Gear differences…Colorado Trail Race vs. Arizona Trail Race

Now that I have completed the Colorado Trail Race (CTR) I want to go over my gear difference between the Arizona Trail Race (ATR) and the CTR. There are some obvious differences, I mean one race is in Arizona and the other in Coloado. But there are also many similarities and they are both ridiculously hard adventure races. I’m so very happy to be done with my adventure races for the year, but at the same time I super excited to start planning for next years Arizona and Colorado Trail races.

Arizona Trail Race rig
Colorado Trail Race rig

The gear you bring is so important, especially when dealing with scorching hot days, and freezing cold rainy nights. Lets start with my sleep system. For both races I carried a Revelate Design Sweet Roll. It packs down very small and is waterproof. This prompted me to carry my important dry items in the

My Sweet Roll is stuffed.

front, which included most of my sleep system. I use an older Big Agnes Zerkel 25 degree sleeping bag, the Big Agnes Clearview Pad (which I stored in my saddle bag as it didn’t need to stay dry), and a Marmot Alpinist bivy sac. The bag is a bit old and not quite at the 25 degree rating it once was, but it has worked well for both races. I was cold my first night in the Cataract section of the CTR, luckily for me it was the only night I was cold. The pad and bivy sac are extremely light. The bivy sac worked wonders in Colorado when is started to rain on me at night. It also dried very fast, which was important as my rig was already heavy enough. For next year, I think I’m going to get a new sleeping bag, I have to do my research but I’ll probably stick with a 25 or 30 degree bag, just something lighter. I also may just go without a sleeping pad. I used my pad every night in the AZT and CTR but one night. I really like not dealing with deflating and packing it that one night. I have a few things to mull over for next year, but in general it was a flawless setup.

The Nuke’s Little boy with custom lime green accents.

As far as saddle bags go, I used a Revelate Design Viscacha for the ATR, and a Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks Little Boy for the CTR. I was having issues with the Viscacha hitting my rear tire when I stuffed it full. For the AZT I put little in the saddle bag just a few clothes and my sleeping pad. It worked very well and it cinched down very small. I decided that I would purchase something a bit Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks, near the end of the ATR. We chatted about bikepacks and his side business. I bought a Little Boy Saddle Bag from him in June. It worked great for the CTR, but I didn’t really have enough to fill the bag. I cinched it down as far as it could go, however there was still a bit of play. This bag would work wonders if you intend to pack more things but I did not. For next year I think I’m going to ditch the saddle bag all together for a full frame bag. Both bags, however, were very strong and tough, repelled water and held up as they were intended to. smaller for the CTR. I rode with Dave Wilson, owner and seamstress of

The main compartment that can fit a lot of food.

I purchased a partial frame bag from Revelate Design (the Tangle Frame Bag) before the ATR, and also used it for the CTR. I absolutely love this thing. For the ATR I packed food and a full 3 liter bladder in it. Because of the heat in Arizona, it’s a good idea to carry extra water. This bag has won me over because of the side pouch which is just so convenient. In both races it carried my maps and cues sheet. My replacement sunglass lenses and my phone. For the CTR I packed a whole lot of food in the main section of the bag. Seriously, I packed way too much food. Near the end of the CTR I assessed my food, I still had 5 Tuna packets, a big bag of precooked bacon, huge bag of trail mix and other little snacks. I honestly never needed to really buy food as I packed the frame bag to capacity. You live and learn I guess. The seams and zippers held up great and I had no issues with water penetration when it rained. Like I said above, I might go with a full frame bag next year. It’s more convenient and it should keep the weight more centered on my bike.

The Jerry Can and Gas Tank.

I carried two top tube bags from Revelate Design, the Jerry Can (rear) and Gas Tank (front). I love both of these small bags, as the access is so easy. For both races I carried all my spare batteries, my Ipod Shuffle and headphones, sunscreen, chap-stick, and chamois butter. As for the Gas Tank, I filled that thing with snacks, it can fit soooooooo much… 4 Cliff bars, 4 protein bars, 10 fruit leathers, Emergen-C packets, and more. When the bag got low, I transferred a few snacks from my frame bag to the Gas Tank. They are also great bags for long day rides if you don’t want to carry a backpack. I can fit my rain Jacket in the Jerry Can, and I can adjust the Gas Tanks velcro to cinch it smaller. Overall, these are two great products.  I will no doubt be using these two bags again for next year.

On to the debate of the backpack. A lot of people like backpacks for races like these. It’s a convenient way to store water, and things you may need throughout the day, arm warmers/coolers, knee warmers, etc. Backpacks are also a convenient place to put a bunch of extra, unneeded crap making it feel like your carrying bricks on your back. I used an Osprey Raptor for the ATR, and I stuffed it to the max. On top of a 3 liter bladder, I put all of my extra things in the large compartment. By the end of the race, my back started to cramp, creating issues for a long time after the race as well. I decided to change it up for the CTR. I bought a Camelbak Octane. It a lumbar backpack that holds two liters of water horizontally around your waist. My thinking behind this was to keep the weight lower on my back. I also knew I would not need to carry as much water as it is plentiful on the Colorado Trail. It’s also much smaller and holds very little, alleviating the issue of carrying unnecessary items. I ended up storing my bike repair kit and a few other things. This was a much better option for my back. I will most likely be using this for the ATR next year for water storage. As far as next year’s CTR, I’m going to attempt to do it without a backpack.

The lumbar 2 liter bladder.

Lights are another very important piece of gear on races like these, if you ride at night you will need lights. I bought two Fenix LD 20 Lights over the winter. I liked them a lot, they are bright enough at 100 lumens on high (which I rarely used), super light weight, and battery operated. However, during both the ATR and CTR, I had one of my lights fail on me. The light wouldn’t turn on. I replaced the batteries, took the thing apart, and even threw it. It brought upon negativity which is what needs to be avoided at all costs on a race like this. I even questioned finishing both races. Luckily I had my Black Diamond Spot headlamp as backup. I’m super happy I packed it for both races, if not I would have really struggled in the dark. I have already ordered and received my AyUp Adventure V4 Lighting System. It is a 2 light rechargeable lighting systems that comes with mounts and batteries packs. I know it will work for the AZT next year as long as I carry the necessary amount of batteries. But for the CTR I’ll need to figure out something else, in order for the lights to last long enough, I would need to carry a lot of batteries.

I road a Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Carbon HT for both races. I love this bike and it’s currently the only thing I have. I have wondered what it would be like if I had a full suspension for both races. I feel like the amount of beating I took was tough on my arms, back, and butt. I did however love it on any of the road sections, I felt like it was a small advantage. With the technology of these new full suspension bikes, I am leaning towards a full suspension for both races. I’ve been looking at the new Specialized Epics, and the Salsa Spearfish. I’m going to steer clear of carbon, so I’m leaning towards the Spearfish — especially with it’s new split pivot technology. The drivetrain was a 2X10 with 24/38 tooth chain rings. I had not issues other then a chain link breaking in the Taryall section of the CTR. For the AZT I used my stock Roval rims, they worked but I was excited to get a new set. I had Southern Wheelworks build me up a much lighter wheel. Hope Pro Evo 2 Hubs, with DT Swiss Competition spokes and Stans Crest Rims. They held up great and really reduced the weight of my bike. On those wheels I rode only the best, Maxxis Icon EXO 2.2 tires.

To be honest, not much was different in terms of gear for the two races. I carried much more water on the AZT and much more food on the CTR. Both were fit into my frame bag so the weight distribution felt the same. I am really going to try and cut some weight down for next year. Clothes I never used, food I never used, and a lighter sleeps system should all contribute to a lighter rig. I also just received and installed my new XX1 drivetrain that I will most likely be using from here on out. I’ll have to play around with front chainring sizes but I’m really looking forward to testing it out in the next few days.

Brand spanking XX1 Drivetrain.

2013 Colorado Trail Race Prep

Ok, I guess there is a pretty big race coming up on Sunday morning, big for my standards and its time to start talking preparation.  It has been a very interesting bike season for me. In short, the spring offered early biking which helped prepare for the Arizona Trail Race, Kokopelli Trail Race, and Gunnison Growler. Then summer arrived, with only one race in the books since then with Salidas Big Friggin Loop. In between all that was the opportunity to ride for Griggs Orthopedics, Crested Buttes premier cycling team. One of my goals this bike season was to be apart of something, be on a team, experience support, and ride with sponsors on my back. I feel like I have an opportunity and more drive to cycle for a cause. I’m young, and this is an experience I could not pass up.

Since Salidas Big Friggin Loop cycling took a back seat to “life.” In June I accepted a job as the accounts manager for a super cool PR firm in Seattle that works with outdoor brands, and hopefully bike brands soon. The best part….I work from home. Bottom line, with two jobs, roughly 70 hours of work a week and a summer full of fun its time to get my butt back on the saddle……for a very long time.

Thats what the Colorado Trail Race is for. To be honest, I have been avoiding the preparation, but now that I’m talking about it more and more it is getting me excited. July 21st at 4:00am a few other nut cases and I will set off on a 500+ mile journey from Durango to Denver to experience the best that Colorado has to offer. Now as far as my preparation goes, I have not had much time, so I’m going to keep it very similar to the Arizona Trail Race. I learned a lot in Arizona and my system seemed to work well, but there is always room for improvement. Still with these improvements, I have plans for next year when I have more funding to support them.

I have a goal in mind as far as a finish time, but I would rather not do any jinxing. I do however want want to finish in under a week, not get rained on (like that will happen), and push my self harder then ever. It is more of a mental challenge then anything, and I need to make sure I stay as positive as possible.

Here is my 2013 Colorado Trail Race gear list

Revelate Design Front Bag:

  • Sleeping Bag 25 Degree Big Agnes
  • Arm/Knee warmers
  • Lightweight down jacket
  • Buff
  • Smart Wool cap
  • Important Items that need to stay dry (when need be)

Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks Saddle Bag

  • Big Agnes Clearview pad
  • Marmot bivy sac
  • Rain pants
  • Rain jacket
  • Long johns
  • Long sleeve thermal
  • Long sleeve t-shirt
  • Extra pair of socks
  • Warm Gloves
  • Spot Device in mesh pocket. (thanks Dave, finally a good place for my spot)

Revelate Design frame Bag

  • Food (Start with 14,000 calories, just incase something happens and I cant get to Silverton.)
    • Dried Fruit
    • Peanut butter
    • Honey stinger waffles
    • Trail Mix
    • Apple (one to start)
    • Jerky
    • And some other food that looks good when I head to city market on Saturday.
  • Aquamira tablets (water Purification)
  • Replacement Lenses (clear/lowlight)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Shoe covers (small toe caps)
  • PI ear warmers
  • Spare tube
  • CTR Databook
  • Maps
  • Cue sheet

Revelate Design Gas Tank

  • Emergen-C
  • Trail Mix
  • Cliff Bars
  • Cliff Gu’s/shots
  • Cliff Protein Bars
  • Aclimate
  • Snickers
Revelate Design Jerry Can
  • Batteries
  • I-pod and headphones
  • Chapstick
  • Sun screen.
  • Arnica gel
  • Organic pain cream/chamois butter

Camelbak Octane

  • 2L bladder
  • Pump and Co2
  • Repair Kit
    • Tape Stick
      • Athletic
      • Duck
      • electrical
      • industrial thread
    • Shifter cable
    • Zip Ties
    • Park boots
    • Extra Stans Sealant
    • Break pads
    • Multi Tool
    • Small Knife
    • Small towel
    • Super glue
    • Squirt Lube (2 small bottles)

On Bike Bars

  • Garmin Etrex 30
  • Cat Eye bike computer
  • Fenix LD20 mounted

On Me

  • PI P.R.O. bibs
  • Pearl Izumi base shirt
  • PI Elite Jersey (Griggs Ortho)
  • Smart Wool Socks
  • Giro DND bike gloves
  • Pearl Izumi Alp Enduro Shoes
  • Giro Aeon Helmet with Fenix LD20 mounted
  • Pearl Izumi under cap
  • Smith Eco shades
  • Hope and confidence
  • And a dash of luck
If you are bored at work, or just chilling on the couch after work go to this link: http://trackleaders.com/ctr13
Here you will be able to fine my little blue dot and watch my progress.

I really would like to thank my support team, even though you will not be able to support me. I can not thank Rhett Griggs, and the whole Griggs Orthopedic team enough for giving me the opportunity to join an amazing team with amazing people. It means the world to me and I’m so excited to represent team GO. I want to keep this brief but big thanks to, Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) for the support and the awesome trails on the mountain. I cant believe the trail system upgrades. I was blown away on Wednesday with the Pinnacle series. To be able to have a cross country race and a downhill race at the same time is a dream come true. Huge props to the trail crew and the whole team at CBMR. Also a big thanks to Acli-Mate, Stans No Tubes, Rudy Project, Squirt, Sram, Rock & Roll Sports, The Alpineer, Pikes Builders, The beautiful The Elk Mountain Lodge, Chucks Glass, High Mountain Builders, and the Go To Guide. This would not be possible with out all the support for some fantastic people, much love.

The Kokopelli’s Trail Trip Report

Last week my friend Mike asked if I wanted to partake in bikepacking the Kokopelli’s Trail with him. The trail is approximately 142 Miles from Loma, Colorado to Moab, UT. It takes you through large canyons, over desert plains, along the Colorado River, up to the La Sal Mountainrange, and down to Moab. I immediately accepted the invitation and declared it my final hurrah before the ski season ramps up. A few days passed with diligent route and logistic planning, eventually we got everything dialed in. Mike and I would be bikingpacking the Kokopelli’s Trail Monday, October 29th with hopes of finishing on Halloween so we could get back home and maybe have some fun.

Highway 50

I work as the Security Supervisor at Crested Butte Mountain Resort and had to work Sunday night until 12:00am. Instead of driving straight after work and sleeping in my car, I decided to sleep at my house for a few hours. I woke up at 3:20am, packed my things and was on the road by 3:40am.  Next stop was Gunnison to meet up with Mike and drive our two cars together. We left Gunnison and made our way to Montrose as the moon light illuminated the road. Eventually we would reach Grand Junction and stop at a City Market around 6:30am for camp food, snacks,and two 3gallon water jugs. Back on the road to Moab by way of Highway 128.

Up Onion Creek Road

Water is the main issue on the Kokopelli’s Trail, depending on the time of the year, some say it is impassible without water drops. After much deliberation and research our hope to do the trailself-supported without a water drop would not happen. It was tough to plan for water as people usually don’t ride the trail this late in the season. Our thought was there might be some water due to the the recent snow fall, but with lack of knowledge of the area we really had no clue. We decided to drop our two large jugs where Onion Creek Road and the Kokopelli’s Trail meet in Fisher Valley as this was a very easy access point for us off Hwy 128. This however would be our only drop of any sort. As we were getting ready to hop in my car with the jugs of water to drive up to Fisher Valley, we noticed Mike’scar was smoking pretty badly. We are no car mechanics but we both knew smoke was not good! When in doubt, add some oil. Both of us had about a quart between our two emergency bottles in our cars. We added the oil and got in my car to drive the 8 or so miles up the road. We got to the junction, dropped the water and drove back down to Hwy 128.Mikes car seemed to be working just fine once we got back, of course, just in time for my check engine light to turn on. Car issues was not the way I had hoped this trip would start. However, my car seemed to be running fine but once we got to Moab I would get it checked out.  I made my way to ASAP Automotive to get a computer test done on my car. Luckily, no issues, just a glitch in the computer system, fewef!

Getting our things together

We dropped off Mike’s car and started to head north to I-70 and eventually the Kokopelli’s Trailhead in Loma. It had already been a heck of a dayand we had yet to get in the saddle. Once we arrived at the Kokopelli‘s Trailhead, we went through our gear, loaded our bikes, and hit the trail at 2:30PM. Our Goal was to make it to Westwater but with the late October sun setting around 6:00pm it would have been hard to muster 40 miles in 3 hours.

My Setup

Even with the late start and early frustration it was hard not to put a smile on our faces once we got on our bikes! It was our first time bikepacking since the Colorado Trail trip in early September. Mike and I were talking about how amazing the feeling is, it’s a whole different style of riding!

Marys Loop Over looking the Colorado River

I’m pretty familiar with the Kokopelli Trail system out of Loma, so it was a fun way to start the trip, Mary’s loop to Lions Loop to Troy Built. All very fun single track that eventually brought us down to Salt Creek. We crossed Salt Creek and instantly our pace slowed with a hike-a-bike section until we got to the top of the ridge. 
After the hike-a-bike we got on a fast road all the way to the Rabbit Valley Trailhead.  After taking a quick break, we continued on some double track, which included sand and rock ledges. We had also noticed the Western Rim Trail and how fun it looked. I’ve heard the riding in Rabbit Valley is great, but the look of this trail convinced me I would need to return. 

Western Rim Trail Area

After wasting some time gazing at the Western Rim Trailand taking some photos we called it a day, overlooking the trail and the beautiful canyon walls! The natural night light of the moon was so bright it created shadows, it was pretty unreal. After some tuna pesto pasta and some other snacks the long day that started at 3:20am was over. We got in our bivys after 30 miles of biking on the day.

spigot with clean water….YUM!

My watch alarm woke me up at 6:00am the desert wascold and still moonlit. I slowly got out of my bivy and started to boil water for tea and food. Both Mike and I understood we needed to crank out some miles today in order to reach our goal. As we hit the trail and started our first climb, a steep and rocky but short climb I had doubts we would reach the goal. I wanted to enjoy myself on the trail but at the same time the ultimate goal was on my mind. Bikepacking makes you think about logistics a lot, at least for me when I’m riding. I have kind of picked up the phrase “not much left to do but keep going” since, it is true until your finished. Once we got to the Westwater paved road we really started to cruise. If the trail calls for paved road while bikepacking, I won’t complain. We took a short trip to the Westwater Ranger Station to fill our water at the spigot. We heard about the spigot but we were not sure it would still be on this late in October. It was and we filled up on water and pushed on. The day was getting warmer and we stopped to de-layer. As we did, a Grand Mesa Sheriff drove up to us and asked us if we had seen any vehicles today at all. We had not and told him so. This was the desert, anything goes right? For the next few miles I was thinking what the Sheriff was looking for and hoping we wouldn’t stumble upon any vehicles.

Between Westwater and Cicso Boat Ramp there is a whole lot of nothing just plain desert with the occasional nice view,  and the riding was very easy. Mike and I did a lot of chatting. After Cisco we got on paved road again, then some more technical riding along McGraw Bottom. We reached Hwy 128 after some spectacular views of the mountains ahead.

Just before HWY 128
Old Dewey Bridge

Because we were in a bind for time we decided to detour around Yellow Jacket Canyon, we had also heard the riding was a bit sandy and not fun. The detour quickly got us to Dewey Bridge, there we took a left on Entrada Bluffs Road. Spirits were super high at first but what we didn’t know was this would be the worst section of the trail, in our opinions. Views were great but around 2:00pm it was like a heat switch turned on. The heat along with the consistent climb up sand and loose rock made it tough going. After the slow climb we finally reached the decent. At first it was a fun little downhill with cool slickrock ledge drops. This got very repetitive and after awhile we made our way to the hardest section of the trail. 

The crux of the trail, Rose Garden Hill.

We were carrying our bikes at one point down Rose Garden Hill. Mike and I were saying how we couldn’t imagine a dirt-bike even trying this. We finally made our way down to Fisher Valley and eventually our water jugs. The sun was setting but we both wanted to make it to Hideout Canyon Campground, so we filled up on water and carried our jugs the 2 miles from Onion Creek Road to Hideout Canyon Campground. We had made it to a very nice campsite, with a toilet, fire rings, and picnic tables, all to ourselves. We got a fire going as we knew it would be a little colder then the previous night. We made a tuna pesto soup with ramen noodles and penne, it hit the spot. we got some good coals going in the fire, hopped in our bivys as the moon lit the earth and shut the eyes after roughly 70 miles of biking on the day. Tomorrow, we hit the LaSals, Moab, and hopefully Home!

Mike warming up
Officially entering the LaSal National Forest

I woke to my alarm at 5:45am, my sleep was not nearly as sound as the night before. It was a cold morning and I didn’t want to get out of my bivy. I rolled over to my left, grabbed some wood, and rolled back over to my right to put the wood on some buried hot coals. Not until I started a good size fire did I get out of my bivy. My watch said it was 30 degrees. It was slow getting our acts together but if we didn’t have a fire to warm not only our body’s but our spirits it would have been much slower. We got the water ready for what mike calls “rambombs” which is ramen noodles and potato flakes and the occasional summer sausage mixed, it was tasty! We got our things together, huddled around the fire one last time and doused it with our extra water. We knew we had a pretty long climb ahead but were hoping it wouldn’t be as bad as the Dewey Bridge to Fisher Valley section. We hopped on our bikes while our fingers and toes slowly went numb. The sun had yet to hit the north part of the canyon where we were. Once we got to sun the pain from the thaw hurt so good. It had not warmed up too much as we climbed. Ponderosa pines lined the sides of the roads, snow started to fill the shaded areas but the views became increasingly more and more spectacular. We passed paradox trail road and made our way to the top while overlooking Fisher Valley, Surprisingly we never hit any large amounts of snow.

Top of the climb before we descend to Castle Valley Road

We descended from Bull Draw down to Castle Valley Road on a very fast paved road. Just as we were about to start our final climb of the trip we were stunned to see “road closed 1.5 Miles ahead no access to Sand Flats Road.” My stomach dropped, confusion set in. We were hoping this wouldn’t end our trip early. This was one thing we never thought to look into, but once I saw that sign I thought how stupid I was to have not to! We disregarded the initial sign as well as the one 1.5 miles ahead on the road. Once we arrived to the construction we were immediately greeted by some construction jerk. I asked to speak to the foreman as this guy was not the brightest. The foreman was kind and said he has not let anyone through, but said there was a road at the valley floor that would take us around the construction. We thanked him and right there descended down to the valley floor.

We scaled down this hill…..how funny!

Our so called detour brought us on a very rocky road and eventually back to the paved La Sal Loop Road. Once we got there we knew the top was near so we both pushed it pretty hard. We got to the top and soaked it in! All we had to do now was cruise down Sand Flats RoadI had done the Whole Enchlada last year, so considering our lack of time, we opted to descend down the road. I have only gone as far as the Slickrock Trailhead, and I was blown away by the cool rock formation and beautiful vistas up Sand Flats Road. We descended past Slickrock Trailhead and past what the Latitude 40 Map says the 2nd most beautiful landfill, we thought that was funny. We got to Moab at 2:30pm and went directly to Zax for a burger and a beer!

Sand Flats Road looking East

After our meal, we still had to bike to Potash Road to get Mike’s car which was another 8 miles of road riding. We got to Mike’s car pretty quickly, loaded up our stuff, checked the fluids in his car and took off for Loma to pick my car up. After a quick stop in Grand Junction at the Jimmy Johns and Starbucks I hit the road for Crested Butte. I arrived home at 9:45pm put on my costume and went out and had some fun! After it was all said and done we finished the trail in 48 hours, yet we still enjoyed ourselves. I could not have asked for abetter trip this late in October. There is something about bikepacking that feels so right; covering so much ground, carrying all the essentials on your bike, it is truly one of my favorite things to do!

I need to thank Rad Anzulovic of 2Pedal Mountain Biking, Rad helped Mike and I with last minute trip planning and convinced us that we needed to do a water drop (so thankful for that). He also sent over his draft of his Kokopelli’s Trail Guide book. It was very easy to use and help tremendously. I cant thank Rad enough for the help, Please check out his web site and look out for the Guide book coming out soon! 

Check out all my photos here 

Also Check out this brief video Mike made using his Go Pro Footage. 

 

 

A Mind Changer

First and foremost my name is Neil Beltchenko. I’m 24 and reside in Crested Butte, Colorado. I love mountain biking in the summer and skiing in the winter. This spring I made a goal for myself to thru-bike the Colorado Trail. I’ve only mountain biked for around 2 years now, but the idea to travel on my bike through the Colorado mountains by way of singletrack kind of blew my mind! As I wrote a few articles for websites about my trip, I realized I enjoy sharing my adventures and thought I should create my own blog. Here are the links to the articles I wrote. Hope you enjoy.

Thanks to Singletracks.com for publishing my first article.
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Days 1-3
Part 3: Days 4-6
Part 3: Days 7-10

I wrote a more visual friendly article for Crested Butte local Frank Konsellas and 14erskieres.com.
Part 1: Denver to Buena Vista
Part 2: Buena Vista to Durango

We also carried a spot device and you can check out our progression on Trackleaders.com

Here is Mike (right) and myself (left) in Durango, Colorado at the finish with a Happy Camper IPA from Santa Fe Brewing Co.