Words and photos by Blake Milliken
My name is Blake Milliken, and I live in Littleton, Colorado. I’m fortunate to be only eight miles from Waterton Canyon, the northern terminus of the Colorado Trail. I currently work as the head ski technician at Powder7 Ski Shop in Golden, which gives me plenty of time in the summer to ride my bike.
I’ve always been a mountain biker. At age 13, my parents bought me my first mountain bike for my birthday, a GT Karakoram. The next year, I participated in the first-ever NORBA sanctioned event in the next town over. At 15, I started working in bike shops. I don’t race, but I never stopped riding. Most of my rides are on the front range since I can ride the Colorado Trail from my house and dozens of trails in Golden from work. Trips to places like Crested Butte and Salida are frequent. In late March of 2021, I completed the Kokopelli Trail in four days on the Timberjack, and I just returned from riding the White Rim for three days at the end of October.
The Kokopelli was the first BIKEPACKING.com route I followed and my first “real” bikepacking trip other than one overnighter on the Colorado Trail. I loved every minute of it, even the relentless headwinds! I was also shocked to learn that it rains in the desert—a lot. I rode alone, which is normal for me, and I think there’s something special about being on your bike in the desert without anyone around. I also highly recommend the White Rim. It’s not too hard, and it’s totally awe-inspiring. It’s easier than the Kokopelli, and I personally think it’s more scenic too.
I purchased my bike from Pedal of Littleton. I worked there before my current job, so I thought, if I’m going to buy a new bike, it might as well be from Pedal. It’s a great shop, and Andy, the owner, is an excellent resource. They were one of the few dealers around that were actually getting these due to the supply issues. My first overnighter was on an enduro bike, and I figured a hardtail would probably be a better choice.
The Timberjack has an incredibly stable ride when loaded, and it’s also a very capable trail bike when I strip it down.
This bike is my daily driver. I made a few notable upgrades, like the OneUp carbon handlebar and Wolf Tooth 30T oval ring. On day two of the Kokopelli, I put a nasty dent in my rear rim. My tire was about a millimeter from blowing off the rim the entire time but held up. WTB helped upgrade me to a KOM Tough i40 when I got home. I decided to try SRAM AXS GX on this, and I’m loving the way you can hold the paddle to keep shifting.
- Frame 2021 Salsa Timberjack (Large)
- Fork Marzocchi Bomber Z2 Air Sweep Adjust, 130mm
- Rims WTB ST i40 (front) / WTB KOM Tough i40 (rear)
- Hubs WTB Speedterra
- Tires Maxxis Minion 27.5 x 2.8″ (front) / Specialized Slaughter Grid 27.5 x 2.8 (rear)
- Handlebars OneUp Components 35mm Rise, Wolf Tooth Fatpaw Grips
- Headset FSA Orbit
- Crankset ruvativ Descendant 6K Eagle DUB, Wolf Tooth 30T ring
- Pedals Shimano XT
- Cassette SRAM XG-1275 10-52t, 12 speed
- Derailleur SRAM AXS GX Eagle
- Brakes Shimano XT M8120
- Shifter(s) SRAM AXS GX Eagle
- Saddle WTB Volt Medium
- Seatpost Trans-X YSP05JL 170mm w/ Wolf Tooth ReMote lever
- Stem Raceface Aeffect R 70mm
- Front bags Revelate Designs Sweetroll 15L, Revelate Designs Egress Pocket
- Frame bags Revelate Designs Ranger Medium, EVOC Multi Frame Pack Medium
- Rear bags Bedrock Bags Black Dragon
- Accessory bags Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbags and Jerrycan, JPaks SnakPak
- Other accessories Wolf Tooth B-RAD XL, Encase System Bar Kit One, and Shift Mount
My bags are from Revelate, Bedrock Bags, and JPaks. I wanted to represent some Colorado companies without going custom. I can fully drop my post with the Bedrock Black Dragon and Wolf Tooth Valais. There was a little empty space at the bottom of my frame with Revelate Ranger, so I managed to squeeze an EVOC Multi Frame Pack in there for my emergency tools and spare tube. The JPaks SnakPak is my favorite of the bunch, hands down. The splatter color is amazing, and it holds more than you can imagine. Ned Bachanko would approve.
I’m relatively new to bikepacking, but I’ve learned not to overthink things. Just go out there and give it a shot. My first trip seemed daunting and complicated, but once I was riding, everything made sense. I carried stuff I didn’t need and needed things I didn’t have, but that’s all part of figuring out what works for you.
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