What can be said about 40 bikepackers of all different levels getting together to talk about bikes, bags, gear, routes, races, rides, experiences and everything in between? Too much, but I will attempt to share not only our experience during the first annual Canadian Bikepacking Summit, but also the general vibe, which was certainly a welcoming sight considering all this American political drama.

I would be lying if I said this summit came together easily. A lot of work was put in to it, and I could likely write a article just on this. Ryan Correy did a fantastic job, and because of him, it was a successful summit where people took away a lot of information and knowledge. His wife, Sarah also put in a lot of time as well as Ryan Draper, Manger at rebound Cycles and coach of Cycling 101. It was a team effort and it really showed.

For a first year event, Ryan wanted to keep things small. Over the course of the 3 day event, 42 people attended: One bag manufacturer, one Tour Divide winner, an Alberta Parks representative, three event organizers, one trail engineer for the Great Trail, a bike shop owner and manager, an author and motivational speaker, a Patagonia representative, a tyke-packing pro, and so many eager individuals looking to build on their bikepacking skills.

Friday evenings kick-off started the summit with a keg from the Grizzly Paw Brewery, introductions from Ryan Correy and Ryan Draper and a ‘Future of Bikepacking Panel’. The panel was comprised of Ryan Correy, Duane Fizor from Alberta Parks, Scott Felter of Porcelain Rocket, Josh Kato, Lindsay Arne and myself. The conversation began on the future of bikepacking and after we shared some thoughts on that, it quickly went into a conversation about public land issues, and gaining and making access to the beautiful Alberta and British Columbia Mountains. Something that many of us know is a huge issue in the United States, especially with states selling off land. We were surprised to hear about so many issues between mountain bike associations and public land officials. We took a lot away from this conversation, especially knowing how hard the Canmore & Area Mountain Bike Association is working on gaining access and digging new trail.

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The summit took hold on Saturday starting with a morning ride in near freezing conditions. 30+ attendees and speakers took to the trails and roads in the Bow Valley to get the morning started off right. Even if it was cold, the ride was a great way to start the day.canmore-bikepack-summit-08148
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I can say this again and again, but Canmore and the surrounding mountains are simply a sight to be seen. Stunning mountains with snow caped peaks made for an extremely beautiful ride. It was great to chat with fellow bikepackers, and check out everyones loaded or semi loaded rigs.

After our ride, and an early lunch provided by Rocky Mountain Bagel Co, everyone gathered around for ‘bikepacking hacks’, with Ryan Correy, Josh Kato, Linday and myself. We all spoke about 4 tips or tricks that we use on bikepacking trips.canmore-bikepack-summit-08157
Next up was bikepacking mechanics from the always personable Ryan Draper. Everyone took a lot away from this presentation. 

canmore-bikepack-summit-08159Tim from the Banff Patagonia store spoke next about the history of Patagonia, the technologies they have come up with over the years, and his advice on layering systems. 

canmore-bikepack-summit-08161 Maybe the most entertaining session of the weekend was from Megan who talked about how she and her partner bikepack with their son. A really awesome learning experience that shared how to carry and deal with the tyke during bikepacking trips. She provided photos and great insight. 

Josh then spoke about his Salsa Cutthroat, and what stock parts he swapped out for the ones currently on his bike. It was a very interesting session, and Josh certainly knows a thing or two about bike geo, wheel lacing, and what works on the GDMBR.

After that, we had two fantastic stories from attendees Greg Van Tighem and Rod Dagneau. Greg spoke about his unbelievable journey riding the Dempster Highway to Tuktoyuktuk in the middle of winter for multiple sclerosis. Rod shared pictures of his experience on the Arizona Trail during the Arizona Trail Race 750 in which he finished 8th with a time of 10 days, 5 hours, and 27 minutes. 

After the sessions, the majority of us found the classiest bar in town, the Canmore Hotel, and sipped on some cold local brews while chatting about life experiences. We capped the night off with a trip to the brewery for some poutine.

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canmore-bikepack-summit-08221 Coming from the mountains of Colorado, we’re usually prepared for the fall chill, but heading up to Canmore and riding our bikes in 20 degree weather was a little bit of a shock. Sunday started with a ride again, this time on mostly singletrack with a beefy climb to warm us up at the beginning. The north side of the Bow Valley gave us stunning views of the Three Sisters range and other surrounding mountains.

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canmore-bikepack-summit-08243After the ride, we all huddled around the coffee machine and filled up our cups before the start of our last discussion, ‘Packing for Racing vs. Touring’. Lindsay focused on touring while I spoke about what I would typically bring on a race. We both brought our full suspension bikes which was another talking point. The hour long session was super fun to be apart of and it was great to share some of the bags and systems we use.

Followed by our chat, three race organizers spoke about Canadian bikepacking events – Jonathan Hayward – Alberta Rockies 700, Lennard Pretorius – BC Epic 1000, and Trevor Anderson – Hurt’n Albert’n 550. Ryan asked them a few questions about their events and it sparked an engaging conversation. Obviously the whole race scene has proven to be a great way to ride with fellow bikepackers, not just race. Racers and events have popped up all over the world and I would say this is a great indication as to the growth of the sport and the individuals eagerness to create awesome rides.

canmore-bikepack-summit-08257Ryan Correy then took the stage for a chat about nutrition and then routes in and around Western Canada. Ryan has put in a lot of time scouting and refining routes for a guide book he is working on for the area. It should prove to be a fantastic resource for any bikepacker that wants to do some two wheeled adventures in the Canadian Rockies. The book will be finished in spring of 2018. If you are interested, he is accepting guidebook sponsorships so head over to his website to learn more – RyanCorrey.com

canmore-bikepack-summit-08266You have likely heard of the Trans Canadian Trail or Great Trail, or have seen the video by now. But it was really awesome to hear what Darin, Trail Engineer of McElhanney Consulting, had to say about developing some of the trail, and the process they take when engineering it. The trail would span the Length of Canada, covering 13 provinces/territories, through 15,000 communities and along 24,000 km of trail. Currently, the trail is 90% connected and is slated to be finished in 2017. Darin shared with us how important it is to get cyclists off of highways and onto trails and paths. He also shared how difficult it has been to design a good trail, maintain signage, and make it friendly to all users.

The summit was coming to an end, and Ryan asked Josh, Lindsay and I to talk a little more about our thoughts on bikepacking before Ryan and Ryan threw out swag for nearly everyone from the event sponsors – Salsa Cycles, Hammer Nutrition, Rebound Cycle, Green Guru and Patagonia Banff. It was a fitting end to a fantastic weekend in Canmore.

canmore-bikepack-summit-08274Why Canmore? Simple. It has a charm next to none. Maybe everyone thinks of Banff, especially as it’s the start of the GDMBR, but Canmore is less developed, extremely friendly, and slightly cheaper. It’s only an hour plus from Calgary Airport and it’s absolutely stunning. If I do the Tour Divide again, I would consider staying in Canmore before the ride for those reasons.

Ryan has announced the 2nd Annual Canadian BIkepacking Summit for the second weekend in September of 2017, a nice change and hopefully some warmer temperatures.

5 Comments

  1. Thanks, Neil. Great summary! I enjoyed it immensely, and especially the presentations by Josh, Lindsay, and yourself. Thanks for travelling North to share your experiences with us.

  2. nice recap Neil! Great meeting you guys in Canmore and grateful to have been part of the summit and learn a ton about bikepacking. hopefully see you and Lindsay back here next Fall!
    cheers

  3. Any videos of the talks?

  4. Michael Hill

    It certainly was a good Summit. Thanks to all the speakers who travelled, especially you two for sharing both race and touring perspectives. I think we all came away with ideas of how we can do more to grow the Bikepacking landscape in Canada; each of us encouraged by insight shared by others. Thanks for your support and the report.

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