Trikepacking Alaska: Some Assembly Required
YouTube – Renaissance Cyclist
When bikepacking.com announced the Swift Campout Video Challenge I was fresh out of major knee surgery. Bedbound, I marked my calendar vowing to ask my surgeon and physical therapist about attempting a bikepacking journey the weekend of Sept. 26th.
Of course, my plea was initially denied, however as the campout approached I eventually won over my clinical team and was cleared for mellow cycling on river grade roads and gravel. This came with major restrictions on the kinds of loads I could carry. With these riding prohibitions and my personal limitations in mind, I reached out to my good friend Geoff.
Geoff is not a cyclist. While a beloved member of the small COVID-conscious friend bubble of bikepackers I hung out with during this difficult year, Geoff alone never joined a ride or experienced a weekend escaping the mad world we find ourselves in.
Last winter Geoff purchased a Schwinn tricycle in the hopes of easing himself into riding a bike of the two-wheeled variety and embarking on health-conscious commutes to work. Geoff spent the brief but vibrant Alaskan 2020 summer familiarizing himself with his tricycle. A singlespeed grocery-getter in nature, the trike wasn’t the ideal candidate for someone’s first bikepacking steed but – a firm believer in ride what you got – I set out modifying the trike with Geoff’s first bikepacking journey in mind. These modifications included finding a home for a Hamerschmidt internal gear crankset (originally intended for Downhill MTB use) I’d had tucked away for just such a frankenbike undertaking.
Given the circumstances, our crew of bikepackers set our gazes upon a backcountry cabin nestled by a lake in the foothills of the Chugach Mountain Range. The cabin would allow for lighter loads and a focus on fun and companionship. 2020 has been a rough year and we all wanted to escape together in the gorgeous but short-lived Alaskan Autumn.
After our adventure had come to a close, I requested an audio journal from Geoff of his experiences. I set no criteria for Geoff and when he asked to see the footage I had procured, I declined. It was my goal to get the story from Geoff untainted and unbiased of influences from my camera. During our college days together, Geoff was a regular DJ about Anchorage. Having remembered his Soundcloud account, unbeknownst to Geoff, I created a musical backdrop to his narration using his very own music mixes.
Crafting this short film ended up amounting to a significantly larger outpouring of my heart than I could have initially imagined and a serious personal challenge. What you see before you today is a love letter to my friend Geoff and through him, a love letter from us to Alaska.
It was only through the hindsight this piece provided that I realized Geoff was the one there picking me up from the hospital during my first knee surgery back in 2009 after a catastrophic mountaineering accident. At the time I was fresh to Alaska, without any local family. It was this very injury that initially got me into bikepacking in the first place. While years passed us by and I came and went from Alaska, it’s remarkable I find myself come full circle, once again with the family I have chose in the place I call home.
This experience, while not entirely without moments of fear and discomfort, has motived Geoff to commit to learning how to fatbike this winter. Our crew of friends intends to build him up a suitable steed. Should we win the Swift Campout Video Challenge, we intend to provide Geoff with the winnings to help bolster his path forward.
More important than winnings, however, is my desire to share a story that will help refill your cup and give you the oomph you need to keep the pedals turning wherever your heart takes you.
All imagery captured the weekend of Sept. 26th 2020. Find more photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/1668146…