This past weekend tragedy struck in the cycling community. During the 2nd day and third 3 stage of the Enduro World Series in Crested Butte, Colorado. Will Olson, a 40 year old man from Eagle Colorado, passed away on the descent of Star Pass/Trail 400. Will was one of the best in his category, and was expected to do very well in this event. While this is not a bikepacking event, nor a cross country event, it still hits home in the mountain biking community, and it was on my mind all week, especially when I was riding. It had me thinking about the dangers of cycling and how it all relates to bikepacking. We all understand the risks of traveling into the backcountry by bike, yet it’s scary to think that sometimes you have zero control over the outcome of your ride. For example, the past year alone I have noticed a handful of viral videos of people having road rage over cyclists. Whether you are a road rider or need to ride the road on your MTB in between trials, it is a scary situation and one you can likely relate to. Other risks are mechanicals, the terrain, and even just getting to the trailhead in your car. Whatever it may be, we can all understand that cycling has its inherent risks and is categorized as a dangerous sport. This summer has been the biggest as far as the amount of bikepacking events are concerned, and while some of us are more race oriented than others, these bikepacking routes go deep into the backcountry, far away from civilization and help for that matter. I think back at how many close calls I have had and how many injuries I have sustained. After thinking of it that way, I feel like I have been lucky. Danger could mean a sketchy downhill, being above treeline during a lightning storm, or fighting the sleep monster and hallucinations. We all choose to put ourselves in these situations and I would go on to say the normal person would not think it is such a great idea. Are we getting too comfortable with the terrain, these races/events, and our ability? What is pushing us to go so much faster than those in years past? Should we consider taking a step back once in a while? Say something does happen on your next bikepacking trip, a broken leg or collarbone, a respiratory issue, or something worse. Are you prepared to get you, your friend or loved one out safely? Do you have medical training that could help splint that leg or deal with an allergic reaction? Many people are now using personal beacons that transmit your location. Many of them also come with a SOS button or something of the sort. Backcountry events such as the Arizona Trail Race, Tour Divide, or Colorado Trail Race all have spot tracking on trackleaders.com for a fee. This is a great feature for loved ones to track you when you are out for days on end, but could this be the root of the danger? Despite the fact that these devices are helpful when it comes to ranking who is first and who is last, and searching for your loved one, can the clock be detrimental? This past Tour Divide was the largest field yet, and maybe the best race we have ever seen on the GDMBR. In turn this brought out a number of individuals that came to “stalk” the blue dots. While these individuals seemed few and far between, could they (and other blue dot watchers at home) be the reason for someone going too far or pushing it beyond their limits? I know I have pushed it a bit too hard to “show off” for photographers in shorter races, and I have found myself in similar situations during bikepacking events. Maybe worse is the racers knowledge of the fact that there is a running clock, ticking every second you are out there until the finish, maybe pushing you down that technical descent a little faster than you normally would, knowing there could be hundreds of people online pushing you on. All of these variables seem to bring up the question of safety and what can happen out there. While there has yet to be a true backcountry accident like Will Olson’s, there was a death on the Tour Divide in 2010. That year Dave Blumenthal passed away a run in with a vehicle coming into Steamboat Springs. A truly heartbreaking story. Dave was a family man and a true adventurer. So at this rate with more people participating in these events can we expect more heartbreak like Will and Dave? What about the race/event organizers, sure there are only a handful, but again these races are growing. Will they need to start purchasing insurance for these so called “underground” events to cover their backs? Will we finally need to charge racers a small fee to cover the folks that put in hours and hours of planning and preparation? We are already willing to pay for tracking, why not insurance. Just look at the Transcontinental – maybe the first solo-self supported bikepacking race that charges a race fee. What is there to say about that? In the end, bikepacking is slowly growing, much slower than enduro, but it is growing and we need to think about the future and how we can protect ourselves. I have just one piece of advice for your next ride, stop and think about Will and Dave, then think about what you’re goals are and be present and conscious of your every move. Make sure your goals are realistic and ride your heart out. Next time you sip some water from your bottle or drink a post ride beer, pour some out for for those two.