Finally…we got to ride. The last two years were full of fire and smoke. The 2022 edition of the Bones to Blue, however, was the complete opposite. Good weather (just ignore that t-storm incident on day 1) and great trail conditions created a glorious opportunity to venture into the mountains and ride, ride, ride.
Everyone had an adventure. No doubt. I’ll share just a few stories.
For context, the 25 riders who started this year seemed to be an especially fast group. Was everyone just riding their bikes during the pandemic?
Five riders finished in less than 48 hours, which seems superhuman to me. And some of them managed to do that after dealing with some crazy mishaps.
For example, Aaron cracked his front, carbon wheel…like cracked all the way through…but still managed to baby it into to Truckee, where he stopped to get an entirely new wheel. He then blasted through the Blue loop, chasing the 3 leaders. And then, somehow, with no sleep, pulls ahead of Xavier and Patrick on the final Pole Creek climb, and finishes 2nd.
I think this was Patrick’s first bikepacking event. He learned a lot about himself and that he seems to have super-bikepacking powers. It sounded like he was hitting his breaking point, though, when he and Xavier finished in 3rd place.
Xavier might have had the most soul-crushing mishaps of the top finishers. He flew all the way from Ecuador for the event and was going to cobble together a bike, but changed that plan when he was lent a sweet rig from another bikepacker. Unfortunately, it didn’t have a dropper post, which is a very nice feature (or requirement) to have on this ride. And his lights failed or were inadequate throughout the long hours of riding in the dark. But his navigation blunder would have brought me to my knees, sobbing in rage and frustration.
As he was finishing the Bones loop in 2nd place, he mistakenly started to ride the wrong direction where it crossed paths with the Blue loop. He charged up the steep Boo Boo’s trail and then continued the monumental climb all the way up to the saddle below Tinker’s Knob. And there, after all that time and effort, he finally stopped and backtracked down to Truckee where he needed to stop for repairs.
He fell behind 4 other riders who slipped by during his detour. He didn’t give up though! Instead, he pushed hard through the night and moved back into 2nd. He even caught up to the leader, Jeff, as he was taking a dirt nap. His perseverance was crazy-special-forces level.
Speaking of Jeff, who set a new men’s record…what the heck? Does this stuff even seem hard to you? Your pace! How do you move that fast through a challenging course for so long? Was your 3-hour nap, lying on the ground with “all” of your clothes on, really that refreshing? Did you even pack more clothes? Congratulations. You made me look bad in front of my 4-year-old. At your finish, when he told you that I was supposed win, I hope you told him a story….like I already finished, but decided to do a second lap. How else can I explain why I finished a full 2 days behind you?
And a huge congratulations to Katya for setting a new women’s record. From what I heard, she felt beat down from day 1, but later realized that she still had a shot at the record. Determined to go for it, she pushed through the second night without sleep and nabbed it. Ouch! Very impressive.
Another female rider, Alissa, had completed a number of other bikepacking events, but they were much more gravel-oriented. Big kuddos to her for deciding to try Bones to Blue, which is all about singletrack. Despite having to walk a lot of technical sections, she executed a very disciplined and demanding pace throughout. Check out her great blog post about her ride – a wonderful perspective on tackling the route even as a novice mountain biker.
The 33% scratch rate was lower than the usual 50%. Everyone seemed dialed in and confident with their kits. Well, maybe not Craig, who came rushing up to the start with bags of unpacked groceries hanging from his bars with about two minutes left before the start. Don’t worry, we’ve all been that person.
And Jake T was likely thinking about his rigid fork decision as he struggled to hold his tacos with his rattled hands, outside a Mexican dive in Truckee, after bashing through the first 70 miles. Bonus under-bike points for sure!
And Tony, who was back for a 2nd time, still found himself wandering off-course. Following lines and arrows on a screen is just another challenging aspect of bikepacking… particularly for him. How was the bonus climb up Mt Rose?
Lastly, I had so much fun riding and suffering with the nut jobs in the Forlorn group (an option where riders all camp together each night at designated campgrounds/cabin). I’ve done my fair share of bikepacking events where I pushed hard, chasing people and trying to drop them. That does have it’s own special challenge and appeal, but I also really enjoy the bond and camaraderie you get from hanging out with other riders.
Bikepacking events are hard and I think there is something very unique about being able to share “living on the margin” with other people. You can try to explain what you’ve done to a friend or coworker, but nothing really registers besides emotionless statistics, like the number of miles you rode. However, when you roll into a campsite with other filthy people who are wondering if they can get up the next morning and survive another day, you feel validated and understood. These people get you and your sense of “wow this is really hard, crazy and amazing” is unquestionably true, no stats needed.
And you actually get excited when you cross paths with other riders, say “Hi” and share stories. When you are racing, seeing other riders can have the opposite effect. Your ego deflates and you get stressed about trying to stay ahead of someone. For me, the Forlorn option saves me from being pulled into that myopic perspective and lets me soak in a lot more of the experience.
The Forlorn group ranged from novices to extremely strong and well-experienced bikepackers. Everyone had the right attitude. It was still a beat down though and a few didn’t complete the entire route.
Dustin was out on day 2 with muscle spasms and Spencer had to bail on the last 19 miles because his chainring was shedding bolts.
I loved that Roland skipped sections that he wasn’t interested in (he’d ridden much of the route before), but then also decided to leave his bike for several hours to hike to the top of Freel Peak, a rocky and snow-covered climb. Check out his ride writeup.
I particularly cherished the times that I got to ride long sections of amazing singletrack with other Forlorners. Whooping and hollering good times. It was particularly fun riding behind Julie as she slayed the fast, chunky sections. And I won’t forget huddling with other riders on the first day as a thunderstorm unleashed heavy rain and then blanketed the ground with hail.
These are just some of the stories from this year’s ride. For more perspective, watch the event replay of the riders who were tracked.
Lastly, I want to say a big thank you to my wife, Annie!
Putting on the event takes a ton of time and effort. She graciously takes on the challenge of basically being a “bike widow” during the month leading up to the event. And she did her best to meet riders at the finish and offer a shuttle or a place to crash at our house. She hosted a lot of riders after they finished, while I was still out on the course. She has always been a huge, behind-the-scene hero in making this event successful.
We’ve already had two smoky days in Tahoe this July, so I’m glad that I moved the event earlier to June.
I’m already looking forward to next year.