The Future of Bikepacking Routes
What does the future hold for the creation, publication, and ownership of bikepacking routes? Plus a hint at a few of our upcoming projects… and Scouts Wanted! — a call to action to the bikepacking community.
When we started our Bikepacking Routes project back in 2013, Oregon Bikepacking had just launched, and as far as we know it was the one other website publishing curated bikepacking-specific route guides. GPS navigation wasn’t nearly as widespread, nor was bikepacking in general. Nowadays, with the proliferation of in phone GPS apps, and tools such as RideWithGPS, there’s ‘an app for that’… and it has only helped further the popularity and accessibility of bikepacking.
Back then our idea was to publish routes that we’d ridden for others to enjoy. Essentially, it was something we wished existed, so we built it. The backbone of the idea was one of sharing: we wanted to know the incredible routes others were creating and riding, so we asked bikepackers who were knowledgeable about specific places — and the dirt tracks and trails that were there — to contribute their favorite routes. Routes they’d planned, scouted, and rescouted. Routes that we would help curate, offering a platform for talented contributors to share their experience. We would then collect and present the ‘best of’ from ambassadors near and far. And much of the passion was in creating our own routes.
We now have almost 200 bikepacking routes in the database. Our core goals are relatively the same: curate the best routes from around the world, and create quality new routes. We’ve already designed and planned several dozen of our own original bikepacking routes, and have several new ones in progress. In addition, many of our older routes are getting combined and ‘upgraded’ as we speak, to meet the new standards we’ve been aiming for in more recent years with our guides. As our documentation has reached a higher quality, so have our routes. All in effort to publish excellent guides in a clear and legible format — each with a careful balance that offers an adequate amount of information to plan a ride but not so much as to take away the sense of adventure — and inspire people to explore these routes and be immersed in the land, surroundings, and cultures that they pass through.
Historically, many bikepacking routes have been created with races in mind. Other routes are crafted by passionate individuals who wish to create their own experience within a particular place. Now there are even more route initiatives being developed independently, through sponsorship, non-profit models, donation-based funding, or with other missions in mind. There’s been some chatter about ‘the future of bikepacking routes’ lately, especially when it pertains to route ownership (in regards to maintenance, responsibility, updates, etc), and whether route designers should charge for GPX downloads, among other tricky subjects. At the core, our goals are still the same — to utilize the depth and breadth of the bikepacking community to inspire others with high quality published route guides, design and develop our own great new bikepacking routes, and host the best of the best that others have created, both well-known race routes, and new ones. And in doing so, to inspire people to get out a ride and connect with their environment, both local and worldwide.
However, as our platform has evolved, so has our methodology and purpose. While we started out with a core group of ambassadors and guest contributors, over the past year we’ve actively solicited updates from bikepackers who ride our routes. The results have proven invaluable, especially for some of our early, less detailed routes. This collaborative strategy is becoming more and more important as there are greater numbers of bikepacking routes and issues arise with each of them regularly — reroutes are required because of private land blocks, road work, public land permutations, and unfortunately privatization, which is a growing threat to our public lands here in the US. Tracks are blocked by development, wild places are impinged upon by natural resources exploitation, and landscapes are restricted for the same reasons. The unfortunate fact is, bikepacking routes are fluid and must change and evolve over time; and people should be aware of these changes in order to not only have the best experience on the trail, but to possess the knowledge necessary to prevent other actions from occuring. So in the spirit of keeping our routes somewhat ‘open source’ we are announcing our Route Scouts™ initiative.
While in its infancy, we wish to foster the growth of the bikepacking community and keep riders abreast of issues, projects, and our efforts. We also want to get the community more involved with input and updates for routes that are in our system. We encourage you to sign up below to get on the list for things to come. We are committed to improving and updating routes regularly, but we can’t do this without the participation of the bikepacking community. It takes time and passion to create routes, but it takes community to maintain them.
To get involved with our Route Scouts initiative, enter your email address below. If you are already subscribed to our email list, you will need to click the link that says “Click here to update your profile” in the new tab/window. You will then be sent an email link to update your profile preferences. There you can check the ‘Routes and Scouting’ interest checkbox and update your profile accordingly. Thanks!
By signing up you’ll receive route updates, information about new ways to collaborate, route issues, and details about our new initiatives, such as The Andes Traverse, The Missing Link (Divide to Divide, USA), Morocco Traverse, Trans-Armenia, Waterfalls Gravel (NC, USA), Chili Line (NM, USA), and several others we have in the works. We also have a lot of new features and functionality in development (some coming very soon) and/or planned for the routes map and database, so stay tuned.