So you have a van built up, a bunch of gear, time, and are burnin’ for adventure. Full-time travel is a different experience and requires a different approach. Before cutting the cord on place-based living, we had a couple of options for vacations:
Weekend Warrior – At the end of the week, jump in the van and bomb to a destination and commit to a recreation siege, fitting as much playtime in as possible in a long (3-5 day) weekend. This approach is heavy on resource consumption as there is typically a lot of driving in a short period of time. After a few years of this, we adopted some criteria to ensure that this type of travel gave a good return on investment: The Funhog Ratio. To be worth the expenditure of time and resources, we ensured that there was at least a 2:1 ratio of funhoggin (bike, boat, hike, etc) to total round trip drive time.
Destination/Zone Exploration – A much longer commitment (1-2 weeks) to a destination ride zone or cluster of ride zones such as Bend/Oakridge Oregon. These destinations tended to be further away and a much bigger commitment to get to from home base. With a larger amount of time, we can usually bird-dog good camp spots, find our fav restaurants/watering holes, and ride most or all of the trails in a particular ride zone.
The Shift: Full-time Mtb Travel
Full-time travel has an entirely different purpose, time allocation, and travel rate. We’ve opted for the approach of squeezing the most experience out of a place before moving on. We like to call this the “slow roll”. Every ride zone varies on how long it takes to get to know the town, ride all the trails, find our favorite watering holes, find what/where services are available (water, garbage, laundry, showers, vehicle maintenance, etc). Long-term travel is no longer a vacation, it’s a lifestyle.
Since MtbNomads primarily motivated by linking together mountain bike ride zones, there are a few things we look for that have an influence on how long we’ll opt to stick around for a bit rather than just slow-roll through.
The Ride Zone
First and foremost, a ride zone must have a good variety of trails (DH, all-mtn, XC, backcountry, town loops, etc). A good ride zone should have at least 50 miles of trail within less than a 15-minute drive of town. The higher the concentration within or close (within 10-15 minutes) to town, the better! Having at least 50 miles affords at least 2-3 days of riding. The # of days could be more depending on the configuration and connectivity of the trail system and repeats of stoopid fun trails. Now these are ride days and would not include additional days for hitting the beach, river, or doing #vanlife chores. Yeah, we all periodically gotta go do laundry, shower, and buy beer & food since we can’t put it off until we “go home”.
Second, nomads need a place to finish the day, make dinner, and have your evening cocktails. This could be a developed campground (US Forest Service, State/Provincial Park, County, etc) or dispersed camping on USFS, BLM or other government managed lands. A good way to find these sites in to utilize the land status coverage on the Trailforks app (which we hope you are using for all your bike trail research and navigation). The most coveted situation is the “camp&ride” where we can park in the middle of a trail system and start/finish rides at the van. And, if you’re up for the full-on ‘unicorn’ ride zone, look for a camp&ride that is within or in close proximity to town so a short drive or ride puts you in town for dinner, beer run, or other nefarious deeds to be done.
Third, services and support for the nomads. It’s great to take a break from the vanlife cooking and hit up a coffee shop, fresh restaurant, hang at the local brewery, or catch a band at a local venue. Since we’re living and traveling in agile tiny houses, we generally need to resupply more frequently. It can also take a bit of time to find proper sources for resupply, whether its liquor, groceries, hot showers, wi-fi, water, garbage drop, or van-related repair/maintenance. The unicorn for service and supply is a community center, pool, or gym that has cheap, hot, un-timed showers. We’ve got an outside shower for the DarkStarVan, but damn, nothing hits the reset button like a proper shower and squeeky clean shady bits.
Last but certainly not the least, it is so awesome to drop into a town with a local ride community. Local beta is king, whether it is for trail conditions, what/where/when to ride trails, shop or group rides, shuttle setup, or what are the best watering holes for PRBs (postride beers). The LBS is typically one of the best portals for this. The three criteria we mention above are pretty much ride zone character and infrastructure, the community is what makes a place a memorable bike destination you want to tell your friends about and return again and again.
As a preview, a few of our favorite ride zones include Moab UT, McCall ID, Bend OR, Prescott AZ, and Steamboat CO.
Part of the slow roll is self supported travel. We’ve pulled together our favorite durable, compact, and functional gear to Amazon Idea Lists for the Kitchen, Organization, Backcountry Travel, and Camp life. Happy Travels!
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