Today I’m departing the UK on a brand new adventure.
This one’s rather different to my previous trips, in a couple of ways. Firstly, it’s vehicle supported, which means I’ll be carting my bike around on top of a Land Rover. Second, it’s got a broader social & environmental goal attached to it, which is to pioneer a brand new backcountry route through the Caucasus mountains.
If that sounds like fun, check out the Transcaucasian Expedition website here. By the time you read this, Day One will be well underway!
A prototype trail of around 1,500km in length is the objective of this year’s work, crossing the two Caucasian nations of Georgia and Armenia. While I’ve been speaking about this project mainly in hiking terms until now, my ultimate wish is that the route will be also suitable for bikepacking adventures.
Indeed, I’m making no secret of the fact that next year – when the prototype route should be ready for testing – the first thing I want to do is ride the length of it.
After all, I’ve been mountain biking in these mountains pretty regularly ever since I first found myself in the region, way back in 2008. My friend Andy, with whom I was cycling through Georgia and Armenia back then, set up a mountain bike guiding company in Georgia, which continues to go from strength to strength. And intrepid riders are making deeper forays into the backcountry of the Caucasus. You don’t have to spend much time on gpsies.com to hunt down their tracklogs.
So here’s my question to the bikepackers (lightweight off-road cycle tourers) among you:
What essential qualities do you look for in an adventurous new bikepacking route?
I will happily admit to not being particularly experienced in the discipline of bikepacking. Yes, I’ve done a bunch of mountain biking, and yes, I’ve pedalled thousands of miles around the globe, including in places like Mongolia where roads are a foreign curiosity. But lightweight multi-day off-road trips with lots of technical riding? That’s where my expertise runs out.
I’ll be spending the next 6 months mapping and exploring trails with a critical eye, by 4x4, on foot, and on my bike. So what I’m looking for here are your thoughts on what makes a well-designed long-distance bikepacking route. Some of it will likely be obvious (possible to ride it, regular water sources, bloody spectacular scenery); some likely not so obvious. I know you’re an opinionated bunch, so now’s the time to let me know!
Because this is an utterly stunning part of the world. And what’s driving me to work on this project is a desire to share it with you. That doesn’t just mean a jam-packed Instagram stream – it means mapping and building trails and publishing the resources to travel them. So let’s have your thoughts on how the Transcaucasian Trail could eventually serve the needs of the bikepacking community.
The Transcaucasian Expedition departs the UK today (big announcement here), so do connect on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook if you’d like to stay in the loop about this brand new trail! More news as it comes…