I’ve personally been toying with the idea of bikepacking the spine of Vermont’s Green Mountains (essentially the length of Vermont) since I began bikepacking. During a talk on bikepacking and Tour Divide to a local MTB club, I met Dave Tremblay, a Tour Divider and avid bikepacker. He and a few others were well on their way to the completion of what is now the XVT (Cross Vermont Bikepacking Route.)

The Gear

What to bring is always a toss up, depending on the course, the proposed weather, and your motive. This was my first bikepacking route with a full suspension bike. I recently purchased an Ibis Ripley that I named Ike. Without getting into mumbo jumbo tech talk, the Ripley is the most versatile bike I’ve ever ridden. Just about a week before riding the bike along the spine of the state in competitive time, I was riding lift access downhill and jump trails on the same bike! When setting up for XVT, I did not think I’d be sleeping for much more than a few hours one night. I first considered bringing just my space blanket, but I’m glad I decided to go one step heavier with the SOL E-Bivy, which I decided to use over a thermal sleeping bag liner and my usual Klymit Pad. It was minimal, but that’s all I felt the need for. Embarrassingly, with all my bikepacking trips, this was my first to use a bivy. xvtbkpkrte4 As far as clothing, I wore bike shorts, a jersey, and 5″ wool socks, packing a Smartwool top layer, leg warmers, and my trusty Patagonia Super Cell shell. I knew I was going to be riding through the dark, so I ran a Shutter Precision Dynamo to power a USB charger and my K-Lite lighting system. I used a cheap USB headlamp, powered from rechargeable USB cache batteries, and zip-tied a blinky red light to the back of my helmet. I decided to carry a Camelbak Mule for water capacity, as I waited too long to order a frame bag. Other accessories packed as listed: -Pump -Tube, a good one, cause tiny pumps suck -Patch kit -Bike tool w/ chain tool -Spare SPD cleat -Chain/quick links -Needle -Fiber repair spoke -Chain lube (tiny bottle) -Zip-ties -Medical tape

The Ride

The route is 301 miles and about 33,000 vFt. xvtbkpkrte1The route has little [bike] traffic thus far, and has been primarily ridden northbound from Massachusetts to Canada. Living in central Vermont for the last few years, I had ridden the central part of the route extensively, and expected to be on similar terrain throughout. When it came to bike choice, I went full suspension, mostly for experimentation for future plans. The initial time to beat was set at an impressive 54 hours, on a rigid singlespeed! Rumors were that there was a lot of singletrack, tough double track, and rough class 4 roads. I expected my pace to be a bit slower than “Divide” cruising, and was warned to be ready to push my bike for the hills, and the mud. Sticking to my guns, I planned to be finished within 48 hours, as I had only taken one day off of work in addition to my weekend, and wanted that day to get home and recover. With a great forecast for the weekend, I couldn’t help but be excited to have a route completed without constant rainfall. The night before, I camped in Molly Stark State Park. As the alarm went off at 4:59AM, I got out of my sleeping bag and into my riding clothes. The cool morning air was filled with a thick fog. On the drive to the state line, morning’s first light crested the rolling hills. Stars still filled the sky, as excitement to ride filled my mind. Bags in place, GPS on, SPOT activated. I wanted to be rolling at 6:00am. It was 5:58. “Where are my gloves? DAMMIT, WHERE ARE MY GLOVES. Home, on my stack of clean laundry.” I hate riding without gloves! Now barehanded, I decided to roll at 6:05. The crisp air chilled my bare hands; I was so mad at myself. “Snap out of negative thoughts. It’s a beautiful day, and you’re on your bike,” I told myself. As soon as I cleared the first mile or so of pavement, I lead myself into what would be my most enjoyable day of bikepacking in memory. Early miles ticked off quickly, on winding forest service roads, often with a beautiful creek along side. A bit of grassy trail kept my feet wet, as morning dew had yet to evaporate. Enjoyable riding brought me to a bit of steep pavement through the Stratton area. A roadie up ahead seemed to think he was God as he pedaled down the middle of the lane. As I passed, I educated him that “Share the road” does not mean “own the road.” Respect gets respect, fella. I could feel him die a little on the inside as I pedaled away on my loaded FS mtb, and his 23c tires were stuck in slow. This paved bit lead me out to just about mile 50, where I passed a snack shack, which would open later, but I had planned to skip it anyway. The route began to mature into its true character with a rough snowmobile track leading into the mountains as late morning sun began to warm the world. I came to a surprise supply point I missed in planning around mile 70, so I grabbed a Coke and Gatorade, to surpass the boredom of water if nothing else. The trails became steeper and rougher the farther north I went. I had yet to push my bike more than a few yards until the Plymouth area, where the trail and the stream became one of the same. Obviously following a deep valley, I did not spend too much time distinguishing, and pushed my bike up the shallowest part of the stream, past some folks panning for gold, until I would break out of the valley for a climb and descent into Bridgewater. My front wheel caught a wet log in mud, and I ejected as I watched my right hand and grip disappear about 10 inches into the slop. Bare hands, slimy grips, YUCK! xvtbkpkrte10 Now on my home turf, I enjoyed familiar trail and pedaled with a grin ear to ear. I could not maintain the 12mph average I had been for the morning miles, but I did not expect to, and was glad to be ‘mountain’ biking! After a short bushwack from an abandoned class 4 into singletrack in Green Mountain Trails, the route climbs to the top for a visit to Shrek’s Cabin. I was disappointed not to find the sign-in book, just a book of children’s poems I had read a bit of while camped here on a previous trip. Just around 6:00PM, I began the fantastic descent into town to get food for the night and next morning. More familiar terrain lead me out of town, on a bit tougher route than I anticipated. As the sun set, I turned lights on, more to be seen, than to see. I saw a moose cross the road a couple hundred feet ahead of me on my way up Route 73. Atop Brandon Gap, it was nearly dark, so I plugged in my headlamp, preparing for the Moosalamoo area. The singletrack climb on Chandler Ridge was the first mental crux I had prepared for. A blast from a 5 hour energy, and I was awake, climbing, pushing a bit, but mostly riding, loving life. I still don’t know why, but there were fireworks in seemingly every direction that night, and I let my mind wander into imagining that they were celebrating my ride arriving at Silver Lake, my proposed first night camp spot. I’m not sure if it was caffeine or excitement, but I had no desire to stop yet. Also realizing I didn’t want to attempt the entire route without sleep, I rode around the Goshen Reservoir and decided to sleep in Widow’s Clearing. The plan was to sleep about half way up the climb, to end warm, and start with a climb in the morning to warm up.xvtbkpkrte12 At 11:40PM, I found a flat enough spot and rolled out my E-bivy and sleeping bag liner. I slipped in and forced myself to eat as much of the dry turkey sandwich as I could, but had more luck with the cookies Beth made for me. I slept well, as the owls worked through the night. At 3:48AM, the most annoying ringtone on my phone chimed through the still night. The clock is ticking, and I must ride. Break “camp” and force in more turkey and chocolate chips. It was too early in the day to be having trouble eating real food. Wheels were rolling forward by 4:00AM, and I felt great. The Natural Turnpike was a perfect early morning spin, and first light greeted me on the other side as I climbed Lincoln Gap, where the sunrise was full on through the trees as I sped down the other side. This is where the singletrack REALLY started. The Warren/Sugarbush area lead to Waitsfield, which played in the Mad River Valley on its way to Waterbury. Technical VT singletrack broken up with some roads. This was fantastic. Tough, but fantastic. Many of the climbs had me either out of the saddle or out of the pedals, pushing. The descents had me whooping and loving life. THIS is what bikepacking is supposed to be!xvtbkpkrte14 Dave Tremblay chased me down on his motorcycle just before the Waterbury tunnel and we chatted a bit. Some more great trail to follow. I was starting to feel a bit tired. A snag with the attendant in Little River State Park slowed me down more than planned. Apparently it’s a fee area… The singletrack all began to blur together as I got a chance to ride miles and miles of trail I had always wanted ride, but never had until now. I really was enjoying the ride, but I was struggling to stayed fueled, which lead to some frustration. I couldn’t stomach protein. I was living off Twizzlers, Swedish Fish, and cookies. I would love to go back and ride this section with a cooperative stomach. Just before the Cady Hill tower, a dot follower chased me down for a quick visit. It’s always rad to see people you don’t know who are interested in what you’re doing. I was excited to know that this was the last of the singletrack, as I had fallen quite a bit behind my idealistic pace. In Morrisville, I resupplied for the last stretch. I chugged a chocolate milk while I scanned for what I could eat. Lifesaver Gummies, yup. 50 miles and ~5000vF left, I pedaled onto climby roads which would quickly degrade to rough and rocky paths. Not singletrack, but not much faster. Storm clouds began to build and thunder echoed xvtbkpkrte17through the valleys. I never got more than a sprinkle! I didn’t see anyone other than a few Jeepers buried in a mud pit deeper than their doors. They hooted and hollered as I picked my way around, never getting off the pedals. The storms seemed to part around me, as I cleared some of the steepest, heavily traveled, dirt road I’ve ever seen. The setting sun came below the clouds, and the light shining across the valley cast amazing shadows below the dark ceiling of passing storms. My new goal: watch the sunset with Beth. The orange glow was in full effect as I sprinted into Newport for the bike path. “Calvin!” I heard a familiar voice shout. Missing the first entrance to the bike path as the GPX had me on the road, I looped around to a pedestrian bridge to say “Hi” and take a photo with the setting sun before I charged about 6 miles along Lake Memphremagog to finish at 8:02PM at the Canadian Border, finishing in 37 hours 57 minutes. I backed off the border about a mile to avoid suspicion and was nearly eaten alive by mosquitoes as I waited for my pick up. For not having ridden much this summer (in terms of long hard rides), I was very happy with my ride. I do believe that with a bit more time on the saddle leading up, this route would be quite possible without sleep. The Northeast gets forgotten in the action sports world, and while Vermont singletrack is beginning to get more press, I hope this route helps put us on the map in the bikepacking world. I would like to thank everyone who put effort into the creation of this route. It was a great experience, I look forward to repeating, whether it be touring, or an all out sleepless assault. My incredible girlfriend for everything you did to help make this weekend possible, and more over, just being the person you are. I love you Beth!
xvtbkpkrte19 beth susnet
Sunset with Beth!


Thanks to my awesome sponsors!

Alpine Bike Works http://www.alpinebikeworks.com/

Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks http://www.nukesunrise.com/

Lonewolf Cycling http://lonewolfcycling.com/

Surefoot USA (Insoles) http://www.surefoot.com/

16 Comments

  1. Southwest Backcountry

    Sweet, and tough. Calvin, youre a hardman. looks like a sweet route.

  2. Nice work! Thanks for setting a high bar.
    Coincidently I’m doing the first 45 miles Friday/Sat – north to Winhall, then back to MA (before racing Putney on Sunday!) . I’ll follow the route, but plan on exploring the Catmont trail south of Somerset a bit . I hope to be back for more in future years… perhaps in the competitive spirit.

  3. Sounds like quite an adventure. Do you have a GPX track that you could share? Sounds like some cool stuff.

    Thanks
    Paul

  4. sten van leuffel

    Hi Calvin,

    Very beautiful route! I’m planning to do it next week. Any chance you have a .gpx track of your route?

    thanks

    sten

  5. Trying to figure where to go on for a a night and two days closest to burlington – where we live.
    Any advice ?

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  7. Any updates on the .gpx track of your route? This sounds super fun.

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  9. Regarding comments asking for the .gpx, email me at mtbmxrider@yahoo.com with a descriptive subject line. I am not on my computer with the file on it often, but I can get it to you by spring.

  10. Chase Rosenberg

    Hey, This looks great…..and nice work on that time. Do you have a gpx file that you could share?

    Thanks,

    Chase

  11. John Thomson

    Hey I’m going on a trip to Vermont first two weeks of april, was looking to do a bikepacking trip while I was there and your pictures look awesome. I spend a lot of time camping via paddleboard, canoe or snowshoe so I have lots of camping experience but I have never done a bikepacking trip. I am confident I will be able to pack for the trip, not confident on navigating bike trails. Would love some tips and any trip notes if you think the trail is doable. I’m a pretty decent xc rider, a little dh experience. Cheers!

  12. Paul,
    Thinking of doing this ride on an unsuspended Seven Evergreen with 45 c tires. In your opinion is this doable on a multi day ride with all gear or would I do better on a fat tire or 29er? Trying to avoid buying a new bike.
    Mike
    carpfire@gmail.com

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