Kristopher Wehage crushed this year’s Julian Bikepack Challenge in just 2 days, 14 hours, and 56 minutes, setting a new course record. We reached out to him for a reflection on his ride, including a few photos he snapped along the way, and a complete pack list, and details on his Surly Ogre…

Posted by Miles Arbour

Words and photos by Kristopher Wehage

I’ve had the Julian Bikepack Challenge on my radar since reading Miles and McCullen’s writeup here on BIKEPACKING.com last year. The event looked like a great way to experience the trails of San Diego, a destination I haven’t explored much, despite living close by in Los Angeles. I had also never tried to ride 290 miles at a sporting pace before, so this event seemed a good fit as my next bikepacking challenge.

I started from Torrey Pines State Park, one of the three official start locations along the loop, 80 miles ahead of the main start in Julian, because of its convenient proximity to the train station. I heard there was another group departing from Lake Hodges (20 miles behind me), so I pushed to avoid being caught up by other riders I imagined were hot on my heels. I didn’t actually meet any other riders until I came across a group doing the Desert Loop on the second day. I started and ended the race alone, in the dark, in an empty parking lot.

  • Kristopher Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019
  • Kristopher Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019
  • Kristopher Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019
  • Kristopher Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019
  • Kristopher Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019

My bike is a Surly Ogre with 2.6″ front and 2.4″ rear tires. The tire size ended up working well, providing sufficient floatation on the many sandy sections, and rolling reasonably fast on the gravel, dirt, and singletrack. Unfortunately, what did not work out so well was my lack of tubeless tires. I had serious problems with flats (eight total), especially the first night on the approach to Laguna Mountain, which was riddled with goat heads. I was slowly climbing up brushy singletrack in the dark, occasionally veering off the edge of the trail.Frustratingly, I kept picking up thorns along the way. Even when my tires were holding air, I contended with slow, worrisome leaks that I had to top off every few hours. On one occasion I pulled five goat heads and four cactus spines from one tire! I definitely recommend to future participants to heed the advice on the event website and run tubeless tires (or slime tubes) to save themselves time and frustration.

With moderate nighttime temperatures in the forecast and a personal goal not to spend a lot of time sleeping, I decided to leave my sleeping gear at home. I rode through the first night, then took a 15-minute power nap in the late morning. By 8:00 PM the second day, I was falling asleep at the handlebars. Unsure if I could make it through a second night, I decided to take a quick nap at lower elevation off the side of the road outside of Borrego Springs. At 10:00 PM, I was awoken by transients looking for a place to camp. I think they were as surprised as I was to find someone else out there! It was good motivation to get back on the move.

Kristopher Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019
  • Kristopher Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019
  • Kristopher Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019

Some of the highlights for me include seeing the marine layer burn off with the sunrise as I started the climb away from the coast, meeting owls, hawks, roadrunners, deer, jackrabbits, and coyote, the feeling of solitude as I rode through the nights, and experiencing the vast diversity of terrain and trail conditions this route offers. Just when I became accustomed to my environment, it morphed into something else altogether.

The organizers did a fantastic job linking together so many off-road tracks, creating a unique and challenging route. Thanks so much to Johan and company for putting on this event. I was pleasantly surprised to get the new FKT, but I don’t expect it will last very long!

Kris Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019
  • Kris Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019
  • Kris Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019
  • Kris Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019

Kristopher’s Surly Ogre

  • Frame / Fork: 2017 Surly Ogre Frame / Fork
  • Crankset: E-thirteen XCX+ 38/24 Cranks
  • Drivetrain: Shimano SLX / 11-36T Cassette
  • Handlebar: Prototype FSA DH flat bars
  • Grips: Ergon GS2
  • Front Hub: Shimano Affine Generator Hub
  • Rear Hub: White Industries
  • Tires: Maxxis Rekon 2.6 Front, Ikon 2.4 Rear
  • Saddle: Brooks Cambium C15
  • Seatpost: Thomson
  • Stem: FSA SL-K
  • Pedals: Time ATAC
  • Extras: Busch & Mueller Taillight, Sinewave Beacon Front Light
  • Frame Bag: Rogue Panda
  • Saddle Bag: Outer Shell Adventure Expedition Seatpack
  • Stem Bag: Revelate Designs Feedbag
  • Top Tube Bag: Revelate Designs Mag-Tank
Kristopher Wehage Julian Bikepack Challenge 2019

Clothing

  • Dakine Gloves
  • Wool Buff
  • REI Wool T-shirt
  • Very thin Under armor long sleeve base layer
  • Pearl Izumi full-length leg warmers
  • Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts
  • Rapha Brevet Insulated Jacket
  • Rapha Classic Winter Jacket
  • Smartwool PhD socks
  • Shimano ME5 Shoes
  • Digital Camo cycling cap made by my wife
  • Smith Forefront Helmet
  • Food

  • 2 bags trail mix
  • 12 Clif bars
  • 3 Granola bars
  • 6 peanut butter packets
  • 3 Starbucks instant coffee packets
  • 3 oranges, 1 apple

Other

  • Knife
  • Lezyne multi tool
  • Cache battery, charger, USB C and Micro USB cables
  • 3 spare tubes, 2 patch kits (just barely enough!)
  • Spare chain links
  • Spare brake pads
  • Spare shifter cable
  • Galaxy S9+ (for navigation)
  • Lezyne Mega C GPS
  • Seattle Sports Dry Doc Mini Map case (for cue sheet and paper maps)
  • Petzl Tactikka Headlamp, zip-tied to helmet
  • Sunscreen
  • Chap stick
  • Colgate Wisp tooth brush
  • First-aid kit
  • Katadyn Befree Water Filter (not used)

Congrats to Kristopher and the other participants of this year’s Julian Bikepack Challenge. It’s a seriously enjoyable route, and we’re excited to see what happens in 2020…

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