Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bikepacking Trip Wrap up

Our bike packing trip is complete and now, three weeks later, I'm finally getting around to writing up what is probably my last blog post about the trip.

The first thing to address is the big question - do we want to go bike packing again? 

The answer? Yes! We definitely want to do more bike packing and include camping into future adventures. Bucket list routes include (but are not limited to) the Katy Trail in Missouri and the Elroy Sparta Trail in Wisconsin.

Secondly, a big Thank you is in order to the good people of Milltown Cycles, aka Milltown Premium Adventure Goods for equipping us with our bikes, our seat bags and for fielding lots and lots of questions about bike packing.

Now here's our bike packing wrap-up report with info on equipment, weather, coffee and other stats! Not interested in bike packing? Well, this might be kinda dry stuff so you might want to skip down to the bottom to the Coffee section of this post and call it a day.

Bikes: Owen rode his 2013 Salsa Mukluk 2 fatbike. I rode my 2013 Salsa Vaya 2. Both bikes worked well and were well-suited for the task. Since the Mukluk is a bit slow compared to the Vaya, Owen will likely switch over to a bike other than his fatbike for future trips.

Bikes fully loaded along the Gandy Dancer Trail
Dates: Departed Shell Lake, Wisconsin on Sunday evening, August 2nd. Arrived back in Shell Lake on Wednesday, August 5th

Milage: 169.2 miles.

Our Route:

  • Day 1 - County Road B from Shell Lake to Siren, Wisconsin.
  • Day 2 - The Gandy Dancer Trail from Siren to Danbury then all the way south to Luck, WI
  • Day 3 - Luck, WI south to St. Croix Falls then back north to Siren via The Gandy Dancer Trail
  • Day 4 - Siren back to Shell Lake, WI via County Road B
Gandy Dancer Trail Conditions: Trail conditions were excellent overall while we were on the bike-specific portion of the Gandy Dancer. As mentioned before, once we hit the ATV portion of the trail in Danbury, all bets were off for biking. Trail conditions were much better in Burnett County than in Polk County. In fact, we could see a distinct difference in trail conditions at the county line on the trail. The trail in Polk County was mossy in parts and there were also some deep sandy stretches where I had to get off my bike and walk for about a dozen feet. Not ideal.
The Gandy Dancer Trail in Burnett County
The Gandy Dancer Trail in Polk County

Mossy trail in Polk County
Weather: We had the great fortune of having great weather each day of our trip. Temps were in the mid 70s to low 80s at midday. The humidity was low. We could have biked another day but decided to reward ourselves with a day of sightseeing and relaxing before we needed to be at our son, Ryan's, Trumpet Workshop concert on Thursday evening (While we were biking, Ryan was attending a Trumpet Workshop camp at Shell Lake Center for the Arts in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. Rose was at a Korean language camp near Bemidji). Good thing we decided not to bike on Thursday because the day turned out to be overcast and it ended up raining like crazy.

Bug report: We were prepared to deal with mosquitos and packed plenty of bug spray but found bugs to be almost a non-issue on the trip. Owen did get stung on the first day but a wasp or something and I had a small bug fly into my face and sting me. Neither sting turned out to be an issue, though.

Weight (of the bikes and stuff, not of the people):
Since we did not carry sleeping bags, a tent or cook food along the way, our luggage and equipment didn't weigh much. Fully loaded, both of our bikes were easy to ride. We could tell we had some extra weight behind us in our seat bags but never felt that the full bags made for more difficult going.

We probably should have weighed our equipment before we left but kinda forgot to. So we pulled our bike bags off our bikes when we got home and weighed them to see how much weight we carried. We factored in weight for the water (two bottles each) and snacks we carried and were pleasantly surprised at how light our bikes were when fully loaded.

Owen's packed bags weighed in at 16 pounds
My bags weighed in at 11 pounds

I'm not sure what "normal" is as far as weight goes but I do know that when people go on long bike packing trips they'll carry considerably more than we did.

Bags:

Owen carried a Bontrager handlebar bag, a Banjo Brothers medium frame bag, a Revelate Mountain Feed Bag and a Revelate Viscacha seat bag.

I carried a small handlebar bag (not sure of the brand), a Revelate Pika seat bag and a Bontrager "Pro Speed Box" bag on my top tube near my handlebars.

Overpacking? Yep. A bit. Both Owen and I felt we could have left some stuff behind and would have been just fine.
Here are some overpacking examples:
  • We had two 4 oz. tubes of sunscreen but could have managed with one.
  • Owen also packed his swimsuit (not sure why, I guess I mentioned swimming at some point) and had three shirts when he just needed one.
  • We both packed a second jersey and could have managed with one.
  • We had jackets and used them but didn't end up needing the tiny rain ponchos we packed.
  • I packed a tiny bit of makeup (BB cream and eyeliner) but by the end of the really didn't care if my skin looked all even toned or not. Normally, I'm a bit self conscious about going out without makeup but at the end of the day I was just like, "hey, I rode my bike all day and I feel great so therefore I look great and if you don't like how I look I really don't care."
What we wished we had packed: 
  • I thought I would be able to get shampoo at hotels along the way. That wasn't always the case. So I wish I had packed a small container of shampoo.
  • I also wish I would have packed a small tube of lotion.
  • Duct Tape. I almost bought some to patch up the cleat attachment holes on the bottom of my shoes because lots of sand snuck in the holes. I also just like duct tape.
Coffee:

I think bike rides are always better when you stop for coffee. I prefer a whole-milk latte and Owen likes a basic black coffee. We found two super excellent coffee shops along the Gandy Dancer Trail that are worth mentioning (there are likely other good coffee shops, too, but these are two we found). Both of these shops are within a block of the bike trail.

Fresh Start Coffee Roasters in Webster, Wisconsin: Great coffee. Yummy treats. Nice decor. Art for sale including great photography.
Cafe Wren in Luck, Wisconsin: Great coffee. Yummy treats. Excellent lunch food. Super nice deck/patio. Art for sale. Cool biking glasses for sale.

Well, that's it for our Gandy Dancer bikepacking trip wrap up report.

I'll report in with more bike adventure related news soon!



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