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Bikepacking Roots

Meet Osprey Partner Bikepacking Roots. Learn more about their mission, and how you can support their work.

Ride, connect, protect: These three pillars define our mission to help craft exceptional routes, grow a diverse bikepacking community, and protect the lands through which we ride. If you’ve ever wanted to ride your bike through the backcountry, carrying everything you need to support yourself—to eat, sleep, and be merry out there in nature—Bikepacking Roots is here to help. 

If you’ve ever wanted to explore the wildlands of the Colorado Plateau, to experience the sacred lands of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument, or simply ride across Virginia, Bikepacking Roots has a route for you. (And they have many more where those come from.)

Bikepacking Roots(Opens in a new window) is the only national non-profit dedicated to supporting and advancing bikepacking, to growing a diverse bikepacking community, and creating access to and the conservation of the landscapes and public lands through which we ride. 

“We envisioned this organization that was part education, part advocacy, part route development, and all of those could be completely separate things, but they also are tied together in intimate ways, and that's what we strove to do when we created Bikepacking Roots,” says cofounder Kurt Refsnider.

These became the organization’s three pillars: Ride, Connect, Protect. With that mission in mind, we’re poised to make great strides in 2024. But, first, a little history.

A landscape view of two people biking through a desert environment
Image courtesy of Bikepacking Roots

Our origins

Around 2016, bikepacking legends Kurt Refsnider and Kait Boyle realized there was a need for an organization that specifically supported off-road bike adventuring. Kurt, in particular, had long been pondering the creation of a bikepacking route through many of the diverse ecosystems and landscapes of the west, what he conceptualized as the Western Wildlands Route. 

The pair were also awed by the impressive accomplishments that the Adventure Cycling Association had made on behalf of on-road touring cyclists over the preceding 50 years. 

The pair launched Bikepacking Roots to bring a new level of professionalism and responsibility to both the route creation process, and the practice of traveling with as little impact as possible in the backcountry—bringing Leave No Trace principles to a user group that was less familiar, or completely ignorant, to the nuances and best-practices of traveling through fragile ecosystems.

Finally, Kait’s background in adventure education, and her use of expeditionary experiences to help people develop connections to places—with the intention of helping them become advocates for those places—was a driving force for the creation of the nonprofit.

“These immersive experiences, where we travel in a human powered way through a landscape, with some intention… that can create a very strong connection to a landscape and a desire to be a steward for it,” Kait says. “That can be a very specific place, or it can lead us to care for the broader environment.”

And, thus, Bikepacking Roots was born.

A group of people standing near a tent, with two people in the tent, with a desert landscape in the background
Image courtesy of Bikepacking Roots

Three pillars 

BPR is built around those three pillars: Ride, Connect, Protect. 

First, we love to ride. Thus, we’re driven to create routes that are intentional. We do this in order to create rewarding riding experiences and help riders connect with the landscapes and communities we traverse. 

Our routes are also thoughtfully designed, crafted with input from local cyclists and on-the-ground test riders. And, of course, every route is entirely on bike-legal trails and roads, with clear explanations of relevant permits and restrictions.

Next, we love to protect. BPR works to protect the landscapes we traverse. We recognize that as bikepackers, wild places enable and shape our adventures, and that we have an interest in and responsibility to help protect them, and prevent harm from development and extractive industries.

We also advocate for bikepackers’ access to public lands. But we recognize that healthy landscapes are complex and interconnected webs of competing interests—the geography, ecosystems, watersheds, and human communities in a region. As such, we are willing to prioritize the health of a larger landscape over immediate bicycle access, if and when appropriate.

BPR recognizes that bikepackers ride on land stolen from Indigenous groups, and that our current public land designations are rooted in problematic historical perspectives, which can perpetuate racism and the erasure of BIPOC people. We believe landscapes cannot be whole without Indigenous voices in land management conversations.

We’re proud to have partnered with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to adapt the Seven Principles specifically for bikepackers. Our “Love Where You Ride”(Opens in a new window) campaign helps bikepackers minimize their impacts on the landscape, and maximize their positive impacts on the communities they visit.

The Positive Impact Practices were designed to inspire bikepackers to go above and beyond, making a positive impression on the people and places we interact with.

Finally, we understand the power of connection. To that end, we cultivate a stewardship ethos in the bikepacking community, helping riders develop connections to the landscapes and communities they traverse. Likewise, we want riders to have positive interactions with land managers and other user groups, and have a positive impact on the places we visit.

BPR fosters a supportive and inclusive bikepacking community. We believe that bikepacking should be accessible to people from all walks of life. We recognize the history of exclusion and inequitable representation in outdoor sports, so we welcome and elevate marginalized voices.

Two people resting while biking, with a sunset shadow in the background
Image courtesy of Bikepacking Roots

Back to the future

Our focus priorities for 2024 center around building community among bikepackers and supporting diversity and inclusion in the sport.

We will continue to grow our Regional Stewards program by recruiting a national consortium of Community, Route and Advocacy stewards. In part, this will come about through our Community Routes Project (CRoP) to support community-focused route development around the country with routes for a range of abilities and experience-levels.

We’ll also be hosting Community Campouts, hosting beginner-friendly campouts to support community-building and lower the barrier to entry for new bikepackers. Of course, we continue to make great strides for new routes around the country. More big news on this front shortly.

And, finally, our BIPOC Bike Adventure Program will be reimagined based on participants’ feedback. The intent is to host BIPOC-led affinity campout events and to support diversity in our Regional Stewards program. Stay tuned for updates; a future article on the Osprey blog will take a closer look at this influential program.

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