The Bikeraft Guide Sneak Peak – Roman Dial’s Foreword
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While rafts are truly ancient, the bicycle as we know it is only about a century old. What makes the bike and the raft so magic is that they improve our means of transport, relying solely on wind, gravity, and the work of our own bodies for propulsion. By putting the raft and bike together they offer an all-terrain freedom that’s both efficient and easy on the Earth.
The Bikeraft Guide shows you how to match the two. Packed with crazy fun stories of bikerafting adventures from around the world by a collection of storytellers who independently discovered the bike and boat combination, it also usefully informs us on how to be safe and aware at the same time.
As an early experimenter who combined packrafts with mountain bikes, I find reading about the cast of characters’ experiences exciting, entertaining and inspirational. Lizzy and Doom have done a great job ferreting out all the history. But that’s to be expected.
Like many relationships today, our relationship began on-line where Doom’s outdoor artsy blog, “Republic of Doom,” about bikes in red desert dirt caught my eye. He was putting together wild adventures with fatbikes, packrafts and big rock towers, then telling the stories with style in pearl-snap plaid and black and white photography. About the same time I’d found Doom, I’d started another online relationship with gravel-grinding, snow-slogging, man-about-endurance Mike Curiak, who’d got my attention with his self-contained, self-supported 1000-mile ride from Anchorage to Nome. I’d just bought a fatbike, specifically to do bikerafting trips on the beach in the style of Alaskan adventure artists Eric Parsons and Dylan Kentch. MC confessed to me that he’d bought a packraft and within minutes I emailed a pitch that we all combine our talents to complete the rugged and wild southern half of Alaska’s Lost Coast.
Eric and Dylan had pedaled the most heroic of bicycle tours in the new millennium when they’d taken their bikes to the storm-tossed Gulf of Alaska to pedal, paddle, and push several hundred miles of the northern Lost Coast between Yakutat and Cordova.
For a minute consider what those two did. They went to the longest, wildest beach between Anchorage and Baja with fat-tired bikes and stubby, five-pound inflatable rafts. Their intent was to ride out of Yakutat (a small town in southeast Alaska you can only get to by air or by boat), paddle down a long fjord, then cross in front of an actively calving glacier, paddling five to ten miles of open water subject to glacial winds, big tides and icebergs in the stormiest gulf in North America. And that was just the start.
There would be crashing surf on boulders too big to ride or even push their bikes across. There’d be bad brush. More big water crossings. More beaches. More rivers. More rain and wind and lonely empty wilderness. Their brief teaser video clips went as viral as a bikeraft video could go in the cycling and packrafting world of 2008. But it inspired a handful of us to do something similar, hopefully without the chronic wetness.
After my pitch to this motley crew to meet up and ride south from Yakutat, Doom responded first. “How can I say no?” he asked. I already liked this guy and we hadn’t even met face to face.
Soon Dylan was in. MC played a bit hard-to-get, but once Eric—arguably the one who most popularized bikes and boats together—had agreed, the trip reached its tipping point. The rest was sunny riding on beaches, heinous pushing through bushes and a quick cruise on a couple tidal cycles through the Inside Passage to Glacier Bay with bikes bound to packraft bows.
I hit it off best with Doom on that trip. Tall and lanky, with an easy smile behind a stylish beard, Doom’s bike handling, quick wit and willingness to carry my front wheel on the longer paddles across big open water crossings (of which there were many), the group tent and pound of coffee made him a fast friend.
Besides Doom’s willingness to pack my weight on his boat, he was an artist in the saddle. He skipped across log-studded beaches and scampered over wave-wet bedrock. Good humor and helpfulness bring good karma, and Doom was rewarded with a series of delights. One stand-out was when a humpback whale surfaced within yards of his boat, exhaling its broccoli breath.
Collapsed around the campfire after a long day of riding, boiling up water for hot drinks and dinner, Doom told stories about the desert, about his single-track single-speed racing days, about how he came to be known as “Dr. Doom”, and more. Here was the kind of guy I’d want on an any wilderness adventure: helpful, fast, funny and fun with a bunch of good stories to tell.
The Bikeraft Guide is just as helpful, funny and full of great stories as Doom. It’s a book that will get you out there with your bike and your boat, a pairing that seems unlikely until you try it, and realize that two of humanity’s greatest achievements go even farther together.