Isolation Archives: Our All-Time Favorite Bikepacking Films
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In need of some entertainment to prevent yourself from going totally stir crazy while locked down due to COVID-19? Presenting the Isolation Archives, our roundup of highlights from our deep well of bikepacking content. First up, we’re sharing our favorite bikepacking films of all time. Watch them here…
While most of us are indefinitely self-isolating to help slow the spread of COVID-19, our editors are looking into the BIKEPACKING.com archives and rounding up some the most memorable and meaningful things we’ve shared over the years. First up, we look back at our favorite bikepacking films of all time. We invite you to sit back and enjoy more than two hours of hand-picked films, shot in Alaska, Canada, Colorado, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Scotland. When you’ve finished watching our picks, scroll down to vote for your favorite. And be sure to dig into our bikepacking videos archive, where you just might discover a new favorite of your own.
Bikepacking the Cairngorms
Cass Gilbert: Bikepacking the Cairngorms: A Father and Son Fatbike Adventure follows Jeremy Janin and his father on a self-supported fat bike trip along Scotland’s beautiful and remote Cairngorms Loop. Jeremy spent months carefully planning the five-day trip (which just so happened to be their first time bikepacking) as a gift for his dad’s 50th birthday. Despite trying to think of everything in advance, nothing went to plan, and the famously unpredictable Scottish weather made for challenging conditions and a powerful shared experience. Picking a favourite film is no easy task, but Jeremy’s work certainly stood out for me from last year’s collection. I love everything about it. The stunning cinematography, the colour grading, the voice over, the sound captures, the fabulous music, and the accompanying stills to the trip. And as a parent, I found it incredibly inspiring!
Bikepacking the Mongolian Steppe
Lucas Winzenburg: Released in 2016, Bikepacking the Mongolian Steppe is a film from Jay Ritchey that chronicles a month-long fat bike trip through the beautiful Khangai Mountains in Central Mongolia. Jay’s cinematography masterfully captures the country’s sweeping vistas and the subtle details, occasionally strange interactions, and heartfelt moments of their unique trip. Paired with a traditional throat singing soundtrack by Huun Huur Tu, it makes for a truly immersive viewing experience. You’ll get to know the charismatic crew of riders (including our own Cass Gilbert) and a bit about life and culture in Mongolia in Jay’s 25-minute film. As I see it, this is bikepacking at its best!
Miles Arbour: Chasing Wild follows three friends on a bikepacking and packrafting trip through the heart of the Sacred Headwaters in northwestern British Columbia. The film provides an educational, yet sobering look at the effects of mining on these lands and waterways, while also showcasing the immense natural beauty that surrounds it. I like a film that simultaneously entertains and educates, and Chasing Wild does just that.
Joe Cruz: Chronic Wetness is from a trip Eric Parsons and Dylan Kentsch took in 2008 along the Alaska coast. The details aren’t as breathtaking nowadays as they were at the time: summer fat bikes, pack rafts, beach riding, and bushwhacking for hours through brush. Back then, though, they were pretty exciting, and the movie captures in a visceral, dynamic way a style of riding that mostly we had only read about in Roman Dial’s even more prescient hellbiking expeditions. At the time there were only short clips and stories floating around, and that gave the whole thing an air of mystery. It would be eight years before Eric put the footage together into this version, and the mystery gave way to something even better, namely enduring inspiration. I love that the production is super lo-fi and therefore achieves the rawness of the weather, the bugs, the surf, the terrain. And a bunch of hilarious horrifying stuff happens. They just keep riding, pushing, and paddling. Be sure to look carefully at their rear brake and derailleur situation. Shortly after this adventure, Eric sewed custom bags for me that I’d take on a yearlong trek in South America on my Pugsley, exhilarated by precedent like this.
The Colorado Trail Race
Neil Beltchenko: While I love bikepacking, I also love racing. And since I’m the only racer in this group, I feel like it’s only fitting to share a video that’s near and dear to my heart. Aaron Johnson’s film, The Colorado Trail Race: A Self-Powered Adventure is one of my favorites. It showcases the incredible beauty of the Colorado Trail and also helps viewers understand the immense undertaking it is to toe the line of the Colorado Trail Race. The best part of this video is that Aaron himself captures most of the footage while racing. I’ll just let the next 28 minutes do the talking—they’re well worth it.
The Frozen Road
Virginia Krabill: The Frozen Road tells the story of Ben Page’s month-long bikepacking journey through Canada’s Yukon and Northwest Territories to the Arctic Ocean. Over the course of his solitary travels, Ben faces wholly unfamiliar terrain, sub-freezing temperatures, howling winds, and the threat of hungry wolves. As frightening as those challenges are, the most daunting foe Ben faces is his isolation. The camera is his only companion, and through its lens, we watch as the joyous solitude Ben feels at the onset of this campaign transform into heartbreaking loneliness along the way. Ben’s struggles are beautifully captured in both the cinematography and heartfelt narration of this award-winning film. At a time when we are all facing uncertainties, fear, and, to some extent, loneliness, this story seems to be particularly relevant.
The Road From Karakol
Logan Watts: Back in 2011, alpine climber Kyle Dempster was probably one of the first people to cycle some of Kyrgyzstan’s forgotten Soviet roads. Despite its recent surge in popularity, it was then relatively unknown as a cycling destination. That summer, Kyle took off on a second-hand steel bike with nothing more than a couple of paper maps, a BOB trailer full of climbing gear, and a whole lot of stoke. He spent two months pedaling and climbing across the country, all the while recording his journey on a GoPro. Later, filmmakers Fitz Cahall and Austin Siadak transformed the footage into a 25-minute masterpiece that debuted at the 2013 5Point Film Festival and took home the Best In Fest award.
I first saw The Road From Karakol when it was released to the public later in 2013 and was immediately transfixed. I rewatched it several times over the next couple of years and it was ultimately what inspired our small group to go and cycle through Kyrgyzstan (which I might add was still relatively unknown in the bikepacking world at that point in 2016). That fall, just before our route and stories from that trip were published, I rewatched the film once again after Kyle died during a blizzard while on a big wall climbing mission on Pakistan’s Ogre II. When asked for my favorite bikepacking film for this post, I knew my answer immediately and watched it once more, from start to finish. If there’s a film that deserves the title “best bikepacking film of all time,” it’s this one.