Sharing Simple Joys
by Kristopher Hunt
We’re thrilled to share this guest submission in celebration of Pride Month by VMBA member Kristopher Hunt. Interested in writing a guest post for Vermont Huts? Email: Dani@vermonthuts.org.
I like the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of bike packing. On the simple end we are just cruising from one cool place to the next, appreciating the day as it rolls out. On the complex end, we can spend hours planning the fine details of what and how to carry, the perfect route, and the best destination. It’s a great choose-your-own-adventure. We can make it as complicated or as simple as we’d like; two wheels and enough of the basics to get you through a night or a little more.
Bike packing is a great experience to share with other people. I’ve had the opportunity to spend quality time with some folks in a way that a typical afternoon bike ride doesn’t capture. Slow rolling over the terrain, appreciating the views, stopping for a snack or picnic, maybe getting lightly lost, arriving, setting up camp, sharing meals, swapping stories around the fire, and talking about the things we’ve learned on a bike. It’s the kind of thing that really feeds my needs for adventure and as a social creature. The connections made on those trips are special. I’ll never forget a single one, or the people I was with- each memory highlighted with humor, challenge, community, and friendship.
I discovered bike packing after making friends with the local shop folks at Vermont Bicycle Shop. I had been hanging around the shop picking up mechanic skills from the owner, Darren, and going on a lot of great rides which we lovingly refer to as “Darren’s wackadoo adventure rides.” We would typically spend the day getting semi-lost looking for ancient roads through the forest, while simultaneously suffering and very much having a good time. Eventually, the adventures were proposed as overnights. We would ride our bikes out of town from the shop and into the woods with our friends. We’d look for a lesser traveled road and then camp somewhere out in the middle of our proposed route. I didn’t have all the gear to start, as most people don’t, and the lovely thing about bike packing is that you don’t need to! You can refine over time, finding the setup that works best for you. I had a rack on the back of my borrowed fat bike at the time and I strapped a 2.5lbs cabot yogurt container to the top. I fit all I could into the container and then strapped the rest on the top and sides and across my handlebars. It was a clunky sight and a clunky ride. Many laughs were (and still are) had at the memory of my assorted belongings bouncing off my bike and down the trail like a mini yard sale.
Over the past four years I’ve been building another type of community also surrounding cycling: Pride Rides. Pride Rides is an LGBTQIA+ bicycle organization that provides a safe and welcoming space for queer people to come together, ride bikes, and build a community of queer cyclists that exists alongside the broader bike communities. We put a big emphasis on breaking down barriers in cycling that exist for queer folks. Some big ways that we accomplish this is by providing bikes for folks to use when they don’t have one, providing free cycling attire (we have an ever growing lending-gear closet), covering event fees, hosting free clinics, and advocating for inclusion in all cycling spaces. We started out with monthly mountain bike rides at locations across northern and central Vermont. At the end of the first summer we moved into fat biking and by the spring of the next year we added gravel rides to the mix. Coming out of last summer I thought, what better way to continue to create meaningful community, building relationships with our riders, than to host a bike packing adventure!?
In addition to the great community building aspects, bike packing was the first subset of cycling where, when I was researching (aka scrolling instagram for inspiration), the first athlete I came across was part of the LGBTQIA community. That has never happened to me in any sport, cycling or otherwise. The typical first exposure to an image or archetype of a sport is of a cis gender heterosexual man. The people pictured riding bikes in almost every aspect of cycling I was interested in were those men. Lael Wilcox was the first woman and queer person that I saw immediately highlighted as a representative of a sport.
In September of this year, Pride Rides will be leading a beginner friendly bike packing trip to Groton State Forest, along the beautiful rail trail from Plainfield to Groton. Aside from the beautiful forest and multitude of recreation options, we chose Groton State Forest as our first trip because of the amenities they offer for camping. We booked lean-to sites which offer an existing structure for cover, which makes packing lighter and is a more accessible option. Vermont Huts also offers many great hut options in really beautiful areas of Vermont. With the creation of more huts and fun bike routes to get to them, we’ll be adding them to the list of our future bike packing destinations!
Before this blog rolls out, we will have held our first bike packing clinic to get folks ready and stoked for the adventure. Bikes, bags, and camping gear will be available, still a little limited, but there for any LBGTQIA Pride Rider to use. It will be our first multi-day event and I couldn’t be more excited to share this adventure with our riders. If you are reading this and feeling inspired to do some bike packing, I hope you’ll come out and ride with Pride Rides! (@PrideRidesVT on FB and IG)