Morton set out from Durango, Colorado, on Sunday morning to bike-pack the length of the Colorado Trail, a journey of about 500 miles to the outskirts of Denver. He is taking on the challenge to complete his pledged distance for the Tour de Kids, raising funds for the Starlight Children’s Foundation Australia, which supports hospitalized kids and their families.
It’s just the way you’d probably expect Lachlan Morton to ride for a cause: way, way up in the Rocky Mountains, at an average elevation of 10,000 feet, with long stretches in the remote wilderness. And as with most of Morton’s adventures, it’s one that required thorough preparation and some tough choices in the gear department.
“If you forget one piece of important kit at below zero and snowing, it doesn’t really matter how fit you are,” Morton says. “It’s more about what you packed and how you prepared.”
The “road” ahead for Morton on his journey is a multi-use, backcountry trail, the sort of terrain where a dedicated mountain bike thrives, and where some hike-a-bike will be necessary, too. As such, when dialing in his equipment for the mission, Morton drew from his experiences with racing a mountain bike at high altitude at the Leadville 100 Trail MTB earlier this month, while also building on what he learned bike-packing the United Kingdom at GBDuro.
Morton is taking on the Colorado Trail aboard the Cannondale Scalpel, the same bike he rode at Leadville. The bike is equipped with Vittoria Mezcal tires, set up tubeless. A SRAM Eagle 10-50 cassette gives him a huge range of gearing options in the back, with a 32-tooth chainring up front.
“The 32 is probably on the bigger side, but I figure once I get down that slow I’ll just be better off walking anyway,” Morton says. “I’m sticking with the 32 because I know it really well.”
In contrast to his racing rig for Leadville, however, Morton’s bike on the Colorado Trail is fully loaded with everything he needs to traverse the Colorado high country for long stretches without restocking.
"That's the biggest thing: committing to it."
A Rapha roll bag on the front of Morton’s bike serves as his primary storage option, while small bags on his top tube and saddle provide space for tools, readily accessible food, and electronics.
“In GBDuro I used two bags, one on the front and one in the back,” Morton explains. “I’m trying to get away with just the front one because I’m trying to keep some weight off the bike.”
A head lamp will pair with his bike lights to keep the path ahead illuminated whenever Morton wants to press on into the dark. When he does set up camp in the wilderness, Morton will rely on no more than a Sea to Summit sleeping bag and an emergency bivvy from Sol. It’s a minimalist set-up, but one he is opting for based on experience.
“I learned at GBDuro that if you’re sleeping at the side of the trail it’s not really comfortable anyway,” Morton says. “You’re better off just spending the 10 minutes getting your bag out finding a more comfortable spot.”
The bag space that might have been used to make him more comfortable at night is instead packed with ways to overcome any mechanical issues he might face along the way.
“For spares, I have two tubes, two CO2 canisters, a pump, plugs, a patch repair kit, a multi-tool, boots for the tires, and a spare chain,” he says. “I’m just carrying the whole chain because I’ll just feel better knowing I have that—I’d rather have a chain than a sleeping mat.”
With a do-it-all bike and no shortage of supplies to keep it rolling, Morton expects to be able to tackle for whatever the Trail throws his way thanks to the gear he has along for the ride. Getting to that point took planning and research, but with his equipment squared away, he was able to sleep soundly the night before rolling out knowing the he was ready for the task at hand.
Fortunately, before he started his journey, Morton also found a few minutes to offer up some key tips for aspiring bike-packers. If Morton’s adventures have you looking into bike-packing for yourself, here are three pieces of advice from the man himself.
1. Commit to it
Bike-packing can be hard, but committing to your mission can be the key to taking you where you want to go. If you are all-in from the moment you start preparing, the execution will be a lot easier out on the road – or whatever surface you happen to be on.
“If you decide you want to do it, it’s actually quite straightforward,” Morton says. “From the outside in it can look quite intimidating but it’s not once you decide to do it, and do you research. That’s the biggest thing: committing to it.”
2. Know your kit
Bike-packing and gear go hand-in-hand, and clothing is a key part of the equation. The right get-up can be the difference between a long, successful experience and a short, frustrating one. Morton will take on his Colorado Trail journey, for instance, with a wool undershirt and packing wool arm and leg warmers and a beanie. The material’s versatility will be handy as he faces very hot temperatures in the daytime and frigid ones at night.
“Know your kit, your clothing, very well. Know what it does do and what it doesn’t, so that you know what to bring and how to wear it,” Morton says.
“I really like the wool stuff but I also know that if it rains a lot you can get into trouble, so you can combat that with a waterproof jacket.”
3. Find your ‘playlist’
Bike-packing adventures can be rife with challenges. Even if you have all the right layers to keep you dry during that freak rainstorm, riding through it can still be hard. For the toughest times, it helps to have a tried and true morale booster on hand, to be relied upon when absolutely necessary.
“For me it’s music, but it might be something else. A certain food, something will lift you up when you need it,” Morton says. “For me it’s about planning a good playlist that I will only let myself listen to when it’s tough.”
If you know those tough times are coming, and are prepared to meet them head-on, the challenges of the journey are all the more rewarding in the end. “You have to know that inevitably there’s going to be some hard moments,” Morton says. “You need to know what it is you’ll need to deal with that, and be accepting of the fact that that’s a part of it. That’s what makes it special.”