Congratulations to the brave few that attempted the 2017 Julian Bikepack Challenge. The weather didn’t quite cooperate as the infamous Santa Ana winds starting blowing from the desert and it got hot.

The group start on Friday morning turned into a solo affair with me off on an ITT on the BFL. On Saturday morning, there was another solo starter on the Beach Loop, who made it as far as Ramona (142.6 miles) then ran out of time to complete the route. Hope you’ll be back Marco! Two more BFL hopefuls started early on Sunday morning, unfortunately the heat really cranked up on Sunday, so these 2 wisely chose to abandon the attempt after about 85 miles. A break in the weather the following Thursday gave them an opportunity for a second attempt, starting with the desert section first. After a thorough sand blasting and a rain storm, they abandoned and the BFL remained unconquered!

With my attempt, I made good time all the way down to to Del Mar on the Coast to Crest Trail. It was high tide unfortunately, so I didn’t get to ride the beach this time. The section through south Poway was a lot harder than I remembered with 90 miles on my legs! Sadly by the time I made it to Ramona Dunkin Donuts was closed, so I had to make do with a gas station stop. I finally got to the Cedar Creek trailhead in the early hours 135 miles later. After a couple hours sleep, I was up and back on the trail for some climbing & then more climbing! It got very windy & hot, so I made the call to head back to Julian at the start of Engineer’s Road after about 150 miles. In hindsight this was a good idea, as there was a fire on Mount Laguna that day! Total ride for me 157 miles and around 17,000’ of elevation gain.

Overall a great but very challenging route. Amazing variety of terrain & scenery. We may tweak the route in a few places, for example the ridiculously steep hike-a-bike section in south Poway just before Sycamore Canon Rd. Any suggestions are welcome!

I used my trusty Surly Krampus Ops for this ride, although I changed from 29x3.0 tires to 29x2.60 Teravail Cumberlands. The Cumberlands roll much faster than the Maxxis Chronicles I had on, plus they are plenty tough for anything the BFL could throw at it. I ran 1x11 SRAMano gearing, with Shimano SLX shifter & derailleur, Shimano XT 11-46 cassette, SRAM crankset with Wolftooth Camo 30t elliptical chainring. May get a smaller chainring next time for all the climbing! All my bags are DIY based on the original Revelate designs and have lasted me well for years & thousands of bikepacking miles. For lights I use a Nitefighter BT40S light on the bars . This light uses Cree XP-G2 LEDs which are bright at low current. I used the light on LOW which was plenty bright enough, and at 300mA current flow with a 8,800mAh battery I had light for 15+ hours. On my helmet I use a Nitecore MT2A AA powered flashlight, also using the Cree XP-G2 LED. This flashlight also lasts amazingly long on 2 x Alkaline AA batteries and is a good backup.

I hope more of you can join us next year.

Cows in the Santa Ysabel Preserve The start of the fun descent down Black Canyon Rd
Black Canyon Rd winding it's way down the valley The ancient get your bike throught the gate puzzle
Coast to Crest Trail in Del Mar Mural in Sabre Springs under I-15
Trans County Trail tunnel in Poway Rock formation on the Eagle Peak Trail
Beautiful scenery everywhere on this route Back in Julian for apple pie & ice cream