Posted by Miles Arbour
This past September, our Bikepack Canada crew hosted the 4th annual Canadian Summit in the Rocky Mountains of Canmore, Alberta.
Prior to the weekend’s events, we set out on the annual pre-Summit overnighter into the beautiful Kananaskis region. Gravel, optional singletrack, and mountain scenery beckoned us along sections of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. True to Summit tradition, a forecast of snowy weather and unseasonably cold temperatures arrived just in time for the adventure. Nevertheless, a hardy group of 15 riders appeared, ready for whatever Mother Nature had in store. We started the ride with the sun teasing to poke through the clouds, but once in more mountainous territory, the wintery weather moved in. Amongst our eclectic bunch of riders was Will, who had never bikepacked before. In fact, this would be his very first overnight experience. Also a first for him, riding fully loaded on his new fat bike. With 140km round trip to tackle, and hail, snow, and rain to contend with, Will handled it like a champ. It was a big accomplishment, one we were all happy to share with him.
Back in Canmore after the overnighter, our Summit kicked off with Cricket Butler from the Whitefish Bike Retreat. Just a short jaunt over the Alberta border into Montana, we got to hear first hand how Cricket has infused this unique cycling retreat with her passion for bikepacking and adventure.
A bikerafting demo came next, with Ryan Draper, Dave Mellor, and Kokopelli Packrafts highlighting some different raft and gear options, and chats about how it can open up new route and adventure opportunities. Up and out of our seats, it was time for a yoga break with Jeff Mah of The Yoga Lounge. A cyclist himself, Jeff equipped us with several stretches and movements to use before and after long days in the saddle. As always, he managed to squeeze out lots of laughter and fun in between our “hurts-go-good” grimaces.
For all those who like to snap photos while out adventuring, Jeff Bartlett was on hand with some great tips. A renowned photographer and experienced bikepacker, Jeff taught us how to take better photos on our bikepacking trips. Next, Dave Cipollone talked to us about practical ways to manage risk and deal with emergencies in the backcountry, an important discussion given our proximity to remote wilderness here in the Canadian Rockies. Katrina Rosen read from her recently published book, With You By Bike, with stories of her and her husband’s around-the-world cycling trip that they embarked on to save their then-broken marriage. While many of us ride for the simple love of it, Katrina’s vulnerability in sharing her personal story reminded us of the power of time on the bike, whether alone or with those you love.
After all this inspiration, it was time to hit the trails of Canmore for a short ride through our picturesque mountain town. When everyone’s cheeks were sufficiently rosy, the group headed back to the Summit HQ to cap off the day with pizza, beers, and a selection of fun bike films.
Snow continued to fall through the night and we woke to a particularly wintery day for our Sunday morning group ride. Our youngest guest, six-year-old Abbey, who just bikepacked throughout BC with her dad this past summer, was ready to go. Despite proclaiming her distaste for the cold weather, she was sure to set the record straight, saying, “But I love riding my bike, so let’s go!” The energy continued as we kicked off our final day with a captivating presentation from Ben Johnson. Beginning with his film, Admissions of an Amateur Bikepacker, Ben shared stories from his first solo bikepacking trip. Witnessing his successes and struggles, Ben’s presentation was full of inspiration to dream bigger despite the trepidations we might have to face.
Janie Hayes had come in all the way from Salida, Colorado, and we were excited to hear about her vast cycling experience, from triathlons to the Trans Am and, ultimately, the Tour Divide. She took on the race in 2019 but unexpectedly ended it in Steamboat Springs, just over half way. With much insight and inspiration to share, Janie chatted about the lessons she learned through that tough experience and the importance of aligning goals and values with either competition or fun.
Next up was a Summit favourite, “What’s In Your Bag?” We heard from three riders, each showcasing a very different bikepacking style. From Steve O’Shaughnessy’s racing set up to Guy Stuart’s clever DIY creations and Katrina’s focus on maximum comfort. The presentations were chok full of practical nuggets of information for bikepackers of all varieties. Our final session had guests rotating through different stations, where we covered GPS 101, bike mechanics, and on-trail physio. Everyone walked away having learned at least one new trick, like breaking a chain with a piece of string, courtesy of mechanic Kyle Messier. Who knew!?
We wrapped up the weekend with a ton of great giveaways and a thoughtful tribute to our Summit founder, Ryan Correy, who passed away in 2018. Then, it was time to part ways… but not for long. With the close of another Summit weekend, it was a reminder of the special connections made when so many folks, alive with the spirit of adventure and riding bikes, come together. Much was learned, but the greatest success is always the feeling of community – new friends from different places and backgrounds sharing, inspiring, and connecting.
Stay tuned for more details on the 2020 Canada Bikepack Summit, until then head over to Bikepack.ca to see what the Bikepack Canada crew is up to.