Blake Bockius finished his bikepacking race season a few weeks ago with an impressive showing at the inaugural Trans North California. Blake is no stranger to racing bikes, whether it be the Leadville 100, his local endurance races near Truckee, or the Tour Divide. Blake is another wonderful person to have associated with the bikepacking community. He is an extremely talented cyclist all while balancing his busy life of owning a business and having a family. We caught up with Blake to get the scoop on life, and bikepacking. Age? 52 Hometown? Canton, OH, I grew up in Colorado before moving to the Tahoe area in 1985. Where is ‘home’ now? Truckee, CA When was the first time you got on a mountain bike? In 1983 I purchased a used Bianchi Grizzly at a ski swap in Vail. I didn’t really get into the sport until I moved to Tahoe. My neighbor turned me on to some of the riding on the west shore. I was instantly addicted to the sport. I thought there was no better way to get into the backcountry and experience the outdoors. What spurred your passion for Bikepacking? When I was younger my wife and I did some touring in Europe and the US. We stopped touring once we had children. I’ve also enjoyed backpacking over the years. I’ve been racing mountain bikes on and off for the past 25 years and have always been drawn to endurance racing 100 milers and 24 hour races. Over the years, I would hear about the TDR, and thought I would love to ride the route. I thought there was no way I would ever be able to take 3+ weeks away from work and family. During the winter of 2011-12, I decided that I’d give myself the opportunity to race the TDR for my 50th birthday. I ended up doing an ITT in June/July of 2012. Since then I can’t get enough. All of my bikepacking so far has been racing. The format fits my current life style. The races I competed in this summer were all around 400 miles, so I could normally finish in two days. I would usually only miss one or two days of work. I hope to do more touring in the future with family and friends. We’ve been seeing your name all over trackleaders.com this year – how many bikepacking races have you done in the last 12 months? Five: Stagecoach 400, Tour de los Padres, Oregon Outback, Smoke and Fire 400 and the Tour North California. Total of nine, including the Tour Divide, AZTR 750, California Sierra Trail Race, and the Coconino 250. Of those, which is your favorite route, and why? It’s very hard to choose just one. They’ve all been positive experiences. The ones that stand out are the AZTR 750, Smoke and Fire 400, and the California Sierra Trail Race. These races stand out because of the beauty and remoteness of the routes, the tough courses and the effort and organization put forth by the organizers. The CSTR is a route that I’m very fond of because it’s in my back yard. The route has all the things a true bikepacking race should have- Beautiful scenery, loads of killer singletrack, tough physical and mental challenges. I think the ride rivals the AZTR and the Colorado Trail Race. Sean Allen has put together an amazing route. Hopefully we will see some more riders at the start next year. As a family man and a business owner, how do you balance your busy schedule? As I said before I’m racing not touring, so I can usually work most races into a long weekend. Although I’ve had to cancel my plans to race a few times due to being committed to work and family. I, as with most folks, have to play the balance game with family, work and play. Also, my children are no longer living at home, so I have more time on the weekends and after work for play. Luckily my wife likes to join me once in a while. How do you train for so many different events within one season? I average about 4 days a week on the bike during the season. Usually I’ll get in one long ride (4-6hrs) per week. I feel like I don’t spend as much time training as I did in the past. Now it’s more about enjoying time on the bike with friends and family. During the winter I include some strength training, downhill and Nordic skiing, and fat biking. I’m also fortunate because I have good riding near by in the winter. From my front door I can be on my bike in about a half hour if I choose to go down to the high desert. I can also drive to the foothills and ride on the west side in about an hour. Tell us about your bike. Why do you love it? I ride two different Giant Bikes, the XTC 27.5 and the Anthem SL 27.5. When the route is mostly gravel and fire road or smooth singletrack, I choose the XTC. I’ve run the bike full rigid and with 100mm travel suspension fork. The bike is extremely light and quick, and I’m really pleased with the switch to 27.5 wheel size. My Anthem is my do-all bike, because it’s super light and fast. The Anthem is the best bike for riding Tahoe trails. I run it with 120mm travel up front, and I’ve even raced an enduro on it. I also feel that with the 27.5 wheel size, the bike is quicker and more responsive than the Anthem 29er that I had last year. If I had only one bike in the quiver the Anthem would be my choice. What bags did you use for these races? I’ve been using Carousel Designs for the past few years. This year, I’ve added some Revelate and Porcelain Rocket to have more choices for the pack to fit the race. Camelbaks are great for routes that require a lot of hike-a-bike. I continually tweak my system to find the best set-up for each race. So far my set up for each race has been different. I’m always trying to refine my system. I think I’ve done each race with a slightly different set up. How many nights have you spent in the backcountry with your bike in the last year? 8 A lot of the races you entered this year were either first year or new events – was this intentional? Not really. I’m always looking for the next adventure. Part of what makes these races special is that I’m out in new places. I’m always saying to myself this place is unbelievable. There’s always an element of the unknown and surprises around the corner. I’ve never done a bikepacking race more than once. Although this will most likely change next year. Share your experience about the organization and direction behind these younger events? I’m very thankful that there’s people out there putting together these amazing rides. Each event is different. Some rides are very under the radar, while others seem to get more attention. For instance the Oregon Outback had close to 200 people show up, while at other events there may be less than ten riders. I think social media has something to do with the disparity. I look forward to seeing what things look like next year. The sport seems to be growing. I’m anticipating larger numbers at the established races and more new events. Bikepacking seems to be a big hit in your neck of the woods, what do you think is the driving force behind this? I’m not sure. There seems to be more folks from Southern California. I think some of this is due to the work that Brendan has put forth on the Stage Coach 400, and some of the other events he manages. It’s funny that I don’t really know any other bikepackers in Truckee or Tahoe. Most of my riding buddies aren’t interested in riding more than a few hours. Hopefully I can get a few folks out for some overnighters next summer. Sponsors? I ride on one of the Giant grassroots teams. http://ridegiantridenorthstar.wordpress.com/ Sponsors include Giant Bikes, Northstar California Resort, Fox, and Camelbak.