We’re very excited to offer a new U-EXPLORE course in the Spring of 2017, PRTL 1243, Introduction to Bikepacking. Instructed by the dream team of Natalie Randall and Dustin Randall of Roam Utah, the three-day course in the Abajo Mountains of Southern Utah will teach the fundamentals of bikepacking. And like all U-EXPLORE courses, curriculum will include public lands policy, conservation literacy, and minimum-impact travel techniques. You can view the syllabus here: 2016-prt-1243-introduction-to-bikepacking.
Bikepacking, as you’re likely aware, is off-road bicycle touring. Whereas traditional bicycle touring techniques and equipment are cumbersome, at best, for off-road and trail travel, new advances in equipment design allows for loads to be carried in handlebar bags, large seat packs, and frame packs. This allows for a more even distribution of loads and allows for mountain bikers to use dual suspension frames or fat bikes that don’t have the ability to mount pannier racks.
Bicycle trailers (ala the Bob trailer) worked well, for a while, but are unwieldily for a real backcountry experience. You can’t “shoulder” a bike with a trailer, so short obstacles turn into major ordeals as a cyclist would dismount and push a three-wheeled bike up and around technical sections. Without a trailer, bikepackers have a better opportunity for “cleaning” a technical section without dismounting, and if they do need to dismount, it’s much easier to walk through the obstacle.
Bikepacking opens up the imagination. Bikepacking is fast enough that cyclists can ride significantly farther than hikers can hike, opening up routes that are previously impossible (or unlikely). Like packrafting, it’s an activity that just made all of your backcountry maps even more interesting as you imagine link-ups and routes that previously were unattainable.
Bikepacking is not fast, though. Burdened with 30 pounds of camping gear, bikepackers typically average 6-8 miles an hour on dirt roads and non-technical singletrack. And speed really isn’t the point. The exploration is the point. Camping under the stars with no one else around you is the point. Getting super tired and super happy is the point. Eating tons of food that you cooked over an MSR Whisperlite is the point. Imagining new ways to experience public lands is the point.
The course meets at the pre-trip meeting at 6pm on March 6, and then the field program takes place April 21-23. If you’re looking for an opportunity for a healthy adventure right before the end of the semester, look no further. Dustin and Natalie have you covered in the Introduction to Bikepacking course.
Students can register for the course (PRTL 1243) by following this link.