Bikepack Against The Machine
“Don't let me stay, don't let me stay
My logic says burn so send me away
Your minds are too green, I despise all I've seen
You can't stake your lives on a saviour machine”
Everyone who has ever lived to love life on two wheels can tell you that riding somewhere beautiful, with friends or alone, for an extended period of time, frees your mind. Perhaps elevates your consciousness to breath deeper spiritually; to think more clearly and reflect inwardly and outwardly simultaneously. Taking these inalienable benefits of touring to heart, one must appreciate that escaping your city and pounding out the miles into the sunset is the perfect way to both heal yourself and throw a hearty middle finger up to “the machine” behind the curtain. The machine would rather you stay indoors. The machine would rather you feel trapped and buy more stuff. The machine benefits from your sickness and insecurity. The machine can’t save you…
Was this what the late David Bowie was thinking of when he wrote the Sci-Fi tinged “Saviour Machine” (1970)? To reject the laws, logic and technology we use to define our interface with the world around us instead of community, instinct and the pleasure of the senses? Perhaps, much like Robert E Howard’s Conan, we can see the fallacy of the so called "civilized world" and seek the deeper truth and barbarism in nature. Whether “The Machine” is more representative of Capitalism, Communism or a dystopian Technocracy might not even matter as the result is the same spiritual death.
Is that way too much pontificating as to why we need an excuse to drop what we are doing and simply go bikepacking with friends in the mountains?! Perhaps… but when do I get the chance to wax about such things to a larger audience using my favorite art as metaphor?!
I guess I’ll simply digress and tell you about the awesome time I had last week in Colorado with Levi and the YAWP! crew on our annual Bikepack Against the Machine.
We gathered supplies and I was introduced to the inviting mountain town of Salida Colorado. Needless to say, I was enamored. I know that it’s not what it used to be and that it is probably fast turning into an Aspen or Vail but this place still has a great vibe. One local business I had the pleasure of visiting was the HQ of Oveja Negra bike bags. Lane and crew are really friendly folks handmaking really quality bikepacking gear including the new “Bootlegger” which caught my eye and will be picking up as soon as they are available.
We also saw this bad ass Cross-Check locked outside that belongs to one of the employees. Such a great looking bike!
I must say, riding in Colorado once a year is not nearly enough time to appreciate the trails and the landscape the state has to offer. It would be like listening to only one Mick Ronson solo but not even finishing the song, let alone a whole album. So, when I tell you that a trail I rode was kinda the best, I mean it from a standpoint of not really knowing shit, big picture wise.
Levi and I met a few other friends the day before our bikepacking adventure for a warmup day of sorts and rode Monarch Crest from the pass back to Salida. Riding the “Starvation” offshoot descent proved to be both fun and about the edge, speed wise, of what I’d ever throw at a rigid touring bike… even with plus tires.
After an evening at the campground staying up too late with our good friends whisky and fire, we rendezvoused with the rest of our human friends in town and prepared to launch our attempt at a route published on Bikepacking dot com by Cass Gilbert as being a “family friendly” route with a “gentle climb” out of Salida… yeah, if you are a super hero!
We love you Cass but man do you underestimate the might and resolve of the mere mortals. I must add though to save some face that there was no water available on the route and thus we all packed between 6-10 liters of water… oh wait that’s way fewer ounces than a human toddler, never mind.
The first day was a mere 3800 feet of climbing in the first 18 miles, but the views more than made up for the feeling of fiery lactic acid in the legs and hot coals in the lungs.
Everyone that joined us on this trip was a pleasure to be with. And many were super-human in their own right. Just to name a few, we had; single speeders, a dude on a freakin' 700c Disc Trucker(!) and a man who barely needed to pedal as he produced his own internal combustion (Top to bottom):
There was a point, after a mere 20 miles into the first day, whence we came upon a truly stunning campsite (the first of three we would find that day) and debated whether to stop there and enjoy the view and well-constructed stone fire ring.
The second stunning campsite of the day that sent many setting pins on their phones do to the truly epic 365* view. Hard to pass up but we pressed on.
When we came upon the third amazing campsite we felt that good things must come in threes and we’d be foolish to pass up yet another sublime vista.
My sleeping and cook set up du jour. Many thanks to Big Agnes for getting me my -20 ultralight bag to me in time! I have frozen my ass off bikepacking in Colorado before and now I never shall again. By the way it easily fit into my Revelate Viscacha seat bag! Also thanks to Whisky Parts Co. for letting me test some sweet No.9 41w rims.
Even with our water burden we managed to pack in a fair amount of beer and whiskey and the night was alive with mirth and music. Cullen even managed to summon some fey beasts out of the flame.
The next day was 40 some miles of pure bliss with only a few blistering climbs thrown in for good measure. After Aspen Ridge and a squirrely descent down seriously eroded gravel, the landscape opened up into cow pastures as far as the eye could see.
Speaking of seriously eroded gravel… Another bad ass I had the pleasure or meeting took a spill on one of those high speed rutted out descents. Luckily his name was (I shit you not) John Wayne from Texas and had enough true grit to go around. While his injury was pretty nasty to behold, he choked it up and finished the ride without a complaint. Hats off to you sir.
I can’t recommend any of the “components” of this trip enough; YAWP! Cyclery in Denver, the “family friendly” route we followed, pretty much everything about Salida, all the gear I used (especially my 27.5+ ECR ) and all the people that joined us for a superb weekend Bikepacking Against the Machine. Thank you!
If the machine has you in a strangle hold; tied to screens, locked inside or otherwise losing touch with the real world and live people. Defy it. Cast down your devices, tell whomever your captors are to get bent and get on your bike. The revolution will not be televised but you bet it can be properly led via two wheels!
Thanks for reading and be excellent to each other.