Think about a crooked line operating down a map of the USA, north to south, starting at Montana’s border with Canada, and ending at Arizona’s with Mexico, tracing alpine spines and snaking by way of desert plateaus. Now think about driving the entire line, 2,700 miles in all, on a motorcycle, every little thing you want strapped to the handlebars, the body.
In the event you’re a seasoned bikepacker, you might assume that line could be the Nice Divide Mountain Bike Route, a legendary path community established in 1997 that’s one of many world’s best bike adventures. However, there’s one other. A route extra wild, extra rugged, tougher, extra every little thing.
The Wild West Route. And it’s lastly prepared for all comers.
Envisioned and deliberate by Kurt Refsnider (we coated Kurt and the way the WWR got here to be again in AJ #10, which you should purchase right here), the WWR is a testomony to the sort of nation one can see from lengthy days on a motorcycle saddle, and to the various fantastic thing about public lands within the West. Refsnider spent years poring over satellite tv for pc maps of the realm who wished his path to run by way of, connecting current trails, connecting hearth roads, and, probably the most troublesome half, accessing stretches of Navajo Nation land.
The non-profit org Bikepacking Roots, headed by Refsnider, might be offering GPS navigation knowledge, a smartphone app with offline info, and route guides to riders who plan to take the WWR on. A bunch of 40 or so take a look at riders have been driving sections of the course the previous 12 months, Refsnider amongst them, they usually’ve pronounced it able to go.
We talked with Refsnider about what made him plunge into this venture and what the WWR is all about.
AJ: Why a brand new long-distance route, and why did you resolve to route it the place you probably did?
KR: Bikepacking has by no means been as well-liked as it’s proper now, and the need for really epic, probably life-changing long-distance routes is equally excessive. Bikepacking Roots is dedicated to supporting the rising bikepacking neighborhood by way of tasks like this and thru advocacy endeavors, and based mostly on our surveying of the bikepacking neighborhood, demand for a brand new cross-country route providing comparatively non-technical driving was excessive. Though there are many quick routes being created by people, the event and long-term upkeep of deliberately designed routes of this magnitude is a very huge endeavor – the Wild West Route venture has taken practically three years to finish. We additionally wished to create a route that showcases the sprawling expanses of untamed public lands within the West, and, actually what higher place to do this than by way of Idaho, Utah, and Arizona?
A further distinctive aspect of this route growth venture is the collaborations that it took over the previous 2 years to make the route a actuality – working with land managers within the Forest Service and BLM, with non-public landowners for entry and water in a number of key areas, and with tribal officers and neighborhood members on Navajo Nation because the route turned a part of the Navajo Nation Trails Initiative.
Did you’ve got a specific sort of bike in thoughts whereas designing it? Plus-sized journey bike? Gravel grinder? Full-squish? Outdated-school hardtail?
The route was designed with mountain bikes in thoughts – a hardtail with entrance suspension and a couple of.2″ or wider tires might be excellent for many riders based mostly on suggestions from the 40-plus take a look at riders we had out on the route final summer time. Low gearing and massive brake rotors can even be excellent for the lengthy climbs and descents. A few of the rougher jeep street sections could be fairly snug on a full-sus rig or one thing with plus-sized tires, however neither are significantly mandatory. And though the route follows a whole lot of miles of gravel roads, the gravel in these Western states is a far cry from what many riders consider as “gravel.” Depart your gravel bike at house for this route – convey a correct mountain bike.
What a few specific rider? Is that this for the hardcore, sufferfest-addicted masochist? Or can a match, informal rider deal with this?
Riders who relish quiet, distant, and scenic driving on grime roads and Four×Four tracks and who’re snug being self-sufficient for 2-Four days between resupply factors will love this route. It’s undoubtedly rugged and difficult, however it’s not excessive – we didn’t design the path to be a sufferfest. In reality, we explored a number of parallel route choices in lots of areas after which linked the very best choices collectively to create probably the most pleasurable driving expertise potential. We tried to incorporate mellower sections interspersed with extra rugged mountain sections and tried to incorporate resupply choices in small communities commonly whereas nonetheless making an attempt to take care of as distant a really feel to the route as potential. In southern Arizona the place water is rather more sparse, water availability partially dictated the place we positioned the route.
Do you’ve got a favorite part?
It’s robust to decide on only one implausible part. The distant mountains of central Idaho are idyllic – wolves howl, small streams provide frequent water, and wildflowers add bursts of coloration to fully burned mountainsides. The desolate Snake River Plain in southern Idaho affords a sort of solitude and expansiveness that’s robust to search out within the West. The 100-plus miles of tough driving at practically 10,000 ft elevation on Skyline Drive in central Utah is extremely memorable. And the variety of landscapes in my house state of Arizona is unparalleled. There are simply so many superb miles alongside the size of the route!
If individuals wish to make the most of what Bikepacking Roots affords, how ought to they take benefit?
We’ve created a set of in depth navigation, logistical, and academic supplies for riders planning to discover the Wild West Route. We’ve got GPS tracks and 1,500 waypoints for navigation functions out there for free of charge to Bikepacking Roots members (and membership is free!), and we developed a logistical and academic information with overview maps that’s practically 100 pages lengthy, out there in return for a $20 donation. We’ve additionally collaborated with Knobby Guides to create a navigation-ready smartphone app on which riders can simply put up updates or feedback about any water supply or different waypoints alongside the way in which. The app can even enable us to simply share sudden detours if wanted with rides en route. That might be launched in only a few weeks. All this may be discovered at our web site.
Has the suggestions from riders because you first plotted the course induced any modifications or updates?
Suggestions from the riders that rode some or the entire route final summer time was invaluable in tweaking just a few sections of the route and for growing a extra complete itemizing of bike-friendly sources in communities alongside the way in which. One part in northern Idaho was severely washed out from flooding to the purpose of being probably unsafe for cyclists, so we re-routed that and have been in discussions with the native Forest Service recreation planner about potential options – they’re not planning to rebuild that street, however it’s the solely manner by way of the completely beautiful Cupboard Mountains. And in communities, the take a look at riders handed out informative postcards concerning the route, and that led to numerous affords from people and companies excited to assist future bikepackers on the route.
How lengthy would you count on a full journey of the WWR to take?
My greatest evaluation is that the majority riders will cowl between 40 and 70 miles per day, with the latter being a giant day within the saddle for a lot of this route given how a lot elevation acquire is included in lots of the segments. That day by day mileage interprets to 40 to 70 days of driving to cowl the complete size of the Wild West Route.