Today, we begin a series of posts from sponsored riders Kurt Refsnider and Kaitlyn Boyle. Kurt and Kait are heading to Europe for a five-week bikepacking tour of the Alps. They'll be doing their best to bring us along via our blog and Salsa Facebook. -Kid
L'aventure Alpine - Kait & Kurt’s Bikepacking Adventure
Part One - Scheming
As the chickens squawk outside and rain falls on the already muddy trails, Kurt and I are glued to our computer screens, connecting dots, translating trail descriptions, and puzzling over Google Earth. This scene was the theme of our two-week visit to New Hampshire earlier this summer, as we balanced family time with playing on bikes and planning for a far bigger trip.
By the middle of this past school year, we’d both begun dreaming of time off - bikepacking-filled time off. We agreed that we both wanted an adventure in new territory characterized by big mountains, different cultures, and mountain bike touring. We decided to spend five weeks traversing as much of the Alps as we can.
Once this was decided, little planning happened for months. Work took over. We raced bikes. And then I broke my wrist. When my healing time was calculated, we were relieved there was just enough time for me to fully recover before our trip. And we also realized we didn’t have much time left to plan five weeks of bikepacking on a different continent. The first step, we bought plane tickets. Eek! $3,000.00 later we were committed. Then the new bikes arrived. Double eek! Once again, work and healing my wrist took over, and we told ourselves we would turn our complete attention to trip planning once school ended.
Photo by Eszter Horanyi
Going into our New Hampshire visit, we already had the foundational planning laid out. Like any adventure, our trip needed an objective. Our first objective is to ride as far as we can in about five weeks, traversing as close to the Alps divide as is reasonable for loaded mountain bikes. In doing this we plan on riding as much dirt is possible. We also want to ride at a touring pace. Our loose definition of this means riding with a purpose while allowing sufficient time for lunch, sleeping in, exploring small villages, drinking cappuccinos (if we can afford them), taking photos of each other shredding 4,500’ (or 1400 meter) descents, and minimizing riding at night. As neither of us has spent much time in Europe, we want to experience as much as possible while on a tight budget.
This exploration of the Alps will be powered by our legs, with everything we’ll need strapped snuggly onto our bikes and stuffed into our backpacks. To meet our goals, we have a rough plan in the works. It will hopefully emerge from this tangled mess…
Through importing and creating routes in Google Earth and TopoFusion, we’re starting to have an idea of what we’ve gotten ourselves into. We’re debating if we should measure progress and plan days by distance or by elevation gain. There will be a lot of up…and a lot of down. We will soon find out what sort of food we can find in the small mountain villages we cross, and how to feed ourselves for five weeks in Europe on a paleo diet….or if that is even realistic? We also added new hike-a-bike shoes, larger brake rotors worthy of the Alps, and a three-language translation cheat sheet (“Can we camp in your field?” for example) and a lot of maps.
There will be a series of blog posts following our Alpine Adventure over the next couple months, so be sure to check back in.
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I have shaped my life around exploring remote and wild places by foot, rope, raft, ski and mountain bike. I would rather be sweating than sitting, surrounded by trees than walls, and lost in a canyon than navigating a freeway. As I spend more than half the year sleeping outside, I’ve come to believe that life's full potential can be realized through seeking, enduring and relishing adventure.