Bikepacking is becoming increasingly popular and as such, increasing numbers of mountain bikers are venturing out on multi-day routes in search of adventure. The landscapes these routes travel across are critical to the bikepacking experience. Positive connections between users and the landscapes must be made in order to ensure continued access to cyclists in the future.
Bikepacking Roots, is a new non-profit dedicated to focusing efforts on supporting and advancing bikepacking, as well as conserving the landscapes through which bikepackers travel. A devoted group of bikepackers and conservation and mountain bike advocates have partnered to accomplish these goals.
Founding Executive Director, Kurt Refsnider is a professor of geology at Prescott College, an endurance mountain bike coach, and a long-time bikepacker with a passion for exploring wild places on two knobby tires. With Kaitlyn Boyle, Bikepacking Roots Conservation Education Specialist, he co-developed a class titled Geology through Bikepacking to expose college students to this way of experiencing and connecting to landscapes.
Over the past few years Kurt and Kaitlyn have spent a considerable amount of time bikepacking around the world. During their time abroad it became apparent that there was need for route development, organized resources for planning these adventures, and focused efforts on landscape conservation. A short while later Bikepacking Roots is now a 501(c)(3) organization.
Currently there are no other non-profits in the United States with their efforts focused on supporting bikepacking. While the Adventure Cycling Association has done tremendous amounts of work creating routes for road touring cyclists, their focus is largely on paved routes. Although, their Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is among the most recognized and ridden dirt-focused bikepacking routes in the country, highlighting the value of well-crafted and researched dirt oriented routes.
Bikepacking Roots is overseen by a Board of Directors with a wide range of expertise to help shape and guide the organization. In order to strengthen their team, a group of Regional Advisors will assist in route development, local advocacy efforts, and public outreach. The Board of Directors are:
- Casey Greene (route developer and long-time Adventure Cycling Association employee)
- Matt Nelson (Director of the Arizona Trail Association)
- Tom Flynn (environmental law student and formerly of the Outdoor Alliance)
- Gabriel Amadaeus (founder of Limberlost and head honcho of the Oregon Timber Trail)
- Scott Morris (bikepacking visionary and founder of bikepacking.net)
The initial route development has been focused on the Southwest, but other parts of the country will receive attention in the coming years. According to Refsnider, “Our tentative plan for the next few years is to release 2-3 long-distance off-road routes (2,500+ miles) and a half dozen or so shorter routes with route guides and environmental/conservation education materials for each route.”
A variety of routes have been released in the first week of May, including the 200-mile Craters and Cinder Cones Loop in northern Arizona. While Kurt did extensive reconnaissance on other routes that are being released, he stated that this loop is the one he is the most excited about because it passes through one of his favorite Arizona landscapes and among 800+ extinct volcanoes. Adding this loop to the already established Coconino Loop could make for an amazing route with incredible diversity including “the red rocks of Sedona, endless pine forests, fire lookouts, hundreds of extinct volcanoes, and aspen groves.”
With access issues becoming more common, strengthening the connection between bikepackers and the landscapes they travel is invaluable. Currently future access to public land is threatened by the public land heist. Bikepacking Roots strives to inspire exploration of, connection with, education on, and conservation of the landscapes bikepacking depends.
The efforts being put forward by this enthusiastic group are exciting. As further development takes place, many more new and diverse routes will be developed. Bikepacking Roots launched May 1, and over the subsequent 3 weeks, they are releasing three new routes, sharing more details about some of the future route development projects, and raffling off gear contributed by their founding supporters. Please visit the website to become a member of Bikepacking Roots (it’s free!), get on the email list, and support everything that they have in the works.