XWA2017 700 Mile Cross Washington Mountain Bike Route – Bike and Gear Notes

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This is just a super nerdy blog post so I can remember exactly what I brought on my first bike packing race.  XWA17.  Cross-Washington Mountain Bike Route.   Sunday May 14th-Mon 22nd 2017.  600 miles in 9 straight days.  Had to Scratch in Rittsville due to numb hands (ugh which is normal but I’m a bike mechanic by trade so can’t go into full ulnar damage mode, been there, not again) lol.  Needless to say I learned an enormous amount about this type of event.  What to bring, what not to bring, when to ride, how long to ride, when to resupply etc etc.

I’ll start by breaking down how my bike was packed.

FRONT BAR ROLL SYSTEM:  14.8 lbs

  • Bike Bag Dude bar roll 11″x32″  Pretty good size.  Would only need one bigger for ultra winter events  .61lbs
  • Revelate Designs Harness with creaky spacers (I was too lazy to cover the contact points on my carbon bars so the hard rubber spacers creaked.  It would’ve been better to run without them though.  I like how the harness has an easy on off strap/buckle system for your front roll.  And it’s super secure.  .94lbs
  • Tent= Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 with XS and XXS Sea to Summit Ultra-sil compression dry dry bags (the XXS for a wet fly) Fully free standing.   2.97lbs
  • Sleeping Bag= Mountain Hardwear Mtn Speed 32deg Q Shield 850 down with Ultra Sil compression dry bag. Awesome super compressible and warm bag for it’s weight.  Comfortable down to 45 or 50 as is.  Then you can layer and wear down puffy and throw your jacket over the bag etc for extra warmth if needed  1.1lbs
  • Rain System= Marmot Super Mica (hand/arm holes are too tight and a pain to get jacket off with gloves on.  I’ll be replacing this jacket), REI element rain pants which I wore twice, Gore Tex sock covers,Sugoi shoe covers that I absolutely destroyed.  The toes want to flip up and over all the time while hiking and fill with snow but were better than nothing. Gore tex socks helped fill the little extra space in my shoes and didn’t get any blisters.   1.87lbs
  • Jetboil stove with canister and camp rope for food bag.  Still too much for this kind of event.  A smaller stove and ti cup alone would’ve been plenty.  It’s quite bulky in a bike pack kit.   1.47lbs
  • Sea to Summit compression dry bag with misc stuff= 3 pairs of trail socks and a pair of short wool socks that I wore under the longer trail socks for a snug, warm fit in my 1/2 size too big shoes, Two buckle straps to help secure the front load, REI knee warmers and REI skull cap for cold, ziplock with paper towel and camp towel for drying tent floor.   1.5lbs
  • Revelate Designs front bag thing.  Filled with :  Small deoderant, chamois butter, sunscreen, toothpaste, toothbrush, Tylenol, Ibu, Zantac, 2 pairs contacts and solution, ear plugs, lotion, TP and wet wipes, about 8 AA and 8 AAA Lithium batteries, Starbucks VIA, Throat coat and cough drops if I wake up with a sore throat from snoring all night in the cold 😉 , bug spray, small 1st aid kit and tape, bright Headlamp, Anker 26,800mh battery pack and wall charger and bear bangers for elk calving emergency charge if needed, or bears but unlikely.  Would only use in extreme case. The bag was great but unless it was completely packed full, stuff rattled around in it.  Super annoying.  I hate any sounds coming from my bike.    4.34 lbs

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FRONT TRIANGLE BAG:  7.07 lbs

  • Bike Bag Dude fully custom two zip with map pocket.  Can’t say enough about the process of working with BBD for custom bags.  Always fun and Pro.    1.05lbs
  • Ti coffee cup with tool bag containing:  chain/multi tool, waterproof matches, lighter, fire starter, 2oz stans bottle, small lube bottle, razor knife, shoe buckles and cleat with bolts, patch kit, chain links, thru axle end nut, 16oz Co2 and inflater, 2 tire levers, zip ties, extra Micro SD card, duct tape, one set of extra disc pads, sand paper square, Hayes pad spacer and presta to schrader converter for fast top offs at gas stations.  I’ve especially noticed the tubeless valves get super gunked up by Orange seal and become super hard to use a hand pump on.  I carried two extra fresh valves just in case but never needed them.  Tires and sealant worked stellar.  Zero issues.  I also have some fine ground rubber that can be added into the sealant if needed but didn’t bring it with this time.
  • Bike pump-Good ol trusty two stage Crank Bros mtn pump.  Might be time to update it though to a more modern version.
  • Neo Air sleeping pad (I totally understand why racers carry Z-rests now…blowing up a matress sucks in an event like this and prone to punctures on rocks but had zero issues.  Rolls up super compact and fits in triangle bag…keeping this “aero” and clean.
  • One spare tube in a protective nylon bag
  • 3- 2 serving backpacker meals for times too far from resupply.  I seriously hate these things though.  Too bulky and wasteful.  I’ll bring Ichiban’s next time for the few times I need it. Crushed into a ziplock to save space.  I ate one..and it was mediocre at best.  Always think I’ll be SO hungry they’ll be delicious but never the case lol…so many other good things to bring.
  • 3 breakfast granola/blueberry/powdered milk meals (ate 2 of the 3)  Good easy breakfast with cold water.  Just didn’t need 3.
  • Katadyn BeFree water filter (Tried over my Sawyer Mini….not sure about it yet other than the wide mouth water bag and feed rate are nice)  Super easy to fill in a narrow flat stream.  Bag is super soft and flexible and you can invert it inside out for super easy cleaning and drying-that’s realy cool.  Filter top doesn’t need to be backflushed like the mini with a syringe…you just swish it around.  Also they filter so fast that you don’t feel the need to fill multiple bags to take back to camp and spend all evening squeezing or gravity filtering…you can do it quickly at the stream.  great for racing.  Have you looked at these?  They look like a wad of hollow microw tubes shoved into a hole…no idea how it had micro filter ability?  Hmm…..I’m not dead yet though…I’ll give it another week haha.
  • 1 100g extra fuel canister, also overkill actually since I only made coffee 2x anyway.  They rest I grabbed on the road.
  • Ultra Sil day pack (for food/beer runs off the bike)  Never used it but so small..figured it wouldn’t hurt.  Could be good if I had to hike out somewhere for help, or gathering firewood or filling with water or

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REAR SEAT PACK:  4.16 lbs

  • Oveja Negra pack.  Kinda small.  I’d choose a larger size for sure.  18″x11″ tapered.  Hard to get on and off saddle otherwise has always worked well for me  .72 lbs
  • 1 dedicated XS Ultra Sil compression dry bag for sleep system:  Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer down jacket, beanie, ice breaker wool t, synthetic shorts, Smartwool socks.  -All for sleeping only if needed.   Was nice to know I had something clean and dry to sleep in..but that is more tour mode stuff I guess.  As days went on I slept in whatever I had on but that is not a good idea if you have saddle sores and use chamois butter…you gotta air out!
  • 1 XS Ultra Sil bag for extra clothes:  Button up tech shirt, extra cycling padded short, buff and extra pair of cycling socks.  Didn’t use extra shirt or buff…
  • SPOT tracker _(leashed it with a cord.  Was paranoid of loosing it)  Super easy to use and verify that it works.  Lasts nearly 6 full days running 18hrs a day on 4 AAA’s.  Very cool.

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TT garage bag and Chaff bags:  1lb

  • TT Bag/updated BBD version:  Smart phone, and various things depending on part of route (batteries, sunscreen, snickers, dry bag for phone, GPS and phone cables, headphones (which i never used)
  • Chaff Bags:  Two bags, one on either side.  Great for 1 L Dasani type bottles with tapered top.  They didn’t crowd out my stem mounted GPS and could be pulled out and put back in while riding.  Worked awesome.  I had a Nalgene but fit was too tight and you’d have to stop to pull it out….real pain-ended up giving it to someone at a gas station in Rock Island.  Whistle in the bottom of one of them for any weird call outs on route, emergency etc.  Sometimes I stuffed garbage below the bottles so it was easy to get to at resupply.

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That’s really it for “gear in bags”.  The rest is just what I wore most of the time:

  • Helmet with flashing LED rear light (next time I’d bring two-one on my helmet and one on left stay or seatbag)  I still think the battery version is best.  The USB ones can be tricky.  One they run out at night you have to charge them..doah.  That’s no good.
  • Garmin Etrex 20x GPS.  Was super underwhelmed by it at first but with the awesome base map I got from Gary it was great.  Zero issues in rain.  Would last 30hrs in full resolution/full display non stop on 2 AA’s.  I heard nothing but horror stories about touch screen ones.
  • Front USB 400 lumen light with flash mode (75g), super awesome.  Also lost it somewhere on day 8.  -Also lost my long Ti spoon lol…doah
  • High Vis lightweight vest….wore that thing till it hit 80’s then draped it over my rear seat pack where it would still be seen.  Was a good wind barrier too when chilly.
  • SPD Shimano mtn bike shoes. Last minute Ebay purchase that worked out great.
  • PI cycling baggie shorts (they actually ended up giving me “saddle sores” on my knees from all the wet rubbing since they were below the knee type) but not a deal breaker…
  • Padded cycling shorts
  • Either light cotton button up (which was awesome on east side despite being thin enough to burn my back lol) or a long sleeve tech T.  The cotton shirt stayed cool when it was super hot.
  • Ball cap, for low risk areas with no cars while hot or at rest spots to shade from sun
  • Bottle on Down Tube.   I affectionately call it the turd catcher.  Riding through cow/horse country you get the idea.  Used for emergency only.  A turd cover would’ve been handy like a bottle with extra flip top lid like Nalgene used to make or a bag or something.

BIKE with pedals: 21 lbs

  • Full custom “Gravel” bike built by yours truly from raw tubing.  Here’s a link to the build: https://www.flickr.com/photos/109733516@N07/albums/72157667350164585
  • 1×11 with SRAM Force cranks with direct mount 28t elliptical drop stop ring, gpx BSA threaded BB, XX1 10-42 XD driver cassette.  Worked awesome.  Geared any lower and I’d be walking anyway, geared high enough to keep 25 mph on rolly descents.   Super simple and pretty much trouble free.
  • SRAM hydraulic Brakes
  • 3T Team Leuteus II fork with room for 2.3/650b tires.
  • FSA wing aero Kforce carbon bar.  Was really nice with palm support (without it I’m sure my hands would’ve failed hundreds of miles sooner.
  • Normal kit stuff beyond that.  See pics of build.

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Total bike with gear and emergency food weight:  27 gear weight plus 21 bike= 48lbs.  

  • Food and water fluctuated depending on resupply but averaged 3 liters of water on the east side and lots of food from gas stations etc.

What would I do different or other notes:

  • I can see why racers leave full tents behind and do an ultralight bivy.  By the time you need to sleep for a few hours you’d sleep on a dung pile so who cares, you’re literally exhausted.  Even easy tents are a pain to set up and take down wet.  Bivy’s are fast and light but they are a pain to have to tarp if you can’t find shelter-maybe integrating into bike works.   Otherwise they were getting hotels which are MAJOR bumps to morale and ability to get in and out refreshed faster.  And allowing things to dry and clean up, charge stuff etc.
  • I’d probably race this particular route on a hardtail mountain bike with a lightweight fork and 2.8 29er plus tires.  I think it would add just that little extra control and cush.  My bike however was awesome and super proud of it.  It killed  Colockum Pass at night on drop bars with zero issue.  I rode 27.5 plus on the 300 mile JWPT trip a few years back and it was super comfy.
  • Front triangle bag has to be packed smarter.  Too much stuff in bottom caused crank rub and tore a hole in the bag.  Another reason to have a 73mm/mtn Q factor crank for bag clearance.  Maybe the bag should taper down if you use it on a road bike with narrow Q.
  • Rear Bag was too small.  It’s always been too small for big trips.  Great for day stuff only.  I’ll be updating that soon!
  • Dynamo Hub is key.  I ended up with a bad SP dynamo hub that caused all kinds of wheel issues that I had to bail on it last minute.  Super disappointing to say the least.  I’ll be investing in a SON ASAP. Absolutely no other option for me now.  I carried  an Ankers newest most powerful for it’s size 26,800mh pack with me that was great but recharge time was so long and it was super heavy for it’s output.  My other Ankers may have been better.  Problem is if you use it up and don’t stay at a hotel you’re screwed.  It was good for 5 full phone charges and two or three light recharges between charging which is great considering…but still I’d rather had a dynamo hub.  Solar may be an option…but sun is never guaranteed.  We didn’t see it for the first 5 days.
  • Need to try to not load up the front end as much.  Too much weight on the bars kills your upper body.  I was OK on weight but can see where I needed to cut to make it lighter.  Handling was still great due to bag being low and just over the tire.
  • A fork that has bottle cage ability is key.  I knew this going into this but didn’t have time to change things out.  The fork I did have was awesome for what it was.  Super light and room for mtn bike tires while maintaining a low ATC.
  • Don’t overdo the extra clothes. They all get wet and smell like shit.  No sense in carrying extra wet crap.  I made that mistake.  I’d keep to one good cold/hot shirt and one pair of shorts and two pairs of socks and that’s it.  Clothes eventually dry out if you keep wearing them lol.  Super good idea on the east side to wash your shirt and outer shorts/socks with soap and just wear them into the day…will keep you cool and clean.
  • Only made coffee 2x and only boiled water for food once even though we camped 5 times.  I can see cutting out the jetboil and just having a super small stove and cup.  Would be perfect.  Did learn about beef broth bouillon paste for drinks which was cool, thanks Bob! And Ian’s pizza and hashbrown ball….ask me about them.
  • Chaff bags were awesome.  They almost acted as steering dampers too and kept front wheel from flopping when leaned up on stuff….very cool.
  • I still hate everything about the Down Tube bottle.  Seriously, I’d have to be dying to drink out of that and it got in the way of portaging issues.  I still need to think harder about that thing.  It’s good to have in a pinch I guess.  Maybe a better use of that area would be tool kit, spare tube bottle that rarely gets used and you don’t have to drink it haha.
  • Going without a backpack was priceless for this type of event.   So glad I built a kit that could make that happen this time.  Now for more casual trips I have room in a pack for that chair, more food and more beer.  Works perfect.  Win-Win for sure.
  • Getting up EARLY and riding late into the night is key.  Plus it’s much cooler, quieter and more efficient use of time and less people out and about-stealth mode.  I can see how races are won that way.  I really enjoyed night riding.  We even discussed napping during the day to kill a few of the hottest hours.
  • Agree that I need to try a bivy/tarp system for racing, otherwise I’d stay with an UL tent for comfort.  I like to be able to sit up.   I have a bivy, just need to get an ultra sil tarp that I can hang from the bike or other things around.
  • For super remote sections, a paper topo map and compass should be in your kit.  I know a lot of racers carry two GPS units -in addition to smart phone GPS capability (as they are small and light) but still-you just never know what might happen.  GPS tracks DO go wrong in some cases and we experienced that first hand and had to do a very rough section that others skipped even though it was on route on a current track.  Lost on a ridge at 3am would be no fun.  Also make sure all your Ride With GPS app routes are backed up and downloaded for offline use.  I also set up my phone with the Backcountry Navigator app and have the offline Google Maps of our areas downloaded (they are good for 30 days,then Google deletes them off your phone).  I normally carry a Delorme InReach satellite GPS unit that has two-way sat text/sos capability that is super handy.  That was with my wife on this trip as she was alone on some hikes, but a super handy tool to have.  I take it and keep it active on ALL my rides.  If a rescue needs to be called in you can actually text with the rescuers-vs-just hitting the OH SHIT SOS button and hoping for the best.
  • So much more…..I’ll keep editing as I think of stuff

DAILY RIDE TIMES:

  1. LaPush to Log Lake Crescent 7am-9pm 14hrs
  2. LCR to Port Angeles 7am-3pm 8hrs
  3. Port Angeles to Quilcene 7am-8pm 13hrs
  4. Quilcene to Lynwood 8am-8pm 12hrs
  5. Lynwood to Hyak 7am-1am 18hrs
  6. Hyak to Wenatchee East 8am-8am 24hrs
  7. Wenatchee to Douglass Creek 10am-9pm 11hrs
  8. Douglass Creek to Potholes 9am-10pm 13hrs
  9. Potholes to Rittsville 9am-8pm 11hrs 

TOTAL RIDE TIME=124 HOURS OVER 9 STRAIGHT DAYS

Here’s an interesting, well written perspective of the race from a leader in the fast pack.  https://obscurus11.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/migrating-east-on-the-cross-washington-mountain-bike-route/comment-page-1/#comment-50

That’s all I have at the moment.  I’d love to hear feedback from others on what works for them for “racing” type bikepacking.  I have the RVB thing down.  All good there so don’t need tips with that really….just curious what people add or leave out of their kit and why.   

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Save The John Wayne Pioneer Trail!

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By now most of you who are familiar with the trail are aware that there are some politics behind an attempt to close the trail by giving away 135 miles of the eastern section at no cost to the adjacent landowners.  Representative Joe Schmick and Representative Mary Dye (while it sounds like Mary had very little involvement in this bill) inserted a last minute provision into the state’s capital budget without any public announcement or input.  When questioned about it, he stated that he did not want to waste the time of his fellow legislators in such a trivial matter.  Seriously?  When was the last time we’ve ever heard of 6,000 acres of PUBLIC land being given away to landowners for free in near secrecy?

The ONLY thing that stopped this from squeaking by at the time was a typo in the bill that read “Columbia River to Columbia River” instead of “Columbia River to Malden”. Yikes.  What an interesting thing to have happened.  It’s such an odd error and we’re thankful that it happened.  The stretch from Beverly at the Columbia to Malden is easily my favorite from the trip.  Probably in part that I live on the west side and I’m surrounded by the mountains,trees and green.  This eastern section is really none of that.  For those reasons it sure brings out the adventurous side in you when you travel that stretch.  It is full of geology.  It’s a fantastic way to see a part of the state you’d never see from a car doing that very (imo) boring ride to Spokane once you hit the river.  It’s an opportunity to safely travel by horse, foot, bicycle into an area that has spotty to no cell reception, away from the rest of the world.

Public Meeting – Ellensburg

Needless to say this issue with closing the trail has brought together a lot of folks who are in support of the trail who otherwise wouldn’t have had much interaction together.  Ted Blaszak, Tekoa city council member and leader of the Tekoa Trail & Trestle Association was one of the first to start raising awareness of what was going on behind closed doors.  I paraphrase some of Ted’s comments in this post.  Ted and Rep. Schmick created a committee that would kick off the first public meeting about this in Tekoa, which was pretty wild west and heated I hear.  From there they agreed on three more public meetings.  One in Rosalia, one in Lind and the final one in Ellensburg.  I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Ellensburg meeting with my wife and friend Randy (who was on the trip with me) and some others we know that were there.

Over 200 people attended and it had 37 speakers.  I learned quite a bit about about the power of the public’s voice and this process.  The concerns of the local landowners seem to be very small issues if you ask me in the grand scheme of things.  Key points mentioned were problems with weed control, fencing, trash “dumping”, vandalism, illegal hunting and fire danger.  Many of these concerns are easily remedied with even small funding and volunteer work or not preventable by simply closing the trail.  It’s not being done now because no one knows it needs to be done.  Getting in proper gating so you can’t drive directly onto the trail and weed control are all manageable.  I struggle to see where vandalism and serious illegal activity is happening as a direct result of the trail being there to the point that it is affecting the livelihood or safety of the locals.  The only trash I saw dumped was on private property in Malden….which was not directly off the trail…more of a personal junk yard of sorts.  I can guarantee you these washers and driers and old fishing boat carcasses were not carried in by horse or bicycle….or hikers.  I agree with others that some more regular activity on the trail will significantly reduce illegal behavior, self-policing in a way.

Many passionate people spoke at the meeting.  Some of them who had attended the other two meetings as well.  There was a broad range of types of speakers.  From soft spoken and reasonable and interested in a solution benefiting everyone involved to a local resident of Pine city stating that they would prefer to be left alone.  That’s one of the main reasons they live there, that and to run an agriculture business that provides food for our state and beyond.  They don’t need more industry or visitors.  It’s a factory.  This I totally get.  I rode through Pine City (which isn’t actually a town, has a population of maybe a dozen or less).  I fully understand why people live in these towns and like their privacy.  By the time you get to Pine City as a cyclist, you have about zero interest in hanging around though since there is nothing there.  It’s literally listed as a ghost town.  This person did not have a single positive word to say about cyclists.

Genuinely, I’m very curious what specific issues she has encountered with two wheelers?.  I can’t think of a group of people, other than hikers who are extremely active in trail maintenance, advocacy and leave no trace ethics.  Even horses leave huge ruts in the trail that makes the trail very hard to bicycle over, let alone walk your dog on.  Theft?  Unlikely…I nearly cut the handle off my tooth brush to save weight so I can guarantee you adding anything more to my kit was not an option lol.   We spent money in every town we traveled through.

Only TWO very outspoken landowners spoke that I noticed.  Two out of nearly two hundred.  Something tells me there is something not completely true when it comes to the overall concerns that these landowners are facing.  Why are only two speaking up?  Because they stand to benefit the most from the free land that runs through their property, in some cases 6 miles splitting their land would be my humble guess.  How many folks were contacting Schmick about all these huge issues that got him to draft legislation in the first place?  Are these letters available for the public to read?  It’s amazing how easily and quickly something like this could’ve snuck by but reversing it is a monumental task.

The folks who spoke in favor of the trail ALL offered suggestions for how they could help, what could be done and how to go about fixing the issues.  I was very disappointed to see that neither of the two speakers against the trail offered up suggestions on HOW to fix the problems.  All they offered were some of the issues as the trail passes their land and that closing the trail was the ONLY  possible outcome.  It was hard to not immediately write them off as participants in the blatant land grab.  Sorry but that pissed me off.

Still reading?  Interested in what you can do to help support this trail?

What YOU Can Do to Help Save the Trail

Check out the current Social Media outlets with ongoing discussion and share the pages:

Write them in your own words expressing the need to keep the trail public and need for better funding for maintenance and upgrades.  Touch on what makes the trail unique to WA and stress the need for proper funding to alleviate the concerns of the landowners and trail enthusiasts as well).  This info is all available by contacting the Tekoa Trail & Trestle Association here.

You can also contact your WA city government to pass a resolution in support of the trail similar to those of Tekoa,Spokane,Palouse, Colfax and as of 11/24/15, Cle Elum.

This trail is the longest rail to trail conversion in the country.  It is also only one of two cross state trails in the country.  With a little work, you can cross the entire state by bicycle starting at the coast and riding the Olympic Discovery Trail route, take a quick ferry boat ride across Puget Sound and cross through Seattle on the Burke Gilman Trail and connect to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail that drops you off to the start of the John Wayne.  Continuing on past Tekoa and through western Idaho.

This is something we should all be proud of.  It’s in our history books and park of our heritage.  Fight to keep it open for future generations to enjoy.

Feel free to follow my journey on the entire trail starting with day 1 Here