Blog - Manual Pedal

Colombia Route & Planning

Route Planning is fun, tedious and daunting in more ways than one. First, I come up with this idea of a ride in a particular place that pokes my interest. In this case Colombia, a country I’ve never visited before. I then go on google maps to check out the region, a few clicks here and there at images, and then comes the need of using more advance software to build my route.

On road touring can give you the ability of plugging in a point A & B address to have a line automatically drawn out for you, where as bikepacking is a little more involved because you are using off road trails, fire roads, rail trail, and often times unridden or unmarked paths that don’t always show up on google maps. This was the case when planning the route for Colombia.

Part of my process involves paper maps, online topo maps, and advance mobile apps for mapping. In this write up I will walk you through some of the programs and processes I use for navigation and resources to support my overall bike adventures.

Software:
Garmin Basecamp | Ride With GPS | Gaia GPS | MotionXGPS | Google Earth/ Maps (Streetview)

The software always varies depending on the ride. For local adventures I use basic point A to Point B software like Ride With GPS. I usually build my route referencing it with Google to zero in on my location. This helps if you want to see what the area of your route actually looks like You can go as far as using street view and Google Earth for a closer look.

A fast search online to see if other riders have traversed the area via bicycle is another option. That can help you build your route as well.

Garmin Basecamp software is another great platform with so many tools for building a solid route. You can setup waypoints, notes, gather elevation plots, install dedicated maps and easily export the completed route into different formats like gpx and tcx files to use for navigation devices.

For mobile navigation I am currently using Gaia GPS along with MotionXGPS as backup. Gaia GPS is great because you can plan out a route in the native software or upload your route that was previously built in other software programs like Basecamp or Ride with GPS, and have it sync up directly to your mobile phone. The desktop software works hand in hand with the mobile app with the syncing feature. It’s such an intuitive process for workflow because it shows up almost instantly.

MotionXGPS is a little different and getting your route loaded on to the app requires you to send it via their file sharing software via iTunes. It’s fairly simple to do but a bit of a learning curve. You can also email them your finished route and they will send you instruction on installing the route to the app. It’s fairly simple.

Determining Your Route:
The first step is to determine if your route is going to be a loop or a thru route. A loop begins at point A, circles around your desired region and ends back at point A. Thru route begins at point A and end at point B. Loops are easier to take on. You can get to your location, ride and end up back there however many days later. A thru route is a bit more difficult because you begin at point A, then ride to point B. You then have to figure out how to get back to point A.

While both will be exciting adventures, just keep in mind that you will need to figure out how to get back. Options like, renting a car, hitchhiking, Uber (possibly) or doing your route in reverse are options. For our upcoming Colombia trip we are taking a bus 8 hours from Bogota to Armenia, our starting point. Then ride back to Bogota. This would be considered a thru route.

Starting A Route:
The first route I officially planned was cycling from Poughkeepsie, NY to Woodstock, NY. This was a thru route that we also road in reverse. It’s a total of 70 miles round trip, and was built using Ride With GPS online software. My starting point was at the Metro North Station. The route then leads you through rail trail systems and ends in the main town of Woodstock, NY.

While it’s simple to plug in an address, you definitely need to zero into your route and use other resources to support your route planning. This is when Google Earth and street view come in. These tools give you the ability to view roads to get a closer look at what you’re getting into before setting off on your adventure. As mentioned earlier, it doesn’t work everywhere.

Colombia:
Colombia is a country I’ve always wanted to visit. While the media still reports talk of coca fields, rebels, violent crime, and kidnappings. Most travelers would opt for a location far from here. It’s true the country does have challenges with poverty and other unironed creases, but apart from the media reports, tabloid headlines and negative news bites from blog post, Colombia is a thriving country. It’s grown to be a major tourist destination with improved security. Cost are also low so now is a good time to go.

Colombia is an epicenter for bikes. It’s known for breading some of the top class road & mountain bikers and has an array of overlanding terrain. The rich culture and biodiversity, along with its coffee history drives my interest in visiting here. One of the more popular locations I want to visit is the Wax Palms that seat in the central region of the Andean Mountains in Quindío. The Wax Palms are incredible palm trees native to this region and Peru. They sit in the Cocora Valley spanning as high as 200 feet. So southwards we go.

I plotted this route using Garmin Basecamp software. I then moved it to Ride With GPS for a secondary map overview and finally to Gaia GPS for the mobile app navigation and routing. My dedicated GPS for navigation will be my Garmin Edge 500 which draws a track for you to ride on.

Garmin Basecamp View of Route:

Ride With GPS View of Route:

Gaia GPS View of Route:

Motion X GPS View of Route:

Garmin Edge 500 View of Route:

We’ll be riding from Armenia and heading northeast passing through Salento, with a stop at the Wax Palms, then back to our route heading southeast to Ibague, Giradot, Tocaima, Viota, and finally ending in Bogota. A total of 233 miles of cycling. Below is a route plot for the ride we’ll be taking on trough these destinations. I’ll be posting after the trip is completed with a full report along with the traditional gear breakdown hopefully before departure. If you have question leave them in the comments below.

Vermont Weekender

Vermont may very well be a bikepackers haven. It’s similar in that it shares some characteristics of Colorado’s terrain, endless miles of dirt roads, beautiful foliage, maple syrup, epic views & beer (breweries). This was a fast getaway, a weekender or training that will lead us into a bigger trip to come. George dropped the pin on Vermont about a month ago for a brewery tour. We put a route in place that led us through on/ off road corridors before ending up at Long Trail Brewery, our destination that had two cold bitter Summer Ale’s waiting upon our arrival.

Mixed up with steep climbs, long descents and hike-a-bikes through primitive woodsy areas, it was a rewarding ride. I’ll be posting more images on the Manual Pedal Instagram feed which you can find here. Each image will have detail from from beginning to end. Enjoy! And follow the Instagram Feed at ManualPedalPix for more stories and bike adventures.

Special thanks to Peter & Jimmy for hosting us for the evening along with an amazing breakfast the next morning. They are truly kind folks. If in the area reach out to them via Warm Showers.










Photo Credit: George Regus












New England Weekender: Gear List

Planning for bikepacking trips are the best. It can be very strategic or effortless. Over the years I’ve developed a someone what decent, and streamline way to my packing list. Some things to consider are duration, location/ terrain and weather. By designing your packing list around these four essential variables you will begin to see things fall into place. I tend to layout all my gear on my floor a day or two before departure. This can change based on the length of the trip. For extended touring/ bikepacking more than two weeks, always plan ahead.

A little about the trip. This is a New England weekender. A short Vermont brewery bike tour Beginning in Londondale, VT, looping through country roads for on & off road dirt touring. The route passes through Hawks Mountain, and up to Bridgewater for Brewery stops before making it to camp at Coolidge State Forest. The total loop is a short 81miles and can be done in a day or two.

The Hilleberg Akto tent I’ve used for 3 years now, and it’s held up excellent through multiple conditions. I’ve used it in the winter, spring and summer. It’s a bit on the warmer side in summer so I usually pack less clothing to compensate for the warmth. Often times I find myself sleeping on top of my sleeping bag.

My sleeping bag I picked up last minute before I rode the Kokopelli Trail. I needed something lightweight and packable that would fit inside my saddle bag. The EcoPro 50 fit the bill. It’s a great little bag that can be opened up all the way and used as a blanket. I like to do this on hotter days.

I used to ride with my Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest sleeping pad for years. However, I’ve since retired the RidgeRest and included the NeoAir XLite to my arsenal. It’s a game changer. Not only is It lightweight, but it’s extremely comfortable. After long hours on the saddle, you’ll thank yourself for the investment as you gaze at the stars in awe that you switched.

These bags will all be packed in my Revelate Designs Viscacha seat bag, Sweetroll handle bar bag, Tangle frame bag, and Gas Tank. In terms of distribution of items, I put my sleeping system in the handlebar bag, clothing food and sleeping bag in saddle bag, bladder in frame bag, and camera and snacks in the gas tank. With this setup I have plenty of more room for food, clothing and other paraphernalia if needed.

Pack List:

Sleeping System
Hilleberg Akto
EcoPro 50 Degree Synthetic Sleeping Bag
Thermarest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Clothing on bike
Endura MTB Shorts
Merrell Wicking Tech Shirt

Clothing in tent/ sleeping
Thermal bottom
Thermal Top
Patagonia Nano Puff
1 Pair Merino Wool Socks
1 Pair Tech Boxer Short

Cooking
Snowpeak 3-piece Titanium Cookset
Titanium Spork
Lighter
Camp Stove
Fuel

Tools
Spare Tube
Patch kit
CO2 Cartridge
Handpump
Multi-tool
Knife

Electronics
Point & Shoot
Mobile Phone (Maps)
GoPro

Misc
First Aid
Toiletries

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Ode to Kokopelli Trail: Day Four – Five

Awakened 3AM in the morning by the sounds of truck tires and chains dragging on the hardened dirt where we were camped. While traveling out of my REM sleep I forgot we were sleeping at a popular boating campground named West Water. Due to overnight distractions and not so good of a sleep, we both woke up pissed off and cold from the chill Colorado river. It was early, we broke down on time, ate breakfast and refilled our water supply before loading our bikes and heading off. The ranger on duty was kind to give us food after a short chat about our trip. I think he knew what we were up against. We we’re on the road a little before 10am. About a mile of pavement then directly on dirt double track shortly thereafter.

The day seemed comfortable. The fast track through the Utah fields was like a dream. The wind lightly brushed the grass, the tires crushing over the red clay and subtle breeze against my arms was pure bliss. We logged our 25 miles 2 1/2 hours later. The climbs came and the hot desert terrain didn’t add up to our expectations. It was tough, one of the most physically demanding trails I’ve ever ridden. Bike, push repeat. After all that, we were rewarded with epic views. We camped at dewy bridge and met bob who offered us to have dinner with his family at their R/V. We chatted the evening collectively, laughed, drank beer and ate. This was our last camp on Kokopelli Trail before taking the road into Moab, UT the next day.


Photo by Mickey Cheng


Photo by Mickey Cheng


Photo by Mickey Cheng

Route Reference: Bikepacking.com – Kokopelli Trail

Dirt Touring Poughkeepsie to Wookstock, NY

A little over 80 miles North of New York City is Poughkeepsie, NY. A connection to the Hudson and Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, and finally the Onteora Trail which will lead you in route to Woodstock, NY. For us, this was an overnight dirt touring trip. A quick weekend getaway that’s mixed with 80% dirt and gravel. I’ve ridden this route solo last July of 2016 on 23mm tires on my full carbon road bike setup for a fast light tour. You can read that write up here.

This trip was a duo with my friend George. A skilled mountain biker at heart with the desire to travel by bike. This is the first trip I’ve went on with George, and certainly not my last. You can sense the companionship through banter, views of the world, and bike stuff. I knew it was going to be a great trip.

The route is mainly intended for travel by rail via Metro North from Grand Central Station in New York City. Once aboard the train to Poughkeepsie you’ll be relaxed for two hours. George and I conversed back and fourth and before we knew it, we were on our bikes and off to the “Walk Over The Hudson”. This will put you directly on Hudson Valley Rail Trail. This 4-mile gravel trail passes through wood forest and creeks before leading you through New Paltz, NY where you will then pick up the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.

One of the more difficult sections is the hike a bike up to camp at Overlook.

Walkway to the abandoned hotel that burned down several times and left for ruins.

Manual Pedal


Photo: George Regus

Some sections can be ridden while others can’t.

Beautiful vistas at the summit where we setup camp for the evening.


GPX Source: George Regus

 

Altra Lone Peak 3.0 & Kokopelli Trail

The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 is a trail specific shoe that boast many attributes as a light hiking shoe. When I decided to go for comfort on my trail hikes I was in the market for something with a nice wide toe box and comfort that can sustain itself for hours on end. I was already running and walking in the Altra Instinct 3.5 which is a very light weight shoe with a wide toe box. If you know Altra, you know that they produce a natural foot designed shoe that gives your feet a good splay in the toe box. This is pretty much how I discovered Altra. I needed a shoe that would aid my toes to splay better over time in the shoe. This will eventually help with posture, your stride when walking, and over all comfort and healthy feet. Talk about embrace the space, they provide comfort, zero drop which in respect is a barefoot styled shoe with cushioning.

My first Altra shoe was the Instinct 3.5. I used this shoe for everything from runs to bike rides along with long day hikes. I wanted something for mountain bike trail rides, bicycle touring and hikes. It had to be something that can meld to me feet and active lifestyle, rather then having melding to it. The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 was the answer. When I first got these shoes I put them on a trail run. Now I’m not a trail runner at heart, but I was stunned at how comfortable they were. Over roots and rocks they over delivered. My next test was to take them on an upcoming trip on the Kokopelli Trail for a 5 day bikepacking trip. They did everything they needed to.

I used platform pedals for the ride which makes it easier to get on and off the bike. The ridged sole gripped the pedals effortlessly. I was surprised to see how well they gripped when we had to cross over wet rocks and other rough terrain. With 6 to 9 hour days of riding, these shoes were so comfortable that I would forget they were even on.

To Sum It Up:

If you’re looking for a shoe that’s extremely versatile, light weight, stylish and sporty, and easy to get on and off. Go for the Altra Lone Peak 3.0. They’re a many color options available for men and women to meld to your lifestyle. Check out the link below to view the shoes we have in stock.

Kokopelli Trail Report: Day Two – Three

Day Two:
Woke up with a sweaty puff jacket sucking up all the oxygen in my tent. The sun was warm. Stepping outside Mickey was already breaking down and packing up. After a short breakfast and game plan we hit the trail. Lots of hiking over big rocks and steep climbs exhausted us. We were looking forward to getting off this single track and on to some gravel. We were both low on water and Mickey was getting frustrated, I can understand. We met Fernando from Spain who was R/V camping with his family. After chopping it up he let us fill up our bottles so we would stay hydrated for the rest of the ride.

We mad it to camp on time at 5pm. We setup our tents, rest, eat and talk before settling in for the evening. We watched the vast landscape and sun hide behind the mountains. Night fall, rain pounded our tents with strong wind. Sunrise, at it again.

Day Three:
Crazy climbing over mountains. Bike push up, ride down, repeat. Dave the Australian – legend.


















Route Reference: Bikepacking.com – Kokopelli Trail

Kokopelli Trail Report – Day One

A short train ride into NYC, to meet Mickey, then pack up our bikes and board a 3:30pm to Chicago. The journey begins.

It crossed my mind that I forgot my tent poles at home half way to Grand Junction. Convinced by Mickey and a bit of hope that my tent poles were in my frame bag, my tent poles weren’t in my frame bag. We built our bikes at the Grand Junction Union Station anxious to get to Fruita and hit the trail. Time wasn’t particularly on our side so the plan was to find a place to crash for the evening since it was already 6pm and didn’t want to hit the trail and ride at night. We got into Fruita at 6:30pm and made a stop at Over The Edge Bikes to get info on the trail and ask where I can find tent poles. Greg helped us out leading us to a couple stores that didn’t have what we needed. REI was back in Grand Junction so we ended up riding back there and parking at a hotel for the night. I pulled Mickey back to Grand Junction as if we were on TT bikes. We had to push, the sun was dropping out the sky, and the chill crisp air was upon us. We made it to our room, pizza, Discovery channel and route planning was the rest of the evening.

Day One:
Met up with Greg who loaned me his tent poles for my Akto. Shortly afterwards it was breakfast then off to Fruita. Quick stop at Over The Edge Sports for a tube, chop it up with the locals, and on the trail by noon. Bike pushing through technical sections, Mickey went down on some rocks pretty bad. I fell on a cactus scrapping my hand but nothing to complain about. The only way is forward. Exhausted from the biggest star in the sky, doubt started to take hold. GU was offered by Mickey, two bottles of H20 down and 15 miles to camp. What a day.

Route Reference: Bikepacking.com – Kokopelli Trail

Kokopelli Trail & Surly Long Haul Trucker

My Surly Long Haul Trucker reminds me a lot like my old BMX bikes. Swap parts, shave dropouts, smaller chainring sizes & cogs, completely mod the bike. However, still retaining its timeless old school touring/MTB style. So far on the resume this bike hauled me across the U.S. back in (2014), and Virginia Blue Ridge PKWY tour in (2015) where I swapped out the drop bars for a MTB crossbar and XT shifters.

I wanted to push this bike to the limit and see how I can modify it for 5 days riding the popular Kokopelli Trail from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT. The 158mi route consist of of mainly 90% unpaved road, single/ double track, sand, dirt, and tech climbing. One thing I knew I would need right out the gate was bigger tires. My 35c Schwalbe’s soon upgraded to 2.1’s, along with my 44,34,24 triple that went down to a 32,24 double.

After making a short list of items that I needed to convert my bike to a bikepacking machine, I still had to make some serious modifications to fit the tires. Purist Surly owners may cringe after sharing that I shaved my chainstays and fork just to fit the tires. But I was confident enough that this frame would withhold the stress factor I put it through. In and out the shop leading up to our departure, the bike was finally where I wanted it to be.


Mickey grinding down my fork to fit a 2.1 in the front.

Frame:
Surly Long Haul Trucker
Fork/Headset:
Surly Long Haul Trucker, 4130 CroMo
Crankset/Bottom Bracket:
Shimano Deore
Pedals:
Old School MTB Bear Traps
Drivetrain/Cog/Chainring/Chain:
Shimano Deore, Shimano 32/24X10-36 Cassette 10spd
Derailleurs/Shifters:
Shimano XT (front) Shimano XT Long Cage (rear) 10spd
Handlebars/Stem:
Shimano Koyak MTV Crossbar
Saddle/Seatpost:
Thomson Masterpiece, Specialized Toupe
Brakes:
V-Brakes
Front Wheel/Hub/Tire:
Alex Adventurer, 36h rims, Shimano LX T660 36h hubs, WTB 2.1 front
Rear Wheel/Hub/Tire:
Velocity rims on Shimano hub, Specialized Fast Trak 2.0
Accessories:
Outfitted with Revelate Designs bags

Five Days on Kokopelli Trail

Five Days on Kokopelli Trail is a short film about two cyclist bikepacking from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT on the iconic Kokopelli Trail. We had a month of planning which included checking our route, gear, food and other paraphernalia we man need to bring. We projected 4 to 5 days to complete the trail. Kokopelli proved to be one of the toughest trails I’ve ever ridden. It was challenging in every way from the climbs, to the mix terrain. We boarded a 3:30 train from New York, to Chicago, and ending in Grand Junction, CO. The next day we were on the trail.