The Transylvania Times -

By Park Baker
Staff Writer 

For Some, Bikepacking Is The Only Way To Travel -Brevard NC

 

November 23, 2017

Logan Watts on the Pilot Rock Trail in Pisgah National Forest

For Brevard resident Logan Watts, the bicycle is absolutely the best way to travel. And many people agree with him - more than one million a month to be exact. That's the number of visits he gets to his website, bikepacking.com, and the number continues to rise.

Brevard is likely to see an influx of visitors experimenting with their own bikepacking trips in the near future, with projects that Watts is working on with some of his adventure buddies.

But what is bikepacking? It's exactly what it sounds like - backpacking, with your bike.

Many folks will have done a bike tour before, or at least heard of it. Bike packing is different in that the routes are mostly off road, with many miles being single-track or gravel. To accomplish this, you don't need a special bike.

A mountain bike will do, but you do need some gear that will allow for some nimbleness on rough terrain.

Just like backpacking, you're going for a lightweight adventure, but you need to be prepared also.

Watts has already put together the Appalachian Beer Trail route, a four-day, 132-mile route that starts at Pisgah Brewing in Black Mountain and makes it way through Asheville, with pit stops at Burial, Wicked Weed and Brew City Bikes. Camping and sampling along the way, the route takes riders through Pisgah National Forest, up and down the trails and roads that draw cyclists from all over the world.

The Appalachian Beer Trail ends at The Hub, Oskar Blues and finally the REEB ranch on Crab Creek Road.

But being the adventure seeker that he is, Watts and some friends, including Brevard residents Ryan Sigsbey and TJ Kearns, are working on some bigger routes. Much bigger.

"We're working on the Eastern Divide trail," said Watts, pouring over maps at Crank Coffee. "It could be similar to the Great Divide Trail, not as scenic and remote, but for folks on the East Coast looking for adventure this will provide some awesome opportunities."

The Great Divide Trail stretches from Banff, Canada, to Antelope Wells, N.M., and it takes most people around three months to ride the 2,768 miles.

Some of those miles, like Colorado's Indiana Pass, are at 11,913 feet.

Thousands of people have completed the route at their own pace, as well as racing against others in the Great Divide Race.

The Eastern Divide Trail is Watts' attempt at a rival route, linking together roads and doubletrack from Newfoundland to Key West.

Watts said the planning for this involves loads of riding to try and piece together this route, so that folks can enjoy it without having to worry about camping illegally or trespassing.

He hopes to have this massive project completed by next year, with scouting for connectors currently ongoing.

Watts and his friends have had this project in planning for years, but more recently he has been more involved with scouting for the Southern Highlands Traverse (SHT) bikepacking route.

This route is a bit more trail riding than the Eastern Divide route. Beginning in Front Royal, Va., and extending all the way to Flagg Mountain, Ala., finishing on the "Alabama Skyway." Watts said that the completion of the SHT will encompass four existing routes on his website already, the Trans WNC, the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail, the Trans North Georgia and the Alabama Skyway.

Sigsbey created the Trans WNC, which begins in Damascus, Va., and ends on the Chattooga River just North of Mountain Rest, S.C.

Designed to be ridden from the North to the south, the 314-mile leg of the SHT is designed to be mostly singletrack, giving riders tastes of the classic mountain bike of trails found in the southern Appalachian mountains.

"The SHT comes through Brevard after riders are spit out off of the Black Mountain trail and starts back up on Cathey's Creek Road and then heads back west into Nantahala National Forest," said Watts. "The folks riding this are going to want to come into town."

When out on these adventures, Watts carries a small one-man tent, a compressible sleeping bag, a cook set up and a few other essentials.

"The gear is exactly like backpacking, which I think the term is so fitting because it's the same concept, pairing your gear down to be self supported yet not kill yourself," he said. "Bike touring is different, with the panniers the bike isn't nimble enough to do these types of routes that are generally off road. The Eastern Divide Trail will be geared toward folks touring, but the SHT and the beer tour is singletrack heavy."

The most important thing he's learned over the years about bikepacking and from teaching others is to go out and do a simple trip.

Watts said he has seen people dive in at the deep end so to speak, geared down and ready for anything but not really understanding what they are getting into, and then bail one or two nights in.

Other than seeing new places, connecting with people is his favorite part of bikepacking.

"My favorite way to travel is doing bigger international trips," Watts said. "It's a way to connect with people that draws me in. In my opinion, the bicycle is the best way to experience the people, the culture. There's just not another way to do that will bring that level of connection. For example, my wife and I, and others, have done two trips through Africa.

"The majority of the people in places like Uganda and Rwanda use bicycles as their main form of transportation. We were riding with people on these dirt roads in the middle of nowhere. The way you make friends along the way and experience the landscape and people - it's fast enough to where you can cover some ground but you get that sense of being immersed. I would never travel any other way now."

Watts' favorite trip was in Kyrgyzstan last year. There is no private land, and the landscape is wide open.

Ryan Sigsbey hits the trail.

"If you see a road going off into the distance, we didn't think twice about taking it," he said. "They're a nomadic culture, and you can pretty much camp everywhere. It's incredibly beautiful. There's big mountains and the landscape is amazing."

Watts said that mountain Biking has often been regarded as either an endurance sport or aggressive riding, but he believes many more people will learn to love bikepacking because it is slower and more about exploration than adrenaline or going fast.

"Bikepacking is this niche thing that has blown up and a lot of companies are starting to roll out gear," he said. "Some are worried it's just a trend," he said. "I don't think so though. I think more people are going to fall in love with this kind of riding."

To learn more, visit http://www.bikepacking.com.

 
 

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