Daily Archives: 08/21/2019

Not-So-Jolly Mountain Bikepacking: A Lesson in Knowing When to Quit

Words by Kona Ambassador Delia Massey. Photos by Kinsey Smith

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

Bikepacking seems like such a great idea, until it’s 3pm on a Sunday and you’ve been pushing your loaded bike straight up a moto trail in the middle of nowhere for over an hour looking for a hiking trail that both Trailforks and the topo map says exists but does not, in fact, exist and therefore the planned route back to your car does not exist.

Let me back up a minute and explain how I got myself in this predicament. I’m an experienced cyclist and I’ve been on a number of bikepacking trips, so I consider myself fully competent when it comes to choosing gear, packing my bike, and following a route. I had always used existing routes, though, and had never planned out a route all by myself on unknown trails. I had heard that there was some riding out near Jolly Mountain in the Teanaway region, so I decided that would be the perfect place to create my own route. I diligently did my research, looking at Trailforks, local mountain bike forums, and topo maps. I pieced together my route based on this information and with the goal of making a loop that would be long enough to provide two full days of riding but not so ambitious that we couldn’t finish. The final route was about 43 miles and 12,500 feet of climbing and was mostly singletrack moto trails with some fire roads and hiking trails thrown in. Ok, maybe it was a little ambitious!

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

My adventure partner, Kinsey, trusted my judgment and agreed to my self-described death march. We chose a sunny weekend in July and set off on the journey. The first climb up the Jolly Mountain access road took much longer than I thought it would, but I figured we would move faster when we hit trail. I was wrong. The moto trails were loose, dry, rocky, and difficult to pedal up, which was only made harder with the pounds of gear we had strapped on our handlebars and seatposts. I quickly reassessed my plan for Day 1 and skipped the out and back I had planned up to the summit of Jolly Mountain, and planned to camp at an earlier mileage. 

We rode down steep sections of trail with exciting exposure, bushwhacked through overgrown sections, climbed over trees, and met moto riders who were shocked to see some crazy mountain bikers on their trails. The views were spectacular, with the clear day giving us an unreal panorama of the North Cascades in every direction. There was plenty of water from the numerous creek crossings along the way, and we found fat strawberries to snack on. We reached our camp spot by dinner time and took a dip in the creek to wash the dust and sweat off. We had covered 20 miles, which was a solid day, but we still had another 23 miles to cover on Day 2. As we started out slowly the next morning, I made the call to cut out another section of the ride, thinking that would make the remaining mileage do-able. We made slow but steady progress and had our lunch next to a pristine alpine lake. 

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

After the lake, there was a moto trail that was supposed to take us straight up and over a ridge. The trail was not there. We continued riding and ran into the trailhead further down, not where it was marked on the map. But it was there, so up we went. This was our first sign of trouble. We started pushing up the trail because it was far too steep to ride. We reached what was supposed to be the intersection with the hiking trail that would take us back toward the car…and it wasn’t there. Kinsey headed into the woods, following his GPS along the supposed trail, and found a few faint remnants of it. The trail had been abandoned and was not passable with our loaded bikes and tired legs. I recall sitting at the side of the moto trail feeling absolutely defeated like the trip was a failure. Minutes crawled by while I looked at my map and panicked, unsure if we would make it out before dark. Either we continued to push up looking for another way back over the ridge, or we bailed on the planned route and turned around to go back down the trail we were on, which connected with another moto trail that would take us out to the fire road and eventually back to our car. I decided the safest option was to turn around and give up on my route. We got back to the car with enough time to swim in Cle Elum Lake and get burgers for dinner.

The trip may not have gone quite as planned, but it was certainly not a failure. We rode bikes through beautiful scenery for two days and got to push our limits on a loop that I don’t think anyone else has ever attempted. There was no way I could have known that the trail wouldn’t be there, that was completely out of my control. When the time came to quit, I knew it was the right choice and it got us safely out of the wilderness.

First Travel by Bike

Words and photos by Kona Ambassador Sebastian De Meris.

Every year the holidays are a topic of discussion to know where to go but this time we decided to go by bike. The goal was to leave about a week where the weather is favourable and ride a reasonable number of kilometres.

Although Kona has a beautiful range of bicycles for travelling, two Jake the Snakes have been chosen, one of which is mounted with a luggage rack so that camping equipment can be easily transported with rear panniers. In the end, we were surprised to see that with our seven bike bags we still had plenty of room, which will prove practical for shopping food and cook good meals.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

The D-day is coming and the weather is less beautiful than expected in northern Switzerland and Germany and the heat in the south motivates us, so it’s in Switzerland that we will ride and camp.

The first day we leave for the Jura, which with the Alps is the other mountain range in Switzerland. The goal is to see the “Creux du Van“, a natural rocky circus of about 1,400 meters wide. The bikes are fine. Us? Not so much with a heat that exceeds 30°C (86°F) and we reach the end of 56km ride a little dry. The sky starts being dark and a big storm forms as we arrive at the campsite in the Val de Travers. It’s then a real deluge that falls 20 minutes later and lasts many hours and part of the night, but the tent resists the rain. We will have to come back too see the Creux du Van as it is hidden in the clouds. The next day the sun shines timidly but the conditions are pleasant to ride towards Sainte-Croix and its pass.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

A long descent allows us to return to the plain and the Lake of Neuchatel. A large part of the route now passes through the natural reserve of the “Grande Cariçaie,” which is home to nearly a quarter of the fauna and flora species found in Switzerland. Like the day before, the timing is perfect and we arrive at the starting point just before an impressive storm.

This passage to the zero point of the trip allowed us to avoid a very rainy Sunday and also to adjust the contents of the bags by removing unnecessary things off from the two bikes. It isn’t the lightest setup but for a first bike travelling trip, we’re really happy with the results.

On Monday we head towards the Alps and while riding the at least 50km distance for the day, the hills become more and more prominent, especially when crossing the Gantrisch Natural Park. Finally, we rode down again towards Thun where we saw the lakes that we’d follow the next day.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

In the morning we leave with a beautiful view of the peaks of the Eiger, Mönsch and Jungfrau and reach the shores of Lake Thun where the bicycle route offers an incredible view. At noon we do like the hordes of tourists and stop in Interlaken to eat a pizza before starting the second part of the route where the beauty and the shades of blue of the lake will surprise us as well as the climbs with slopes of over 20%…

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

At the end of this day, we arrive by the small lake of Lungern. The camping site is perfect and from the tent, there is a beautiful view to eat our Thai soup, which changes from the “one-pot pasta” that we have cooked until now.  

In the morning the weather is quite wet and cool as we start the descent towards the Lake of Sarnen which will then lead us to the edge of the Lake of the four cantons and then to the pretty city of Lucerne and its famous wooden bridge.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

We should have stopped there but we decided to continue riding towards the heart of Switzerland where a campsite is once again located on the side of a lake. It should be noted that in Switzerland wild camping is not really tolerated except in the mountains above the forest limit but the good point that we were able to enjoy the comfort of the campsites.

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG

For the last day, we decide to go back to the shores of the lake of the four cantons and take the roads that follow the shores and luckily we arrived at a place where the ferry is about to dock, which allows us to enjoy the view without having to pedal. After that, we go back to Lucerne and head towards the Swiss plateau as the heat gets hotter and hotter. After 70 km of riding and 1000m of altitude difference, we finally arrive in the pretty town of Sursee where a train brings us back to the starting point.

These 6 days of cycling were a really good experience and allowed us to discover places where we would never have gone by car and there is still a certain satisfaction to see the landscape pass by at a human pace. It’s also a good feeling to arrive at a place in the evening after a nice§ day of pedaling, it was just missing some camping chairs to drink the beers.

Anyway, one thing is certain, we’re going to do it again!

A few statistics about this bike trip:

2 Kona Jake the Snake

7 bike bags

6 days

9 lakes

401 km of riding  (249 miles)

5889 d+/-              (19320  ft)

O’Marisquiño !

Last week our german Grassroots rider Leo Erhardt was in Spain for O’Marisquino, a festival dedicated to urban culture and action sports in Vigo.

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The dirt jump comp was a “Gold Event” for the FMB World Tour. Some of the best riders came to play the 15,000 € in prizes and to get a wildcard pass for the FMB final in Crankworx, Whistler (Canada).

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The 2019 edition was loaded with news in the Dirt Jump section, including the construction of a new giant “Airbag” reception for the Best Trick contest where runners played the craziest trick of the Festival in a mega jump of more than 8 meters high and 10 m long landing with the bicycle on the soft airbag reception.

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A spectacular ramp of 8 meters and height helped the riders to get enough speed and perform their best tricks, a jump never built Spain! This exhibition of the Best Trick was done as a complement to the official Gold category competition.

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