The Triple Crown Challenge – August/September ’23 Bikepacking News

Summer has finally started to subside here in the Sonoran Desert, and my morning cups of coffee are starting to make sense and do their job of warming me up instead of inducing sweat at 7AM. The transition felt like it would never happen, but it’s here, and it’s glorious.

Speaking of glorious, we’re stoked to have put together another solid roundup of exciting events, products, and stories from the past couple of months! The Summer months are jam-packed with so much to cover, and this time around we bring you a Band-Aid review, titanium seat posts, a story of building an adaptive trail system in Vermont, and more. Our headline piece covers the Triple Crown of Bikepack Racing with a preview of the final race in the series starting October 19th, the Arizona Trail Race. We hope you enjoy and thanks for reading!

4,100 Miles of Racing

Over a decade ago, on a now old school forum-based website, David Goldberg posted an open invitation to attempt what he dubbed “The Triple Bikepacking Crown” where riders would complete the Arizona Trail, Tour Divide, and Colorado Trail on one bike, in one year, all self-supported. That year Kurt Sandiforth was the first and only finisher, coming in at just over 31 days total time. Since then, an additional 12 people have completed all three events in a calendar year. Back then, the Arizona Trail Race was run in the Spring, and the turnaround times were roughly a month apart depending on your pace. Regardless of how you line them up, racing over 4,100 miles in a calendar year – in a mere 5-month window – is no small feat. 

For such a small number of overall finishers since its inception 11 years ago, the Triple Crown is soaring in popularity. Andrew Strempke (Singlespeed record holder) and Ana Jager both completed all three events in 2022, and this year there’s a whopping five people attempting the challenge. Those five folks stand a good chance to finish, and none of them are nobody’s when it comes to ultraracing – Alexandera Houchin, Katya Rakhmatulina, Lael Wilcox, Hannah Simon, and Miron Golfman. With the final race in the series set for October 19th, I decided to pull some highlights from the year so far and give a quick overview of what lies in store for the last race of the year along the Arizona Trail. 

For the uninitiated, the Arizona Trail is a primarily singletrack route spanning the length of the state from the Mexican border to the Utah border. The terrain varies from sky islands and low deserts in the South, to high plateaus, mesas and forests of the North. Riders will cover over 800 miles and just under 100,000’ of climbing on a trail that is rarely flowy, sometimes rideable, and often reduces riders to pushing and pulling their bikes for hours on end. Even before the start, it’s already been an exciting year for the race with multiple re-routes, potential fire closures, a lackluster monsoon, and a near government shutdown that could have affected the Grand Canyon. And speaking of the Canyon, if you make it that far, Park rules state that wheels cannot touch the ground. A racer’s only option is to dismantle the bike, strap it to a backpack, and walk for 12+ hours down and out of one of the natural wonders of the world. The finishing rate last year was a dismal 35%. 

Here’s some media highlights from each rider’s year so far:

You can read more about the history of the Triple Crown here, and dot watching for the Arizona Trail race can be found here. Enjoy!

EDIT: Kristen Tonsager rounds out the list and is the 5th woman to be taking on the Triple Crown!

More news!

  • “Movement” with James Hayden: Racing and going fast get a lot of attention (as it did in this news roundup), but the simple act of movement – however that may look – is worth celebrating too. 
  • Cycling to Argentina: Greg and Victoria have made their way from Alaska to Mexico over the past year, documenting their trip with refreshing, easy-going vibes. Victoria has now started her own channel with videos documenting her perspectives in Spanish. One of my favorite things to watch in the past year! Greg’s channel. Victoria’s channel.
  • Llum Dynamo Light: With the popular Sinewave Beacon 2 hard to come by, a new French-made option with a similarly clean setup as the Beacon, and in stock!
  • Kurt Refsnider finishes the Continental Divide Trail: 4th person to finish the CDT on bike. 82 days. 3,330 miles. 370,000’ of climbing. 0 mechanicals. 0 flats. Whoa.
  • Ruta del Jefe Update!: Event update and bike check of Sarah’s Otso Voytek.
  • A Band-Aid Review: More interesting and applicable than you might think. 
  • BTCHN’ Ti Seatpost: For me, the most enviable find from all of the MADE coverage.
  • Plant-based Bar Tape: For better or worse, the bike industry is bringing more options to pine over. 
  • The Driving Range: The first fully adaptive trail network in the Eastern United States opens in Vermont.

Leaving you with a night ride scene from back in the depths of the Summer.

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