Discussion in 'Bikepacking' started by mike, Jun 11, 2017.
Very awesome my friend. We are all proud.
Truly badass! Well done amigo
Absolutely f@cking amazing!
I'm living vicariously!!!!
Nice work @mike & Congrats on the finish. I'm really looking forward to giving the 750 another go, either in '19 or '20. I also wouldn't mind touring the full route like you did, really take my time without total destruction each day. Glad we were able to have a pre-ride beer!!
Thanks for the ongoing stoke and info, John. Respect!!! Happy dirt, brother
Thanks, all you IMTBTrailheads, for the psyche and good words.
Congrats Mike, nice work! Some day I will follow in those footsteps (bike tracks)!
A BIG congrats @mike. You are an inspiration.
Good job @mike ! Love the behind the bars shot with the missed loved ones...a cat? Really? Ha ha!
Extremely Awesome Mike. Probably not too many can say they've done that. And now I can proudly say I know some crazy dude who did it. Also noticed the motivator photos in the map cover
Nicely done! Thanks for the write up, as I looked forward to your progress report.
Thanks, guys. Really.
@rossage, @knucklebuster, yep, the Weez and Carlo. A few of you got to meet our kitty, Carlo and I thought you were one, R. He is the main reason that I had not done this ride years ago. I would trade any ride for more years with my little buddy, but we all gotta go eventually. So the AZT is somewhat a consolation for our loss. BTW, it’s not working. Still miss him as always. Dave, you know where I’m at. The Weaz...always an inspiration. Money well spent on the color output.
Nice job @mike
Look forward to hearing your thoughts after it sinks in a little more.
Congrats. Words fail me. Great job. Respect!
Thoughts about AZT as a MTB through-ride…
It would be hard to not compare this route/ride to other long ones I’ve done, so this is from a bikepacking perspective, meaning, the pure quality of the trail riding is one of several aspects that factor into how “good” it is.
The AZT Foundation does a great job of making info available. Web site, apps, hi-res maps, water source spreadsheet, etc. Signage on the route is very good. Many posts are knocked down, but there are a lot of them, plus placards on existing posts, well-placed and graphically consistent. Paired with the $10 Guthook smartphone app, navigation was pretty fool-proof. I printed the high-res maps for their additional detailed info, but it’s possible to use them on a digital device. It’s also possible to download all the high res background imagery in the app, which I did not do, so, many times I would have a white screen with the track and my position/orientation. Still perfectly useful for averting off-route.
As usual, I didn’t train for the ride, just rode 1-2x a week like normal. Steel hardtail bike (GG Pedälhead) not specifically chosen for this ride or for bikepacking – more a trail oriented bike, but built up with BP/AZT in mind.
The official bike version of the AZT as in the Guthook app is what I used as a basis for my ride. As AZT vet Scott Morris states, recreational riders will decide how much and what of the route they wish to stick to, versus ridearounds on dirt or pavement. I like singletrack and don’t mind pushing my bike, so I figured I’d be up for most of the ST.
But I found that some of the bike alternates are not rideable at all, for miles at a time. To me, this makes absolutely no sense. They’re not even the AZT, they’re bike alternates, so, why not have them be more bike-able? I began to feel like the route seeks to boast a high ST percentage (it can, at 60%), and that “biking” it was more a novelty than truly excellent bikepacking. As the route went on, I scrutinized the bike route more, and chose alternate routes I thought would be high in quality, which proved fruitful. Honestly, pedaling a sweet rural road, paved or not, can easily be more fun than pushing your bike in the BC.
The route is very technical, with lots of embedded and loose rocks, exposure, failure penalty, steepness, tight switchbacks, narrow trail. Riding a loaded bike for hours without mishap required continual focus. Very difficult to gawk at scenery and the trail ahead. I dismounted many spots. I dumped it at low speed many times, fell off the trail at least three times and was lucky to not get cut up or in cactus. Having a dropper on this route would be a boon, even at the cost of small panniers, IMO (@kioti).
In a nutshell: I would not recommend AZT bike version as a through-ride unless: You’ve done the Great Divide and/or the Colorado Trail and you want to complete the triple crown, or you still can’t get enough of all manner bike shenanigans in all manner of places.
The GDMBR and CT are masterpieces which I have and would again consider repeating. They follow more dramatic geologic features for more of their length, and don’t feel as contrived with forcing the border-to-border thing. It’s like making the CT border to border – it would not make it better. The flow of the AZT felt reactive at times; hit a fence and ride along it, bolt straight up between these properties, down this junk jeep road…basically just getting through. The fantastic riding in great quantity to justify linking areas this way was simply not there for me. Of course, in 800 miles, you’ll have to have a percentage of bliss, but to my mind there seemed a lack of substantial payoff beyond the sheer completion of each section/day.
I would recommend cherry picking the AZT without or with bivy gear. Very many sections are worthy, as you know, and other trails/circuits can be combined with AZT sections. If you want to BP, are a freak for the desert and like it rough, do the start through Kearny. If you like higher els and trees, ride Morman Lake or Flagstaff to the finish or to Jacob Lake. If you are really up for some punishment (and the weirdest thing you’ll ever do “on" a bike), include the Canyon portage.
There will be hardy individuals who send/sent the trail handily and otherwise don’t agree with my assessment. Mine is just an opinion from a rider of modest ability, after all, and anyone should let their own experience and sense take them where the challenges will fit their objectives.
Welcome back @mike! That's a helluva report. Clear and sensible. I commend you for tackling the official route and I'm curious as to your recommended alternative. I love classic type adventures, but prefer flow to forced. I guess I could put up with a few short HAB's, but generally prefer riding my bike to pushing it. And maybe it's just a matter of time before some of those rough spots are cleaned up and easements are granted to prevent detours. In general, it seems like monumental effort by the AZT Foundation and you early riders.
BTW, are there workable gear shuttle opportunities for the Canyon crossing? I've driven in from the east and know it's a long way around, but it'd be a much nicer walk if your gear could be transported/shipped to the other side..
Mostly though-- glad you're back, relatively unscathed, trip completed and reunited with your loved ones! Cheers!
@mike, what were your favorite sections of the AZT and why?
Thanks for the nice welcome back, Jim!
There is like 100 miles of dirt on the bike route that I skipped, forest routes and ST. I made the route easier by either shortening it or replacing ST with road. That said, the die-hard quality hound would scrutinize any uphill ST riding – and that's a lot going S-N. Checking with the hiking guide book on difficulties and inspecting elevation profiles is something I did almost none of. I just went at it, so got what I paid for.
• The riding up Mount Lemon, as mentioned, starting at Bug Creek, I'd hit the highway to Summerhaven.
• At Oracle Ridge I'd take the control road instead.
• Riding between Payson and Blue Ridge TH I would skip altogether. The beginning and end is good, but 15 miles of HAB-heavy Highline Trail as a price is not worth it. It flat sucks, as does several miles before it if going north.
• Lake Mary Road is very nice alternative to the trail near Happy Jack, but since I did not do the trail there, can't comment.
• In early season the trail north of the North Rim can be snowy with deadfall. The parallel auto roads, including Grand Canyon Hwy (67) were super nice, all closed to Jacob Lake, no public cars. Dreamy for even hiking.
Shuttle services exist to ferry your bike around the Canyon. A page on the Foundation site lists them. FWIW, I found shuttle services down south very responsive and ready to work. Up north, way different. Winging it could be a useful skill...
@SnakeCharmer...I'm gonna muse on that a little, will post up
We passed a few guys riding/climbing up Bug Springs as we were descending it. YIKES!
@SnakeCharmer, a highlights list...
• Morman Lake north – some unexpectedly fast ST and good variety of sub-alpine trails and roads; minimal HAB
• Flagstaff north – Same reasons, more alpine still. Could extend to Tusayan. Getting more remote up there.
• Jacob Lake north – More remote still, and the Kaibab Plateau is a unique feature/area. Generally DH to Stateline CG. Of all the drainages you cross on the route and get a nasty gift on the other side, you finally get to drop into and down a glory chute for miles of coasting.
• Morman Lake or thereabouts to the finish would make a great bikepacking run – better than the entire thing, IMO. Have bike/gear shuttled around the Canyon unless the strong elixir is preferred.
I know people like the flowy desert stuff, a la Gabe Zimmerman etc., but that gets boring to me, so I didn't include it. That section feels somewhat citi-fied to me as well – easy access and nearby populations. My preference for higher elevations admittedly colors my preferences, as does the fact that my bike was loaded.
I skipped the Reavis Ranch up/down section north of the 60 due to a dust storm as I approached it. Could be some nice desert ST out there.
Its funny, I generally don’t think of AZ as forested even though it has much high elevation range. Its always going to be a magnificant Sonoran desert to me.
Thanks for sharing your favs.
You're a tough nut to please Mike! Highline sucking, I can see. But stuff south of Tucson too boring? Hopefully sometime you can check it out. I found it anything but, with good variety of trail and nice desert views. And few people on the trails when I went through in the afternoon. Like you said a lot of the AZT is hard riding, so when you get some easy miles, just enjoy them! Did you at least ride the segment through Saguaro NP?
Guess I'm not sure what you were expecting for AZT as a through ride. Contrived? Remember the trail was only completed in 2011 or 12 after being pieced together as a compromise of existing trail, jeep road and new trail construction. So some of the route was dictated by what already existed. It is a work in progress and will be for decades. It ain't easy to create a trail across an entire state given constraints like funding, private property, land designations and topography while providing reasonable access to resupply points, all while trying to cover the best ground/route across the whole state. For MTBers we have it even tougher route-wise because of all the detours for Wilderness. Even if the trail isn't great in places it is still amazing they could put together a public route of this distance. The good news is they are constantly working to improve it with re-routes to get the trail off roads, and with trail improvements to singletrack, and all of those do have bikes in mind. So it will continuously get better. But stop and look back of the entirety of the trail and what it traverses - from Sonoran Desert all the way up to Colorado Plateau. Pretty amazing. Yeah its true some of the best riding is in the Sonoran Desert and north of the Mogollon Rim, and in between the two is not so great. I have no doubt that some day it will be better. But if you want to through ride, you gotta traverse it all. Dunno. I guess we have a different philosophy on bikepacking routes. When I find a route to follow I follow that route and take on whatever it throws at me. That's part of the challenge that I enjoy. The bad is as much a part of the experience as the good. I wouldn't always (in fact I often wouldn't) repeat that same route, but I've seldom regretted checking out parts of a route I would never otherwise see. Most bikepacks include segments that I would never bother with on a day ride, which is part of why I like it so much. Not sure what the point is trying to compare AZT to CT or Great divide. AZT is what it is. I would kill to have it in my backyard. Unfortunately we're stuck with PCT run by HOHAs with a huge stick up their ass.
Interestingly in terms of a route, some riders in AZ were talking about creating a huge AZT alternate that would be a completely different route to the part from Apache Junction to the Mogollon Rim. If I recall it would traverse around the north side of Phoenix and pick up the BCT, then head NW to Prescott and I guess from there cross back to Flagstaff via Sedona to Mormon Lake (Coconino route?). Schillingsworth may recall more than I do about that. But that alternative may get more consideration in the future as there is a plan approved to build singletrack to connect the north end of BCT over to Prescott.
Very interesting to hear your thoughts on it AZT (even if they're WRONG :Roflmao), so thanks for posting. I'd love to see a track of the route as I'm not familiar with what all of the bike alternates are. Riding the AZT is a major accomplishment, so huge props to you! Hopefully I can check out the full meal deal one of these years...
Right on, I knew you'd have some strong opinions, ev
As said, just my opinion, FWIW, based on what I've done and in reference to the rest of the big 3. I really had no expectations at all. I just went for it and did what I always do – make decisions on the fly and exercise my freedom. I'd never do a race – that would take away my freedom. Similarly, I'd never take a route and not consider putting my own twist on it wherever I felt like it.
I lived for decades in the Phoenix area, so I'm not smitten with the desert. That surely colors my opinion of the riding experience down there. Sahuaro NP was nice – like very much of the route – just doesn't register as all-time to me. The entire experience is very personal, thus subjective. An opinion is not right or wrong, it's just an opinion (that may not align with others').
I take nothing away from the route – as you say, it is what it is. It's great that it can/will be improved, and I don't doubt it takes a lot to make that happen. I agree with you that the diversity of the route is incredible. I think that's a framing characteristic of it. Where else could you perish of heat exposure one week and of hypothermia the next?!
I reckon AZ is, more or less, synonymous with desert. Most of the state population there lives in the desert. When I lived there, outside winter, we got to the high country every chance we got. So I always think of the forest when there.
There is a bunch of fire closure affecting the trail. Check with the AZT Foundation, they have links to affected sections/areas.
Yep, the Arizonians have been chatting about it. Flagstaff has considerable closures in popular riding areas.