In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.
-Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki
It’s a little embarrassing, but worth publicly admitting, just how much of my life I’ve spent wishing I already knew what I was doing. Maybe others can relate. I tend to try and hide my beginner-ness, because I am scared I’ll get found out. Who would want to hang with someone so green? I’m pretty sure somebody (probably an expert) wrote an article (probably several) about this feeling. It’s called Imposter Syndrome and it’s real. I think cycling can be particularly daunting arena to enter as a beginner.
Recently though, I’ve realized it’s okay to admit that I’m a beginner. In fact, I’m realizing how much freedom exists in embracing the beginner’s mind. I think the real beauty is that beginner can experience the thrill of discovery in the way an expert has to work harder to achieve.
I have been mountain biking for less than a year. I have a vague idea of what the parts of my bike are called and an even vague-er idea of how they work. Until this weekend, I had never gone on an overnight bike trip.
Well, I survived and I’m back to report that I can’t believe I get to spend the foreseeable future riding my bike and camping out in the desert! I have a lot to learn in order to safely navigate my way through remote areas, but my first bike overnight went a long way toward teaching me this: you don’t have to be any kind of expert to have all the fun, all the wild freedom, and all the antlers mounted to your handlebars!
We called the trip the “Sleeping Lady Loop” because we made a wide, clockwise loop around the Sleeping Lady Hills, and near the Sierra de Las Uvas in the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument. Our two-day, 90+ mile route took us near Massacre Peak, Magdalena Peak, the old Butterfield Trail, and the ruins of Fort Mason on dirt roads and a few faint cattle paths. It was perfect for a first-time bikepacking trip.
A couple of flat tires slowed us down early on, but not too much climbing meant lots of miles could be covered, and we encountered minimal sand. Fat bikes would have been perfect, but we did fine on regular (2.3″ wide) mountain bike tires. The surface was 80% packed dirt county roads, two-track and cattle paths, plus some pavement to get out of the neighborhood.
The actual “gear shakedown” part of the trip:
- I’m going to figure out how to convert my tires to tubeless (I’m currently using sealant but want to get myself an even more thorn resistant setup)
- I love the Schwalbe Smart Sam tires. Ultimately, I think fat tires are ideal for these sandy desert conditions, but on the whole, these are versatile and worked on all the terrain we encountered and I think on a long tour they’ll be great
- I LOVE my Revelate Designs Feed Bags – I used them for all the stuff I want to have at hand like phone, sunglasses, and jelly beans
- My brand new GPS flaked out just before the trip, so I need to figure out what’s up with that
- Sawyer water filter is the bomb.com and we found lots of great well water in cattle tanks
- My Ortlieb panniers actually rode/handled really well, even on rockier sections but I think they’re way to big for my needs. I might try and make something more minimal, OR do a combo of a frame bag + a dry bag on top of my rear rack and get rid of the panniers
On a final note, I couldn’t have done this trip with out my amazing boyfriend Dan navigating our route through the back roads and cow paths of Dona Ana County. With him leading the way we only took a couple of “wrong” turns, whereas if I were to try and set this up we would have been on one long cross country bushwhack after another. Thank you, Dan for guiding us so I could focus on dialing in my gear and bike setup! I’m a pretty lucky girl to get a guided Valentines Day bikepacking trip in this beautiful and vast desert landscape!