ADVENTURE BY BIKE®
Sponsored riders Kaitlyn Boyle and Kurt Refsnider are undertaking L'aventure Alpine, a five-week bikepacking tour in the Alps. We continue their story. -Kid
L'aventure Alpine - Part Three: Logistics
In Adventure Education, the logistical role is often under-appreciated but incredibly necessary. Any long trip or expedition requires endless logistical planning of route (itinerary, navigation, permits, etc), food (rations, resupply, packing), gear (planning, organizing, packing), and travel details. Since we’ve assembled our own route on a different continent, the route planning was rather involved and brain/time consuming and was detailed in our prior L’Aventure Alpine Route Planning post. Here we’ll detail our planning for the rest of our trip, from gear to food to travel. This is a bit of a new ordeal for each of us – bikepacking and backcountry travel is old hat, but planning lengthy trips in foreign countries is still relatively new.
We are both riding 2014 El Mariachi Ti rigs. Once we saw the elevation profile for our route (potentially 300,000 feet of up and down!), we modified our drivetrains and brakes. We’re running 2 x 10 Shimano XTR drivetrains comprised of 22/33 tooth chainrings, 11-36 cassettes, and XTR brakes with 203mm rotors on the front and 180mm rotors on the rear. Per usual, our tires are Maxxis Ardent EXO 29 x 2.4”. As our trip is on a different continent and logistics are more challenging than usual, we’ve chosen to ride hardtails to maximize packing capacity and minimize bike complexity.
We’ve packed for a backcountry trip. We plan on camping as much as possible and cooking as many meals as we can, mostly out of budget necessity. We will, of course, eat out, and we’ll probably find ourselves having to stay at a refuge or bed and breakfast occasionally. We also plan on having a few layover days to explore and enjoy some of the villages of the Alps. The gear we’re bringing is what we’ve decided is necessary and desired for a month of bikepacking. It’s fairly minimal but will hopefully keep us warm, dry, and happy in a foreign landscape. We’ve opted not to gamble with the European postal system to have a bounce box, so we’re carrying our town clothes, electronic needs, and repair items.
Our clothing should be sufficient for biking and camping in temperatures from ~20 to 90-degrees in sun, wind, and rain. If it snows, we’ll be in our tent – we’re touring. We have a set of town clothes to wear while exploring villages and while doing laundry the few times we’ll have the opportunity.
One perk from riding identical bikes is that our repair kit is universally useful. As we will ride through only a few towns with bike shops of unknown size, we have tools and spare parts to take care of any small repair needs, as well as a few larger possible issues. Kurt’s homemade spare derailleur hanger (specifically for an Alternator thru-axle drop-out) is notably slick, and we’re pleased with the homemade bag we’re carrying it all in.
Our first-aid kit is designed to manage simple illness and injury to get to the closest medical facility. It’s slim, but has potions to mask pain, lotions to prevent infection, and tape to hold everything inside and inline. We also have epinephrine for Kurt in case our translation of “No pecans, walnuts, or brazil nuts” is unsuccessful.
Our list of electronics feels excessive, but it is the most streamlined and realistic way for two people with only flip-phones and laptops to travel in Europe while having the ability to write blog posts, check-in with family, take photos, and save our butts if we discover that our route planning was a little over ambitious. And of course, we have to charge everything.
Without knowing exactly what will be available for us in the way of bikepacking-friendly food (or any food for that matter) in tiny towns, we have a plan to feed ourselves with mostly healthy, delicious food on a budget. Towns with small markets or grocery stores are generally 50 to 180km apart along our route based upon my Google research. And unfortunately, everything in Switzerland is terribly expensive. We’re bringing a handful of boxes of our favorite bars along from the States, shipping some staples and bulk food ahead to a few post offices, and getting everything else along the way. I plan on eating a lot of chocolate and Nutella. Kurt is excited to have ice cream and bread back in his life.
The logistics to get us to and from our route have proven to be some of the most challenging. Flights to Zurich were simple to figure out. Bike-friendly trains were less so. Georg Deck, a Tour Divide veteran (Interesting anecdote: seven Tour Divide vets live within just a few miles of his hometown near Zurich) and our Zurich host jumped in and helped finalize our plans, becoming our first “trail angels” of our trip. And this was before we had even packed! This just underscores how some simple help to bikepackers from afar can make their planning and travels less stressful.
In the end, this is what we have chosen to take on our L'aventure Alpine.
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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.