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Colombia Bikepacking Trip Report: Day 0-1

Colombia, one of the South American countries I’ve always wanted to visit. I dreamt of seeing the Wax Palms in the valley so much I almost tattooed one along my right rib cage in Bogotå. Bolivar Square, a magical place where birds fly wild in front of you waiting for you to push the shutter. The vivid colors of the colonial villages, the coffee, the food, the people, the sounds, and the mountains – I <sigh>.

I’ve been wanting to ride Colombia for a couple of years. I’ve had a few trips under my belt on the home turf, but an international trip was far fathomed before coming into fruition. My stomach was turning when George said he was down. Right there I said to my self “wow, this is it.” So now, how do you deal with the fear of the unknown? You do it by simply recognizing you don’t have much of a choice.

That was initially my thinking in bikepacking Colombia. You do everything you can to plan to the tee. Bike properly together and working, insurance to back your ass up if things go south (oh it did), and whether or not the route your riding is actually rideable. There’s so much you can do in terms of preparation, but the core of it all is just going for it and figuring things out on the go.

A short Uber ride to the LIRR to meet up with George at the AirTrain, then a 6 ½ hour flight into Bogotå, Colombia. We got in late evening, exhausted from time travel and pulling our cumbersome bike bags that kept tumbling over. We booked a hotel for a couple nights before heading West to Armenia where our route begins.

The first full day in Bogotå was amazing. Sort of a culture shock for me because it was my first time out of the United States, let alone on a pretty intense bikepacking adventure. We were on our bikes, the best way to travel here. Bogotå has an incredible system of bike lanes setup all over the city. The lanes are pretty safe, but riding in the street can be dangerous. However, I think everyone looks out for each other. Yyou can tell they have a method going to keep everyone safe on the road, so I didn’t feel uncomfortable riding with the cars and motorbikes. We kept it tourist style and explored just about everything during our first couple days there. We jumped from restaurant to café to historic landmarks and diving into different neighborhoods to check out the scene.

A couple of days later we booked a 9-hour bus ride from Bogotå to Armenia, Colombia which is point A of our route. George’s tire exploded after getting sliced by a sharp end on a water bottle cage makeshift he installed right before boarding the bus. We had to find a tire at a local bikeshop there which came by quite easy. The next day begins our first day of the trip where we ride into Salento, a 26 km ride with a massive climb. This was where the feeling began to be real for me. The next day the Wax Palms await.

 

-Stay tuned for Day two of this trip coming soon. Follow @manualpedlpix for images and updates.

Colombia Gear Packing List

The best part of bike touring and bikepacking trips is rounding up gear. For me, I take time doing this and usually start a couple weeks before departure. This setup derived from past experience with gear use over and under packing. For my first international bikepacking trip I packed half the kitchen sink. If you look at my earlier setups dating back to my 2014 first tour, you would know what I’m talking about. We project rainy days riding in the Colombian mountains so rain gear is a must. Mixed with smart wool tech shirts for hot days and my trusted 4 season Akto. I’m happy to say I have everything I need.

All items will be compartmentalized and packed in my Revelate Designs framebag, handlebar bag, saddle bag & Osprey 18L backpack. Smaller items like food and electronics will be stored in waterproof bags and inside another bag which will be mounted to my handlebar system. I’ll do a follow up after our trip on how it performs. Chime in with a comment below if you have questions about this setup. Would love to know what some of you pack for extended international trips.

Riding Gear:
Endura bike shorts
1 smart wool short sleeve
1 smart wool long sleeve
2 smart wool socks
2 underwear
MTB shoes
Sandals
Gloves
Rain gear
Helmet/ Cycling cap
Sunglasses

Off Bike/ Casual Gear:
Pants x5
Shorts x4
Socks x6
Under x a lot
Sneakers & Shoes

Gear:
Tent/ Sleeping Bag/ Air Mattress/ Camp Pillow
Water Bottles/ 3L Reservoir
Tools/ 3x Tubes/ Tire/ Lock
Pump/ Patch Kit/ Chain Links & Master Link
Portable Battery Pack x2/ Lithium Batteries
Headlamp/ Bike Lights
Bike Lock (Not Pictured)

Necessities:
Passport/ Driver License/ Travel Insurance
iPhone & Charger/ Headphones (Not Pictured)
Cash/ Credit Card
Travel Docs & Other Paperwork
Camera Gear/ Storage Cards & Extra batteries (Not Pictured)
First Aid

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












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

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