Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bikepacking: Salty Gila Attempt

Over the last couple of years I decided I'd like do some bikepacking. I read blogs and forums posts, reviewed gear lists and photographs and started collecting the necessary gear.

I had seen the Salty Gila Tour route posted last year but wasn't ready to tackle it at that time. When I saw that it was happening again, I knew I wanted to give it a try. It was close home and would allow plenty of places to bail if things went wrong. Two-hundred miles of dirt roads, mountain bike trails and pavement over three days. What could go wrong?

In preparation for this trip, I replaced my worn-out tires and brake pads, and got the bike tuned up. I had my bags packed with plenty of food and water. I was ready to go.
Loaded up and ready to go.
On Friday morning, I rode over to meet John and Larry, the other two adventurers. Right as I was pulling up, I shifted into the small ring and my rear tire started rubbing on the front derailleur. There was no way I was riding two hundred miles in the big ring. I said hello, explained my tire situation and said I would try to catch up. I went back home to put my old tire back on.

Now would be a good time to explain that I replaced my tires because the old rear tire had a slice in the sidewall that I repaired by sewing with dental floss and supergluing. With no other options at seven in the morning, I installed the tire. It went on without complaint.

With the old tire of questionable durability installed, I headed out. I knew I could shave off a mile or two from the route by following the road instead of the canal, so I took the shortcut. I kept a decent pace in my attempt to catch up. After forty-five minutes of not seeing them, I stopped to check the SPOT tracker page on my phone. Somehow, I was ahead of them! I backed off my pace and stopped at a grocery store to get a sandwich.

I continued riding and soon hit the TRW trail. Finally, some singletrack.
Red Mountain in the distance.
Living free and in the wild.
I reached the Power Road trailhead and decided to wait. Less than five minutes later, they arrived.
John leading the way.
We headed onto the Hawes trail system and started moving. Pretty soon, I found myself off the bike and in the dirt. While I was brushing the sand out of my ears, Larry pointed at my bike and a broken derailleur hanger.
Dangling derailleur.
My options at this point were limited. I could try to shorten the chain and make it a single-speed, or walk out and get a ride home. Since I was only twenty miles in, I decided called it quits and get picked up at the trailhead.

I had to borrow Larry's chain tool to take off the chain, since my brand tool was neatly hung on the pegboard at home. After making sure I was OK to make out, I wished John and Larry good luck as they continued on with the tour.

With my chain removed, I had to push the bike uphill, but at least I could at least ride the downhills. I figured it was less than a mile to the road.
Salt River in the distance.
Somehow I took the wrong turn and it was more like three. At least it was on a familiar trail. Near the end, I dropped my GPS. After a short back-track, I found it. I continued on and made my way to the Walgreen's parking lot to wait for my wife to pick me up.
Water in the desert.
Unfortunately, the ride didn't go as planned, but I still had fun. I'm sure I'll give a go in the future. Oh, I did get some road rash when I crashed.
It's only a flesh wound.