I figured I’d dust off my blog after completing some of the Olympic 420 Bikepacking race that runs 460+ miles and nearly 70,000′ of vertical elevation gain around the Olympic mountains. I crawled my way across 228 miles (including off route re-supply) and over 35,000′ of gain over 5 days riding and pushing a 65+ lb fully loaded bike (not including water weight, umph!!). It’s only my third bike packing race. The route is incredibly steep and even though you are following a route on your GPS you have to spend a lot of time navigating and deciphering what the track is really trying to do. Many times a day I felt like I was encountering intersections where you have to toss a coin to decide which road is the one the track wants you to go on. This is more due to how the track get’s created and the points used to make the line you follow and no fault of the route. But the more of them you encounter the better you get at understanding what’s happening and which way is most likely and why the line does what it does. Basically you always default to going UP on this route. All stuff to learn.
I knew it was going to be incredibly hard and it sure was. I underestimated the difficulty of the trails we had to hike-a-bike up and how long they would be. Dry Creek took me almost 6hrs and the hard part was less than 5 miles of a 7.5 miles trail. Just one step after another, sweat pour, water guzzle, sigh and another step. The whole time knowing I had multiple other equally hard sections to complete before my next resupply…nearly three days it would’ve taken me to travel from the Eldon resupply to Lake Quinault. The hardest part was lifting a 65+lb bike packing bike over huge fallen trees, up and over ditches, up a rope climb and hike-a-bikes that felt nearly vertical. The other aspect of the race that was the most challenging was having a hard time riding a lot of the gravel roads. Some were so steep you had to hike them and they just went on for many miles and hours. I felt like I was going backwards at times when the gravel got wet from a downpour and it turned into peanut butter. I really was hard on myself during the race when I was constantly talking to myself (out loud and internally) about how everything I had brought was wrong and overkill and WAY too heavy. Dumping extra gear wasn’t really an option and not recommended practice anyway. I certainly ditched a few small extra items but nothing of note that other racers wouldn’t also toss, mostly wrappers and a few broken pieces of gear.
I had to pull the plug at Wynoochee and get rescued by my amazing wife Jessica and our pups. She selflessly dropped what she was doing in her very long week to come BACK to the peninsula to snatch me up in the rain. I got to within a few miles of the guy ahead of me at Satsop Lakes before having to pull it. ( I saw two hikers with a dog on the Church Creek trail that said they saw some guy up at the lakes and that was only a short ways away…I was feeling some adrenaline at that point). It was fun to chip away at another racer. There is no substitute for experience in my mind when it comes to this stuff. Racing-vs-just trying to finish are completely different animals.
I’ll start by breaking down my bag systems and how they were packed, weight and each item and it’s uses-pros and cons. *Warning this Blog will be super boring for most people* It’s not intended to be a literary work of art. It’s more to allow myself a way to get all of my thoughts out of my head and out so I can read them for future trips or God forbid, this race again 🙂
Front Triangle Frame Bag: 6.98lbs
- Bike Bag Dude custom triangle bag: 1.05lbs This bag was made for a much different frame of mine and just used it in a pinch. It was harsh because there was so much unused space and voids due to the frame tube geometry in this trail frame vs the fatbike frame I had it made for. This resulted in me having to cram other stuff in areas where it wasn’t ideal
- Stove system: .92lbs I ran a Ti Snowpeak pot w/lid that housed a 4oz fuel can, Snow Peak micro stove, lighter and a folded up aluminum wind screen. It worked great but I think I’d rather bring the next size down Jetboil than what I have now that I left at home and only carry one fuel can. I had a second can tucked away in my kit and it just felt like overkill even a few days in. The size difference is very minimal between the two different styles of stoves too. I’d also bring TWO perfectly brand new lighters. The old one I brought that I thought was full ran out just after making coffee and oatmeal morning of day 5. I think it was also water logged. I do carry some waterproof matches for emergency too. The piezo igniter built into the Jetboil is another nice feature of them in addition to their fuel economy. Some folks chose to race without a stove and I totally get that. I’d actually consider it in race mode. Just bring a couple of lighters a couple of wax fire starters and use that space and weight to carry real food until the next resupply. Or just eat stuff cold. #totallydoable
- Food system: I carried one of those snap together bowls made by a company called Flatworld. They are super handy for straining water out of pasta and eating morning oatmeal out of since it’s easy to clean and store and very light. Could be used to patch a hole in a frame bag or be cut up into shims or worn as a hat if you went crazy out in the rain forest. One long spoon for getting into the bottom of backpacker meals, Double wall aluminum coffee cup (a cheap heavy one I got at the local hardware store the day before we left). I’d suggest a light Ti cup or just drink out of the pot or even a Flatworld Orikaso cup. Some folks just pop a VIA in their mouth and wash it down with some fresh spring water. I’m not quite to that level yet for race mode but I get that too. I did notice I’d rather just get going than spend too much time at camp in the morning to optimize riding in clear and cool air. I thought coffeeless mornings would result in a headache since I’m a five cup of coffee a morning type guy but it was never an issue. Maybe popping a caffeine pill would suffice? I might have to try that sometime. I also carried a half ziploc bag full of Bobs Redmill powdered milk. Man was that a dumb idea. It was heavy and super hard to keep it from clumping. It just turned into this brown curdled cheese crud at the bottom of my coffee cup. Never again.
- Personal skin care: One nearly full bottle of Chamois butter to prevent chaffing. It’s heavy so I wanted it low in the frame bag. I also grabbed a bottle of Vaseline from the Eldon re-supply due to concern about my already chaffed skin and the upcoming predicted rain. Wet clothing that is full of salt feels like sand paper on your skin. So that stuff was heavy to carry but chaffing is terrible.
- Repair Kit: 1 29er tube in a nylon bag, 2 oz bottle of Stans, 10-12″ zip ties, 2 tire levers, sew repair kit cause I started the race with a huge hole in my cycling chamois that I never ended up fixing, also thought I could use it on a tire sidewall if necessary, Park patch kit, shift cable, small razor knife, pair of nitrile gloves if I had to do any chain work, sand paper squares for resurfacing pads if needed, 4, yes 4 chain links lol, 4 links of 11s chain, two presta valve cores, core remover, 1 tubeless valve and core, presta to schrader converter for gas station top offs that I never used, three sets of brake pads. I did one rear replacement on day 3. The pads occasionally have to be reset with the pistons during heavy wear or the pistons will start to put one of the pads on the rotor causing noticeable drag. I put up with that for hours and hours before I finally forced myself to fix it. Then was immediately happy I had taken the time. My wheel was barely spinning! Replacement hanger with screws, and a nipple wrench only because the wheels were freshly built and just wanted to be safe. They were perfect the entire time thankfully (pats self on back). Hayes pad spreader and one small roll of Duct tape, tube pump, bottle of chain lube,
Other Misc stuff: Headlamp that runs on 3AAA’s, 6 ultimate lithium AAA’s, and 6 UL AA’s, Belt because I was afraid of saggy shorts when they got wet. They did get wet and saggy and chaffed the heck out of the back of my leg elbows :), kit with pen flares and “Bear Bangers”. Basically it’s blank .22 round that is intended to scare off predators if they are getting too friendly and flares for obvious reason. It’s a small light weight kit and nice piece of mind since I didn’t bring bear spray. Bear spray is completely unnecessary out there btw but you will see some gifts from bears:
Bathroom kit that fit halfway in my coffee cup that had just a small amount of the basics you can see in the photos, didn’t use ANY of it in 5 days except to brush my teeth and TP. UL Sea to Summit backpack. It’s paper thin but worked great as a bag to put my food in for night time storage or an emergency way to carry gear if any other bag failed. Weighs like an oz. I had an Ali-Express (Ian Plagmann gift) light that worked great the one night I rode until midnight. Also had a 10,000mAh battery that got used up day one. I ditched my water filter after the 2nd day. It was just spent and clogged the seams were failing and developing pin holes that sprayed all over (Katadyn Befree) and filtering on slippery rocks was painful mentally. I know nearly every one who has spent much time in the Olympics doesn’t bother filtering. Otherwise normally I love that filter. Highly recommended just know they only last a few years before you’ll have to retire it.
Front Roll: 14.24lbs (plus 1lb in two bc meals)
- Bike Bag Dude front roll and Revelate harness: Worked good enough, no real complaints. I had to fix some holes in the roll before the trip but just used some aqua seal. The bag is fully waterproof which is cool. Not all front rolls are. Everything going in there is an Ultrasil Event compression waterproof bag so it’s just added security you you fall in a creek or heavy sideways rain etc. The harness could use longer handlebar mounting straps but no big deal. Stayed up pretty tight and didn’t cause an issue with tech riding and suspension fork travel.
- Sleep System: Mountain hardware Mtn Speed 32deg 800 fill down bag. Worked great. No issues other than you have to be extremely careful with down when it’s raining. It WILL get damp just by proximity but that seems to burn off throughout the night. My body ran super hot at night…was kinda nice and thankfully it hovered around 50 deg so never got too cold. Thermarest Neo Air Xtherm. It’s been my reliable go to for years. It’s warm with a high R-value and pretty light. Only problem is it’s pretty small when it’s below 35 because my feet hang off so you have to build up stuff below your feet. 45 or warmer and it’s just fine. It was pain to deflate and stuff each morning though. I can see where a Z-rest style pad may be the best option. No one likes a punctured sleeping pad or having to blow them up when you’re exhausted. A Z-rest style pad makes a nice seat too that you don’t have to worry about puncturing. A buddy of mine once cut his up and taped it to his saddle to finish at the pointy end of the XWA here in WA.
- Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1 and ground cloth. Really an awesome one person tent. It worked great but it’s getting old. Has some holes in it and the fabric and coatings/seam seals are getting tired. Time to replace it with a new hot rod model. I keep the tent body in it’s on Ultrasil Event compression bag and the ground cloth and rain fly in another. Seems to help keep water out of the tub of the body during packing/unpacking when in rain, at least for a day or two. A wet tent floor isn’t a deal breaker though. You can lay down a space blanket to protect sleeping pad and bag while adding some R value (I learned that from my friends Craig and Ina on our Chilcotins,BC float plane trip this year). Crinkly and noisy but whatever. Water Will get all over you at some point. Moving around, rain jackets on/off, shoes, clothes, bags, condensation etc. It adds up over time if you’re not able to get some sun to dry it out. In race mode you don’t even really have time to do that anyway. You just have to tough it out unless things are borderline unsafe. I carry a small “PackTowl” for wiping the floor down and that seems to help but that adds weight. Just pray for sun lol. This brings up the Tarp and bivy discussion. I’m very open to it and want to spend the next year trying out different configurations of that. A tarp overhead of either a bivy or tent would be so nice (mandatory for a bivy setup in a rain forest). I was under tree cover but even after it stopped raining the trees dripped. All those drips add up. These few things all added up to 4 compressed bags in addition to the poles which fit in the roll between the bags. Some folks just use a SOL Emergency Bivy and hop in some down pants along with their down jacket. This is fine if it’s not a monsoon out. Water will get you in seconds if you’re not careful. Hard call.
- Rain Kit: I had my wife’s Arcteryx Goretex jacket which was awesome. My old one needs to be donated or burned. I hate that thing so much (Marmot Precip I think) . Her jacket had a great fit, nice big helmet hood and great long arms for full riding coverage with normal human sized arm/hand holes and properly placed Velcro. Everything my last jacket didn’t. It dried fast too after rain. My old one had worn out DWR and it just seemed to stay soaked longer. I also carry some REI Co-op mitten shells. They are awesome if you put them over some gloves when it’s cold. I carried a pair of REI poly gloves. That combo would’ve been great if the temps dipped below 40 in the rain. I also carry an REI cycling skull cap to wear under the helmet when it’s cold or wet. So nice to have. I carried rain pants but never wore them. I’d rather be chilly and damp then ever wear rain pants again. They always sag and get caught on everything and real pain the in butt when hiking and riding. I’m on the quest for super light pair of water proof knickers or something to wear instead of shorts/rain paints. Maybe something with side vents/zips. The shorts chaffed so bad I had to keep pulling them up but pants would just be to hot when it’s not raining. I thought about knee warmers but they are only good until they get wet and then they sag and would be dead weight. Traveling in rain while under high physical exertion is really tricky business that requires a lot of trial and error and research. I have a long way to go to fully understand how I should travel in those conditions. *as of typing this I just heard about some guys who just cut the bottoms off their rain pants. Brilliant! I never would’ve thought of that. Thanks Troy.
- Revelate Front Pouch: My good buddy Rusty loaned this to me for the second or third time now. I continue to remind myself that this thing is a bad idea for any off road travel. It just allows you to stack to much stuff over the handlebars which in turn get in the way of the light and make lifting the bike harder. I struggled with what to put in it and how to keep it from flopping around even when it was correctly secured. On road use it’s fine, but off road it’s just super frustrating. In that bag I had a ball cap that I thought I’d use on long hot hike a bike climbs but they were all in the deep forest. The exception was some long gravel roads but at that point I just kept my helmet on and didn’t think once about grabbing it. I’d leave that at home for sure. (I use one on my local day trips but they are very different terrain and sun exposure). I also carried this super long thin rope for hanging the food bag. I never used it. It just got wet and heavy. The bag was filled with misc food and garbage wrappers etc over the race that varied day to day. I also kept a 1st aid kit in there with clotting pads and tape and all that. Just believe me when I say don’t stack anything of any weight on your bars. Keep your front end as light as possible.
- Bike Bag Dude Chaff Bags (food bags) x2: These are pretty handy. They fit a 1L Nalgene bottle or those Liter water bottles from the stores and fit on either side of the stem and attach to the bars. I kept daily food bars, gels and snacks in them . On top of that stuff I sat the Inreach so it could stick out of the top and get a good signal. Dot watcher approved I tell ya. They would get filled with wrappers and crushed beer cans from the resupplies as well.
- Bike Bag Dude Gas Tank Garage: This mounts right up on the top tube right by the stem and gives me easy access to my waterproof cell phone (Galaxy S8+) which I used as my camera and ran the Gaia app on it which I used a lot to supplement the Garmin GPS route and to add route notes like reliable water and camp spots/shelters. Relying on just your phone in offline mode is tricky when it’s wet. I don’t advise you try that. Once you’re all wet and the screen is wet it will be a pain to constantly operate it. You have to zoom in and out of the track frequently as a beginner. I also kept my 20,000ma battery pack and cord, wallet, tubeless repair plug kit and a small cloth in there for quick access. Garmin Etrex 20x was mounted on a bracket to the top of the stem. That thing has a terrible user interface but it’s always worked perfect. It ran all day for four days before I needed to swap out two AAs. It’s nice that it doesn’t require the battery pack like the Inreach. It’s the most important device with you so take care of it. Keep it on a leash because you’ll be tossing your bike all over. I kept my leashed to the Inreach so they were both always accounted for.
Rear Seat Pack: 7lbs (give or take 2lbs or so of misc food)
- Revealte Rear Seatpost Bag: I was able to get away with this and my 170mm dropper and 29er wheels somehow. Some folks run a rear rack and tapered bag on top of that. Maybe to allow the dropper to work better? Not sure. I kept a lot of the food in it. I was trying to help keep the heavy bulky stuff that didn’t fit in the already ill fitting frame bag off the front end to help balance the weight. I also had this huge bag of electronics in a Ziploc freezer bag. That was a terrible idea! The bag got a hole in it day one. I carried my MP3 player which was dead day one even though it was fully charged. I had three, yes THREE USB wall chargers and cables thinking I could maximize my recharging time in Quinault or wherever. I also had to carry my wireless charging pad for my phone since the USB port in it is dead. An extra trail/bar light, extra rear light, headphones. I also kept a sleep system in here in a compression bag that had my down jacket, boxers and some wool socks for sleeping in at night. Overall a LOT of stuff. It held it’s own though I have to say and didn’t cause me much issue. Just swinging a leg over when I was tired.
Bike: 29.25lbs (with 3 bottle cages, dropper post, flat pedals)
This bike was a custom trail bike build I built for myself a few years back. Here’s a link to my entire frame build process (yes I build frames from my home shop) https://www.flickr.com/photos/109733516@N07/albums/72157675386357186
It worked Ok just not set up well to be a bike pack racing bike and wasn’t intended to. A few notes on the frame are that it was too short in reach and wheelbase for what I was trying to do here. I’d like a larger front triangle too. I built up 29er carbon wheels and had a 2.6F/2.4R Maxxis Rekon tire combo that really helped with BB height and rock clearance for the flat pedals. That replaced the 27.5×2.6 wheels I had on it normally. I am not a fan of flat pedals but the flat pedal/boot combo was invaluable on this route with the amount of technical hike-a-bike it has. The fork is a 130mm RS Pike that had two bottles mounted, one on each leg with radiator hose clamps from NAPA…they were solid and secure. That was great until I had to lift the front end up and over stuff which was frequent. The purpose of my kit for the race was so I could avoid having to wear a pack of any kind but it sure made the bike heavy. The alternative is to have to deal with something on my back all day…and I’ve had back issues this year so didn’t want to risk it. So I made the bike heavy which could also hurt my back so???? Hmmmm.
Getting weight off the front of the bike really is key. Look at the veteran’s bikes and how they pack. Here’s an example: https://www.facebook.com/deschutes.rivercyclery/photos/pcb.2921520151251868/2921520067918543/?type=3&theater
And check out this hot rod: https://www.facebook.com/deschutes.rivercyclery/photos/a.482670638470177/2884162011654349/?type=3&theater
I keep telling myself that on all my bike packing trips but it’s very important for the Oly420. Gearing was plenty low (26-46 11 speed) Much lower and you’d be having a hard time pedaling or just faster to walk. I think I’d pass on the dropper next time. It’s unnecessary weight. No reason you cant’t just drop your saddle a few times here and there and save yourself the risk of dropper failure and save the weight! The Answer Protaper 20/20 carbon sweep bars and the matching Ergon cork sweep compatible grips were awesome. Zero hand issues. And I’ve had ulnar nephropathy twice now. Not much else to say about the bike other than make sure your rotors and pads are BRAND NEW at the start. You WILL destroy even a new set of pads in a few days on this route. On Mt. Zion my rotors were smoking it’s so long and steep! I’d love to build up a custom ultra lite tubing frame with a better bike packing/touring stance/geo. I think that would be perfect and much needed. Trim weight and allow for better packing. I really can see running a carbon rigid fork too. I’m not sure I needed the benefits of the suspension fork all that much. Maybe a UL steel frame/ carbon suspension corrected rigid fork (or maybe a Lauf) and the carbon 29er rims with 2.3 rear and 2.4 front light tires would be killer. I’d even consider a hip pack. Yes I said it. I’m down with the fanny pack. They don’t carry much weight but you could at least carry your daily water without it getting to floppy and heavy.
- Prana Stretch Zion shorts. They were pretty great until they got wet then I had to keep hiking them up. They have their own built in belt and and actual button and button hole vs the old shorts I had that had snaps…they were terrible and keep popping loose. Never again. The fabric got kinda heavy when it was wet and they dried only moderately fast. Not sure they were the right short for this. I think a lighter, faster drying pair of shorts that don’t drop below the knee are crucial for me. I hate the wet heavy fabric chaffing behind my knees. Another option could be a waterproof knicker with side zips you could wear even if it was warm. That might be an option. Knee warmers die as soon as they get wet or otherwise I’d bring them. Under them I wore my old chamois shorts. They really need to be burned now.
- I wore either my button down short sleeve Kuhl shirt or my black long sleeve poly shirt that I got at some race. The Kuhl shirt got amazingly heavy when it was wet even though it was a synthetic blend! I wore that for the first 4 days though without issue since it was dry and just wet with sweat. I think if I was to do it over I’d just get one long sleeve merino wool tech shirt with a half zipper front and call it good. Wool is your friend in the cold rain forest. Wool clothing tends to not smell as bad too.
- Then it was just your normal wool Smartwool socks and light hikers. That combo was perfect. Zero complaints. Normal thin trail riding gloves, no padding….padded gloves are terrible for me. Helmet had a small rear Alibaba-Express LED light on it (Thank you Ian) and a mount for the accompanying helmet light. (My buddy Ian had this kit one time when the two of us and our other buddy Bob did an overnight trip over Bon Jon in a insane fall storm with freezing rain and hail and all that. He had these two lights he got off Alibaba-Express for like $5 so he sent me the kit. It really is pretty good but the helmet light is just extra dead weight when it’s drained). I suggest looking at those high lumen Fenix lights that take AA’s. I know those are popular in bike packing races.
- My legs got tore up but not sure I’d carry any full size gaiters or anything for this . Too heavy and bulky for such short sections. Just tough it out and take some scratches. Ron wore some mini gaiter things that kept sticks and crud and some water out of his boots which are worth investigating I think. I’d have to talk to him about his kit and what he wore.
Some thoughts on the race in no particular order:
The race IS “totally doable” as the quote on their slogan says. But there’s a catch. You have to really truly enjoy riding or pushing uphill for 12-18 hrs a day-almost non stop for a week or more MINIMUM in a remote wet area with technical terrain and minimal resupply. There is little pavement riding and the gravel is steep and soft like peanut butter if wet. Trail to gravel ratio is nearly 50/50. Top times on the more mortal types are going to be 7-10 days on route with an average speed of less than 2-3 mph…yes seriously. You’ll see the only few people to EVER finish the route (Five people, Shane, Ron, Adam, Paul, Jason) are people who either designed and made the route or are a veteran (FYI-Go PAUL BRUNNER!!). *As of writing this Paul has finished and he is the ONLY one to finish this year! Nice job Paul!!! They have spent years developing this route and making it harder and harder each year. Paul is just some robot I guess, I don’t know. Ron, Adam, Shane are studs and top athletes who love adding in the hardest way possible form A-Z lol. This is done by removing roads and adding more trail or using old decommissioned roads that are going back to nature so to speak. Most are Olympic Peninsula natives or residents who spend a lot of time on this route torturing themselves and building the hardest route possible. I love that. You won’t see them beyond the start line most likely so get your jabs in while you can 😉
- You’ll experience long periods of loneliness because it’s a race and there is no hand holding along the way or camping together or helping each other. There is no sag wagon. You may or may not see anyone you know or care about in the re-supply areas or you may get lucky. That just depends on if they are local or you’re lucky enough to have a local friend or loved one swing by on route like I was with my wife Jess and friend Bob who are Oly Pen natives. You may start with less than a dozen starters off the line. You’ll see them for a few hours if you’re lucky then it’s alone for a week or more. You have to be OK with that. Most average bike packers are not geared that way mentally. Bikepack racing is usually an event where you catch or pass people, well not here. Myself included. It takes practice, experience and commitment to follow through day to day. But I think if you are still with me here and reading this you can do it but it may take a few attempts. There are only 5 people ever to finish. That fact is mind blowing to me. Why are there not more people interested in this challenge? I think a key to having a successful race out there is try and get in some local day trips or trail work parties when those guys go out. You’d learn an enormous amount. Pick the route apart into sections and maybe do some overnights or sub-24/48s etc. This is possible for PNW folks most likely and hard for out of state folks I know.
- The race doesn’t have a FB page with 10,000 followers sharing experiences and tips and tricks and all that. It has 17 currently as of typing this up and there is no real useful info on there yet other than a few things here and there. https://www.facebook.com/Olympic-420-Adventure-Race-100208134684629/ and their IG page https://www.instagram.com/olympic420adventure/?hl=en
- I was lucky to befriend Ron and Adam a few years back when we all did the XWA https://fernwehnw.com/2017/05/24/xwa17-cross-washington-mountain-bike-route-bike-and-gear-notes/ together the inaugural year and know them as acquaintances only at best and was lucky to reach out to Ron for a few questions here and there.
- I’ve tried to follow and pay attention over the years and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I decided that I was ready to give it a go. I’m glad I did but I still feel I was not quite ready in retrospect. I had very little info leading into the start. The little info I had didn’t mean much until I was confronted with it face on. I knew some of the names of the hike a bikes and that was it. No amount of looking at maps and trying to looks at pics helped much. So I suggest you really study the past GPX tracks. Look at everyone’s daily progress on old http://trackleaders.com/data and look at the route, where everyone stopped, slept, resupplied and where the tracks went haywire due to an appearance of someone walking in circles or back and forth like a crazy person. Give yourself a decent daily goal of 40-50 miles. That’s what I did and got pretty close to hitting that on average. Record holders will do 70-100 a day with 12-15,000k of climbing a day with a fully loaded bikes on extremely punchy steep climbs. Here is the link to the proper website and the resupply notes:http://www.olympic420.com/resources
- The days are still pretty long and didn’t seem to drop below 45 or 50 at the coldest at night at lower elevation. It was light enough to move around without a headlamp by 6am and stayed light until 7:30pm or 8 depending on if you were on gravel or on single track deep in the woods. But that’s still a 13-14 hr day give or take without needing much more than a headlamp to get around. Don’t over do the light systems like I did. Huge waste of weight and time. Just get a good 250+ lumen headlamp that take 3 AAA’s and throw down for Lithium Ultimate’s and you’ll be good for days and can buy more at resupply here and there. Some run a dynamo front hub I’ve seen. Unless you are FAST on gravel roads it will just not work well enough on this route to be reliable. The average speed is just not fast enough for long enough for a dynamo front hub. I actually unlaced mine from the new 29er wheels and rebuilt with a normal hub. Also look into those Fenix AA style high lumen lights maybe.
- Battery packs are trouble. They are good until they get drenched by accident and are dead or you run them down charging your phone and Inreach and all that. Don’t count on them. Cold weather will zap them fast. They are heavy. Carry a good headlamp with extra LU batteries and stay off the phone, limit texting at resupply and limit camera use and a normal smart phone should last 3 or 4 days. In Quinault you can hang out at the internet cafe and recharge for the 2nd half of the route. If you are doing anything at night just slow down a tad and use a good headlamp. This mean’s your’e pushing 15 hr days anyway so you should chill and be safe anyway. Protect any electronics from rain with real care. Not haphazard like I did. Wet, dead batteries was actually an issue for this year’s leader, Adam. It was a factor in him having to pull the plug so close the end.
- Rain is a big deal. It WILL get you. It will soak everything. You’ll get tired of it running down your face and on your hands and making using electronics hard. It will get your down gear damp through proximity no mater how careful you are. It will wear you down unless you are a rain forest nut and thrive on rain. I don’t know many folks who do. I like that it provides cooler air with no direct sun but you just end up hot from wearing the rain jacket and still full of water instead of sweat. I revoke my thoughts on rain-vs-heat that I used to say. I think I’d take warm sun over dark cold rain. Wet gear is hard to deal with and it will frustrate you fast when you are tired and it ruins stuff.
- The hardest climbs in the first half are FULL of berries. That was absolutely amazing. I spent hours plucking blueberries off the Dry Creek and Church Creek trails high up and those two huge monster climbs are back to back. My hands were stained blue. Just when I thought man I’m bummed at the lack of berries out here, the route will provide as you climb in elevation , trust me. It was a really nice pick-me-up to pick berries along those hike-a-bikes. Almost like it was designed into the route to keep you from cracking.
- Water. There is plenty, but a few exceptions like higher ridge tops etc. I filtered for the first two days then said forget it. Everyone out here just drinks right out of the creeks and springs. I’ve yet to have and issue….yet. I created a reliable log of water way points on Gaia every time I encountered a spot where I was like hey this would’ve been nice to know of so I didn’t carry 5 lbs of water up this steep incline. That info is something you learn the first year I guess. No other way to know from maps because some streams on the GPS/maps are running and most were not. You have to be there in person. I did the same with camping spots and the three shelters on route for the 1st half. Now I feel like with this knowledge it would save me an enormous amount of frustration next time. Guzzling water along the route the first four days was one of my favorite parts. You could chug as much cold spring water as you wanted and never feel full. Looking for water and finding it when you needed it was a great feeling out there.
Daily ride data and thoughts:
- Day 1: Port Angeles to start of the Sleepy Hollow Trail. 52.5 miles- 12,120′ gain. https://ridewithgps.com/trips/39796632
- Day 2: Start of Sleepy Hollow Trail to Quilcene. 41.2 miles-6,644’gain. https://ridewithgps.com/trips/39797036
- Day 3: Quilcene to Eldon. 60 miles-12,963′ gain
- https://ridewithgps.com/trips/39797361 (Forgot to turn Inreach on when I left Quilcene, noticed at top of Mt Walker climb
- Day 4: Eldon to end of Dry Creek. 46.7 miles-10,779′ gain. https://ridewithgps.com/trips/39798483
- Day 5: End of Dry Creek to Lake Wynoochee. 31.4 miles-6,564′ gain. https://ridewithgps.com/trips/39798730
The discrepancy in elevation gain data between Strava and RWGPS is weird.
Adam’s 1st 3 days are within just a few miles of my 5. His Strava stats show the following:
1st post 91.90-15,612′
2nd post 87.94-15,392′
3rd post 34.02-9,194′ (this was not a full day it was just where his track stopped on his 3rd Strava post but happened to coincide with where I stopped so it should be super close.
And that got him a few miles up the road from where I stopped. 214 miles and 40,000′ of gain. So long story short is I’m not sure what data to believe. I hit all the resupplies and made route mistakes I had to back track on and I’m sure that added a few thousand feet easy. Long story short is you’re in for HUGE days. I’ll split the difference and say 35,000′. Ha.
Here’s a few more of my favorite pics from the race. I didn’t take that many since I was kinda busy pushing my bike uphill all day 😉
Satsop Lakes. Your reward for busting up and over the Church Creek Trail. I got to within a mile or two of the Jason/Sean combo here. Was pretty cool to get that close to someone but never catch them.
Huh? I’m pretty sure that is the “Wildman of the Wynoochee’s” throne 😉 I didn’t sit in it because I didn’t want to trigger some weird hillbilly trap 😉 Goonies never say die!!
I got to ride with this year’s one and only finisher for a bit day 1 for a few hours. Congrats on pushing through the insanity Paul Brunner!!! Thanks for the bit of company that day.
My luxurious view when I fell asleep in the gravel the third night at the Eldon shop…right next to the outhouse. I slept like a baby every night and this was no exception. Funny fact is it was my first time EVER sleeping outside of a tent, just on my pad in my bag…crazy I know.
My normal daily view. Minus the beer. This one fell out on the gravel road just a few miles after taking this photo. It was an early shotgunned breakfast beer that tasted like gravel.
One of my favorite lunches. Got this stuff at the Eldon re-supply. It’s SO far off route and you have to climb miles and a lot of gain to get back on route. Worth it for me at the time.
Some beautiful views along the way. The is the spot where the Duckabush river crosses hwy 101 and dumps into the Hood Canal. It was FULL of elk and bald eagles.
If you look closely you can see the knotted rope we had to climb out of this creek. I got there and could do nothing but laugh. It was a fun challenge for sure. Can you imagine this in pouring rain?
Enormous “Chicken of the Woods” mushrooms. I won’t say where they are. If you do the race you can see them yourself 😉
At the end of the Dry Creek muscle massacre we all unknowingly stumbled across a gift from a trail angel. No one on route knew it was going to be there to my knowledge. I’m not sure they all know it was yet but let’s just say it was amazing. Yes Chuck I drank that Coors Banquet 😉 And Haribos and Snickers and…it was like finding water in the desert at the time. You know who you were, thanks.
Then again shortly after…I couldn’t believe my eyes. Another one! This one I recognized from some old Instagram pics but didn’t put it together what it was at the time. What another amazing thing to run into in the middle of the woods. It’s cool to see your name on the list. It was pretty ravaged but I did pull out another clear beer and had it for breakfast. I think this was Paul B’s wife’s work??
Lots of monster trees on the route. Hundreds of years old
Yours truly. I was up on this enormous downed cedar the size of a semi truck trailer on the Skok coming up with a plan to get my bike over without dying and I hear voices coming up the trail. Turned out to be Shane Noble and his girlfriend! It was pretty cool running into the man the myth the enigma. Shane has done this route in unbelievable record times and is part of the crew who is responsible for this madness. Thanks for the help and chat that day you guys.
Here’s a link to my photo dump on flickr if you need more: https://www.flickr.com/photos/109733516@N07/albums/72157710805233806
Ok, that’s all I can manage to torture you guys with. Hope this helps the next newb who wants to take this route on. #totallydoable #olympic420adventure
*****You know, anyone can do this as an ITT-Individual Time Trial anytime they please…..go do it! I think it needs a winter circumnavigation attempt as well ;)****
10 thoughts on “#Olympic420Adventure Bikepacking race 2019 Gear and race thoughts”
Very informative read Shawn, even for an aging couch potato. Have great admiration for your strength and determination.
Awesome read, Shawn! I am considering the new Copper Spur UL1 bikepack – at $400, would you recommend it? Or would Ian’s tent at 1/4 the cost and twice the weight make more sense?
Yeah buddy! Sounds like you didnt have a miserable time at least. Its a real mean route!
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Hard but not miserable! I learned so much. I carried way too much stuff lol
So Amazing Sean! Good work. What is resupply like? Could you forget a stove setup and just roll on junk food and gas station burritos?
Resupply is certainly there. Some more convenient than others. The few I went to later on were way off route and a pain and they are only as good as your arrival time. Lot to think about with not bringing a stove but yes for sure. I’d consider that. It takes up a lot of precious space in your kit and if you race 16-18hr days you are really only on your own one night so it really is possible. Think race-vs-comfort camping
Seth here. Great read, Shawn! Thanks for breaking it down so well. All the gear info is really helpful, and the rest of it is entertaining – awesome job!
Thanks,Seth. It was fun to write for sure 😉
Reblogged this on barnacle9 and commented:
What a cool writeup – I hope Shawn tackles this again – he is the only human I have known to attempt it 🙂