El Grupo Bikepacking Has Begun!

In case you weren’t aware, 1% of the Bikepacking Collective membership dues from year one will be donated to El Grupo Bikepacking, a program dedicated to getting youth out on bikepacking trips. Here are a few photos from their first outing and a note from the founder…

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As part of the Bikepacking Collective, each year we’ll be donating 1% of the membership directly to an organization we choose that’s doing something positive in the bikepacking community. For year one we decided to help El Grupo Cycling, a youth cycling organization out of Tuscon, Arizona. Specifically, we’ll be directly contributing to El Grupo Bikepacking, the new kids bikepacking initiative. Colin Holmes, El Grupo’s cycling coach, and founder of the youth bikepacking program, recently took several kids on the first outing. Here’s what Colin had to say about how it all got started. Plus, find a few photos from their trip.

El Grupo Bikepacking

“In 2015 I got very sick. I went to doctor after doctor and was told I had bronchitis or some other common ailment. They would prescribe me something and send me on my way. Every time I tried to argue that I was sicker than that, that I had overwhelming fatigue, and that when I bike commuted 2 miles to work I would vomit many times from coughing. I wasn’t able to see a specialist because my health insurance was so poor. I had all but given up.

Finally a family friend who is a doctor did me the kindness of looking over my test results and really listening to me. He gave me the diagnosis of Valley Fever. A fungal spore that’s only common to a couple places in the world.

The treatment at my income level was to fight it with fitness. To push through the coughing, and the vomiting, and the fatigue, and exercise. So that’s what I did. I stopped drinking alcohol, I started eating better, and despite the hopelessness I rode. Eventually, about a year and a half after I got sick, I started to get better.

  • El Grupo Bikepacking
  • El Grupo Bikepacking

This is when I started bike camping every month as a personal challenge. I wanted to do my favorite thing as often as possible.

As a youth cycling coach I started to see that my trips were inspiring the kids I rode with. They were asking me lots of questions about bikepacking and eventually they started to ask if I would take them bikepacking. So about 9 months ago I started developing an @elgrupoyouthcycling bikepacking program. Our mission is to “Empower youth through cycling” and to me nothing has been more empowering than bike touring.

Now 9 months later, as the first trip of my third year of my personal bike camping challenge, because of my hard work and the amazing organization that we have in El Grupo, I’m able to share something that saved my life with some pretty amazing kids.

I’m completely floored that this actually happened. @grupobikepacking has begun. Two of us took 3 kids on a 75 mile overnighter with 13 miles of Arizona Trail singletrack! I’m so very proud to have been given the responsibility of making this happen. It really means the world to me ❤”

El Grupo Bikepacking

  • El Grupo Bikepacking
  • El Grupo Bikepacking
When we asked Colin what routes they would be following he said: “We are absolutely planning on following one of the routes from the site! I’m particularly keen on the new Sky Islands Odyssey from Sarah Swallow, but we’re also looking at Black Canyon since I’ve done that and am familiar with the logistics.”

As for bikes, El Grupo Bikepacking recycled/donated used bikes from the community. El Grupo has a bike and parts library that the kids build/repair their bikes from. All of the bikes are built by either Grupo youth or former Grupo youth who are now employed as mechanics.

El Grupo Bikepacking

Additional thanks to Ortlieb for providing 10 sets of bags to El Grupo Bikepacking! We are also looking for a tent sponsor; right now El Grupo Bikepacking is using heavy, eight year old 2-person tents. Make sure to follow El Grupo bikepacking on Instagram @grupobikepacking! And stay tuned to see more from their upcoming trips.

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