Alice Drobna was not only the first female to complete the triple crown challenge of bikepacking, but she did it with one gear. She completed the Arizona Trail Race, Tour Divide(ss record) and Colorado Trail during the summer of 2015.
Where are you from? Where do you live now? Born in Czechoslovakia. Bend, Oregon is my home. How did your youth shape your love of cycling? When did you begin riding bikes? Growing up I had a couple hand-me-down bikes and rode around the block like all the other kids. About the time I was in 5th or 6th grade, I got my first brand new bike, and for about a year I rode it like a madman. I forgot this but my mom reminded me of a story: apparently some time after I got the bike I decided one Saturday to ride to my grandma’s. It was about an hour long trip by a car and at that time there were no bike paths or even bike lanes. Around lunch my mom got a call from my grandma telling her I was sitting in her living room having a soda. My mom was beside herself but she wouldn’t come pick me up. She told my grandma to tell me to get back on the bike and get home right away. I don’t remember it very well, but it was my first 75 miler. Thinking back, that may have been the beginning of my love for long rides. But as most kids do, I discovered other sports I wanted to try, and I didn’t return to biking till about 7 years ago. What was your first cycling race? Did it begin with bikepacking, or were there other styles of races prior to your passion for bikepack racing? My first bike race was a 20 miler that my friends talked me into doing with them. I didn’t even have a bike at the time, so I borrowed one. I made it about 10 miles before leaving my entire breakfast on the side of the trail after a crazy steep climb. I didn’t really get into racing until many years later, after I discovered single speeds. I tried everything from XC, cyclocross, marathon distances, ultra marathons, and a couple 24 hour events. I kept moving up in distance but I always felt like I wanted to do something else where I could ride a lot farther. And then I discovered bikepacking. Triple crown of bikepacking Why singlespeed? Do you ever ride a geared bike? After my infamous race on a borrowed bike (with gears), I didn’t really ride much at all. 7 years ago I met my boyfriend who rode a single speed. When I saw his bike for the first time I thought to myself: how’s he going to climb any hills? He has no gears!? Well, I was wrong. Not only did he climb them but he was crazy strong and fast doing it. I just couldn’t understand how that was possible with just one gear. A month later I bought my first single speed and never looked back. I fell in love with it. It was simple, quiet and required very little maintenance. Most of all, it offered no distraction while riding so I could experience the trail and scenery that much more. You were the first individual ever to complete the triple crown of bikepacking on a single speed, and the first woman to finish the triple crown period. Describe your inspiration to take on this endeavor? It was actually quite simple: I wanted to see if I could do it. Before my first Tour Divide in 2014, I didn’t even know if I could ride that kind of distance. But when I finished it I realized I found what I was looking for. I started looking for more races like it. I read about the AZT earlier that year and I knew I wanted to ride it. I also read about the Triple Crown Challenge, and the fact it had never been done by a woman was very intriguing. It felt like a challenge. But I wasn’t sure I could even attempt it because of how much time off work I would have to take. Next spring, after I finished AZT, the thought of the Triple Crown got ahold of me and I made up my mind to try it. I negotiated my time off and I was committed. People always ask this question – but mileage aside, which trail was the most difficult and why? As far as trail difficulty, I found the Arizona Trail to be the hardest. I felt like I had to lift and carry my bike at some point just about every day. The hike-a-bike sections were crazy steep and rocky. Sometimes the rocks were so big I felt like I was rock climbing. And then of course there was the trek through the Grand Canyon. The place was very beautiful but for a non-hiker like myself carrying 50 pounds of gear it was pretty painful. As a race the Colorado Trail was the toughest because it was the last race of the Triple Crown Challenge and by that point I just felt quite tired. The trail had many long hike-a-bike sections like AZT but at least I could push my bike instead of carrying it. Triple crown of bikepackingTaking the above into consideration, which was the most fun and accomplishing? There isn’t one that stands out. Although each race had many tough technical parts, they also had some incredible trails that were smooth and swoopy and made me giggle like a kid. And each race was very rewarding not just because I finished it but because of what I overcame. I went through my lowest lows and highest highs. I woke up each day knowing the only thing I had to do was ride my bike. What’s better than that? Did you use the same bike for all three races? Yes, my Moots MootoX. It’s a super smooth and solid ride and the geometry is perfect for a fully loaded bike. What bikepacking bags did you use, and how did you vary what you carried for each race? Since this was only my second season bikepacking, I was still testing out different setups in each race. Only two bags were the same for all three races. Most of my gear was the same for all three with some variations below (excluding clothes, repair kit, tools, tubes, pump, and other knick-knacks). All three races:
  • Revelate Designs frame bag
  • SeaToSummit 13L dry bag (handlebar)
  • Mountain Hardware Phantasia 32 degree sleeping bag
  • ThermaRest Air mattress
  • 4L MSR DromLite water bladder (for clean water only)
  • 1 water bottle (for filtered water or juice)
  • Sawyer Mini water filter
  • SP Dynamo hub with Exposure handlebar light, Light & Motion Urban 800 light, Fenix L22 headlamp
  • Gamin eTrex30
  • USB charger
Arizona Trail Race:
  • (No seat bag)
  • (No lunch pack)
  • Camelbak Helena backpack (to carry food, and trek through the Grand Canyon)
  • Black Diamond carbon trekking poles
  • Homemade cuben fiber bivy sack
Tour Divide:
  • JPaks SeatPak
  • Homemade lunch pack
  • Homemade cuben fiber bivy sack
  • Mountain Hardware tent top
  • Aero bars
Colorado Trail Race:
  • JPaks SeatPak
  • Revelate Designs Gas Tank
  • Tarptent 1-person shelter
Triple crown of bikepackingWhat was the most memorable moment during each of the three races? So much happens during these races, so many stories, it’s hard to pick one. On AZT one of those moments was when I rode up to the top of South Rim. I literally couldn’t breathe for a moment when I caught a glimpse of the canyon for the first time. I just stood there and stared. I felt so small and insignificant. As for TD, since it was my second time I already knew mostly what to expect. But seeing a grizzly bear for the first time was definitely one moment I will never forget. And on CTR, one of those moments I’ll always remember was when I was climbing up to Tenmile Crest and over to Breckenridge. It’s not very long but it was very steep and incredibly rocky near the top. It seemed like the entire mountain top was made out of rocks and boulders. I felt frustrated most of the way up and cried a little now and then. Some nasty words left my mouth too. And just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore I saw this happy gentleman in his late sixties, literally hopping over these boulders and smiling. As he’s approaching I noticed he’s carrying something in his hand and waving it around. Then I saw it’s a Payday bar. And he’s handing it to me. It was such a small thing but it made my day. I thanked him and said I couldn’t take it because I was in a race. (Later I found out that I could have taken it because it was offered to me and I didn’t ask for it.) Triple crown of bikepackingTell us about the most important piece of gear you couldn’t live without throughout your summer of riding? I like to sleep a lot and be comfortable at night, so the most important piece of gear for me is my air mattress. I realize that in a race I lose a lot of time that way but I prefer getting a long and comfortable rest and feeling good in the morning rather than taking a 2-3 hour nap and being miserable the rest of the day. Another piece of gear I’d like to mention is my down jacket. Even in the summer the temperatures can vary quite a bit, and staying warm is very important. Plus the jacket doubles as a very comfy pillow. What do you have planned for 2016? 2016 will be more laid back than 2015. I’m looking at Stagecoach 400, Sierra Trail Race around Lake Tahoe and later maybe Caldera 500 around Mammoth Lakes. We’ll see. Anyone in particular you would like to thank? Moots Cycles for making my awesome bike, Webcyclery where I got most of my gear, Hydro Flask for letting me take time off for all my adventures, and CycleSoles for donating a pair of sweet soles. And most of all, Ross for always being there for me.

Triple crown of bikepackingFor more trip reports and photos for her journey this summer, check out her website.

 

One Comment

  1. Pingback: 18 Bikepackers of 2015 - Bikepackers Magazine

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *