Bear Burritos Bikepacking: New York Edition

less snack, more adventure

Hey Laura, want to bikepack this weekend?

Many fun adventures begin with a text from your friend asking if you want to do something crazy. So I took a day off work, loaded up my bike, and we hit the road for a bike overnight.

I was deeply apprehensive going into this trip. 50-ish miles a day turned into 65. A fair amount of climbing (5,000′) on day one. Resupply every 35 miles or so. Coming off the epic bonk of Green Mountain Gravel Growler has been second-guessing everything. Will I be ok?

But my imagination is more powerful than my fear and I know my friend wouldn’t ask if he didn’t think I could do it. And worse comes to worse, it’s only a 2 hour wait if my husband needs to pick me up.

Highlights from the Overnight

  • Pavement involves radiant heat as well (I tend to forget this since I ride mostly on shaded dirt roads)
  • Quiet backroads lined by adorable farms
  • Having a bee somehow find its way under the chest strap of my heart rate monitor and having to disassemble my jersey/bib/baselayer combo on the side of the road to get it out
  • Relaxing in the shade because it’s hot
rest in the shade
  • Bananas are game changers, especially if you can’t find pickles
  • So are bathrooms where you can “free up some space” without having to dig a cathole
  • AT through-hikers at the market. They started walking back in February!
  • unexpected dirt roads!
  • views!!
the colors were literally this vibrant
  • fresh thick gravel for miles (thanks MassDOT)
  • guinea hens!!
  • Stop for supplies and a break at the Great Barrington Food Co-Op
  • big climb and then …
  • Climbing out of the nature preserve in search of a place to set up camp for the night
  • we saw a porcupine!
  • Listening to the birds slowly wind down for the night, snuggled into my sleeping bag
  • Day 2 begins! Fortunately today Trends Down
  • unexpected adventure road, complete with dicey bridge
this was fantastically unmaintained
  • Mill River General Store & Post Office – a must stop!! Chat with the old men who run the store and ask about the mugs with names on them
  • Mile 95 – start climbing again after 30 miles of basically downhill
  • riding by a field where hay was being cut …
  • having a truck pass, flinging cut hay into our faces. hello allergies!
  • Mile 100 overall – feeling tired and ready to stop. Rest and eat a ClifBar in the shade
  • Realizing we’re just about at the top of the day’s climb so … keep going
  • North Kent Rd, fully loaded, downhill. Check Your Brakes!
it’s really steep and chunky
  • sit-down food in Kent … only 15 miles to go
  • racing a rain shower to the end (although the cloud cover cooled us down and felt amazing)
30% chance of rain in 15 minutes

Overall, super success. It’s still early in the season, so I’m happy to be able to have a successful long-day bikepacking overnight under my belt. I’ve accumulated enough gear now that I can put together a lightweight (15lb) setup and hit the road fairly quickly. And heading out was a reminder that it IS about the journey, real foods are better than cramming “sports nutrition” in your face all day, and take the time to connect to the people you meet along the way.

Next time I’ll probably just mount the rack back on my bike. We had to transport a gallon of water from town to where we finally set up camp and it was much easier to strap it to Curt’s rack than anywhere on my bike. Plus my sleeping bag didn’t fit anywhere so I strapped it to the top of my seatpost bag – but it kept shifting no matter how tightly I secured the straps. As a small-framed bike rider, the extra capacity and stability a rack provides will be vital for carrying unexpected necessities.

I also picked up a Helinox ground chair but didn’t bring it. Definitely wished I had carried the 1.4 lb chair while sitting on a pointy rock to eat dinner. haha

See you out there!


gear

Route
Strava

  • 2020 Salsa Cutthroat GRX 600, modified with an 11-40 cassette
  • Revelate Designs
    • Pika seatpost bag
    • Gas Tank
    • Pronghorn harness
    • Egress Pocket
  • Sea to Summit
    • eVent waterproof compression sack (for sleeping bag)
    • 13L drysack (for front harness)
    • travel straps
  • Salsa Cutthroat custom framebag
  • Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL1 tent
  • ThermaRest NeoAir X-Lite Women’s sleep pad
  • REI Women’s Magma 30 sleeping bag <– so cozy I didn’t want to crawl out of it in the morning
  • MSR Pocket Rocket and 4oz fuel cannister
  • GSI Soloist cookset
  • Sea to Summit titanium long handle spoon
  • REI self-inflating pillow
  • lighter
  • multi-tool knife
  • Buff (just in case)
  • MSR Trailshot water filter (just in case)

Clothing

  • Pactimo cycling attire – (I’m a brand ambassador!)
  • wool socks
  • Pearl Izumi X-Alp Summit women’s mountain biking shoes
  • wool sleeping attire (leggings, midweight long sleeve, socks, underwear)
  • fleece hat and gloves
  • 850-fill down jacket

Food

  • PackIt gourmet Shepherd’s Pie <– this company makes fantastic meals
  • premeasured Quaker Instant oats + trail mix (combined in a baggie)
  • Laird’s superfood coffee + creamer
  • ClifBars – peanut butter & banana; cool mint chocolate
  • Skratch Labs sour cherry gummies <– literally the best
  • Nature’s Bakery fig bars (apple cinnamon, blueberry)
  • Frito’s Chips (bought along the way)
  • Haribo assorted gummies (bought along the way
  • banana

MISC

  • Medications
  • deodorant
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Sea to Summit Wilderness Wipes (clean up before putting on sleep attire)
  • Chamois Butt’r for Her packet<– women are different down there; get the good stuff and keep downtown happy
  • travel sunscreen
  • travel bug spray <– still got a few black fly bites though

The Power of the Pickle and Other Thoughts

This past weekend I put my bikes on the back of my Honda and headed for the hills. Of west-central Massachusetts, to be more precise. My friend and fellow blogger Karen lives up there and invited me to join her at the JAM Fund Grand FUNdo. The ride was top-notch: very hilly, well-stocked rest stations, full-on pig roast bbq and local craft beer at the end.

bikes + friends + countryside = awesome
bikes + friends + countryside = awesome

While there, a former pro cyclist approached me about my scar. Turns out she had a total thyroidectomy a few years ago (hers was benign) and is currently not racing due to overtraining.

She shared with me a few gems, one of which was that once your thyroid is removed your body functions differently from when you had the organ even though you are replacing the hormones. As an athlete, it’s easy to build into a certain level of fitness. How the body functions with just the hormones is slightly different. She shared a story about a training ride where she became severely hypothermic, which was her “a-ha” moment about how her body functions differently now.

(The thyroid controls a surprising number of body functions through secretion of thyroid hormones including metabolism, growth, body temperature, muscle strength, appetite, and the health of your heart, brain, kidneys, and reproductive system.)

This was welcome anecdotal evidence, as I’ve noticed my body isn’t responding the same way it used to. I get goose-bumps earlier in hot rides than I used to – which is my key to drink more fluids, dial down the intensity, and stay in the shaded areas as much as possible. The Mini FUNdo we did featured 25 miles of uphill before the glorious 15 miles of downhill – and by mile 22, my muscles weren’t crying but I was definitely Not Myself. Thankfully the rest stop had bananas and, more importantly, pickles.

finally, some downhill!
finally, some downhill!

Never underestimate the power of a pickle to revive you on a hot bike ride.

The rest of the weekend was exactly the relaxing, rejuvenating experience I needed. We biked, we laughed, we talked, and we ate. As working moms, it’s not easy for us to just take a weekend to ride bikes – but I’m so glad Karen was up for it and I was in a place where I could be as active as I wanted … even if it isn’t at my former fitness level.

let's go check out this new trail!
let’s go check out this new trail!

Another friend of mine, Dani, made an excellent observation. She asked me if I had held back my voice – because the thyroid is in the throat chakra and maybe I needed to learn how to be my own advocate more, to speak up and not be afraid of what others think or will say by voicing my concerns or opinion.While I still harbor internal concerns that vulnerability makes me a liability, the reality is I have suppressed my needs too much. It’s OK to ask for help, for down-time, and to take care of me first.

The irony certainly doesn’t escape me that I have moved to a city that never sleeps, is always pushing forward, and thrives on the dreams and ambitions of millions of people – and my body is quite literally telling me to slow down, take time to breathe and relax, and to enjoy life.

Of course, I immediately signed up for another very hilly ride locally in October. I’m hoping to get through my radioactive iodine treatment over the next 2 weeks and get back to building up my cycling strength. I don’t think I’ll see anywhere close to the same stats as last year and I’m making my peace with it. I’ll ride as much as I can and seek out my happy-place as often as possible.

riding by the lake
riding by the lake

See you on the road!