Blackburn Made a Video

Around Helena, Montana, Encompass Films came out to film Jeni and I while riding the GDMBR. It required some extra patience, but came with some snack perks and a campfire. I think they definitely captured the gist of my mission to get more women comfortable with backcountry adventuring and bikepacking.  However, if you want the NON truncated explanation of how a generator hub works, holler at me. ;) 

Here is is... 

A Note about Bikepacking Hygiene

As usual, I'm sure this post is not going to be news for many experienced bikepackers, but for those of you who are looking for clues, I hope this can contribute to your personal solutions to staying clean in the backcountry. 

Good hygiene is especially important for cyclists... And even more so for cyclists who don't have regular access to showers.

For one, saddle sores can break a trip, and your best defense against saddle sores is a good saddle and good hygiene.  (If you don't know what I mean by saddle sores, I'll let you Google t yourself.) 

Bikepacking presents its unique set of challenges and opportunities. On one hand, you often don't have access to showers... Or they are overpriced at campsites. On the other hand, you are more likely to be in a remote place off of a trail and close to a natural body of water.

I'm not a doctor or a professional bikepacker (no such thing), but I've been on the trail for a month and found the following things to be successful and important to staying somewhat clean and saddle sore free.  

Wash your bike shorts every day and hang them to start drying overnight! 

Wash your bike shorts every day and hang them to start drying overnight! 

  1. Bring two pairs of bike shorts. You want to be able to clean one pair after riding and have a fresh pair to put on the next day while the other pair dries. 
  2. Clean your bike shorts after every day of riding, no matter what.   Use a gentle soap like Dr. Bronner's to suds up the chamois and upper leg area. If you don't have soap, at least rinse it in water. The point is that your trying to clean off the sweat and bacteria that may have formed in your shorts over the day. I suggest mechanical agitation as well to get rid of bacteria. 
  3. Clean yourself with soap and water. What's the point of cleaning your bike shorts if you don't clean yourself? If I'm at a place with a sink, I'll use a camp towel or even just paper towels in a system of damp towel, suds-y towel, and then damp towel to "spot clean".  As base as this sounds, this can be done discretely in the bathroom of any lodge or restaurant.  If you're near a water source in the backcountry, do the same using the free available water. I'm sure some of you will want to suggest individual disposable wipes (like baby wipes or special backpacking wipes). This may be all fine and good, but I opted to not carry the extra weight because I  didn't like the idea of a film or residue being left by a wipe. I've never not been able to "freshen up" at the end of the day so far.  You need water to drink or cook every night... So you usually have enough water to clean.  If water is scarce, alcohol based hand sanitizer works on other parts of your body than just your hands.
  4. Put your toothbrush/ toothpaste somewhere convenient. There's nothing more annoying than getting ready for bed and realizing your toothbrush is buried somewhere in your pack. You're more likely to skip it that night than unpack. Leave it in an handy spot. Eating a lot of candy, dried fruits, sticky granola bars, etc. on the road probably wreaks havoc on ones teeth, and so it's even more important to brush. 
Alcohol based hand sanitizer works for other parts of the body in a pinch, tea tree oil and neosporine are good for saddle sores, and Dr. Bronner's (shown here in a soft bottle) is a good, mild, soap for cleaning yourself and your clothes. 

Alcohol based hand sanitizer works for other parts of the body in a pinch, tea tree oil and neosporine are good for saddle sores, and Dr. Bronner's (shown here in a soft bottle) is a good, mild, soap for cleaning yourself and your clothes. 

  1. Bring dental floss.  Not only should you be flossing more because you're eating more sticky sugars everyday, but dental floss is a great medium to repair a blown sidewall. Check out this IG photo from Justin Kline on tour with Beth Puliti in Tajikistan:
  2.  Neosporine and Tea Tree Oil will help mend saddle sores. Tea tree oil is a good anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and astringent. Apply after washing with soap and water followed by some neo or poly-sporine. They should improve noticeably overnight and really improve over a rest day. 
  3. Bring wool clothing. Lightweight wool really goes a long way to staying odor free (or less odorous than most clothing), which is partially due to the natural anti-bacterial properties of wool. Sweat only has an odor after it sits and collects bacteria. Wool is very good at wicking away sweat, which helps right away. Secondly, the fibers of wool are not as smooth as those in synthetic fibers, which is a less bacteria-friendly environment.  Icebreaker has a decent video about how wool works: 

Alright. That about wraps it up on the hygiene front.  It's off to bike Colorado! I'll be posting about Wyoming and the Wyoming basin soon enough.  

Shorts drying on the back rack after washing.  

Shorts drying on the back rack after washing.  

Adjusting to bikepacking life


The first 5 days on the bike have been amazing, but getting used to life on a mountain bike is no walk in the park.  I'm as psyched as the next person to rip down washed out, barely-maintained roads after laboring up 2,000 feet in 5 miles with everything I need to eat, sleep, and survive in the wilderness... But, it takes an adjustment... Or many. 

Long ascents in a wild, remote places

Long ascents in a wild, remote places

Here are some of the trials and tribulations I wasn't necessarily thinking about pre-trip: 

  • Packing everything by weight so it fits nicely and hangs tight on rugged terrain (read: creek crossings, rocky wash outs, steep and fast pass descents);
  • Packing everything by frequency and order of use to avoid unpacking a whole bag just for one item (sounds obvious, but it takes a few days to figure out when you will need what items at what time of day);
  • Thinking ahead to pack non-ritualistic items on top (e.g., don't bury your passport the day you will cross a border);
  • Finding the ideal mix of the above mentioned items for optimal efficiency and minimal frustration; 
  • Remembering to eat according to output energy and time (I can forget to eat an appropriate amount during hard efforts, especially in jaw-droppings mountain ranges, which is never good 2 hours later); and
  • Remembering to have a good attitude in rainy conditions. Nothing rains harder on a good day that an afternoon/evening shower that soaks you and everything around you such that setting up camp becomes a delicate operation of segregation between wet and dry items. A joke and a some old fashioned sarcasm go a long way in these cases.  And I'm super thankful for a riding partner that can help me with that. :)


Hanging clothes and cooking dinner under a bridge during a long rain shower. 

Hanging clothes and cooking dinner under a bridge during a long rain shower. 


Some me things that have been working out really well so far:  

  • Reading the elevation profile enough to know roughly what to expect that day, but not tracking the feet left in a mountain pass. It might just be me, but sometimes I find that ignorance is bliss before a hard days bike ride. 
  • Really taking a good hard look at the landscape, and not just to take a picture. I want to be able to communicate my journey, but I also know that the experience is totally different without a lens between myself and the world.  
  • Wool, wool, wool - what they say about wicking, quick-dry, and odor-resistant is all true. Of course, it won't smell like clean laundry, but both my  Giro cycling jersey and my Inji toe socks have kept me feeling somewhat civilized.   
  • Blackburn Outpost Handlebar Roll - it may look like an awkward log when it's stuffed with my 20 degree bag, Klymit sleeping pad (rolls up to the size of a soda can!), inflatable pillow, Platypus water filter, and bike repair kit, but it holds firmly in place during the bumpiest descents. I found that tightening the cinch strap that encompasses the whole roll is key to keeping things in place. 
  •  Relevate Designs Feedbag - so this thing makes me blissfully happy, mostly because it is the like the kangaroo pouch I never had.  I mix up a bunch of different snack foods like dried cranberries, mangos, nuts, unwrapped starbursts, sweet sesame treats I found at a market in Chinatown, and whatever else... Then I have a grab bag of pick me ups between meals.