Bikepacking the Olympic Adventure Route with Komorebi Cycling Team
This is an essay I wrote over on Adventure Journal, which also includes a list of tips for meal planning and cooking for a bikepacking trip, along with a few links for recipes.
This is all the email said:
Riding bikes in the backcountry, camping, making food on the trail…June 17-19. Interested in details?
Like any sane person, I responded with an “um…okay!”
It was a proposal to join a bikepacking trip with Komorebi, the Portland-based women’s bikepacking team. The fact that I had never been bikepacking didn’t deter me, and after all, that was the whole point of Komorebi: to get more women adventuring on two wheels. Okay, actually it did freak me out a little bit, and as soon as I said yes the thoughts started swarming in my head:
Will I be able to keep up with women who bikepack all the time?
Will they judge me if I am not fast enough?
I don’t really ride mountain bikes, what if I fail?
As children, we’re thrown into new situations all the time. We don’t question whether or not we’re going to be good at something because everything is new, everything is a learning process. I think back to learning how to ride a bike. There was some trepidation, but I don’t remember thinking, “I am probably going to fail and people are going to make fun of me.” Instead, it was probably something along the lines of, “I want to be riding that bicycle. Now.” – a thought that I am sure most of us had. It took some falls and scrapes, and probably some laughs, but eventually we got there.
Whether it was riding a bicycle or learning how to read, our younger days had us learning new things all the time. Then adulthood came along, and after many years of learning – and perfecting – a variety of activities, we hit that place where it’s far too easy to be afraid of something new, fear so often winning out over the exhilaration of doing something we have never tried before. Instead of thinking of the opportunities a new activity might bring, we worry about how others will perceive us. Worst of all, we get hung up on “failure,” that we won’t live up to our own expectations.
I quelled my version of these fears by doing the only sensible thing I knew how to do: offer to make food. I figured that in a worst case scenario, if I rode miserably and everyone wished they hadn’t invited me along because I was the worst bikepacker ever to be born, at least I could ensure that they would love me for my food.
Of course, you don’t have to read to the end of this essay to know the moral of the story: only you make up your own expectations, and only you can define what “failure” means. You can even choose to strike “failure” from your vocabulary. Challenge yourself to do something new and chances are you’ll have a hell of a lot of fun, and as long as you’re having fun, usually so are the people around you. But also, be sure to bring snacks.
That was clear to me over three days on the trail in Northwestern Washington. We started on the Olympic Discovery Trail Adventure Route, about 25 miles of single track, full of uphills and downhills and plenty of switchbacks. My third ever single track experience, some of it took a lot of concentration, but for the most part, all of those fears and trepidations fell away, making ample space for the “this is fun!” part of my brain to fire off repeatedly. The second day, we explored the Elwha River, riding alongside it on the Olympic Hot Springs Road, much of which is currently closed to car traffic, but open to pedestrians and bicycles. Our final jaunt was mostly downhill, a time to ride fast and furious all the way back to where we had originally parked our cars.
It rained for most of those first two days; that grey, drizzly muck that the Pacific Northwest is known for. The kind of weather you’d rather not have on a summer bike trip. But despite wet feet and cold hands, the days were filled with laughter and jokes; a group of women excited to be outside, no matter what, and committed to enjoying the moment. And while many of us may have only met for the first time, it felt comfortable and freeing to pedal together. The kind of experience that is far from scary and intimidating; the kind of experience that not only reminds you of why you should always say yes to new things, but also makes you want to get back out and do it all over again.