Bikepacking NWA held their first event earlier this month, a semi-supported overnighter starting from Bella Vista Lake in Arkansas. We reached out to one the attendees, Paola Gehrmann, to hear how it went. Find her reflection and photos from Patty Valencia here…

Posted by Miles Arbour

Words by Paola Gehrmann (@cyclingactually), photos by Patty Valencia (@pattyvphotography)

I’ve been daydreaming for about a year. Daydreaming about traveling the world with my bicycle, one big adventure just like all of the other women I had seen in documentaries. Bikepacking was something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time, to say the least. So, when Ty from Bikepacking NWA stopped me in the middle of one of my rides to tell me about this event, I knew it was going to be my chance to turn those daydreams into reality. I was stoked! But this would not be exactly like one of the crazy adventures I had seen on the numerous bikepacking documentaries I’ve watched. He explained that it was a beginner bikepacking event that would be semi-supported, meaning they would have a van meet us at certain stops to help us with mechanicals, food, and water. While it wasn’t going to be the crazy adventures I had seen Lael Wilcox do, it was a safe place to get started on my own adventure.

2020 Bikepacking NWA Recap
  • 2020 Bikepacking NWA Recap
  • 2020 Bikepacking NWA Recap
  • 2020 Bikepacking NWA Recap
  • 2020 Bikepacking NWA Recap
  • 2020 Bikepacking NWA Recap

My partner is the person who got me into riding in the first place. He is always by my side, helping me improve my skills and be a better rider. I decided to do this ride without him. It was scary at first to not have him there, but in the end, I felt empowered to have done it on my own and I gained more confidence in myself.

Leading up to the event, I was incredibly nervous. Nervous I was not going to have the right tools, that I wasn’t going to have enough food or water. Thankfully, there’s the internet, and I was able to find resources and lists to get me started. I also found friends who had been bikepacking before, and the event organizers were open to answering all my questions.

2020 Bikepacking NWA Recap

This route was a mixture of gravel and mountain bike trails. And since comfort was my highest priority, I decided to take my mountain bike instead of my gravel bike. Even though it would be heavier, I knew I would be more comfortable riding the wider tire. And when you’re riding 20+ miles per day, it’s about making sure you can go the distance, not the fastest.

For the record, I am no pro rider, meaning I ride my bike around 40 miles a week. Our route would be 30 miles each day, but I was confident that my bike and my set up were ready. We rode 60 miles in two days and my legs were hurting for two days after! The first day was a blast. We camped and got to know one another. The second day was the hardest because my legs felt like jelly. Even though I felt like I couldn’t take any more hills, I would get through them one by one, eating constantly and drinking electrolytes through the ride to make sure I didn’t get cramps and was able to finish strong.

  • 2020 Bikepacking NWA Recap
  • 2020 Bikepacking NWA Recap
  • 2020 Bikepacking NWA Recap
  • 2020 Bikepacking NWA Recap
  • 2020 Bikepacking NWA Recap

Almost a week has passed since my first bikepacking trip and I’m excited about all of my future bikepacking adventures ahead. I learned a lot on this “short” trip and I will take these lessons with me to my next trip.

Congrats to Krista Cloud for organizing the first Bikepacking NWA event, and a shout out goes to those who attended. These types of semi-supported group rides are crucial for introducing newer riders to bikepacking, and they are great to see. You can join the Bikepacking NWA Facebook group to see what they are up to next.

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