Founded by a group of bike-loving women who saw a need in their community, the The Washington Bikepacking Women group strives to grow an inclusive, inspiring, and supportive women and gender-diverse bikepacking community in Washington state. With plans to continue conversations about bikepacking, share women’s stories, and organize group overnighters when the weather warms up, this group is aspiring to increase the women’s turnout at the Cross-Washington Mountain Bike Route (XWA) Grand Depart in May. You can read about the women who founded the group, how to join, what to expect from the group, and about the XWA route below.
About the Washington Bikepacking Women Group
Inspiration for starting the Washington Bikepacking Women group
There are so many strong women riders in Washington but very few seem to line up for Washington’s bikepacking events. We’d like to change that. We want to create a way for women to connect who share the same interests. We all have knowledge from our experiences to share, and believe that in a safe environment, we can learn from each other. Our group will provide a space for everyone to ask questions, get out on their bikes, and find what works best for them. In doing group rides, discussing training and gear, we hope to make some new friends and go on epic adventures together.
We wish to encourage women to line up at the Grand Departs for some of the big bikepacking events across the state. Some of these events include: Cross-Washington Mountain Bike Route (XWA), or the XWA-Lite, WA High Lite Route, Gravel Circumnavigation of the Olympic Range (GCOR), and North Central Washington 250.
Goals of the group
We aspire to grow an inclusive, inspiring, and supportive women and gender-diverse bikepacking community in Washington state.
Why women’s representation in bikepacking and at Grand Depart events matters
We believe that women have a great capacity for endurance. Other women need to give themselves more credit for what they can accomplish. You don’t have to be fast to endure, it’s not always about speed. We wish to inspire a sense of pride and accomplishment for women to line up with other women, a sense that we are all in this and out there together. It makes a route feel more welcoming if we see other women out there doing the same route. It would be great to shift the minority at these events, and start seeing the swing towards more women getting out on their bikes, like the Smoke and Fire 400 route! It’s exciting!
What to expect from the Washington Bikepacking Women
They can expect to be welcomed, first and foremost. It is important to know we are an inclusive group and really want participation, feedback, and shared experiences. As for our core group, we are all different spokes in the wheel of bikepacking, so we started with getting to know one another through supportive, vulnerable and thoughtful conversations. On the Facebook group page, we have grown to 176 members in a short amount of time, which shows us there is interest and curiosity out there! We will be organizing some overnight trips when the weather starts to warm up. We will continue Facebook posts to talk about bikes, bike setup, gear, approaches to rides. We also wish to continue highlighting some women’s ride stories and accomplishments. Primarily, we’d like women to feel supported and connected through bikepacking and anticipate tailoring our path along the way.
Washington Bikepacking Women Founding Members
I am 59 and started road riding in 1988, my first organized ride being the Seattle to Portland (STP). I later started riding gravel and cyclocross on a cross bike with old rim brakes. I learned quickly that big tires and good brakes are important. I am fairly new to bikepacking and find that I am learning something new with every adventure. I have done Unbound 200 (3rd), Cross-Washington Mountain Bike Route also known as XWA, WA High-Lite (DNF), Vicious Cycle Gran Fondos, Gravel Unravel, and Guerilla Grinds (DFL). I consider every ride or race a huge accomplishment whether I did well or could not finish. My motto is, “how will I know if I can do it if I didn’t at least try?” I’m planning to do the XWA again this year!!!
I was a roadie for 20 years before discovering mountain biking, gravel riding, and bikepacking while living in Bend, OR. I’ve always preferred ultra-distance events and trips because that’s more time I get to be outside and more that I get to be challenged. After years of Ironman training and bike racing together, my friend Irena (also a founding member) and I started bikepacking in 2019 and we blog about our adventures at Wheely Adventurous. I live in Roslyn, WA now and use most of my free brain cells for adventure fantasizing and planning.
I started on a road riding team for five years, but kept looking towards the mountains. So with some skills classes and downhill mountain bike camps under my belt, I bridged over to become an avid mountain bike rider and racer for about eight years. Again, a shift happened for me and I wanted to see more of the trails. Inspired by my good friend Irena, bikepacking became my new passion. I love the adventure it ensures, the gear, the bikes — all of it!
I’ve always loved riding my bike. I started riding organized rides and doing races in my late 40’s. I’m now 63 and have no plans to slow down. I’m a long-time mountain biker (not the hard trails) and started riding gravel in 2018. I did my first bikepack in 2020, a five-day tour of the Cross-Washington high route from Seattle to Wenatchee and this year completed the whole Cross-Washington in 10+ days. I recently retired and try to get out on my bike as much as possible. I have done only four bikepacking adventures to date and look forward to many more. I am planning to line up at the Grand Depart for the Cross-Washington race again in 2023. I would also like to try some other bikepacking endurance races.
I bought my first custom road bike at age 23. Riding in a peloton was too terrifying for me, but I loved riding fast by myself. In those early years commuting by bike was really my main method of transportation, as well as fun little weekend rides. In 2016, I became aware of cyclocross. Until then I had never really ridden on terrain. In 2018, I bought my first gravel bike and immediately started racing cyclocross. It is thrilling and I was instantly hooked. To hone my skills riding on uneven, unpredictable, loose ground, I went to some cyclocross and mountain bike skill classes. Learning bike handling skills was so enlightening and gave me way more confidence. In 2019, I started riding longer gravel rides. I raced Vicious Cycle Gran Fondos, one Guerrilla Race and then DNF’d in the Cascade Super Gravel. I was super lucky to get backcountry permits for the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park for March 2021. This was my first three-day bikepacking adventure. That year I did another three-day bikepacking trip on the Olympic Peninsula. In the meantime I continued racing cyclocross. In 2022 I went back to Utah for a multiple-day backcountry ride and to Europe where I did the gravel Albert Route over the Alps. Being able to travel under my own power riding through beautiful landscapes gives me unparalleled pleasure. I like the challenge of a hard climb or a technical descent. I can’t wait to plan my next adventure or sign up for my next race.
I started biking at 12 to get “in town” to see friends and then moved into triathlons after I started running in college. As a rural village health coordinator in Peace Corps in the Central African Republic, I look back now and realize this is when I started gravel bikepacking — riding my Motobecane on dirt roads with a backpack to get to rural villages to teach health and organize midwives and first aid responders, spending the night to get to other villages on my way home. I biked to stay sane in jobs that were a bad fit, bike toured overseas in New Zealand, Italy, Greece and Ireland. I bike commuted to work through my first pregnancy and pulled my daughter in her Burly Chariot to daycare into my second pregnancy. I was mostly a roadie and eventually a Cascade Ride leader, until Keri Bergere insisted that “gravel biking was FUN.” I bought a gravel bike in 2020, started a Facebook group of friends called “Gravel Grins and Giggles,” and combed through others’ Facebook posts for routes, safety tips, gear, bikes, etc. We had a thriving, energetic community during Covid since being outside was the safest place to be. I also bought a mountain bike and love singletrack. As a backpacker I wondered if and how camping gear could be strapped on a bike. After a few trips to camping spots on the San Juan Islands and Mt. Rainier, I was hooked. I have a LOT to learn and want to experience with other lifelong learners to see where these wooded roads take me. My happy place is always on a bike!
I used to ride my old Huffy mountain bike on the gravel roads in Michigan. Fast forward to 2012, I was able to buy my first road bike in Indiana. I was hooked. I moved to Washington State in 2019. I was still road riding and learned from locals that more gears were needed to get up the mountains, so I purchased a gravel bike. Still uncertain about trails in the area, I messaged a woman named Piper and asked if I could come along on their “gravel” rides. Little did I know what adventures would lie ahead with my gravel bike, new gearing. Several gravel races later, my most proud moment was the Unbound Gravel race in Emporia, Kansas with Keri Bergere. For me, women inspire women, which led to following the dots for Keri and Annie on the XWA. I want to be a part of the bikepacking women’s group to achieve what I think my body and mind cannot do, as well as have incredible experiences along the way.
I have been riding my bike as transportation for most of my life, whether that was commuting to school or work, or dragging my dog to the park in a bike trailer. I have competed in triathlons and with a local road bike racing team for many years, but after I cycled across Canada in 2017, I found that I loved experiencing all the views, smells, sounds of a place from a bicycle, moving slowly and having an opportunity to stare and admire the view ahead for hours. Then I learned about the Tour Divide which blew my mind, and I began my transition to gravel and bikepacking. Bikepacking seems to be the perfect marriage of my love of the mountains, outdoor living, the bike, and serious athletic endeavors. In 2021, Sarah and I biked the GDMBR together and shared our stories along with other more recent adventures on our Wheely Adventurous blog.
About the Cross-Washington Mountain Bike Route
Why you should consider the Cross-Washington Mountain Bike Route
The Cross-Washington Route showcases our state. It has been meticulously developed by Troy Hopwood to maximize gravel riding, even in populated urban areas. It offers the rainforest experience through the Olympics, wonderful singletrack, champagne gravel, epic climbing, incredible views, rolling farmland, trails, the Cascade Mountains, and excellent resupply and water options. It wouldn’t be a bikepacking event without some less-than-desirable gravel and shenanigans. Late May in Washington state could mean rain on the peninsula, snow over the Snoqualmie Mountain pass and 100+ degree temperatures in eastern Washington… but then again, you never know what the weather will bring. I think many people think it’s not an achievable route because the percentage of finishers is low compared to the number of people who start. Some of us learned that faster isn’t always better; weather conditions can dictate speed. However, the scenery is amazing and the idea of riding across the whole state, seeing all the diverse landscapes is motivating & rewarding!
About the terrain and gear
The route was extremely challenging for many, but slow and steady works. Many people ride some sort of gravel bike, or a hardtail mountain bike. The route is primarily different types of gravel/dirt roads. There is a small amount of singletrack on the route, mostly in the first half on the Olympic Peninsula and through some urban parts of Seattle. Most of the singletrack is rideable on a gravel bike. For the chunky gravel on the route, we would recommend tires no smaller than 50c, or 2.2 inch mountain bike tires.
In addition to joining the Washington Bikepacking Women group, you can find more information on the Cross-Washington website. I’d also encourage joining the Cross-Washington Mountain Bike Facebook page. This group gets pretty active and chatty as we get closer to the race.
If Cross-Washington does not fit your schedule, consider lining up with us for GCOR (440 miles) at the beginning of July, North-Central Washington 250 in mid-September, or High-Lite (300 miles) in late September. We hope to have good female representation at all of these.
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