When the idea for a long-term winter cycling trip was born, the first question that arose was “where do we want to go?” After comparing bikepacking routes to pinpoint the perfect combination of weather, scenery, and adventure, we settled on two locations on opposite sides of the globe: Nepal and Patagonia. The second question was “what bikes should we use?” When considering the remoteness of the areas we’d be riding and brutal terrain, an obvious choice rose to the top: The Tumbleweed Prospector; with its expedition rated steel frame, clearance for plus tires, a surplus of mounts, and built with the indestructible Rohloff Speedhub. We ordered two full bikes built by Daniel to ride on our four month bikepacking sabbatical.
After a few local test runs in the Pacific Northwest, we packed our bikes and traveled to Nepal. Our goal was to complete the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas. Traditionally a trekking route, the jeep track paralleling the trail for all but the highest 20 miles provided access to the circuit to ambitious bikepackers. We rode out of Kathmandu to the bus station to get to Besisahar. We reluctantly hoisted our pristine new Tumbleweeds up to the teen bus boy standing on the roof of the charter bus who flopped them on top of one another, tying them down with frayed ropes. Eight bumpy hours later and a lot of peeking out the back window expecting to witness bike carnage, we arrived at the start of the circuit unscathed.
The first half of the circuit involved us mostly pushing our Tumbleweeds up steep jeep tracks, small foot paths, a dozen flights of stairs, and eventually over Thorong La Pass at 17,800ft. On the downhill, the bikes navigated washboard, mud, and pot holes with ease. Our bikes were the perfect steeds for the beaten path. From Nepal, we spent three months in Chile and Argentina, biking pavement, gravel, and a swamp with no mechanical issues. Back in the Pacific Northwest, we continually take our Tumbleweeds on single-track mountain biking trails and multi-day routes. We love our bikes and continue to take them out to the trails time and time again over our gravel bikes. They emphasize the joy of the untaken road, with the peace of mind that they are capable of enduring the worst conditions alongside us.
What's your favorite thing about bikepacking?
(Jess) Being able to travel great distances while still stopping to smell the flowers, camp among the stars, and carry all the camera gear. I also love that it can be such an independent or social activity. The community in bikepacking is truly special.
Knowing what you know now, what piece of advice would you give yourself when you started?
A leather saddle and a well-fit bike will change your life! A lot of our cycling friends were surprised that we spent four months riding our tumbleweeds without padded shorts. The saddles were just so comfortable for all-day riding. Also, don’t let a mink steal your only titanium spork while trapped in a tent in a rainstorm in South America.
What aspects of your Tumbleweed product(s) have enabled your bikepacking journey?
(Jess) My Tumbleweed Prospector has been excellent at bridging the gap between a full-suspension mountain bike and gravel touring. We cruised washboarded roads in South America with ease, and quickly outpaced our road-touring friends when the tumbleweeds navigated muddy singletrack and river crossings. We recently spent a month in Arizona, taking our Tumbleweeds on single-day mountain biking trips cruising blues with ease, and bikepacking in the Tonto National Forest on mostly gravel roads. I am really happy with my suspension fork, and Chris enjoys his fully rigid model.