2021 Bikepacking Awards: People and Routes
Part three of our 2021 Bikepacking Awards pays tribute to the people who’ve been influential with inspiring trips and acts of goodwill in the bikepacking community. In addition, we’ve awarded the year’s most incredible routes and rides. Find all of our nominated people and routes here…
In parts one and two of the 2021 Bikepacking Awards, we featured our top picks for Gear of The Year and Best Bikepacking Videos, Photography, Writing, and Art. Our third and final awards installment celebrates the people who have inspired us through the richness of their storytelling, their commitment to the community, or their use of bikepacking to further important causes. We also pay tribute route makers by honoring their creations—everything from small overnighter escapes to meticulously designed multi-week journeys. We’re thankful that this unique resource continues to grow and flourish, and we couldn’t do so without our talented community.
Note: For the decision on routes, we opened the process with a call for nominations that identified nearly 25 routes. From there, seven of us cast blind votes; the results were from a direct tally of our votes, which were based on several criteria, including the originality/intent, quality of documentation, and which we’d like to ride most. In addition, we reached out to the Bikepacking Collective, our community of members, to get their input. Without further ado, let’s get on to the awards.
Inspiring Bikepackers of The Year
Inspiring Bikepackers of the Year highlights five individuals who inspired us in 2021 with their legacy, outstanding accomplishments, leadership, and commitment to the community.
The most prominent mention decidedly goes to the late, great Iohan Gueorguiev, whose journey in this world sadly came to end on August 19th of this year. Born in Bulgaria in 1988, Iohan has inspired many through his self-made films over a seven-year, ~100,000-kilometer journey. Iohan is best remembered for his positivity, charisma, and ability to connect with others on the road. As we wrote in our 2017 in his Ambassador of the Year Award summary, “We’ve always felt Iohan shows a wonderful ability to connect with those around him. We can’t help but admire his enthusiasm that bubbles through on all his adventures, despite how hard they’ve been at times.” We’ll miss you, Iohan. Rest in peace. Read our announcement here.
Quinn Brett, an accomplished triathlete, rock climber, and ultra-runner, was paralyzed from the waist down after surviving a 100-foot fall during an ascent of El Capitan. Quinn was forced to take a different path and became the first adaptive cyclist to complete the Tour Divide back in June. With a custom hand bike alongside her riding partner Joe Foster, the two were able to tackle about 100 miles per day, completing this year’s route from Eureka, Montana, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, in just under a month. This inspiring trip also helped raise funds for adaptive equipment to help others explore the outdoors. Find the film here.
We’ve been following Scotti’s efforts for the past few years. This year, there was one stand out achievement that put her on this list. After a record-setting time of 5 days, 10 hours, and 49 minutes, Scotti was the first rider to finish the 2021 Arkansas High Country Race, besting the entire field and setting a new women’s fastest known time on the 1,030-mile course in the process. Congrats, Scotti!
New Forest Off Road Club
The women and non-binary-led New Forest Off Road Club was founded in the post-lockdown stages of the pandemic to facilitate group rides. It has since evolved to become much more than that. The NFORC runs on the mission to increase representation in the outdoors, and ultimately to reshape the idea of a “cycling club.” Between October 2020 and October 2021, the leadership group of 10 women and non-binary people have facilitated 46 social group rides with 202 individuals. Learn more here.
If you keep up with ultra-endurance bikepacking races, it’s hard to ignore the accomplishments of 38-year-old bike messenger Sofiane Sehili. Just in the last two years, Sofiane’s posted 1st and 2nd place in the Atlas Mountain Race, Hope 1000, Transpyranees, and Three Peaks events. And this year, after breaking his leg in December of 2020, he came back to take first place in the Silk Road Mountain Race. We look forward to seeing what Sofiane can do in 2022!
Best New Routes (7+ days)
This category honors worldwide bikepacking odysseys: routes that keep people dreaming and provide unforgettable experiences for those who ride them. Find the top three picks below, ordered based on our votes.
European Divide Trail
By Andy Cox. From the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Norway to the wild Atlantic coastline of southwestern Portugal, the European Divide Trail is the latest epic cross-continental bikepacking route. The recommended 100-day itinerary offers a diverse array of landscapes as it wends its way across the Europe—from northeast to southwest—traversing nine countries and countless dirt roads, singletrack trails, quiet lanes, and traffic-free byways. Kudos to Andy’s dedication and ambition to bringing this route to fruition as a one-person project. We look forward to seeing it refined and improved in the years ahead. Find the full guide here.
Next Top Picks
By Andrea Securo. The Veneto Divide is a nearly 400-kilometer bikepacking route traversing the Venetian Prealps in northern Italy. This masterfully documented 7-8 day ride takes in a variety of terrain and landscapes rich in history and incredible views that rival the overpopulated Dolomites. Designed by the same person behind the longstanding Veneto Trail bikepacking event, the Veneto Divide offers a continuous up and down on the physical border between the Alps and the Po Valley, crossing the entirety of the Veneto region from west to east. Well done, Andrea. Find the full guide here.
Tree to Sea Loop
By Miles Arbour. Vancouver Island is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting year-round access, diverse landscapes, and loads of bikepacking potential. Our own Miles Arbour took advantage of this over the summer and created the Tree to Sea Loop, an incredible 1,000-kilometre gravel loop around the lesser-known areas on the north end of the island. The route combines some of the best gravel riding in Canada with incredible scenery, oceanside villages, towering coastal mountains, and deep fjords, with opportunities for spelunking, whale watching, waterside camping, and much more. Find the full guide here.
Best New Routes (Weeklong)
The Best New Routes (Weeklong) awards are dedicated to 5-8 day bikepacking routes that can be slotted into your work schedule and daily life commitments. After all, it’s amazing how many rich and rewarding experiences can be packed into a short riding holiday.
Wisconsin Waterfalls Loop
By Dave Schlabowske. Boasting 380 miles (85% of which is off-pavement), the Wisconsin Waterfalls Loop is a fantastic looking and well-documented weeklong route that takes in 28 waterfalls, several off-the-beaten-path eateries and taverns, and Wisconsin’s beautiful Northwoods by way of gravel tracks, dirt roads, mountain bike trails, and a little bit of pavement to stitch it all together. We were super excited to post this one, and are equally as stoked to see it win the top spot for weeklong bikepacking routes. We look forward to seeing folks enjoy it next summer. Find the full route guide here.
Next Top Picks
The Monumental Loop (V2)
By Matt Mason. First published in January 2017, the Monumental Loop was designed to be a full tour of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Unfortunately, it was a little too difficult for many riders to enjoy. The route also sparked a bikepacking boom in Las Cruces, so in effort to increase accessibility, rider enjoyment, and help boost New Mexico’s efforts to establish a robust outdoor recreation economy, Matt Mason and crew scouted and mapped some major reroutes, making a more approachable route that almost anyone can enjoy. It’s already gotten a lot of positive feedback. Congrats, Matt! Find the full route guide here.
By Sara Bukies and Andreas Krucker. Marmot’s Land is a figure-8 loop that takes riders through the beautiful area around the Swiss National Park with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and rock formations, a lot of challenging climbs, and some of the best flowy singletrack trails in the area. Welcome to the southeast of Switzerland, the land of marmots! While not a terribly long route, Marmot’s Land is easily stretched out to a five-day ride with a whopping 22,000 feet of climbing and some challenging terrain. Kudos on another great route, Sarah and Andreas. Find the full route guide here.
Best New Routes (Weekend)
This category highlights weekend bikepacking routes (2-4 day rides) that are are extremely rewarding in their own small but perfectly packaged way.
Bay Area Triple Crossover
By Emily Cheng & Katrin Tomanek. We were more than thrilled to see this lovely route that starts and finishes directly from one of the best-known cities in the US. The Bay Area Triple Crossover is a weekend bikepacking route highlighting the diversity of bay ecosystems. Riders embark from the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and then cross the San Francisco Bay three times on a multi-day journey through coastal prairie, chaparral, redwoods, rolling hills, and marshland. It’s an emblematic look at how nature and cities coexist on a route that threads the urban hubs of the San Francisco Bay Area. Not to mention, the incredible photo gallery also got Emily a mention in the Film and Photo awards. Find the full route guide here.
Next Top Picks
By Logan Watts. Long in the works, the Wilson’s Ramble is a quintessential 3-4 day bikepacking route that loops through several spectacular geographic zones around the Wilson Creek watershed and the Linville Gorge Wilderness. The route uses an orchestrated mix of flowing singletrack, remote and rugged forest roads, and graded gravel to provide a great long weekend riding experience that takes in all the highlights of this magical region, including one of the best breweries on the East Coast. We were glad to see this one finally see the light of day and happy it got voted up here too. Find the route guide here.
Hebras de Ixtepeji
By Cass Gilbert. We keep hearing great feedback about this lovely weekend route in Oaxaca. Hebras de Ixtepeji is a short, testing, and fun weekend loop into the mountains just behind the city center. It packs in a combination of low-traffic dirt roads, forest tracks, and backcountry trails—almost all of which is rideable with a lightweight bikepacking setup. Designed with mountain bikers in mind, it also includes an introduction to the Sierra Norte’s enduro and cross-country trails, an impressive network that draws riders from across Mexico. Find the route guide here.
Best New Routes (Overnighter)
Overnight routes offer an easy and accessible way to get out, disconnect, and get a quick sense of an area’s landscapes and culture from the saddle. We’ve added nearly 100 fantastic overnighter routes to our map since we launched the Local Overnighter Project over two years ago. Needless to say, this category was particularly difficult to narrow down.
Havel Wetland Wander
By Joshua Meissner. Josh seems to have a knack for concocting amazing overnighter routes. This is the second year in a row one of his works was voted to the top. The Havel Wetland Wander is a 170-kilometer mixed-surface weekend route that’s situated just beyond Berlin and meanders its way through the Westhavelland Nature Park as it takes riders through a scenic and serene region that’s teeming with wildlife. It boasts empty forests, uniquely dark skies for stargazing, and a glimpse of typical eastern German towns. Congrats, Josh. Find the route guide here.
Next Top Picks
Pululahua Crater Loop
By Michael Dammer. Bikepacking veteran Michael Dammer’s latest creation, the Pululahua Crater Loop, may be short in distance, but it’s big on adventure! Whether you choose to make it a three-day ride, an overnighter, or even a massive day trip, exploring the interior of this enormous crater is not only a delightful biking experience, but it’s also an amazing introduction to Ecuador’s unique ecosystems. With easy logistics out of Quito, it’s also a great warm-up and chance to acclimatize for Ecuador’s Tres Volcanes ride or the epic TEMBR. See the route guide here.
YELLOW RIVER LOOP
By Levi Bridges. Iowa is often overlooked as a scenic bikepacking destination, but don’t be fooled. It has a unique beauty of its own. It may not have expansive mountains or millions of acres of public forest land, but Northeast Iowa is part of the beautiful Driftless Area, which encompasses some of the best-kept gravel hills and trout streams the Midwest has to offer. The Yellow River Loop explores this area via a loop from Clermont to the Yellow River State Forest and back. Find the route guide here.
Collective Choice Routes of the Year
With so many great new routes this year, we put 13 options ranging from weekend routes to big epic rides and put them up to a vote. We asked members of the Bikepacking Collective to vote on their favorite. Here are the top three.
European Divide Trail
It’s no surprise that Andy Cox’s 4,700-mile masterwork received the largest number of votes in our Collective Choice survey. While a 100-day ride may not be a possibility for many of us, it’s certainly something to dream about. Check out the full guide here.
Next Top Picks
Tree to Sea Loop
Once again, Miles’ compelling Tree to Sea Loop rose to the top and garnered a lot of votes in the Collective Choice survey. We’re certainly excited to see this lovely route gain some steam and bring visitors to the north of Vancouver Island. Find the detailed route guide here.
By Chris Burkhard. The 575-mile Westfjords Way is a new gravel classic in Iceland and gives riders a taste of the region’s zig-zagging fjords with winding gravel roads, big climbs, and epic hot springs, offering bikepackers a truly unique and memorable experience on and off the bike. Route guide here.
Collective Choice Overnighters of the Year
Similarly, we listed 12 nominated Overnighter routes in the Collective Choice survey. Here are the three Overnighter routes with the most votes.
Pine Mountain Observatory
By Dallas Mignano and Mike Tona. The Pine Mountain Observatory (PMO) Loop is an overnighter route in the Deschutes National Forest of the Oregon Outback, connecting varying terrains in the high desert forest of the greater Bend area. This loop provides an overnight sampler of the high desert forest and takes riders to the University of Oregon’s astronomical observatory and adjacent campsite at the top of Pine Mountain. Find the full route guide here.
Next Top Picks
Mammoth Gravel Loop
By Bill Biwer. The Mammoth Gravel Loop was derived from a now-defunct gravel race that took place in northwestern Wisconsin called the Mammoth Gravel Classic. Only an hour from the Twin Cities, the route is a great opportunity to dip your toes into bikepacking or just get away for a quick overnighter. Find the full route guide here.
Northern White Mountains Loop
By Danielle Blanca. The Northern White Mountains Loop connects rail trails, forest roads, and a dash of singletrack, and provides a scenic tour through the Pondicherry division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge where ponds, wetlands, and forests support a wide variety of significant ecological features and birdlife. Find the route guide here.
Best New Event
Our last category honors four new events, all of which had their inaugural running in 2021 or in the case of the winner, chartered a new format in 2021. Further, each serves to grow and foster the bikepacking community at large.
The 2020 GBduro took the self-supported element of ultra-endurance races to a whole new level. With COVID-19 in full swing, the organizers decided to challenge participants with a new set of rules that made for a completely self-sufficient race. In 2021, the organizers maintained many of those rules in the name of sustainability and aiming toward a low carbon emissions event. To do so, they imposed strict leave no trace rules for the racers and reinstated the no-fly rule, restricting racers from other countries who couldn’t reach the start via ground transportation. The “scrappy rolling picnic” set new precedents for races of this kind, all while fostering a community atmosphere, an even playing field of men and women, and an extremely exciting dot-watching experience from afar. See all of our coverage with some excellent photography on our Tracker page.
Next Top Picks
Dead Ends & Cake
The inaugural Dead Ends & Cake event brought riders on a 500-kilometer self-supported loop around eastern Switzerland. The hitch? There were five mandatory checkpoints at the far end of dead-end roads, where fresh cake was served. We love themed rides, and who doesn’t love cake while out bikepacking? It sounded like a fun and very creative event that ultimately brought out an even split field of men and women. Find the recap here.
Women’s Torino-Nice Rally
The Torino-Nice Rally is a 700-kilometer mixed gravel and tarmac ride through the Alps from Turin, Italy, to Nice, France, with 17,500 meters of climbing. There’s an annual event every September, but this year, Lael Wilcox, Komoot, and Gaby Thompson organized a Women’s Torino-Nice Rally. Twenty women began the ride in Turin together and rode the route self-supported, choosing where and when to eat and sleep every night and how far they want to go every day. We hope to see many more events like this. Find Lael’s report here.
Good Night 2020
We’re not typically ones to toot our own horn, but when we came up with this idea in the beginning of last December, we didn’t really know whether folks would be into it. However, growing and nurturing the bikepacking community has always been at our core, so we went for it. Ultimately, thousands registered and participated, which felt amazing. We’re doing it again, too! We hope you’ll consider ending 2021 with a night under the stars. Check out Good Night 2021 and get signed up.
If you missed them, make sure to check out parts one and two of our 2021 Bikepacking Awards, 2021 Gear of The Year and Best Bikepacking Videos, Photography, Writing, and Art. Also, find past Bikepacking Awards roundups for People and Routes in the archive below:
Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.