Lessons Learned While Bikepacking on the Trail to Kazbegi

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Friday, December 18, 2015

In June 2015, I travelled to the Republic of Georgia to explore the ancient shepherd’s trails of the Caucuses Mountains. This was the first time I had been on a true bikepacking trip in the backcountry, and along the way I wrote down some notes and observations. These aren’t necessarily rules, but hopefully some of the things that I learned in Georgia will help you on your next adventure. #1 – Lets start with my overarching observation about bikepacking: It’s hard, but it will all be worth it.

Ross Measures’ Yeti SB6-C was set up with SRAM XX1, SRAM Guide RSC brakes, SRAM RAIL 50 wheels, RockShox Pike RCT3, RockShox Monarch Plus RC3, and a RockShox Reverb Stealth.

As soon as you load up a week’s worth of gear, you and your bike are going to weigh a lot more. Gear down your chainring at least two teeth, consider bigger rotors and spare brake pads, and remember to set up your suspension with your bags loaded, and yourself geared up. You’ll be amazed how quickly you pick up speed as soon as the trail points downhill.

There are no climbing trails here. When exploring a new region, be prepared to push up steep mountainsides to get to the best trails — it just always seems to happen. While on the trail to Kazbegi, we had two separate 3000-foot pushes that led to the best two descents of the trip. If you’re hike-a-biking steep terrain for a long time, remove your handlebar bag and attach it to your pack instead, your arms will thank you later.

Told you it would all be worth it… But, before you point it downhill, make sure you practice riding with a loaded down bike. Jumping into the tightest, steepest turns without some experience could be a disaster. And, while we’re on the topic of disaster, keep the distance to the nearest hospital in the back of your mind. Dial it back to 85% at all times.

If there are Cows/Sheep/Horse on the side of the trail, keep your mouth closed while shredding, keep your hydration pack bite valve clean, and bring a small fender. Purell. Bring it, use it. When sourcing water, keep in mind what is above you. Bring water purifiers. Always use them.

Don't be afraid of riding double track. The otherwise boring wide trails can become your friends when they let you cover huge amounts of ground quickly.

Speak to the locals, as they will know best when it comes to the local geography, weather and other potential issues. The people of Georgia are some of the most generous and hospitable people that I’ve ever come across, and were willing to share their knowledge of the region anytime we asked for assistance.

Find a basecamp, take the bags off and have some serious fun. These short trails around the Abudelauri Lakes wound through a beautiful debris-filled alpine meadow.

Reach your goal, but don’t be afraid of a left becoming a right, or a down becoming an up. We had a plan, but that plan changed many times as we moved forward. We used our heads and proceeded on to our destination, experiencing the trip of a lifetime in the process.

Photos and words by Ross Measures and Joey Schusler.

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