Blacksburg was the last stop on our tour. We’d ridden our way through the artisanally-choked gaps and valleys of Vermont and across the slate gray gravel and hidden roads that crisscross the hills surrounding State College, PA. We had done some great riding, superb riding, world-class riding, but we hadn’t done enough swimming or trail shredding, we hadn’t properly lounged at camp or taken time to perfect our hacky sack skills. Up to this point we had been GO GO GO. No, we weren’t head down drilling, but it is very easy to underestimate the time it takes to perform a day of bikepacking. There’s the act of cooking breakfast, of breaking camp, of riding 40-60 miles, of setting up camp, of eating again, and then of going to sleep, not to mention the countless other little starts, stops, asides and ad-libs that are bound to happen. If you’re us—seven wonderfully imaginative and excitable beings—then you know this process takes ALL DAY.
So while contemplating our next ride in the charged atmosphere of a roofers convention (our digs at the Blacksburg Comfort Inn were obviously a de facto barracks/nightclub for a regiment of these burnt red workers), we decided that on this trip we would go Hub & Spoke. It is unclear whether the term Hub & Spoke is an established idiom for describing base camp-style bikepacking, but really it doesn’t matter—the important thing is that the description definitely relates to bikes and that deploying this style meant we were only had to set up camp once. So we enacted Project Hub & Spoke. 17-ish miles outside of Blacksburg we stumbled upon an unoccupied group campsite with the follow amenities:
- A big fire ring
- Running water for filtering
- Clean toilets
- A large and very comfortable grass field
- Comfortable distance from the access road
- A horseshoe pit with horse shoes
“This would be our home, from which we’d strike out on our daily adventures which included Tubing, Trail Riding, Pizza Eating, and Community Relations.”
After three days of rural Virginia hedonism we realized that the bicycle isn’t just about pushing limits. Its beauty is its function, and though it is capable of taking you to the ends of your endurance, it is equally at home riding ten miles to explore your own backyard. It was as if we were seeing adventure, bicycling, and the outdoor experience through new eyes. Had we been rushing to accrue miles simply for the purpose of accruing miles? Were we killing ourselves just to see another stretch of gravel no different than the one in front of us?
To be fair, there is a time and a place for exertion and we wouldn’t trade our hard days for the world because these hard days are often revelatory personally and socially. But by changing pace, by slowing down our rush to pedal, we discovered that when we give ourselves the time to wander and muse, allow ourselves the space to experience the world as it naturally presents itself, we find that it has always been there, cloaked in a veil of planning and drive. We realized that all it takes is a bit of time and a curious mind to find an unexpected and beautiful experience.
“The bicycle, at its most basic level, is a machine for experience and a catalyst for the unexpected. And if you want it to, it will open your eyes to possibility. As far as we’re concerned that’s as good as it can possibly get.”