Bikepacking the Swiss Alps? A look at Nam’s Preparation

A bicyclist leans on her bikepacking setup and smiles.
Meet Nam. Ready to roll and all smiles.

Switzerland by bike? Sounds heavenly to Tenzim (Nam) Namdol one of this year’s smiliest Blackburn Rangers. Here’s a little behind the scenes from Nam about her bikepacking preparation. (Oh, and we also snuck in her application video about why she wants to ride Switzerland and her connection there.)

Pre-Ride Test Trip and Other Preparations

The  Pracitce Trip

I’m just returning home to Connecticut from a quickie bikepacking tour through Vermont whose landscape and terrain matched the diversity of personalities present on the trip. A cattle call brought together some of my favorite tour friends and some new tour friends as we headed into the sublime hills and forests of rural and semi-rural Vermont. The ridership ebbed and flowed inhaling to 13 at one point and exhaling back to 4. We were coming from Arizona, Australia, Canada, Ohio, North Carolina, New Jersey, and for a few, stumbling out of Airstreams to be together to welcome summer in the Northeast.

We rode through burdock patches as big as banana leaves and picked wood nettles to incorporate into our campfire suppers. The summer grasses were as high as the daisy flowers while the ferns tried to match height with intricacy. All of us forgot to do tick checks every night but feared getting lyme disease everyday. There was a ferocious battle with the sun and the rain, one often winning over the other several times in one day. We rode gravel, fern-littered single track through cedar tree forests leading to salamander-filled ponds.

A bike loaded down for bikepacking leans on a fence with cows in the background.
Nam’s AIR 9 RDO all packed up and ready to go.

We rode up Lincoln Gap, the mountain pass in the Green Mountains and a must-do for any New Englander wishing to cement their regional identity, and called her Godzilla for her extreme elevation grade. We rode technical descents that shook off our non-tucked valuables that we didn’t even notice were gone until our kind friends riding behind us brought them back. Curvy, downhill singletrack in the woods littered with so many roots and rock that they made an entire genre of music to vocalize the experience. We took shots of maple syrup at all rest stops and made nightly campfires so big the flames survived ferocious thunderstorms. Vermont is paradise. We found, people who live there live the simple life

The Bike/Gear

This Niner Air 9 RDO is the lightest I’ve ever ridden on any of my bikepacking trips. My bike nerd friends tell me that the fork alone performs better than Meryl Streep and the SRAM Eagle got me out and over her fair share of hard roots and rocks with easy reggae style. This bike makes me feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. In real life, I know I’m a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold but put on a fancy dress and a Kentucky Derby hat and I’m throwing back pate like it’s free roadside raspberries.

What I’m trying to say is this bike is Richard Gere’s wealth and my kindergarten bicycle handling skills are Julia’s profession – a disparity in status that wins hearts and minds.

A group of bikepacking friends rolls down a gravel road.
Some good friends help Nam on her practice ride.

Pre-tour

I thought that I wouldn’t have enough carrying capacity to accommodate bikepacking, but I am glad I was wrong. The combination of a Blackburn handlebar bag, frame bag and two fork bags attached with the Outpost Cargo Cage was enough to fit all my tour essentials including a 2 litre water bladder. It’s also super helpful that my partner carried quite a bit of shared gear, like the tent, cook pots and toiletries.

Overall, I’m thrilled with the performance of the bike and the bags to take on the Alps… the fricking SWISS ALPS, guys! The Lonely Planet books tell me I’ll be neck-deep in melty cheeses and chocolate fondue with a Sears Family Portrait backdrop the whole time. The detailed National Geographic map tells me I’ll have Peter Sagan’s legs by the time I’m finished. I’m telling myself this is my biggest cycling challenge to date and planning/training accordingly.

Insights from bikepacking Vermont to bring into Swiss Tour:

  • Different wheelset: The spokes on my current wheelset are so from the future that I’m not sure I could find replacement spokes if one of them snaps or breaks. Because of my small stature, I think a 27.5 would be more comfortable and maybe even create enough clearance to fit a seat bag.
  • 2-person tent: The Big Agnes tent I have from Ranger Camp was not roomy enough for my partner and I. We used a tarp tent for Vermont to fit us both, and in the spirit of consolidating camp gear (and cuddling reasons) it doesn’t make sense for both my lover and I to bring separate tents.
  • My bike rules! Need I say more?

Nam’s Application video to the 2017 Blackburn Rangers Program

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail