WA High-Lite 2022 journal/notes


October 1st, 2022 was the Inaugural grand depart for Troy’s fall 310+ mile bikepacking route called the WA High-Lite. Over 22,000′ of elevation gain.  Here is the route:  https://ridewithgps.com/routes/40194737

Here was Troy’s tracker he made:  https://www.bandok.com/livetracker?id=24&fbclid=IwAR3kgotxdJt8FAi7vYEJ9DLjaGXZOjipIMG12vR7kw5w38hdKZhgmNhqMoI

This came about for a few reasons. The main ones I’m aware of is it gives XWA racers a chance to ride the “High Route” portion of the XWA which may or may not be melted out and logged out enough to be passable for the XWA grand depart in May and gives you a taste of the Lite version of the XWA that employs the newly completed railroad trestles to cross the Columbia river.

This year (and some previous years) the “high route” still had too much snow at elevation (the high route reaches nearly 6000′ elevation).  This portion of the XWA was an original part of the XWA but we’ve always had to do the “Colockum Alternate” which now looks like a road ride in Nebraska compared to the High Route.  It veers off the PTCT and rolls past Cle Elum into Roslyn and then up to Cle Elum Ridge on beautiful single-track.  From there it drops into the Teanaway Community Forest briefly before climbing up towards Red Top Mountain Lookout area on Teanaway Ridge.  It then descends down to Highway 97 before climbing all the way up to a viewpoint below Mission Peak.  Just when you think your agony is over, the route drops down the abandoned road that parallels  Devils Gulch.  At the bottom you start a soul sucking climb back up the Peavine Canyon/Number 2 Canyon area before a much needed rippin’ fast descent down into Wenatchee.  That is the “High” in High-Lite.   The views are amazing and the challenge is real.  This “High Route” section from Cle Elum to Wenatchee is nearly 80 miles and 12,000′ of elevation gain.  Sound fun?  It really is but you’ll have to dig deep.  Some folks did it in one day.  Our touring pace required two days to get to Wenatchee but we only rode during daylight hours for various reasons.

The “Lite” part of High-Lite is an easier version of the XWA in this central WA area now possible due to the re-construction of the Beverly Railroad Bridge and the Renslow Trestle over I90.  It’s a way to cross the Columbia without having to cross the mountains into Wenatchee.  This is a faster, more gravel bike oriented route.  The Beverly Railroad Bridge is a 1/2 mile long bridge that was burned up in a fire in 2014.  This completed section was monumental in many ways.  You can read about its history here:  https://palousetocascadestrailmaps.com/beverly-bridge.html

You can read about the Renslow Trestle here: https://washingtongravelriding.home.blog/2021/04/29/the-renslow-trestle/

Both of these Trestles made crossing the Columbia River possible.  Before these were repaired, you’d have to take an alternate route around the Renslow Trestle and to get over the Columbia you’d have to organize a shuttle or risk your life riding on the highway…..that was a dead stop for most folks as there is no shoulder.  You might be able to pull it off at 3am with a tailwind but even then it’s sketchy.  Years ago when Randy and I rode the entire John Wayne trail to Idaho (now called the Palouse to Cascades Trail/PTCT) we dreamed up stashing pack rafts and crossing by boat and then retrieving the stashed away packrafts at a later date.  Thankfully that is not necessary anymore.  The High-Lite is a challenging late summer/early fall ride where views and trail conditions are very different than spring for better or worse depending on what seasons you like the most.  It’s a really cool way to see some of the fall colors in central WA and test your mettle.  You could get nice clear/calm/warm fall days or snow, rain, high winds depending on your luck.  We got the warm,calm, sunny perfect days thankfully.  I was actually a bit warm most days and was hoping for some clouds and cool breezes but was also happy to stay warm and dry (minus the gallons of sweat).

So that is the idea behind the route and some of its history.  I don’t normally post about the routes in detail in these blog posts because they are just a journal of random bike/gear notes for myself but I’ll start by giving a little route overview with little bits of beta here and there and share some of my favorite pics I took along the route.

The “Grand Depart” was 8am on October 1st at the start of the Coal Mines Trail in Cle Elum.  I have the luxury of it being about 60 seconds away from our house here in Cle Elum.  The night before a few of us gathered at the house and grilled out and shared stories.  The next morning I thought it would be a fun idea to make breakfast for the folks who camped at the house and some of the folks we allowed to park here for the duration of the race.  Even with an early start on the grill the pace picked up as people were arriving and it became a bit of a frantic hustle to deal with the food, house, guests and my own gear before we had to shut the house down and roll.  I think I’ll forgo the food part if we do this again and just let everyone do their own thing that way we can get down to the start without having to rush.  It all worked out fine and we all got there in time for a group pic for once!  (Some of us missed the group pic for this years XWA because we were too chatty and messing around back at camp haha…sorry Troy).  Thanks Jessica for the great group shot!

Right at 8am sharp the call to roll out was ushered and everyone shot out of the gate like bullets.  There was a really good turnout for an inaugural race, 23!  Dust was flying….meanwhile I was in a casual pace at the back trying to keep from not blowing up and sucking in the dusty air……quickly reminding myself that an “off the couch” bikepacking event was NOT a good idea given the days ahead of us even though I had some excuses (dislocated shoulder etc).  The reality is that I had no excuse and was just going to have to get after it and try to keep moving.  Randy and I had determined well in advance that we were going to do this route in “party pace” and carry full touring gear so there wasn’t any stress of racing etc.  We immediately were gapped by the super fast riders off the front, almost comically.   We had to keep in mind many of the racers in front of us were in full race mode, on gravel bikes with the most minimal kits you’ve ever seen (some with no sleep kits etc). And were talking folks who have just raced the Tour Divide and Smoke N Fire placing in top spots fast.   The Roslyn crew put on quite a show for us coming through town with some cheering (Deanna and Irena’s pose I believe), a guy in a painters suit dancing (I think that was Daniel?) and various funny carboard signs with “encouraging” statements on them.  I loved it haha.  My kind of people.

Glenn from https://www.rideroslyn.com/ rode with us a bit as we climbed up “Ewok” towards Cle Elum ridge.  This was our first climb of the route and thankfully was a nice grade on buff local and familiar single-track.  Thanks Roslyn crew for the cheering squad and excitement.  It would be the last we’d see for 300 miles haha.

My body was in shock mode as we started climbing out of town.  It’s pretty  normal for me to train myself into these events as the days go on.  I get stronger and stronger each day but the first few days are hard. Digesting that breakfast burrito just minutes before didn’t help either.   This route really dishes out some huge elevation gain right out of the gate too.  We had a great chat with Glenn on the way up the ridge and then dropped down into the Teanaway Community Forest trails under the cool, but slowly warming skies.  Views were a bit clouded by wildfire smoke but still pretty good.  The route utilizes the BST trail which is always a winner, even when it’s dry and blown out.  Randy posing for the shot (he’s actually riding the route backwards here for the photo op 😉 Here’s a great video on the geological past of the Teanaway Community Fortest.  Thanks Shiggy for the link.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uiG5lMSRu4

It’s now game on….things are moving and our tires are on dirt and were leaving the comfort of town.   The excitement is building towards completing this new route and getting an official legit finish.  The route briefly drops into the TCF before heading up FSR 9702.  This is a really nice stretch of road with great gravel/dirt and meadows.  It does deliver some hefty climbs though as you get closer to Red Top.  (Yes, the same area as Red Top lookout area.  Also a great place to find agates there in the rockhounding areas if you’re into that sorta thing.  I have a really cool one I found and had 1st Creek Rock shop cut it in half for me on their lapidary diamond saw).

If you time it right, when you drop down to 97 you can hit up a re-supply at the little store there at the Mineral Springs camp area right off the highway.  We got there just as the woman working there was about to close up.  She appeared to maybe be the owner.  As we were buying snacks the woman asked about the “women behind us” and wanted to make sure she stayed open for them but she had to leave and close early for a wedding.  Randy, thinking ahead bought a gallon of water and tucked it off the side of the trail for them knowing they would probably just miss this re-supply spot.

There is water to be filtered all the way up this route but doing chores is always a pain.  Thanks Randy for that kind “trail angel” gesture.  There was LOTS of climbing ahead of us but really wasn’t as bad as I’d expected or remembered.  I had to walk quite a few of the steeper sections but started to get my legs higher up.

We were filtering water a ways up and ran into Keri and Annie.  They had indeed just missed the re-supply as they watched the shop owner drive away but they did see the water Randy left for them.  We all rode together for a short bit before deciding to just call it a night and camp.  I took a great nap there on a rock and woke up to the moon rising above us.  My phone can capture a pretty cool image of the moon somehow on super zoom.


We all woke up at daylight after a terrible nights sleep (for me atleast) and got packed up and rolling.  I was greeted to a pretty cool view during a nature break before we left.

The route is pretty melow at this point and just gentle climbing on really nice gravel.  Lots of great views and some late turning Larch trees.

Things do get harder after you pass the viewpoint for Mission Ridge however and there’s more up and down.   You expect to start descending from that high point but the route isn’t done with you just yet.

After a fun descent down the old abandoned road that parallel’s Devils Gulch, we were greated with what was called “a soul sucking climb” lol.  And was before seeing the 4″ of moon dust.  This climb was not rideable once we hit the moon dust sand dune of a climb.  Pretty memorable.

We all survived and even ran into the one and only Al Murphy.  He was the gentleman in the mini excavator.  I learned about Al from a guy I worked with doing trail work on the Mad River trail in the Entiat this spring.  Al was the one who taught him to operate like a boss.  I get to work with this person again next week so pretty excited about all that.  Just a chance encounter with someone I heard a LOT about.  Very nice guy.

From here we had a great ride down into Wenatchee where we split off from Keri and Annie.  We got  a hotel and immediately went out in search of food.  We hit up the casino restaurant next door to the hotel and had an amazing burger and a few beers. The hotel was right off the trail too so super convenient and easy.   So good.  Got back to the hotel and updated our gear and tried to get a good nights sleep.

The next morning, since we got the hotel we decided we’d get up early around 4:30am and hit the road while it’s calm and dark, forgetting it’s actually rush hour on the highway there heading towards Rock Island so it was a bit noisy.  But the shoulder is wide and not a huge deal really.    Our re-supply would be the gas station just before the big Rock Island Grade road climb.  There we’d pick up some extra stuff for dinner that night on the trail and max out our water supply as it’s a long dry and hot/sunny stretch from there until you hit the lower Douglas Creek area.  Even that water has to be suspect for filtering given all the agriculture and cows etc in the area.  However, I’m still alive to tell this story.

The Rock Island Grade is a fairly long switch back climb up and away from the valley.  It’s a very nice road.  The first part is the steepest then it starts to mellow out a tad.  Along the way we ran into a rancher who stopped to say hi and tell us some stories of rescuing someone who had a wheel problem by taking them down into Wenatchee or something to that effect.  Very nice guy though.

Once you hit the “top” there is a long stretch of ups and downs while you make your way north.  The gravel is not terrible and has some nice spots to ride in if you hunt around.  You can see cars coming for miles so it’s pretty safe too.  Once you get up to the Duffy Creek Rec Site area you’re reaching the end and top before you get to drop down to Douglas Creek.  You can camp in there behind the gate at Duffy Creek to btw if you end up here at night.  (The rest leading up to this spot feels like it’s all private farm land).  https://www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/files/brochures/duffy_douglas.pdf?fbclid=IwAR34GKsLqJSYG4iQ1ntgeR9RiWRsDzwJcRyT-XDGrYxryjc7WfO9RWkvToY

That area could use some more exploration to see if you can connect over via Duffy Creek.  That could be a good alternate for the XWA if Troy leaves out the new upper Douglas Creek Rail trail from the XWA.  It’s a very rough section requiring a ton of hike-a-bike.  But it’s so pretty and worth it.  I found a cool link to some history on the railroad that used to run through there. It was called the Mansfield Branch Line.  100’s of now and then pics here in this link:  https://ndarrin97.blogspot.com/search/label/Bridge%20%2325?fbclid=IwAR1rF7PVMCu8KG6lh4CwAqMj3cdiQ4zfXuWOqgE806LqQExhKPBlZNfMSNc

After 7 miles of that rail trail you end up at the lower Douglas Creek area which has it’s own set of challenges like creek crossings etc. You can walk them, or choose to ride through them all like I did but then there’s the risk of crashing or popping a tire.  I live dangerously so NBD.  Ha! It was one spot where my 29×2.4 rear and 29×2.6 front tire came in real handy.   But then you end up at Douglas Creek Falls which is super cool! We sat there and enjoyed the shade and filtered water and didn’t want to leave.  We had this entire place to ourselves so it was extra nice and relaxing.

From here you climb out of Douglas Canyon/Palisades area and start working your way towards Ephrata.  You’re not out of the woods yet though once you hit the Palisades.  You start a new set of climbs up and over the ridge before dropping into Davis Canyon just before Ephrata.  I really enjoyed that section.  It wasn’t a slog like I remember it and had great views.  The drop into Ephrata though is always nice..super fast!!

Once in Ephrata we re-supplied again.  We were refilling our bottles by the gallon from here on out.  We were both feeling pretty good at this point.  We’d worked out some bugs in gear/bikes and fitness.  Day 3 or 4 of any bikepacking trip is kinda when I start to get that grove going and things are settling in and feeling good.  From here you roll out of Ephrata and it’s a pretty easy ride from there all the way to Moses Lake.  A nice long ranch road with no traffic and then some backroads into town.  The ORV area in Moses Lake is not a super fun spot but it’s not terrible either.  Just depends on what day and time you roll through so keep that in mind.  Sat afternoons are probably NOT recommended….learned that the hard way on the XWA the 1st year.  Yikes .  Moses Lake has a brand new Loves truck stop on route which is pretty nice.

We did an 85 mile push to Othello from Douglas Creek.  It was a pretty long hot day with about 25 miles of the route having to be a re-route around the new closed Columbia Wildlife area.  Bummed we didn’t get to ride there as I heard it was a “top 5 most beautiful spots I’ve ever ridden” place…and that’s saying a lot from who told me.  This involved a re-route on paved roads to Warden and then gravel into Othello.  By the time we hit Othello we just wanted a hotel and a spot to re-supply food and get dinner and all that.  We had an awesome front desk gal help us out that evening with all the info and also into the next morning.  Such a good feeling to get someone like that when you’re exhausted.  Turns out a few of us all got the same lady and she took good care of us.  Her name was Sharon.

One of the interesting things we experienced when riding into Othello was in all of the dips in the road the air would get super cold….like 10 or 15 degrees cooler.  It was super wild.  Warm,cold,warm, cold and so on.  There must’ve been some warm low inversion or something just over the tops of the fields.

The next morning we rolled out of Othello and on some rolling pavement before hitting the Crab Creek area which is super pretty.  Again, super smooth gravel and very little traffic if any.  We had a local from Smyrna stop and chat us up and that was about it.  Very nice guy with his family in the truck.  They just wanted someone to chat with I think.  It’s a pretty lonely place out there.

The The beauty in this stretch was pretty endless even though it was super smoky.  The smoke didn’t really bother us though at all.  We rolled into Beverly and re-supplied at the gas station there then rolled out to find a place to crash out for our last night.  We found a great spot.

I think I got my best nights sleep that night.  Probably knowing we just had one more day to go to finish.  In the morning we topped off some water at the water station the Army Training Center runs..thankfully it was open and working.  
We knew there was a long day ahead of us climbing the Army Training Center part of the PTCT.  It turned out to be a super pleasant ride, nice rideable grade and very few soft/rocky spots.  We also had almost NO wind and pleasant temps….that was pretty amazing.  Sometimes you can get hellacious headwinds through those railroad cuts and soul sucking heat.

We arrived back in Cle Elum after 6 days.  Two nights in a hotel and 3 nights camping.  I’d consider our trip a “hustling tour pace”, riding all day from sunup to sundown basically with no side trips or long breaks.  Or “Sport tour” as Jason called it haha.  Overall a great experience.  I think if I did it again I’d want to try racing it and riding into the night like I’ve done in previous races.  Each day you add out on the trail compounds into it’s own type of wear and tear on you and your gear.  It was nice to do a tour with an old friend and get a legit “finish” to a bikepacking event.  That’s always motivational.  Thanks to Jessica and our dogs for showing up at the finish to greet us!  It was nice to have a little cheering/barking squad at the end.

As for gear notes, I kept notes along the way on my phone of things I’d change or update or look into etc.  I won’t post any nerdy weights of things this time as I have multiple posts with all that stuff in it.  I bring pretty much the same stuff each trip now.  It just comes down to what bike I’m riding, what pace, how far, what weather and all that.  I broke my notes into categories that had me thinking the most.

Bike setup and components

  • Make sure shifting is dialed AFTER you pack your bike.  Give it some good test ride time to make sure there are no kinks in the cable housing.  No better time to do it then before the race and in the comfort of your own home/shop.
  • Same goes for brakes and general tune stuff.  Go over the bike and make sure everything is going to be as trouble free over the entire route as possible.  I’d start with new brake pads, new chain/cassette and make sure you don’t have any lose bolts.  Also make sure everything is accessible to be worked on after it’s packed.
  • Bikepacking bikes are not to be overlooked for wanting higher end components.  This is when you really need the reliability of quality gear.  Treat yourself to nice stuff.  Use the older stuff with wear during training.
  • I ran 29×2.4 rear, and 29×2.6 front.  Maxxis Recons.  I’d say they were fine for tour mode but they were a LOT of tire to roll on this route and the benefits of them in some areas really didn’t outweigh their drawbacks on everything else.  2.2’s are plenty.  Just make sure you load them with Stans….lots of stans.  And carry extra incase you get in goathead hell.  We got lucky and only had a few but fast sealing thorns thanks to a re-freshed tubeless setup.  Do not try and run only tubes on this route…you’ll regret it quickly.
  • I ran standard cages on my Whiskey fork but should’ve swapped out for larger Anything cages and larger bottles.  Small bottles are a pain to have to keep refilling.
  • Bring extra chain lube.  We used a lot on this route.
  • I need to update my chain link/quick links too to make sure I have an extra chain link section and two or more 12 speed quick links.  I never needed them but when you do you have to have them or you lose your lowest gear if you run 1x.  I only had one set and it kinda made me nervous

Frame Bags

  • I ran a new Revelate front triangle bag and it was night and day better than old custom bag I had made 12 years ago.  It supported a higher volume so easily.  Nice easy to use zippers and the “map” pocket on the other side was perfect for my cords and battery etc.

The feed bags however creaked the entire ride, as did my rear seat bag.  I keep managing to not fix this.  It’s pretty annoying so I need to update some things there to fix that.  It just comes down to rapping the creeky bits in some gaffer tape or friction tape to break the rubbery squeak.  No big deal just keep forgetting to do that.

Electronics management

  • This is one area where I’m constantly trying to update.  This time I moved my Wahoo into a spot where I could use it well and also run the charger cable from my dynamo to it.   During the XWA I had it on the factory out front mount and you could not plug in the cable while it was mounted.
  • The dynamo worked great.  I used it to keep the Wahoo and Inreach topped off.  It doesn’t supply enough power to charge my huge phone but that’s OK.  A powerbank and a hotel stop here and there keep that all going fine.  If I rode at night I’d had my Fenix light with pre-charged batteries too.
  • A 3 or 4 port fast 45 W charger would be ideal to bring so you can charge everything in one shot from one outlet.  I had all kinds of cords and extra batteries I didn’t need.  I have range anxiety with my electronics but slowly getting over that fear.
  • All electronic stuff in one place was handy (map pocket of frame bag)
  • I also need to mount my Inreach in a better spot.  There’s no need to have it accessable really, just needs to be in clear view of the sky so you can’t mount it anywhere really
  • I use safety/keeper straps on everything so I don’t lose them which is handy when you lay the bike over or whatever.

Sleep kit

  • I really enjoyed using our super light Nemo tent.  It comes in fully packed at just over 1.5lbs, with rain fly/poles etc.  It’s crazy light but not sketchy light.  It’s very usable.  I don’t think I could ever chose a bivy over that thing now.  Maybe if I had to “stealth” camp more but even then….
  • I need to update my mattress.  I’ve been using this terrible old one that is super small and uncomfortable….all in the name of weight and space.  But a good mattress if you’re going to camp and try to get real sleep is key. I’d leave other things at home to make room for a good mattress.

Body Care

  • I’m really bad and keeping up with the personal hygiene stuff when out touring.  It just seems exhausting to have to do certain things so I usually let them slide, then pay the price for it later.
  • Keeping the rear end clean with baby wipes and using A&D ointment at night to prevent saddle sores is key.  I got quite a few of them but thankfully they never bothered me.
  • I’m never going to be able to not sweat, so the key with me is going to have to be using a lot of Chamois cream to keep the friction down in the saddle area.


  • I’ve never drank so much water while on a ride in my life.  We were drinking a couple of gallons of water a day.  Filtering where ever we could and buying water everywhere.  I drank non-stop it felt.  Same with food.  We could eat anything we wanted.
  • Need to update my supply of electrolyte tablets.  I cramped up a lot the first few days but the tablets helped a ton.  I’m sure I was just dehydrated going into the event, then body was in shock.
  • Bigger bottles are key.  Don’t bother with the small ones.



The end 🙂


XWA 2022 La Push,WA to Cle Elum,WA Gear and notes


Back in February I bucked up and decided I should really give the XWA another go. A 5 year anniversary of sorts. My first attempt at the XWA was the inaugural year back in 2017 https://wordpress.com/post/fernwehnw.com/354 This year’s attempt was basically an “off the couch” attempt with minimal training due to my late decision to race and limited options here at home due to high snow levels. All in all, I feel like I put down one of my biggest efforts on the bike. I reached all my daily goals in good spirits and also some stretch goals. My primary goal this year was to ride “solo”. Basically with no regular riding partner/teammate. You do run into some of the same folks along the route day to day in re-supply areas and camp spots and that is unavoidable. My second goal was to spend more time riding into the night if possible or getting an earlier start, basically just longer days. This is not always easy to do when you hit a campground right at nightfall and riding into the unknown is awkward because you may have to “stealth” camp somewhere not ideal. I’m not a fan of night riding solo for the obvious reasons. Bigfoot and the Boogieman of course. Once darkness hits the mind starts running and you hear things you’d rather not, like the bloodcurdling screaming call of a coyote 50′ from the trail you’re on that you have to ride up to and past. In 4 days I made it to my hometown of Cle Elum after two long night time pushes into the darkness. All of this while battling a really bad case of poison oak I picked up on a bikepacking trip the week before the start of the race. That was (and still is as of writing this) a huge drag, physically and mentally. I have it all over my legs, arms, chest etc. The rash turns into incredibly itchy boils that just seem to never stop itching. The treatments for the itching eventually angered my skin and even made some of it worse by tacking on other contact dermatitis type rashes from the Caladryl. I must have transferred oils from my boots around by handling them each day to my clothing. What a sick joke mother nature played on me. Well done, well done. I’m still proud I pushed through it each day with pretty strong motivation and good spirits. I learned a TON and will be back again….

The details of the XWA can be found in three main pages: http://crosswashington.weebly.com/logistics.html



I tend to do these types of blog posts just for a place to catalog all my gear notes and thoughts I’ve recorded along the way. Eventually to put together a better kit and experience the next time. I know people like to see exactly what people brought with them and why. I know I do 😉 I don’t really explain the actual route much. That part is up to you to discover when you line up next year 😉

I’ll start with my bike choice this year. All the frames I ride are handbuilt by myself. I’ve been building frames as an amateur for nearly 10 years now. I took the very first frame I built with Paul Brodie up in Canada in “Framebuilding 101” and reworked the frame last year to accept boost spacing and sliding dropouts. It was quite a project. https://www.instagram.com/p/CMWCp8pl3i8/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link But it allowed me to keep that frame in use and dedicate it as a bikepacking bike I could leave alone vs becoming wall art. Basically it’s a steel hardtail with a carbon Whiskey #9 mountain boost fork. 29er 12 speed wheels, 26-51 12 speed gearing, tubeless with Maxxis 29×2.2 Ikons and SP PD8x thru-axle dynamo front hub. It was roughly 45-50 lbs depending on food. The goal with this build was to be more upright allowing me to keep pressure off of my hands and it did a pretty good job! I did get some slight nerve issue on my left hand but it’s very minor thankfully and was caused by a mis-adjusted grip I didn’t fix until day 3. Oops. Handle hot spots the minute the arise, trust me. I took a risk and used a “new” saddle too, a Selle San Anatomica. It was pretty amazing. It’s an old original generation “Titanico” version that my wife had on one of her bikes that we both liked. There were some creaks and leather stretching issues but all had fixes. I had almost zero chaffing and minimal “bruising”. I’ll be looking into a newer version that is better suited for my weight as you can buy them in 3 different weight ranges which is super cool. This saddle should be able to allow me to ditch the cycling padded/chamois shorts which I absolutely hate wearing. They always rub things in bad ways and really hard to find that perfect fit and always full of chamois cream and impossible to wash and dry along a race route. Seriously gross bacteria farms for your ass. As an alternative to traditional padded cycling shorts I keep hearing about “Triathlon shorts”. I’m going to investigate those as well.

I’m still on the fence about running a dynamo hub. It certainly worked but even on the XWA I felt like, at least on the first half, it had some limited use. It could certainly be useful for the second half so in the end is probably still worth it. You have to maintain a decent clip in order for it to truly work in real life. Yes it will start a trickle charge to a buffer or cache battery at 3-4mph but when you are doing those speeds you’re most likely pretty close to having to get off and push anyway and the USB charger likes to shut down and require a 10 second buffer time before it starts up again so it can be a lot of on/off. The hub has drag (not necessary noticeable on the bike but it’s there). You have a wire to manage and a charger unit that needs two different types of charger cables. It was fun having it. I at least knew for the most part I could always keep my Wahoo or Inreach topped off even if all other batteries were dead. That was pretty comforting to know. Part of me just wonders if it’s better to just carry an extra tiny 10mah battery along. They weigh about the same as the combined dynamo setup and produces probably the same amount of total power, and faster over a few days. It’s just one more device to charge when you get to a charging point but that is why you carry a USB charger that has multiple ports and you get a passthrough battery that can charge other devices while it is charging. I used a Zendure Mini 10,000mah battery. It didn’t’ really truly “pass through” charge while on the dynamo (which it was supposed to) but it did fine when on a wall charger. I could charge that and a phone or light off the same cord to the wall, so at least that was handy. I’m still new to Dynamo use so lots more to experiment with.

Below I’ll list what I had in each of my bags (with some swapping around here and there but pretty close each day):

Front Triangle bag: 6.72lbs *Not including daily random food

  • Tool kit: Tube, tire lever, pad spacer, small Stans bottle, Wolftooth link pliers and extra 12s links, Stans Dart, backup DIY bacon tire plugger tool with roll of bacon strips, zipties, extra Wahoo mount and Inreach mount, Multitool, small razor knife, patch kit, sew kit for sidewall or frame bags etc, hand pump, lighter with duct tape, lube, extra tubeless valve, Brake pads (acquired in North Bend, mine were almost to the metal and they were brand new before the race), chain link section, extra cables, (cc taped to a tube just incase I lost my small wallet that was on me).
  • Frame bag is my ancient Bike Bag Dude bag. The zipper finally failed on the 3rd day so I had to do some creative re-organizing of the stuff and just try to leave it alone. I need to have the zippers re-done and just keep it as backup. It’s pretty clapped out but was custom made for that frame so I used it anyway. It’s key to run these bags as loose as possible on the frame when loaded so you don’t strain the zippers. I did that but that bag is just SO old..it’s zipped out.
  • Katadyn BeFree water filter. These things are great. Easy to use and super light. Water was never really an issue on the 1st half. But on the 2nd half it does become an issue as re-supply get’s longer and the water get’s harder to find. The stuff you do find is agricultural runoff or near cow farms. I had two bottle cages on my fork just for extra water storage for the east side. I keep using the downtube bottle cage for water and that is just a terrible idea. It get’s full of mud and horse shit or whatever…just don’t do it. Don’t risk drinking that water. Put a tool kit or something else there like stove or whatever..something you rarely intend to use…..just anything else but your drinking water.
  • Ti pot with 1/3 full gas canister, coffee, Micro Snow peak Ti stove and 1/2 backpacker meal (total weight with coffee and bc meal was under a pound…). For the XWA I really think you can leave the stove at home provided you can wait for coffee etc. Re-supplies are frequent enough. Even small it did take up needed space. Probably should’ve moved it to the lower downtube, “turd catcher” spot haha
  • Full tube of Chamois Butt’r and A&D ointment for butt. Probably could’ve scaled those back to smaller bottles. Not sure why I brought full bottles.
  • Headlamp. I hate that BD headlamp. It’s probably the worst one BD ever made. I think next time I’d leave the headlamp home and get a 2nd Fenix BC26R to run on my helmet for night riding. I may or may not have ran some sections with just my headlamp on so I could see what was going on. Then you always have a backup light and backup battery. Night riding without a helmet light is not fun. Troy if you’re reading this we need you to fire up your 3D printer and make another low pro helmet mount for me 😉
  • Wireless Bluetooth earbuds. These things were amazing. $35 off Amazon. I normally never ride with music but they gave me the pick-me-up that was needed for long climbs and creepy nights. I just wore one at a time, usually my right ear so I could still hear people or cars or screaming coyotes etc. They charge multiple times out of their own case and if you only use one you get double bang for your charge. Highly recommended. With that said, make sure you download your music from Spotify or whatever to offline use. I had a new phone with me and had forgot that step so only had about a dozen songs that I had to listen to over and over.
  • Two cache battery packs. (1) 16,000mah Anker and (1) 10,000mah Zendure one. Primarily to keep my phone and Wahoo charged. I kept my phone in airplane mode but it still sucked power every day requiring full recharges. It’s important to stop and charge stuff off a fast type charger every time you can. Don’t pass up a chance to put another 20% into something when you’re eating. Don’t be bashful about asking if you can use a power outlet at a restaurant etc.
  • Anker 2 USB charger. I’d suggest doing a 3 or more one though and bring a cable for each thing. Then you can plug in and not have to manage anything. Really nice for when you’re at a hotel. I think Troy H told me has a 5 USB port one.
  • 2 Extra Fenix 5000mah 21700 batteries for my main Fenix BC26R light (3 total). These things are so cool. You can pre-charge them in the light, a wall charger or their own built in USB-C port built into the battery.
  • 2 trimmed Safeway bags to use as vapor barriers if word was the the snow hiking was bad. But never needed them.
  • Then random daily food and snacks. Lots of nut mixes with chocolate, gas station bars the occasional corndog or cheeseburger…

Front Roll/Sleep system: 6.62lbs including roll and harness

  • Sleep kit: Nemo Hornet Elite 1Person (mostly free standing with groundcloth and rainfly). Really worked great and added “comfort” type thing of having a sit up shelter, but also not very “stealthy” if needed. One option was to just get it in minus the poles….Had never really thought of that. It would provide bug protection and rain protection without the tall profile. Maybe brace it off my bike’s handlebars to keep it off my head….will have to try that. Thanks Thomas for that idea.
  • Thermarest NeoAir . Super light but small and VERY noisy. They are the crinkliest pads on earth lol. I think I’d ditch this for an ultralight 3/4 design since your feet hang off this regular size one anyway.
  • Mountain Hardware Mtn Speed 32 deg 850 Q-shield down mummy bag. (I have a down quilt bag but didn’t want to chance bringing due to possible poison oak oils on it…..grrrrr.
  • Entire Sleep kit comes in at 4.32 lbs for the tent, pad, bag in an Event Ultrasil compression bag. That is VERY light and compact. Hard to argue with. I’d still like to investigate using just a bivy instead for racing. By the time it’s time to sleep you can pretty much sleep in anything. Rain would be my deciding factor I guess. The simplicity of the bivy is handy though.
  • Revelate harness and BBD front roll. I’d like to look into a lighter roll bag. The harness is OK but mounts kind of weird. Need to work out some bugs with that. It smashes into my bottle bags on the bars and holds the front roll all cooked if you only have one bottle up front. That was annoying.

Rear Revelate Seatbag: 4.5lbs

  • Rain kit: Jacket, pants and overmitt shells. I wanted to make sure I could stay warm and dry in real cold rain.
  • Skull cap for under helmet. That became my daily head covering, even when sleeping
  • Extra warm fleece gloves. I usually started and ended each day wearing them
  • MH down puffy and REI down vest. I only wore the puffy once but wore the down vest daily. I think I’d swap that out for a high end synthetic one since I liked to wear it while it was sprinkling and down becomes useless in wet. Synthetic stuff at least still retains some warmth when damp.
  • Small compression bag with wool long sleeve shirt, extra socks and one extra pair of gloves
  • TP, lots of TP. Oddly never needed it.
  • UL emergency backpack incase of a bag failure or wanting to carry stuff short distances from stores to a camp or whatever.
  • Bathroom kit: Toothbrush, toothpaste, Benadryl, Imodium, Ibuprofen, Claritin, contacts with case and solution, small pack of Cetaphil wipes
  • Small Emergency kit with blood clotting gauze, pre-cut strips of KT tape and some Triple antibiotic packs.

Top tube bag/”Chaff bags”

  • BBD top tube bag: I normally kept my phone in this bag. I also had a mask, chapstick and SPF50 bottle in there.
  • Chaff Bags (Feed bag, bottle bag) normally had one bottle of water on one side and the other side fought for space with my Inreach, cache battery, cables, snacks etc. This is one area where I need to do some re-work. There is no need to fuss with electronics like I did. The Inreach should’ve been mounted on my bars or top of my front roll. Phone could stay in the top tube bag and only food/snacks in the other bag. With only one water bottle in the bags my front roll always sat crooked. That was pretty annoying. I need to look at a way to rework the front end/bar stuff so it all has it’s it’s own exacting home each day. Not fussing around with it. The whole time you have to keep rain in mind. What can get wet and what needs to remain dry.


  • Inreach Explorer Satellite unit. This was my tracking unit used for Trackleaders. It’s also a Satellite device so I can send messages even when out of data/cell range. Super cool tool. I kept it tethered my bars so you can’t lose it.
  • Wahoo Bolt V2 GPS unit. This is what I used to follow the route. The route was loaded from RidewithGPS. I had the main route and also the alternates loaded. Overall it’s the nicest GPS unit I’ve ever used. A lot of my fussing with it was just because it was new to me and I had to learn how to use it while racing. I need to get a new mount that allows the unit to be charged while riding though. It had some great features that were new to me like Turn by turn directions with alerts (lifesaver), custom loadable alerts you can set to send out as reminders to eat or stretch or whatever at any interval you choose, graphing of road/trail grades, temperature, altitude etc. This was a high tech unit for me. Lots more to learn about it and little bugs to figure out. Overall a nice device. Some tips with the Wahoo I learned were to turn off Auto Re-Route and Auto Pause. Those were pretty much useless. Also expect the GPS to cut out in the Olympics….a lot. Keep track of your battery level by viewing it in the “load route” screen before it dies on you while riding. I also kept mine tethered to my bars with their tether kit they sell for it.
  • Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra for phone. I was able to have a backup route loaded into the RidewithGPS app on the phone to use as a backup if the Wahoo failed. I kept the phone is airplane mode all day and only turned on when I took a break somewhere. Also had Google maps, Gaia and some other apps loaded for offline use to use in a pinch for off route navigation if needed.
  • Lighting: Fenix BC26R. Super cool light that takes 5000mah 21700 batteries that you can pre-charge in advance. At 200 lumen setting it last many hours….days of light actually. I’d run a second one on my helmet and share batteries and use as a backup. Leave the headlamp I hate at home. I think I may give that headlamp and my poison oak soaked boots a proper Viking funeral some day.

Some thoughts and ideas that came up during the race that I’ll log here as I think of them:

  • There are lots of strategies that come up when racing-vs-touring the XWA. The big one seems to be sleep. Do you ride from hotel to hotel and get a refreshing nights sleep, charge batteries and dry stuff out, eat real food and get up super early and leave before anyone else is riding or just ride as far as possible each day and worry about where you’re going to bivy or set up a tent? Hotels seem to be the norm with almost every racer at least a few times in the race. You really need that time to do a full battery charge on stuff, escape the rain and just reset your brain. I saw that a lot of people did a mix of both. It really just depends on where you end up or WANT to end up each day. Hard call. Hotels are also expensive. Plan on spending $5-600 on hotels if you wanted one every other day on a week long trip, which is the average finishing time. 7 days is seven 100 mile days. 100 miles every day for 7 days is no easy accomplishment either. *warmshowers.org was a cool idea I saw if you want to try and get the benefit of a hotel but save the money. And it’s open to everyone so it’s legal. Also keep in mind the 2nd half of the ride is near Memorial Day weekend and many if, not most hotels are fully booked so be prepared to camp if needed.
  • Ride time. It sure seemed to me that the ideal time to be on your bike was 4:30-5am to 10pm. That way you maximize daylight, and also that quiet time where there are less cars. It’s pretty important to get at least 4-6hrs of sleep each day if you can. Less than that and it starts adding up on your body pretty fast if you’re not accustomed to it. I think I’d be more likely to night ride on the east side….way less Chupacabra and Boogiemen out there hiding in the woods.
  • Bike choice. I mentioned mine above but it still looked like the best bike for this route is some type of modern high volume gravel/allroad type dropbar bike and some type of aerobar setup to give your hands a break. I used the allroad bike the first year that I built https://www.flickr.com/photos/109733516@N07/albums/72157667350164585 and was one of three that year to try the XWA on dropbars. It was doable. I’d make some fit changes to a new version and trying again on a lighter bike is not out of the question. (my allroad bike as is was 9lbs lighter than the bike I brought). That is a LOT of weight. My fully loaded bike was rolling around 50lbs with some snacks (water weight not included). A bike in the sub 40 lbs category fully loaded would be ideal. 10lbs is a LOT, especially if you can still carry the things you need with no compromise. Don’t get hung up on weight. Bring what you need. It’s better to have it and not need it but still be careful of overpacking. You’ll figure that out soon enough in the race.
  • It’s cool to see that Port Angeles and beyond is now the Day 1 norm. That was not the case the 1st year. We had to climb up and over NF-29 in snow and it took so long.
  • I tried to be careful with not carrying too much food but of course I still did. It’s important to plan out your food needs. You can just carry what you need plus a little extra in case of emergency…not a LOT extra like most of us did. Food re-supply is always around the corner and no more than a day away each day.
  • Even if you use a lot of your kit in normal trips and familiar with most stuff it’s super important to try and do an overnight or even just training rides with a full kit. You’ll learn so much so fast and will be less likely to have to futz with your gear the first few days. A “shakedown” ride/trip is key. Make time to do that if you can. All of these little comments I made above on certain things could be cleared up or avoided. Every little technical difficulty adds up…..don’t discount that. Start the race in the best possible position you can.
  • Goals. My main goals were to ride solo as much as possible, ride more at night or get moving earlier, have fun and take pictures. Just have fun as much as possible while putting in the biggest day I can. I think I did most of that pretty well. *I do think riding solo, unless you are REALLY experienced at that or prefer that does kinda wear on you. There is some comfort in racing with a buddy who’s on the same page as you. You can both push and motivate/encourage each other to keep going when you might want to just stop early because it’s dark and the boogieman is out. The days feel very long solo. I’m somewhere in the middle of the road on the solo-vs-buddy debate.
  • TRAIN. I did not train much leading up to this event. No excuses really (but snow did make it hard, wah…I know). There were things that would’ve benefited me like riding standing up. You have to build the muscles in order to do that for very long. My knees hurt and muscles for standing weren’t that strong it seemed. This is key for saving your butt. Standing gives your butt a break. Set training goals early and start in the winter at the minimum. Slowly work your way up in mileage and load. Stretch and strengthen your Achilles Tendon and calves etc. Achilles Tendonitis has taken out many an XWA’r. This year somehow I got lucky….
  • Research the route. Sit down and look at where most folks stop for the night. You can do that on Trackleaders by clicking on a racer and looking at their “Full History”. You can also see where they went fast or slow. A lot of local racers go out and pre-ride some sections like the urban section for training. I can think of a few spots where that would’ve come in handy.
  • Separate from my Poison Oak debacle I did get a small case of some type of “trench foot” I think on top of the front of my ankles (where the tongue of the shoes would be and off to the sides a bit. Primarily where the Velcro part of my Shimano MW5’s close up. I think that area just had prolonged exposure to wet wood that created a friction spot and it eventually broke the skin. Now it’s just a red, dry scaly spot of both feet. It’s not noticeable or itchy or anything thankfully. It’s pretty much impossible to keep all your foot gear totally dry. Day after day you have to put your feet into wet shoes even if you have a dry pair of socks. I had Liner socks with me that I never used. Maybe that would’ve been a good idea to wear them….I was just afraid of too much bulk and getting too hot. Or maybe a cream on that area to reduce any rubbing. More frequent cleaning would’ve helped too.
  • If the route goes past your house, make SURE you do NOT accidentally end up in your home town at 1am, swollen, tired, hungry with wet gear and near dead batteries haha. In my defense, my wife and I have a rule that if I have to scratch from something I can’t do it at night. I need to sleep on it and re-evaluate with a clear mind the next day. I tried to do that by getting a hotel but in my tiny town the lobbies are locked and lights off at 1am, especially nearing a super busy holiday weekend. The lure of my own bed, shower and seeing my wife and dogs won. That’s OK. Next time I’ll know to only pass through my area mid day or make sure I’m rested before nearing home. Better planning would’ve solved that issue. I’ll do better next time.
  • A topic that comes up every year is numbness and Ulnar Neuropathy in hands from long distance efforts. I’ve had it bad over the years and was mostly a result of too much weight on my hands. This year I went with a super upright “flat bar” type setup with ergonomic bars and grips you can see in the pictures. I had a very mild case of numbness in my left pinkie and ring finger that came on two days after I stopped. Thankfully it’s mild. I’ve had bad cases that took a year to fully heal (your Ulnar nerve only regenerates at 1mm a day I guess so depending on how bad you treated it, it can take a long time to heal. Some people never fully heal. I ignored a “hot spot” in my left palm that was due to improper grip angle and rode a few days complaining about until the 3rd evening when I fixed it but I think it was too late. Fix hot spots the SECOND they appear. In hands they turn to nerve damage. In feet they can turn into ride ending blisters etc.
  • This leads me to thinking about how I’d set up a 2nd generation “all road” bike for another go at this. I’d switch from 650b+ to 29x50mm or so. I’d design my frame to be more upright in the front end (much taller headtube) while maintaining the geometry I need. I’d consider a Redshift stem, aero bars and copious amounts of thick Wolf Tooth bar tape. Maybe even a “gravel bike suspension fork”. All in all I think it’s an issue here pressure, weight and time on the nerve is just gonna get you either way. However you choose to solve this issue it takes being very conscious of your hands, all day long, every day. You need to switch up your hand placement often. Most importantly not just switching from one weighted position to another. You have to completely remove the weight from the hands. *I’m thinking some people’s hand anatomy is just more subject to this type of injury than others, within reason? From a comment from Troy; “From a bike fit perspective, you should be able to ride in your normal position and then let go of the handlebars without changing your position. If this is not possible then your bars may be too low and you are putting too much weight on your hands. (Core strengthening could also help here)”

Closing thoughts: Getting a finish in the XWA may take a few more tries. No doubt. Looking at the average age of competitors though is eye opening. There were so many men and women on course in their late 50’s, with the average age seeming to be mid 40s. Crazy. It takes years to build the grit for this stuff I think. Actually I know it does. I slowly get a little more each year. It’s hard. Very hard to push through these huge days day after day but it’s extremely rewarding and quite a rush when you get to stop for the day. Big thanks to Troy Hopwood for designing and building out this route and the mountain of management he still takes on each year to keep it all moving smoothly. Thanks to my awesome and always supportive wife for not thinking I’m totally crazy when I say this is fun and for always taking time out of her schedule to help support these things.

Spent two nights in LaPush before the start of the race. Such a pretty spot
7am start with a body part and bike dipped in the Ocean
Nice work dude. Nice work…..ufdah….Atleast it’s in the part that bends…
Rolling out of Port Angeles. Photo credit: Rob Holland
Photo credit: Rob Holland
Pig Out….OK
Thomas you wise guy https://bikepacking.com/event/gcor-2021/#:~:text=GCOR%20is%20a%20circumnavigation%20of,%3B%2040%2C000%E2%80%B2%20of%20elevation%20total.
Some kid poked me with a stick while napping on a bench. He thought I was a dead homeless man I guess…
Typical Bikepacker accommodations haha

The End