Deep into our climb up Waitsfield Gap along the unmaintained Vermont Class IV “road” (a loose term, as most roads I know don’t prominently feature deep ruts, car-sized boulders, stones, dirt, gravel and overgrown scrubgrass), I refused to stop pedaling my bicycle. Gravity made the decision for me, however, and I suddenly toppled over onto my side, still clipped into my pedals and mildly regretting my stubbornness.
It was the most comfortable bike crash I’ve ever experienced, thanks to the trail being so steep and the distance to the ground so short. Plus, I wasn’t moving forward at all. I lay angled against the wet forest floor for a few seconds while my amused riding partner, Bill, approached from behind, slowly pushing his fully loaded rig up the 20-degree climb through the various obstacles in a technique the bikepacking community fondly refers to as “hike-a-bike.”
It didn’t matter that it had been raining all morning. This “road” would present a major challenge for ATVs and dirt bikes on the best of days, let alone for the drop-bar gravel bikes we were on. “Underbiked” is another term from the bikepacking lexicon that comes to mind.
So, the two of us settled into our hike to the top, nearly an hour pushing our 25-pound steel-framed Niner gravel bikes (think beefed-up road bike with wider tires) each loaded with about 20 pounds worth of tent, sleeping bag, clothing, water, snacks, tools and other necessary gear. This was Day 1 of our five-day journey through the Green Mountains, and it already was among the most fun days I’ve had on two wheels.