I would like to share with you my wisdom on how to NOT finish a bikepacking race. Given that the 2019 Buckshot is the one and only such event I have attempted, I am a little surprised too that I’m already such an expert.
This is the inaugural Buckshot race. It is a loop that starts and ends in Kamloops. For more info, see this link.
Take my word for it. If you do exactly as I described, you won’t be able to finish either.
- Leave your food behind
On the way out of town, stop at your favorite bagel shop to pick up bagels for your ride. But when you arrive at the start line, leave the bagels in the car. The first resupply point is only 180 km away.
When you are as forgetful as me, you will be fine on Day 1. But you will run out of food on Day 2, with quite a bit more mileage to go until the resupply point. For 3 hours, you will ride on empty, and call it quits when you start to hallucinate.
2. Don’t test out your gear
There is a thing called shakedown rides. You train with all your gear and weight, refine what doesn’t work, and work out the details before a race. Don’t do that. Skip that important step.
I had a new handlebar bag I have never used. I borrowed some lights the night before leaving for the start line. I got my down quilt the day before the race. I had no place to mount the borrowed lights because I left my helmet mount at work. I never tried riding hills with camping gear and the 2L water bladder filled. My knee hits the feed bag when I climb standing.
If you follow all my steps, you’ll be stopping 10 km into the race, trying to re-pack your bags because the heavy weight in the front was causing all sorts of problems. Brilliant.
3. Don’t learn to navigate
You think your “off line map” with Ride With GPS will work perfectly. But because you skipped the shakedown rides, you never tried using that app. So for whatever reason, when the app stopped telling you you’re off course, you ride full steam ahead down the wrong road in complete darkness. Adding 17km to a punishing course will surely suck the life out of you, and make you feel like a complete idiot.
Be confused about GPX and FIT files. Don’t try to understand how they work with your Garmin.
4. Don’t figure out your strategy
Some people “tour” the route. Some people “race” the route. If you “tour” the route, then take your time, camp where you feel like, stop and chat with people, and pack a nice tent and camping stove. If you “race” the route, then you’re going to pack light and go fast.
If you have it figured out beforehand what you are doing, life is much easier. Don’t do that. Be undecided. Then kick yourself for packing too much shit to race, but packing too little to enjoy a scenic tour.
5. Don’t learn about your bike
Be spoiled like me, who has an awesome bike shop who will fix your bike when you break things. Don’t bother learning about your bike. When the shifter stops working, just ride your bike like a single speed bike and hope it will magically start working over the next hill.
Alright, obviously, you know by now I didn’t finish the Buckshot ride. All jokes and sarcasm aside, it was very hard for me to make the decision to bail. I bailed on day 2, about 27 hours after I started. At that point, I had run out of food 3 hours ago, and had another 35km of thick muddy hills to go before the resupply stop. At the rate I was going on a single speed bike, the store would be closed before I get there, and I would have to survive on no food for the next 12 hours. I had nothing left in me to continue.
I felt defeated, stupid, and weak. I was lucky that Cliff and the kids drove two hours from Kamloops to come find me and take me off the muddy road. When I saw the family, I sobbed uselessly.
Did I have the most amazing time? Yes!
Did I have the worst time? Yes!
Adventures are like that. There are moments you think you’re in heaven, and there are moments you feel like you’re in hell. Yet that’s exactly why I want to try this again. There’s some sort of magnetic force that pulls me back into such self inflicted torture. Maybe next year I can write a post about how to actually finish this ride.