At Redshift, we always love hearing about your cycling adventures, and Samer's latest bikepacking journey is an epic one, so we were stoked to chat with him to learn more about this incredible trip.
What inspired you to tackle this bikepacking trip from Boston to Patagonia?
It was a combination of a few things. I got really into biking when the pandemic started. After biking for about a year I took a 10 day trip to France where I biked from Paris to the Mt Ventoux. I fell in love with bike travel after this trip and started consuming all sorts of content from other past travelers. Specifically, I read Alistair Humphries two books about his 4 year trip around the world: “Moods of Future Joy” and “Thunder and Sunshine”. If he was able to do it in the early 2000s without a cellphone and using maps, I figured it would be even more possible in today's world! I originally wanted to do Paris to Beijing, but in the post-pandemic world, visas and traveling were a bit more complicated so I just decided to leave from my front door in Boston and head south instead! I told myself that crossing the US would serve as a good way to start the trip in familiar territory before really starting the adventure once I crossed into Mexico.
How do you plan your bikepacking routes and adapt to changes that spring up?
I use lots of different resources and applications to plan my routes! I’ll use Strava (heat map feature), iOverlander, travel blogs from past bike travelers, local intel and recommendation, bikepacking.com routes (and the corresponding comment section of some of the routes) and other bike travelers I’ve connected with online who are a bit ahead of me on their journeys. I was so surprised to find out how many people are doing similar trips all around the world at the same time as me!!! Since it’s such a niche community, I’ve found people are eager to share their advice, routes and experiences with me and others and I try to pay it forward as well.
Yes, there is definitely lots of adapting needed!! It’s not a question ‘if’ things will go wrong but ‘when’! So when things go wrong you can either stop, or adapt!!! I’ve lost a full pannier, I’ve changed my setup numerous times, I’ve had mechanicals in some pretty remote areas, I got bit by a dog, and I’ve had a couple crashes. So yes definitely adversity will happen, but it’s how you adapt to those problems that will define how your trip goes!
What were your top 5 most unexpectedly useful items on your bike/kit?
In no particular order:
- It may seem obvious but an inflatable pillow - Good sleep is so important!!! I use a bag of my extra clothes as a second pillow as well!
- Packable sea to summit backpack - It packs down to size of my fist but gives me another ~20L of extra space when I need to carry more food or water when I need it. Especially useful when I got rid of my panniers and the 40L of capacity they had.
- Grayl Water filter - Looks like a normal water bottle but also is a purifier and filter!!! Very easy to use and works well. Highly recommend.
- Voile straps - I carry a bunch of extra ones of all shapes and sizes. I also carry some reusable zip ties that come in handy for securing smaller things.
- My Whoop armband - While it’s definitely not an essential item for a trip like this, I love keeping track of my body. The Whoop tracks my daily strain, recovery, and sleep and some other metrics that are cool to see - especially over a long period of time to see how my body is changing/adapting to different conditions and challenges!
What is your favorite (or most random) thing you listen to while riding?
I listen to a bit of everything when riding- my top 5 genres on Spotify this year were: pop, rap, rock, tropical house, and ‘stomp and holler’ (lol!). My go to playlist for hard climbs or epic riding is called “The Chaylist”. It’s a collaborative playlists with a few friends that has been growing for almost 10 years- it’s a tropical house or exotic beats vibes and it helps me just get lost in the music and start pedalling!! I’ll listen to podcasts on more chill roads or when I’m setting up camp or taking a break; my most consistent podcast I listen to is "Pardon My Take", it helps me start connected with American sports and culture while I’m thousands of miles away in Latin America. I also love audiobooks!
What were the top 3 most unusual or interesting types of wildlife you've run into while bikepacking?
I saw lots of cool animals in Costa Rica; I saw monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and parrots all in a few days there. I saw lots of iguanas generally all over Central America and Colombia, they would just be on the side of the roads. I saw dolphins when crossing to Colombia by boat from Panama. And I don’t know about interesting, but scary for sure: the mountain dogs in Peru travel in packs and are quite scary!!!
Do you have a favorite bikepacking spot(s) so far?
It's so hard to pick on spot, but the hardest climbs tend to be the places I remember most. To name a few in no particular order:
- Loveland Pass in Colorado
- “The Devil’s Spine” from Mazatlan to Durango in Mexico
- Alta de La Linea from Salento to Toche in Colombia
- Trampolín de La Muerte from Mocoa to Pasto in Colombia
- Climbing through Cotopaxi National Park in Ecuador
- Cañón del Pato in Peru
- Climbing to Pastoruri Glacier from Huaraz in Peru
When do you expect you will reach Patagonia?
I’m hoping to finish by the end of April at the latest, i.e. before it starts getting too cold and snowy to ride in Patagonia. Plans for after are TBD but I have the itch to continue my trip in Africa!! I have a few more months on the saddle to think about it…
And of course I have to ask, which Redshift bikepacking components are you riding with?
I started the trip with the Redshift Stem, and the Kitchen Sink Gravel Handlebars with loop and both sets of grips. I was so impressed with them that I upgraded to the Pro Seatpost when I got to Columbia ahead of all the bumpy dirt roads I would be riding in South America. I love all the components!!! The handlebars are awesome because for the first part of my trip I used the loop as aero-bars. Now I’ve adapted them to carry more things using straps (since I don’t need aero bars in the middle of the Peruvian mountains). The suspension stem gives me the confidence to ride any road and helps prevent my hands from ever getting numb and the suspension seatpost helps keep my behind comfortable at all times (especially since I don’t ride with any bibs or cushion). I also have the Redshift handlebar bag to store some extra snacks!
-- Thank you Samer for sharing this with us, and best of luck on this last push of the journey to Patagonia! You can follow along on his journey on his Instagram, Youtube, and Strava and check out more details of his rig on an interview with bikepacking.com.