Each year bikepackers from across the world are setting the standard for this new subset of mountain biking. Whether it be laying down an unthinkable race performance, biking thru unknown territory, putting together trails and roads to make a new route, or capturing compelling footage for our viewing pleasure, bikepackers everywhere are accomplishing amazing feats. It is a never ending cycle, and the bar set by athletes and organizers continued to be raised in 2014.  Please take some time to read about the recognized athletes in each category for our inaugural Bikepacking Year in Review presented by Bikepacking.net and Bikepackers Magazine.  

Race Performance – honoring the best performances in bikepacking races this season.

Kurt Refsnider – Arizona Trail Race: At the start of the 2014 Arizona Trail Race, it was clear that Kurt and Aaron Gulley were gunning for sub 48 hour rides. If you are familiar with the first 300 miles of the AZT, you know how difficult this task would be. In the 9 year history of the race, there has only been 4 individuals that posted sub 60 hour times. What is more interesting was the guy up front, Kurt, who not only beat 48 hours, but he crushed it, finishing with a time of 45 hours and 7 minutes. Although records are made to be broken, this one may not be touched for a while.
Kurt Refsnider
(Photo/Kaitlyn Boyle)
  Jefe Branham – Tour Divide:  It is obvious that Jefe knows a thing or two about bikepacking, and he yet again continues to show how he is still one of the sport’s elite. Jefe won the Tour Divide this year, a year where winter weather was the news during the first 4 days. The overall record was not broken, but without the weather up north, he would have been pretty close to beating it. Jefe finished with at time of 16 days, 2 hours, and 39 minutes, more than two days ahead of 2nd place. It only took one performance this year from the legendary bikepacker to get recognized from a number of media outlets as well as cycling manufactures. (NB) Jefe Branham - Tour Divide   Blake Bockius – 5 Bikepacking races: While some folks like to do the same few races year after year, Blake has taken a different path. Blake started and completed 5 bikepacking races this season, all in the span of 8 months. Of the 5 races he did this year; Stagecoach 400, Tour de los Padres, Oregon Outback, Smoke and Fire 400, and the Tour North California, 4 of them were first year races.  Blake now has completed 9 different bikepacking races in his career and shows no signs of slowing down. (NB) 1185116_10152289619277889_640752609_n   Jeff Oatley – Iditarod Trail Invitational: The most difficult winter ultra in the world is called the Iditarod Trail Invitational. It is a 1049 mile race on the Iditarod Trail, starting in Anchorage and ending in Nome, AK. This was Jeff’s 10th ITI and his most memorable yet. Jeff took advantage of the conditions and crushed Mike Curiaks record of 17 days, 2 hours. Jeff finished in 10 days and 3 hours. (NB) Iditarod Trail Invitational   Mike Hall – Trans Am Bike Race: Each year we follow Mike Hall and see what he is up to. He is usually up to something big, whether it be racing around the world or riding the Tour Divide.  An experienced and tremendously strong competitor, Mike is a podium contender whenever he lines up. This year he took on the Trans Am BIke Race, a new race that follows the Trans Am Route. Mike battled bad weather, steep climbs, 18weelers and desolate highways to beat out Jason lane  by 20 hours. He finished the 4000 mile route in 17 days and 16 hours. (NB)   Neil Beltchenko – Colorado Trail Race- With some of the sport’s biggest names sitting out this year’s CTR, Neil knew the 2014 race was his to lose. While most racers were focused on surviving and finishing the 550 miles of trail, the 26 year old from Crested Butte, Colorado was looking to set a high bar for the “new course”. Through horrendous weather conditions, Beltchenko battled his way across the CTR, tearing his lateral meniscus, staving off hypothermia, and setting a new course record.  This inspirational run followed Neil’s third place finish in the 2014 AZT300, crushing the course with a time of 2 days, 1 hour, and twenty minutes. (MA) Colorado Trail Race  

Female Bikepacker- honoring the best female performance in bikepacking races this season.

  Alice Drobna – Tour Divide: When you think of record setting women Tour Divide performances, you likely think of Eszter Horanyi. Although Alice did not beat Horanyi’s 2012 Tour Divide time, she came close. What she did do was set the new Women’s Single Speed Record with at time of 22 days, 6 hours, and 36 mins. The endurance athlete kept consistant the entire time, battaling the horrendus weather up north to finish in the top 15 overall, beating out Sarah Caylor by a half of a day. (NB) 2014 Tour Divide Results   Eszter Horanyi– Continental Divide Trail: One of the strongest women cyclists in the world, and quite possibly the best female bikepacking resume on the books, Eszter Horanyi continues to set the standard, and gives men and women a reason to get after it. Horany bikepacked the entire length of the Continental Divide Scenic trail from south to north with her partner in crime, Scott Morris. There were lots of up’s and lots of down’s, (as seen on her blog) but one this is certain, the grit and tenacity that this woman has, is truly an inspiration. She totaled 124 days on the trail. (NB)
(photo/Scott Morris) topofusion.com/diary
(photo/Scott Morris)
topofusion.com/diary
  Alison Kinsler – AZT 300: Alison showed up at Parker Canyon Lake this year not really knowing what to expect, other than what friends had told her. Sitting on her trainer in Afghanistan serving as an orthopedic surgeon, she focused on what it would be like. Imagining was all she could do. When it came to game time Kinsler showed up and finished 5th overall (out of 52) with a time of 2 days, 15 hours, and 20 minutes. She came in just shy of the overall women’s record of 2 days, 13 hours, and 15 minutes. (NB) 10011478_10152136416894608_3576115576582962442_n  Heather Best – Iditarod Trail Invitational 350:  As we mentioned above with Jeff Oatley, who happens to be her husband, the 2014 Iditarod Trail Invitational was a year to remember. Every single record that could be broken was, including the women’s 350 mile version to McGrath. Best showed up only 10 hours after winner Kevin Breitenbach to take the female win and record with a time of 2 days 14 hours and 13 minutes. She shattered the previous record by 22 hours and finished 9th overall. (NB)
Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 11.14.28 AM
(Photo/Craig Medre)
  Tracey Petervary – Arrowhead 135, Fat Pursuit, Liguria, Fitzbarn: Tracy is no stranger to ultra endurance / bikepacking races, especially those of the winter variety. Tracey had a huge year starting in January with the Arrowhead 135 where she braved the crazy cold temperatures to be the first women finisher and round out the overall top five with a time of 27 hours. She then set her sights on the first annual Fat Pursuit, her husbands new winter ultra where she finished 2nd overall. She joined Jay in the Liguria Mtn Divide Benchmark over in Italy and rounded out here season at the Fitz-barn 450. A extremely impressive season, Jay and Tracey continue to keep pushing the limits, and its exciting to watch.
(Photo/Salsa Cycles)
(Photo/Salsa Cycles)
 

Adventure/Expedition -Honoring the athlete(s) who completed the most visionary, daring and adventurous bikepacking trip(s) of the year.

  Justin Simoni:  When we heard Justin was going to attempt to summit each and every 14er this year, we were blown away. When we heard he was going to do it in a self-supported fashion cycling from trailhead to trailhead, we thought it was crazy. When he stood atop his final 14er, Longs Peak, he was an instant legend, not only in the cycling world but in the climbing world, too. Justin finished this amazing adventure in 34 days and 12 hours, beating the previous fastest known time. (NB) Justin Simoni    Scott Morris and Eszter Horanyi: In a year of many amazing firsts, Scott Morris and Eszter Horanyi’s run on the 3,500 plus mile Continental Divide Trail might be difficult to beat. The duo spent 124 days cycling and hiking 3,623 miles and gaining over 450,000 feet in elevation.  Not only did the pair’s efforts on the CDT enthrall the bikepacking and outdoor adventure communities, Morris and Horanyi ‘s efforts and stewardship have provided land managers and trail advocacy groups with a solid example of collaboration along long-distance backcountry routes, enjoyed by multiple user groups. Without a doubt, Scott and Eszter’s completion of the CDT is a gift to our community and they’re expedition will no doubt inspire others to tackle this monstrous route. (MA)
Bikepacking year in review
(Photo/ Scott Morris) topofusion.com/diary
  Daniel Burton: Daniel Burton became the first cyclist to reach the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth. Burton started at Hercules Inlet, on December 2nd, and made it to the South Pole on January 21st. In total he finished in 51 days, dealing with -40 degree temperatures, cravesses, running out of food and being alone. Only a few have attempted this truly epic route, but Daniel is the only one to complete the 750 mile trek on a bike. (NB)
IMG_0110
(photo/http://epicsouthpole.blogspot.com/)
  Kurt Sandiforth: Kurt had been on the road for 15 straight months until this May, when he finished up the South American part of his world tour this year. This past year he has made his way from the central part of South America, all the way to the southernmost tip, all while exploring, making relationships, and working from time to time. Kurt is the holder of the bikepacking triple crown overall record, a task he completed before he set out on his journey in 2012. Kurt came back to the states and was quick to get back at racing, where he was the winner of the first annual Trans North California. (NB)
1525094_861695697188785_2303775394593771227_n
(Photo/Megan Doyle)
    Cass Gilbert: Undoubtedly one of the most interesting and exciting bikepacking adventurers to follow is Cass Gilbert. Cass’s exploits have kept the adventure cycling world transfixed. His engaging website and well written blog, While Out Riding, has inspired armchair explorers and experienced travelers alike. In 2014, Cass finished his ride across the Americas and has returned to the states to prepare for his next adventure. An unquestionable nominee, Gilbert’s years of travel, writing and photography continue to make him a stand-out bikepacker year after year. (MA)
 (photo/Mike Howarth) www.whileoutriding.com
(photo/Mike Howarth)
www.whileoutriding.com
Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox:  These two are always exploring new routes in foreign countries, and documenting them for others to learn and benefit from. Nicholas has been exploring by bike ever since 2008, and may represent the ideal lifestyle for many. This past year Nicholas and Lael hung around Alaska before setting out on another one of their classic dirt heavy adventures. This time it was to Eastern Europe, exploring Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Greece. Over the past 2 years Nicholas has been documenting these routes and you can now find them all here: European Bikepacking Guide. They both live on the road, living up to the name “gypsy by trade.” (NB)
(Photo/ Nicholas Carman) https://gypsybytrade.wordpress.com/about/
(Photo/ Nicholas Carman)
gypsybytrade.wordpress.com
  Donnie Kolb: Another route creator and explorer, Donnie has helped jump start, or re-jumpstart, the bikepacking scene up in Oregon. Between Velodirt.com and Oregonbikepacking.com he has established many routes and races. One of the most popular races that he organized this year was the Oregon Outback which took place in May. This race brought people from across the country to enjoy the graded route from southern Oregon up to the Washington border. (NB)
(photo/Jason Britton)
(photo/Jason Britton)
  Kim McNett and Bjorn Olson: Starting out with 700 miles on the Iditarod Trail, this couple then pushed on to new ground over the Seward Peninsula.  They crossed the sea ice and pedaled into Kotzebue, becoming the first to cycle to the Arctic, which they did in self-supported style.  It took them 36 days for the 1000 mile journey.  Bjorn is an experienced Alaska adventurer, whether it be bushwhacking, pedaling, or packrafting. (SM)
(Photo/ Bjorn Olson)
(Photo/ Bjorn Olson)
 

Veteran  – Honoring an athlete who time and again shows up and gets the job done.

Jay Petervary: Jay is continuing to make his mark in the bikepacking world. Jay had an extremely strong year and it started at the Arrowhead 135 battling -40 conditions taking the win. He then set his sights on the Arizona Trail Race 750, although short of the record, he finished in 8 days 9 hours, a full day ahead of 2nd place. He then took on the hyped event where he set the benchmark for the Liguria MTN Divide race for 2015. To top it off he took first in the Fitz-Barn 450. Among other races and rides, Jay had a very strong year. (NB)
(photo/Arrowhead 135)
(photo/Arrowhead 135)
  Mark Caminiti: Anyone that has the guts to attempt the triple crown is a true inspiration. Anyone that completes the challenge is a true mountain bike legend. Mark has been bikepacking since the beginning, stuffing everything in his backpack and going out for days on end. After completing his 4th AZT 750, he decided to take on the Tour Divide, and then his annual Colorado Trail Race. Mark spent 47 days, 8 hours, and 29 minutes on route, thats a whole lot of bikepacking. (NB) Mark Caminiti  Billy Rice:  If you are a stranger to the name, then let us fill you in. Before this year Billy Rice completed the Tour Divide 3 times, in 2 years. How did he do this you ask? After a successful 2012 Tour Divide, Billy decided to attempt the first ever Yo-Yo of the divide route – riding the route south to north, and then north to south, back to back. He was successful with a time of 44 days and 42 minutes. This year Billy took on the first annual Trans Am Bike Race, a race along the ACA Trans Am Bike route. Billy dealt with a broken frame, among a handful of other issues. He had to ride off course in order to set up his new bike. He finished in 13th overall, tied with race organizer Nathan Jones at 25 days, 6 hours and 41 minutes. (NB) DSC_0582 

Rookie – Honoring the bikepacker who’s rookie race season, or first season of bikepacking adventures are impressive and inspirational.

  Rick Miller – AZT 300/ CTR: Rick’s first bikepacking trip was a year ago on the Kokopelli’s Trail and that initial adventure has led to an inspirational rookie ultra season. At 58 yrs old, Rick bested athletes half his age turning in an impressive 3 day, 15 ½ hour run on the AZ 300 and completing his first Colorado Trail race in sub 7 days! Perhaps even more impressive is Rick’s persistent attitude, love of being outdoors, and positive perspective on the bikepacking tribe. “The bikepacking community is one of the best groups of people I’ve met. Cheerful (or at least humorous) in the worst conditions and always helpful and supportive, especially to newcomers.” We’re excited to see more from Miller in 2015!(MA)
(Photo/http://elfreakofromrico.blogspot.com/)
Rick, left. (Photo/elfreakofromrico.blogspot.com)
  Calvin Decker – Tour Divide: The beauty of the Tour Divide is the unknown. Anything can happen in 2700 miles, and that was no different this year. Snow, Rain, and scorching heat played a roll in this years Tour Divide. Calvin seems to play his cards perfectly, although he did not avoid the elements, he listened to his body and paced himself. That is until he hit Colorado, here he flew past competition, and found himself in 2nd place as he hit the central portions of colorado. The 21 year old Decker gained a decent gap while cruising through New Mexico. Calvin finished the Tour Divide in 18 days, 5 hours, and 29 minutes. (NB)
Calvin Decker
Photo/ Sam Newbury
    Alice Drobna –  Tour Divide / TNC: Although Drobna has been mountain biking for a few years now, her discipline was more of the 100 mile variety, competing in the National Ultra Endurance Series. This year Drobna, decided to take on a different form of mountain biking, taking on the Tour divide, where she set the single speed record and won the woman’s category. After she recovered from the divide she took 2nd place at the 1st annual Trans North California with at time of 2 days, 18 hours and 8 minutes. (NB) 2014 Tour Divide Results   Charlie Kemp – Florida Divide: Charlie, an avid outdoors man set the Benchmark on the Florida Divide route this past Fall. The route goes from the Georgia border, through the heart of Florida, and eventually the everglades where it finishes at the Flamingo Marina. Charlie helped scout the route with Karlos Bernart, which will be showcased on February 28th, in a race format. Charlie finished the 800+ mile route in just over 10 days. 10562994_1547457525499925_3138674372424762648_n  

Bikepacking Media – showcasing an individual or party that engages and captures the true essence of a bikepacking trip.

Aaron Johnson – Movie: The Arizona Trail Scott Thigpen – Book: Trail Magic and the Art of Soft Pedaling Bjorn Olson – Movie: Hunting for Monsters Christopher Bennett – Book: Cordillera 6 Mike “Kid” Reimer – Movie: The Push Martino Vincenzi – Movie: The Tuscany Trail Joey Schusler – Movie:  Huayhuash Joey Schusler – Movie: Colorado Trail. I’m Part of The Tribe.

5 Comments

  1. I can see bikepacking as something fun to do – a good, unique way to explore parts of the world that few other people get to see on a bicycle. But I don’t think I’d want to do it as part of a race. That just sounds like punishment. But that’s just me. A race could be fun perhaps?

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      Darren,

      Thanks for the note, it really is a wonderful time, and we think everyone should experience it. No one is saying bikepack racing is the way to do it, but I can say it is fun. Bikepacking is just a hybrid of touring, and we can argue – came long before cycle touring. It has regained popularity with a few races such as the Tour Divide (GDMBR), Arizona Trail Race and the Colorado Trail Race. Mountain biking in general gives you a different perspective, wether you punish yourself or not. We feel off road travel is more unique, more quiet, and a bit more fun.

  2. Very cool. Obviously fairly US focused, but I think the UK scene’s got plenty of potential. Looking forward to getting stuck into it when I’m back there next summer.

    Cheers

    Paul
    theridesouth.com

  3. You’ve presented a bunch of wonderful personalities and I pay my respect to them.
    However putting stress on results vitates the impression. Timing and raceing is a sport thing and bikepacking is sth else. I wish we keep numbers out of it.
    Regards

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