Between the three of us— Tom, Mary, and myself— we had 95 miles of bikepacking experience. We scrapped together gear from our various outdoor pursuits to conquer the Cabezon Peak Overnighter route. The Cabezon Peak Overnighter is a 70 mile route outside of Albuquerque. The route, a lollipop route leaving from the White Mesa Trail System, heads up a valley popular with weekend target shooting and then circles Cabezon Peak, a 2 million year old volcanic plug.
Mary was on the really nice bike from 10 years ago. Tom had the full suspension bike designed for local trail networks, and I was on the finest hard tail that $1000 and hours of time spent on eBay could put together. The only natural water sources available would have to be shared with the resident cattle.This meant we would have to carry water for the entire route. With Voile straps, we strapped water bottles to our bike frames, and packed La Croix’s in any space where they would fit.
The first night in mid-March, we parked beneath Cabezon peak, and settled in for a cold desert night. The 20 degree night tested our sleeping bags and we woke up to frozen water bottles. As the sun rose over the volcanic plug, four fighter jets escorting some sort of large plane cruised over the peak. After yoga on sleeping pads, it was time to ride. It took me a minute to figure out all the straps and buckles to hook up all the bike bags. My sleeping bag and bivy were attached in an awkward bundle in the front. If I hit a bump too hard, my wheel would buzz my sleeping pad— I should have figured out a more compact bundle. Mary just had all her stuff in one large backpack.
Mary and I straddled our water-ladened bikes, grateful for bikes with modern geometry and low slung top tubes. For a goof, I tried to bunny hop, but I quickly learned the lesson that bike packing is about the trip and getting around safely.
We pedaled along good dirt roads aimed for ranchers to service their cattle. Initially we were worried about muddied roads as a storm hit to the North, but fortunately we were far enough away. The rising sun warmed our frozen water bottles and we could see the route circling the inside of the valley. We passed a few other bike groups as this route seems to be somewhat popular. The notorious headwinds weren’t a problem, but the open valley had the potential to be a brutal struggle.
Towards the end of the day, Mary was getting tired from carrying all her weight on her shoulders. Admittedly, bike bags are nice. We looked at the cow patty pocked land and didn’t see anything too enticing. In the distance, I could see the arroyo had cottonwoods poking out from the ravine. We spent a bit of effort to head to a much nicer camp, sheltered from the winds. In retrospect, we should have been more careful avoiding goatheads poking in our tires, but thankfully, tire sealant did its job. The night was equally cold, but at least we knew our cars weren’t that much further.
Packing things up the next morning was much quicker and after a quick hour, we were back at the car. The 40 mile round trip won’t win any mileage awards, but the trip was about spending time with friends and learning what bikepacking is all about. At Oveja Negra, we’re happy to outfit you in a full setup to carry all your gear in comfort and style. But look into your own closet first and see what you can do with what you already have. You might be surprised with what you can come up with!