Biking from Denver to Durango on The Colorado Trail is no easy feat. Its highest point is 13,271 feet above sea level and most of the already-challenging trail is above 10,000 feet. With detours, it took buddies Connor Johnson, Blake Finnerty and Paul Wirth 12 days to cover the slightly over 500 miles they calculated. Sound like your kind of fun?
TGR caught up with Connor to hear more about the trip, know the stories behind his photo essay (all captions are written by him) and learn what it takes to attempt such a challenge.
How did you pack?
"All of our bikes had about 160 mm of travel. There are bags made specifically for hardtail bikes, but not as much full suspension. Being that we just graduated college and don't quite have that amount of money, we all sewed our own bags. You obviously want to put more weight on the bike than in the backpack, so we strapped stuff like a sleeping bag in a dry sack on the front handlebars and also wore packs. All in all, we carried about 50 to 60 pounds each between kitchen supplies, bike repair gear, tent and my bivy sack."
Any weather problems?
"We got really rained out right by the Twin Lakes area. We were soaked through. It was like the sky was coming down on us. We didn't have to worry as much about water sources, but we did have to pick our following campsites more carefully. It also made navigation a little hard. The guidebook would say 'cross a stream' and we would cross 15."
How could you tell the trip was taking a physical toll?
"We racked up a fair calorie deficit, actually. We all lost 15-20 pounds. It's pretty crazy, actually. We'd eat a lot of Snickers, a lot of peanut butter, anything that was highly caloric. My go-to meal was making ramen and then throwing instant potatoes into the leftover water. Not exactly gourmet. If you're not riding, you're hiking... you just get hungry!"
Hardest segment? Why?
"Definitely Buena Vista to Silverton. It was our biggest section, 200 miles, and resulted in 5 nights in the backcountry. That amount of time without a resupply, so far out, took a toll on us. We could've maybe pushed through it a little faster, but we were also trying to enjoy the trail as much as possible. We never had a quitting point, but there were definitely some points of low morale."
Wait, there's more:
"Our water purifier broke on us during the second to last day, but luckily we brought iodine tablets as well."
Favorite segment? Why?
"The high alpine exposure areas outside Silverton were my favorite, they were really cool. A lot of it was above 12,000 feet, and just beautiful."
"The Colorado Trail is open to bikers, hikers and horses, but there are these wilderness areas that bikers can't go through. You need to do detours around, and one of those detours was 75 miles! We also didn't realize how much hike-a-bike there would be. A lot of the trails were pretty beat up by moto riders and horses.
"Ice cream was a huge crowd pleaser. That was one of the first things we would do whenever we rolled into a town!"
On the trail, you wish you had ... (fill in the blank)?
"A bike hub or a solar charger for charging electronics on bigger trips. A lot of the higher alpine stuff I wasn't able to get a photo of, but so be it. It's always cool to be able to show, but it's also about your own experience. I packed 2 GoPros and a Sony a6000."
"We didn't see a lot of wildlife, which was strange. Maybe we just biked right through it. After all, we were going pretty fast and focusing on the trail."
Would you do it again?
"Not right now," he said laughingly. "Maybe something smaller, 80-100 miles, something you could do in a few days. We definitely tested our mental and physical limits on this trip. By the end of it, we were pretty done."
Parting words of wisdom?
"A little hot food goes a long way."