all within easy access of the Scottish Capital. It features windswept beaches, superb singletrack, historic Land Rover tracks, countryside backroads, mellow cycle paths, and more. Whether you choose to race it or ride it, this challenging, two day route is a great taste of what Scotland has to offer.
Camelsfoot Range, BC, Canada – by Skyler Des Roches
Some routes aren’t meant to be easy… From nirvanic, backcountry double-track to rowdy DH descents, rooty tech to open alpine free-riding, bikepacking the Camelsfoot Range has it all – including a dash of gravel grinding and a burly ‘pushwack’ for good measure. Make no doubt about it – this is a route that requires planning and commitment, quite apart from navigational experience. But as ever, the rewards for its inevitable toils are more than worth it…
Most Influential Event
This award recognises an event that has helped promote and celebrate bikepacking, in whatever form it may take.
Evening of Adventure, by Bunyan Velo
Many of you will be familiar with Bunyan Velo, the online publication dedicated to ‘travels on two wheels’, in all its luxuriant forms. Perhaps you’re not aware, however, of editor Lucas Winzenburg’s series of bicycle-themed talks, held at the Angry Catfish in Minneapolis. A combination of diverse story telling, great food and local beer (as well as the best bike-related raffle we’ve feasted our eyes on), we think it’s the perfect blueprint for likeminded events within the bicycle touring community.
Best New Ride/Race
Grassroots races are springing up all around the world, showcasing the very best of local bikepacking to anyone willing to sign up and test their mettle. As much as we love to pit ourselves against the clock, this year’s award goes to two different kinds of events, both of which highlight the social side of bikepacking…
The Dorset Gravel Dash
Tucked away in a quaint nook of the English countryside, the Dorset Gravel Dash is one of the more curious events in the bikepacking calender. For a start, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Its refreshingly unusual format incorporates both an incredibly scenic, challenging century ride for diehard racers, and a self supported overnighter – spent in a woodland glade – that splits the ride into two more digestible halves for mellower participants. The organizers stress that time spent in pubs and tea houses is just as important as miles spent in the saddle…
This year’s inaugural Swift Campout, held over the Solstice Weekend, was devised by Seattle gear fabricators Swift Industries to promote a campout on a worldwide scale. Or as they put it, a reason to ‘pack up and skip town’. The weekend spawned a ton of global fun and shared experiences, as well as a whole wealth of inspiring imagery and film making (from New Zealand to Japan).
Most Interesting New Bike
Each year a slew of new steeds are dropped into the marketplace. An increasing number of these are being designed with bikepacking in mind. Several released this year have really impressed… including the Chumba Ursa BC, the Jones Plus, and the Jamis Dragonslayer (reviews forthcoming). But if choices have to be made, our top spot for 2015 goes to…
The Salsa Cutthroat
Granted… most of us have yet to ride one. But what’s not to like?! A gorgeous color scheme on a bike built for the race that’s done the most to popularise bikepacking, the Tour Divide. Aptly, the featherweight, mile-munching Cutthroat even includes an illustration of the GDMBR route under its the down tube. Read Salsa Rider Jay Petervery’s impressions here.
Gear of The Year
After much deliberation, we’ve whittled the list down to our top three picks from all the gear tested in 2015…
Porcelain Rocket Orbiter Framebag
We’ve always admired the way in which Porcelain Rocket intertwines a sense of aesthetics with innovative designs – a case in point being this year’s waterproof version of the popular Mr Fusion seatpack, and the tough as nails Orbiter expedition framebag. Inspired by the classic roll-top dry bag… and all the zips that long distance bikepackers have trashed over multi-month journeys, Porcelain Rocket’s Orbiter is our framebag of choice for anyone with expedition-style aspirations. Read our review here.
The Hauser by Acre Supply
Acre/Mission Workshop has a knack for creating trim, aesthetically pleasing, and adventure-ready gear. The Hauser is their take on a do-all backpack. It isn’t new for 2015, but it’s new to us. We’ve recently tested the Hauser 10L in Spain, and after 6 solid weeks of riding, we can safely say that it’s the most comfortable backpack we’ve ever had the pleasure of buckling.
Revelate Terrapin V2
Supplying bags to the likes of Salsa, Surly and Jones, it’s little surprise that Alaskan-based Revelate Designs is the top selling, bikepacking-specific gear manufacturer. And for good reason. Established in 2007, each product Eric Parsons and his team launches is a thoughtful, well conceived evolution from the last. Revelate’s updated Terrapin seat pack is no different. It improves on the original design (which we loved) by introducing an air valve, a new strap system, and a super handy top load deck for gear overflow. Stay tuned for our reviews of the V2 Terrapin and Revelate’s new Zipstretch framebag.
Good Deed of the Year
Our final award is dedicated to those who have balanced their own enjoyment with an inspiring act of goodness. Although this year’s good deed is a relatively small one, it’s a fitting template we could all follow.
Chris Reichel, @Dirty_Biker
At the end of each of Chris’ big trips, he disassembles his bike, donating all its parts to young and interested mountain bikers. What a great way to spread the joy; we should all take a cue from this little act. Here’s what Chris had to say: “Whenever I finish a bike trip, I have a tradition of giving away as many of my parts as possible to young local riders. I was affraid that I wouldn’t be able to give as much this year due to returning home to no job… That is until these great companies offered to donate this pile of parts. They are going to a new home with some young Kathmandu shredders. Hopefully they will inspire a new generation of bad ideas and adventure. Your next trip to the shop, please remember how rad these companies are: @maxxistires @mrpbike @crankbrothers @paulcomponents @endlessbikegirl @pteclights @handupgloves”
We hope you’ve enjoyed this celebration of a stellar year, in which we’ve paid homage to the people, their creativity, the companies, and their products that have made 2015 such a memorable one for bikepacking. We’re the first to admit that such ‘awards’ feature a large dose of subjectivity. If there’s anything else that’s stood out to you – individuals, gear, images or otherwise – please feel free to share them in the comments below. Thanks!