2018 Swift Solstice Campout
Where were you this June 23rd? We rounded up a dozen of the thousands of groups of bicycle travelers who were out riding and camping under the stars in celebration of the 2018 Swift Solstice Campout weekend. Here’s a peek at what they were up to…
Since 2015, the folks at Swift Industries – the Seattle-based bicycle baggage company – have been issuing a yearly call to bicycle travelers around the world to head out for a night or a weekend under the stars in celebration of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice (or winter solstice, for our friends down south). The event has captivated a diverse group of riders since its inaugural edition four years ago (when it earned the well-deserved title of Best New Ride in our 2015 Bikepacking Awards), and it continues to grow year over year.
From challenging, technical trips into the mountains to casual rides with pets and cold drinks in tow, thousands of cyclists across the globe answered the call again this June 23rd. They jumped in lakes and rivers, had bonfires, explored underground caves, grilled out, and more. We checked in with a dozen of those groups, ranging in size from twos and threes to 50+ participants, to get a glimpse into their 2018 Swift Campout experiences. Here they are, in no particular order:
Lars Reber @larsreber
Stanley, Idaho / 14 bike campers
Additional photos by Adam Concannon (@adamjcon)
The past couple of years at Tenkara Rod Co, we’ve gone on short overnighters for the Swift Campout and kept it pretty mellow. This year was a different story, as Todd Gillman of Coal Headwear invited us to join him and some friends on a rugged, four-day route he created, starting in Stanley, Idaho. The route included winding canyon tarmac, fire roads, flowy singletrack, hot springs, views of the Sawtooths, and fly fishing. All the ingredients for an incredible bikepacking trip. Our group of 14 pedaled out of Stanley and soon enough we encountered all that we’d hoped for and much, much, more.
We pedaled, coasted, climbed, then hiked until we eventually closed in on an impassable, snow-covered trail, causing us to reroute. We didn’t complete the loop. In fact, we didn’t make it to our day one camp destination. Things may not have gone as planned, but there was absolutely no shortage of great times with old and new friends. This was definitely a Swift Campout that we’ll always remember!
Highlight: After pushing our bikes up a mountain to the point of exhaustion on the first day, the next morning we were rewarded with flowy downhill singletrack and the biggest smiles!
Tom Rooney @roonsnake
Longridge Park, Melbourne, Australia / 50 bike campers
This year’s Swift Campout in Melbourne, Australia, was hosted by the lovely folk at Commuter Cycles. The destination was Longridge Campground, roughly 30km along the Yarra River in the leafy suburb of Warrandyte. There was a lunchtime and an afternoon rollout from the shop, with about 50 people camping overnight.
It was a cruisey ride along the river on mostly gravel bike paths with the campground situated on a beautiful spot right by the river. As we are on the opposite side of the globe, it’s our winter solstice! So that means the longest (and sometimes coldest) night. Luckily, Longridge has some big fire pits, lots of dry wood, and plenty of tent space for everyone! A few beers, some hot buttered rum, and fireside ukulele sing alongs with Pepper made the wintery night one to remember.
Highlight: Will hauled his BOB trailer with a Dutch oven loaded with a pre marinated leg of lamb, which he cooked to perfection in the roasting hot coals!
Jocelyn Lui @jocelyn_lui
Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, California / 3 bike campers
Somehow, I convinced two friends to join me for a weekend of riding bikes and sleeping outside for the solstice campout hosted by Box Dog Bikes. The three of us were first-time bikepackers and neither one of my friends had much experience riding off road, so you could say I was a bit nervous. It started out a little rough, but we overcame every hurdle thrown at us: sweltering heat, racks falling apart (thankfully we brought extra straps), heavy loads, and both friends learning how to ride up and down gravel trails with loaded road bikes. Despite our obstacles, we got to admire the golden hills of the preserve and catch a beautiful sunrise. I had so much fun! I’m pretty sure Chloe and Allen had fun too (they say they want gravel bikes now, so I’d say thats a win). I can’t wait to go bikepacking again!
Highlight: Riding through the golden hills with my friends.
Josh Spice @staysanesleepoutside
Deschutes National Forest & Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Oregon / 6 bike campers
For the third year of the ‘-in-the-Ground’ theme, a handful of familiar faces returned to the incredible Central Oregon desert. This year’s plan was Magma-in-the-Ground: a three-day, 125-mile, 97% dirt adventure requiring 11 liters of water carry from the only water resupply to span two dry days of travel. Ride dirt roads through pine and sagebrush forest to climb 3,000 ft up a very geothermally and seismically active volcano, then drop 1,000 ft into the crater via amazing singletrack, past a huge pumice flat and Oregon’s most recent volcanic activity – one of the world’s largest obsidian deposits. Have dinner on the beach at the caldera lake, then ascend the far rim to camp on top, for a dramatic sunset and sunrise. Wake up and ride more rim trail singletrack, then drop off and traverse 2,400 ft down the volcano. Explore a variety of dirt tracks across the desert floor before ascending a butte to camp at an unlocked lookout tower and catch another amazing Cascades sunset and desert sunrise combo. On the third day, explore a massive lava tube cave in complete darkness, see Oregon’s largest juniper tree, and return to the saloon.
Highlight: Seeing the entire magma lifecycle, from underground in a lava tube cave, to on top of a volcano, riding up and into it, past a huge obsidian flow.
Stephanie Taylor @foundinthemountains
Sunshine Coast, British Columbia, Canada / 48 bike campers
Photos by Ben Johnson (@johnsonstudios.co)
In our second year organizing an open-invite Swift Campout for the Vancouver area, we headed back to Porpoise Bay Provincial Park on the Sunshine Coast. The variety of route options, quirky and quaint stops along the way, loads of beach access, and ample group site make Porpoise Bay a great spot for an overnight, no matter your bike camping experience.
This year, some folks sought out a gravel option in addition to the road and singletrack routes. Something for everyone! All three route options had first-time bike campers, and when folks arrived at camp they all had huge grins across their faces. It may have been tough for some, but fun was had.
Converging at camp and having the chance to talk to all the people who had joined us, it was inspiring to learn about everyone’s bike travel experiences – once again realizing that all that matters is that you’re out there doing it.
Highlight: Nearly 50 people, from first timers to experienced bike campers, sharing an experience and making new friends!
Rob Hermans @gone.bikepacking
Republic of Georgia / 3 bike campers
Our 2018 Solstice Swift Campout fell right in the middle our of longer bikepacking trip around the Caucasus and Central Asia. We left the city of Akhaltstikhe in the south of beautiful Georgia in the morning. During a rest stop at a roadside park we met Paul from Alaska who was cycling from Turkey to Georgia. We decided to team up for the day, which made our party three people: Paul from the USA and Emma and Rob from the Netherlands.
After leaving the main road, we cycled into a stunning river gorge towards our goal for they day: the historic cave town at Vardzia. We had a late lunch with traditional Georgian food at an outdoor restaurant near the cave entrance. The grassy field surrounding the restaurant looked perfect for camping with a great view over the caves. We asked the friendly owners if we could spend the night, which they agreed to immediately.
After pitching our tents it was time to visit the caves. It’s incredible to realize how much work has gone into carving a whole city, chapel, and monastery out of these rocks. Truly impressed, we headed back to our tents while the sun was setting.
Highlight: While darkness was falling, we enjoyed a cold beer at camp while gazing at the beautifully illuminated caves in the distance.
Isshu Matsuo @bluelug
Gosen, Niigata Prefecture, Japan / 6 bike campers
Five of us who work for Blue Lug bike shop originally had plans to go camping in Kagoshima to visit one of friends who used to work with us at the shop, but a large eruption occurred at the Sakurajima volcano in Kagoshima, and on top of that a huge typhoon was coming up. So, we changed our location at the last minute, deciding camp in Gosen instead. We drove about three hours out of Tokyo to begin the ride, because living in the big city is sometimes stressful, and riding along rice farm roads and camping in the countryside is always refreshing. We heard frogs croaking everywhere and enjoyed swimming in the wild river and a campfire at night.
Highlight: We roasted bananas on the fire with chocolate stuffed inside, the way we learned from Martina from Swift Industries last year.
Thomas Hassler @10speedcognition
Nutmeg Country (aka Middlesex County, CT) / 7 bike campers
Photos by J. Bené Romanceür Esq. (@ultraromance)
Roughly three hours by train from New York City, Nutmeg Country is a tantalizing platter of cyclo-touring wonder. Our glampout consisted of a two-day, 53-mile jaunt through aggressive singletrack and many fern covered state forest roads that us through what is known as The Nutmeg Triangle. We slept along the misty banks of a lake in Cockaponset State Forest. We rode through historic towns in the pouring rain and gazed upon a castle whilst barely making the last Ferry across the Connecticut River. It was as much a weekend of exploration as it was of intentional discombobulation. And what weekend in Nutmeg Country would be complete without a stop at the local pizza joint? Riding here is full of all the things you’ve heard uttered in quiet whispers but never knew to be true. It’s fresh and new yet familiar and broken in, like a tough leather saddle massaged with coconut oil (I’m looking at you, Poppie). It was everything a few city slickers could ask for.
Frivolous ride statistics that may or may not be added to article: rain and 100% humidity all on day one, multiple (more than 5) “snack” breaks in the woods, 1 package store stop for camp beers, 1 ferry ride that ended up being (unbeknownst to us) the last ferry of the day, 1 special blue-lagoon “snack” break, 1 graveyard rest stop where we discussed the underbelly of Fantasy Metal, 1 slashed rear tire, 1 broken shifter and subsequent shifter repair, 2 empty lean-tos for sleeping, 1 large campfire, 20ish miles riding on day two, 5 New Haven style Pizzas, 1 meatball grinder, too many Foxon Park soda beverages, 1 tick bite sans lyme disease, 7 happy riders.
Chris Massara @masaris
Shady Grove Campground in Martindale, TX / 13 bike campers, 1 pug
On a cloudless day with the heat quickly breaking 100 degrees, we headed about 55 miles southeast of Austin to find some shade and water. Beat the Clock Cycling Club put together a fine route of gravel backroads, and we luckily found a few trees to congregate under when we inevitably got some flats. The going got tough as the sun beat down, but luckily the river and shade at our destination were as good as we’d hoped. The nearby town of Martindale had a hospitable cafe, and we were able to snag tasty tacos at a local truck to kick off our ride back the next day.
Highlight: Seeing Chickpea the pug cruising in a backpack, and cooling our salty bodies in the river.
Laura Freidland @pealimepedalers
Sugarloaf Mountain in Boulder, Colorado / 5 bike campers
Photos by Jillian Betterly (@the_cliffrose)
The Swift Campout in Boulder brought together five riders – both new and old to bikepacking – to ride a classic route through the foothills behind Boulder. The ride served as preparation for Nikki and me before we set off to ride our bikes through South America in just a few weeks. The ride begins with a climb up Four Mile Canyon leading to quiet 4×4 roads along the creek before topping out at Sugarloaf Mountain, roughly 22 miles and 3,000 ft up from downtown.
Jillian Betterly of Middle Coast W/T/F Bikepacking Collective and the incredible Boulder bike community had been schooling us for two months on how to bikepack. This was our first true test before diving head first into our big adventure beginning in Medellin, Colombia. When we met up with Jillian, she helped us rearrange our poorly packed front rolls that were spilling out tent stakes and the rain fly. Once we were locked and loaded, the climb began and we were delighted with the simplicity of pedaling dirt roads, stopping for drinks from the creek and indulging in tasty meat and cheese snacks as we went. Apparently, this is called “party-pace,” which cemented our love for bikepacking. While it was just one overnight, the Swift Campout brought clarity to the unknowns and got us fully stoked for the thousands of miles by bike ahead.
Kelly Nowles @kellyburger
Tolt McDonald Park, Washington / 60 bike campers
For the 2018 Swift Campout, a crew of fun-loving bike campers converged at the Tolt MacDonald for the fourth year in a row. This year, instead of trying to organize a single 60+ person group ride, folks were encouraged to organize their own rides and routes to the campsite. Starting in the afternoon, riders started arriving at the campsite from all directions. Some chose a longer route, while others endeavored to take routes entirely on singletrack! Regardless of how we arrived, everyone came together that evening for a night around the campfire with friends and good food. Not a bad way to celebrate the solstice if you ask me!
Bartosz Giszter @places_nature_trails
Cairngorms National Park, Scotland / 2 bike campers
This year I was camping with only @mjulovesu, and we took advantage of super long days in the Scottish Highlands. We started the party on Friday night with a ride from Laurencekirk to Charr Bothy. The 2018 Swift Campout properly started for us on Saturday morning in the middle of nowhere with beautiful surroundings. The ride to Loch Muick was pretty brutal, but epic. We were riding and pushing our bikes for something like 10 hours with a stop at Glenesk Folk Museum for lunch and a history lesson. After the rest, we decided to use one of the East Cairngorms classics – Fungle Road. An amazing ride and views were delivered. We reached our camp spot at Loch Muick after 10 pm, but the sun was still out, with lots of time to set up the tent, prepare food, and enjoy the place. We spent Sunday walking and chilling at a beautiful beach, not thinking about how we would get back.
Highlight: Our wild camp spot at south end of Loch Muick was incrdible, as was the weather.
Don’t miss next year’s Swift Campout! Mark your calendars for the weekend of June 22nd – 23rd, 2019 (and get those campsites booked early!). We’ll be sure to make an announcement here when the 2019 Swift Campout site is up an running, where you’ll be able to find campouts happening around the world and to register for a chance to win one of many prizes.