Bike Camping 101

This past Saturday I headed out on my very first bike camping trip with Point 83 on one of the annual trips, Ben Country. This was the 10th anniversary of the Ben Country trip and excitement was high as 60 of us met at the Bainbridge Ferry bright and early at 9am for the 9:35am boat. I quickly realized that I had more stuff loaded on my bike than anybody else (2 back panniers, a tent, and a sleeping bag), and that as already the slowest rider in the group on a normal ride, it was going to be a challenging 63 miles with the extra weight.

Frank the Tank, fully loaded and ready to go. Turns out, she was loaded a little too well.


As we rolled off the ferry and started riding, my suspicions were correct, I needed to figure out a way to get rid of some gear if I had any hope of keeping up with the group for the rest of the day. Thankfully (and lucky for me), we had a support truck following us throughout the day with water and beer, and thirteen miles into the ride, I was able to unload my bike! The rest of the day, my only worries were the massive elevation climbs, dirt trails, and ill fitting bike I had decided to ride.

I guess I should clarify, right now, I own three bikes: my road bike (Mary Kate), my mountain/touring bike (Frank the Tank), and my city/free/not mechanically sound but super cute bike (Ashley.) The only bike that has wide enough tires for the gravel paths, a strong enough frame,  and also has a rack for stuff is Frank the Tank (pictured above.) While I love this bike dearly, and find her great for Thursday night Point 83 rides, for anything more than 20 miles, she's wildly uncomfortable. Probably a few sizes too big, too long of a reach, just not quite right.

As the miles wore on, scenery changed and it became evident that we were getting closer to our destination in the Olympic National Park. The hill climbs got bigger, and we eventually climbed a mountain pass. I hit my fastest descent of the day, topping out at 40mph on the backside of a 5 mile climb. Feeling the cool air rush over my face and through my hair, wind screaming through my helmet as I shot down a highway shoulder is a feeling that you definitely don't get in the city. Quite an amazing thrill.

Around mile 52, my friend Jen and Sarah, who drove out to the camping trip drove past me,  and I gave into temptation and flagged them down. With aching shoulders and numb feet, we loaded up my bike onto the car for the last 11 miles into camp (or so we thought.) As we drove into the camp, we saw signs that warned of road closed ahead for washed out road, with absolutely no idea what that held in store.

Soon enough, we got to the end of the road and indeed, the road was super crazy washed out. Like avalanche style washed out. Back on the bike I went for the last 4 miles, including up and over switchbacks for some hike-a-bike sections that nearly left me for dead.

The absolute beauty found at the campground left me so inspired to do more bike camping. Lessons learned:

  • Pack less (or at least consolidate into 1 pannier)
  • Dead bike tubes work super well for lashing things down to a rack
  • Rainier Beer- amazingly refreshing after a long day on the bike (I already knew this, just reinforced even more)
  • Need to get a smaller sleeping bag
  • I can't wait to go again!!

Here's my full route from Saturday. Pretty proud of my 52 miles with 3300 feet of climbing.

Look at that climb at the end!