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This New Nonprofit Wants to Help You Go Bikepacking

Bikepacking Roots blends route development and advocacy

Co-founders Kurt Refsnider and Kaitlyn Boyle were bikepacking in Patagonia when they decided to form Bikepacking Roots.

Their concept for a nonprofit that seeks to make bikepacking more accessible through route creation–and in doing so turns riders into conservationists–was not entirely new. It wasn't originally theirs, either.

The concept can be attributed at least partially to Casey Greene–the Montana-based endurance adventurer and advocate who's become known for pioneering "packbiking." Working alongside a few other bikepackers, Greene came up with a similar idea almost four years ago. But the group found a lack of buy-in from the then-Lilliputian bikepacking community, and the idea never got past the first few brainstorming sessions.

Now, with bikepacking on the rise, Refsnider, Boyle and their board of directors–which includes Greene–believe that the iron is hot.

"It really developed out of thinking about how much work goes into putting together long-distance routes," said Refsnider. "It takes weeks and weeks of planning to put something like that Patagonia trip together and then you get out there and suddenly things are not at all what you expect. It's that sort of thing–whether it's for a month-long trip or a five-day trip–that's really a barrier to getting more people into the activity of bikepacking."

Refsnider says Bikpacking Roots will work to lower those barriers by publishing carefully planned, extensively researched and thoroughly reconnoitered routes that are consistent in character and tailored to a specific riding experience.

Refsnider contends that many of the routes posted on various websites aren't updated after being published. That can create problems (or adventures, depending on your point of view) for those who attempt them. Bikepacking Roots aims to publish a modest three or four routes per year, but all of them will be monitored by a network of riders and regional advisers, and updated accordingly.

The guides will also include detailed segment information so that riders will know what to expect along the way, and have the information they need to tackle the logistical questions that come with planning multi-day rides in remote areas.

But the organization's mission goes beyond simply making it easier for people to get out and experience remote landscapes. "Actually getting people out there to feel how remote that country is and how unique it is helps develop that conservation ethic in people,” said Refsnider. "Our goal is to use the bikepacking experience as a way to help people connect to place." One way the nonprofit will work to achieve that connection is by providing route guides with conservation and environmental education materials so that bikepackers can learn about and connect to the landscapes they're traveling through.

Refsnider doing what he does, somewhere deep in Utah’s canyon country.

Refsnider is a strong supporter of public lands, and says that Bikepacking Roots supports a common-sense approach to bike access in Wilderness areas.

"There definitely needs to be compromise and understanding between different user groups and land management agencies," he said. "We don't want to support Wilderness bills that would really threaten the bikepacking experience and mountain-bike access. But at the same time, we're very much in favor of Wilderness where it's the most appropriate designation and will have a positive effect on conservation."

Signing up for a free membership is the surest way to get involved and stay updated with Bikepacking Roots. The organization does accept donations, which it says will go to route development and advocacy efforts.

There are currently three routes available from Bikpacking Roots, two of which–the Plateau Passage and the Colorado 14ers Loop–have been detailed by Refsnider in his 'Fully Loaded' series. New rides will be published to Bikepackingroots.org, Bikepacking.com and MTBProject.com. A 4,500-mile trip from Florida to Newfoundland is among the routes currently in the works.

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