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I remember hearing the term “S24O” from a biking friend and mentor years ago. He described a Sub-24 hour overnight is a down n dirty quick overnight trip on a bike, where riders just strap stuff on their rigs wherever they can, and ride somewhere and back within a 24 hour timeframe.
This concept fascinated me, drove many daydreams and for one reason or another, didn’t come to fruition until now. I tried to imagine a minimal set up, sleeping under a tarp, choking down ramen and gas station food, and peddling as far as I could within 24 hours. A neck injury in 2019 kept me off my bike for a good while (or made it painful to ride) and this year, after some adjustments, I’m back in the saddle! woop!
As a longtime commuter and backpacker, this weekend’s trip was all I had hoped it would be (minus the ramen and gas station food), and clicked some things into place that I hope will lead to longer trips and inspire you to go on one of your own! Read to the bottom if you want to see my detailed gear list, route and what I learned along the way.
LENGTH 57 miles (24 on dirt/gravel)
DIFFICULTY easy, flat with many connector trails
DATE VISITED June 3-4, 2022
MAIN FEATURES The route to the Carver Park Bike-in sites is mainly on trail or in bike lanes and is a great first-time bikepacking destination near the Twin Cities Metropolitan area. The route I took passed through the Luce Line and Minnetonka Regional Trail Systems and landed me directly in the park.
Situated on the western edge of the Twin Cities, Carver Park Reserve is home to Lowry Nature Center, Grimm Farm Historic Site and King Waterbird Sanctuary. Here, you may spot trumpeter swans, osprey, mink, white-tailed deer, barred owls and a variety of waterfowl and songbirds. Explore year-round activities that take advantage of winding trails, rolling wooded terrain and interconnected lakes and marshes.https://www.threeriversparks.org/location/carver-park-reserve
The Lake Auburn campground is a quiet, non-electric loop with access to the lake and 29.8 miles of hiking and biking trails. I’ve hiked in just about all of the Three Rivers Parks, but haven’t visited this one. I didn’t spend a lot of time exploring the park on this trip, and really just wanted to see what it felt like to ride my bike to the campsite, enjoy it and then ride back home. We’ll be back to explore on bike, foot, camper and boat!
55 of the 58 campsites at Lake Auburn Campground are car/tent campsites, 2 are walk-in, and one is non-reservable and designated for drop-in bike camping.
The bike camping site holds 10 tents or hammocks and includes 4 hammock stand/posts. I checked reservations before my trip out of curiosity and the park was full, but still very quiet.
The bike-in site is organized into two shared areas with a large cement fire ring, picnic table and benches in each area. It is near the water spigot, pit toilets and has one rack for bike storage. The modern campsite also includes dedicated trash and recycling cans and a bear box for securing food. A big racoon showed up right after dark and it was a good reminder to secure all food and smellables in the bear box when unattended.
Water note: the well water in the spigot runs slow and tastes pretty rusty. If you don’t care for the taste, water flavoring might be a good idea to bring along.
I’m not a fast rider, never have been. I like to take my time and absorb my surroundings. So I was pretty satisfied with my 8+ mile hour pace.
Primary trails included the Medicine Lake Regional Trail, Luce Line, Minnetonka Regional Trail, with residential roads and bike lanes to connect as needed.
I’m also not a mountain biker. It’s too jiggly for my brain after a TBI and neck injury. My bike has only seen city streets and paved trails. Along the way, I discovered that around half of my route (at least 10 to 12 miles each way) would be gravel or crushed limestone aggregate. I wasn’t sure how that was going to go, but my bike and brain handled it great after a little adjusting.
My 28 mile route to camp was more scenic and enjoyable than the 29 mile ride home. On my way home I encountered a trail closure and my phone gps detoured me, skipping most of the Luce Line, routing me through neighborhoods and spitting me out at the Ridgedale mall (?). I rode the frontage road of 394 and took residential roads the rest of the way home. Lesson learned: don’t rely on gps, I could have figured out a nicer route home with a little effort.
I don’t generally enjoy camping solo-I’ve done it, but I’d much rather be with people. However, I was bent on getting a bikepacking trip under my belt, and decided Friday was the day, with or without company. I loaded up my bike after my last meeting for the day, told my husband my trip plans and started pedaling west. By 6pm, I set up camp, built a little fire, ate dinner, painted a little painting…all alone in my sweet campsite, and I was pretty dang proud of myself.
Around 8pm, 3 people rolled in from Woodbury (40+ miles!). They took the second camping area. Then around 8:30 a family of 3 rolled up – I showed them an area where they could camp by me since I only took up a little patch. As we conversed, we realized that we knew some of the same people and became instant friends. All three of them were artists! We chatted and laughed by the campfire and their young son and I painted and drew in each other’s sketchbooks, it’s like it was meant to be. Seriously. Of all people to roll in…a family of artists!
I wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed that my solo camping trip lasted 2 hours. We had a blast and I guess you never know who you will meet at camp. I really appreciated getting to know this wonderful family and hope to see them again!
How I Prepped for My First Trip
As I mentioned before, I was a pretty regular bike commuter before the pandemic, and as an avid backpacker, have worked to have a good balance of lightweight and comfortable gear over the last 10 years. I also identify with the term “comfort light”. Combining these skill sets made the experience feel natural, but really fresh at the same time.
I made some updates to my bike that are highlighted in the next section, and have been trying to use my bike as a primary transportation to save on gas and physically condition myself. I ride to the store, to the office (occasionally) and even did a 25 mile round trip to church a few weeks ago, just to see how the distance felt. With each trip, I increase the load I carry on my bike and distance – just like training for a backpacking trip. Getting accustomed to riding more frequently and running errands prepared me mentally and physically for my adventure and has been really fun.
Bike Set Up
I started commuting to work on a 1980’s Nishiki Bombardier Mountain Bike with rear panniers. Upgraded in 2019 to a Surly Pack Rat with the goal of adding bikepacking and more errand/grocery shopping to my biking. Here are some of the features and changes I made that I think made this ride work well:
- Bike: the Pack Rat is designed to be a front load hauler
- Handlebars: originally came with drop bars, neck said “Heck NO!”. Updated to Surly Open Bar set with new shifters this spring and added comfy cork grips. I love this change and kind of feel like Mary Poppins now.
- Stem: Switched to an adjustable bike stem to get the handlebars in a more upright position and get the fit “just right” Neck says “ahhh, thank you”
- Rack: Surly 24 Pack Front Rack- this came standard on my bike and was updated with security brackets after a recall. My wider handlebar set keeps the load steady and I prefer the feel of a front load to rear panniers. Max weight 30 lbs. I stay well below that.
- Seat: Upgraded to a brooks leather saddle in 2019, it’s formed and broken in well now and I had no saddle area discomfort on this ride with padded shorts. It’s weird how comfy this hard leather seat is.
- Pedals: My Shimano clipless pedals work for flat, paved commuting, but I might eventually swap them out to larger half and half clipless/platform pedals with more surface area and versatility.
All gear in this photo fit in a day pack or on my front rack. Worn gear is shown over on the right. Not shown in the photo: bike gloves, food and frame bag. My day pack weighed 13.5 lbs not including crocs or my sleeping pad – so I’m estimating 15 lbs or so on the front, 18 total including the food and water stored on the frame.
|Rock N Roll Sleeveless Bike Jersey||add sleeves next trip|
|Pearl Izumi Bike Jacket||converted to vest, nice back pocket|
|Bra: Target All in Motion||doubles as a swimsuit|
|REI Sahara Shade Hoodie||started in this and around camp|
|Pair of Thieves extra long wicking boxers||tested under roomier bike shorts|
|Novara padded Bike shorts w/ yoga waist||These are old, but comfy|
|Smartwool zero cushion ankle socks||sturdy, wear multiple days|
|Zensah Calf Compression Sleeves||Sun protection, muscle recovery|
|Shimano mountain bike w/ spd||5+ years old, lace up-built like tanks|
|Sole Cork Insoles||added these last minute-felt great!|
|Bontrager Specter Wavecel Helmet||Updated Bern-comfy and light|
|Padded Gloves||old school-leather and crocheted cotton|
|Kula cap||quick dry, under helmet sun protection|
|Cheap safety glasses my sister gave me||surprisingly comfy – no dust or pollen|
|REI Rain Jacket||brought so it wouldn’t rain…|
|3F Rain Skirt||plan worked..it didn’t rain|
|Kari Traa Merino half zip||put on dry right before bed|
|Kari Traa Merino bottoms||worn as camp pants with my skirt|
|Pair of Thieves extra long boxer briefs||lightweight and breezy|
|EE Torrid Apex Jacket||did not wear-but always bring it|
|Borealis Merino Tee Shirt||did not wear on this trip,love this shirt|
|Purple Rain Adventure Skirt||pockets + discreet changing at camp|
|Chenille socks||comfy with crocs, like a soft hug|
|Camp shoes||croc-type slip ons|
|EE Hooligan Beanie||stays in my jacket|
|Buff||doubles as bandana, multipurpose|
|Granite Gear Day Pack||Approx. 22-25L-strapped to my rack|
|Topeak Cargo net||Great for errands and smooth roads|
|Blackburn Outpost frame bag||1 day of food, first aid kit, sunscreen|
|Blackburn MTB seat bag||tube, levers, toolkit, seat cover|
|Trash Compactor Bag||brought to cover gear bag if needed|
|Opsack – odor proof food bag||did not know about bear box.|
Sleeping & Shelter
|Enlightened Equipment Paladin Tarp||Lightweight shelter|
|Enlightened Equipment Recon Bivy||Keeps the bugs away|
|Z Lite foam pad||not warm or comfy-but versatile|
|Nemo Fillo Pillow||small and comfy|
|Enlightened Equipment 10 deg Revelation||downgrade in warmer temps|
|Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Liner||did not need, bring next time|
Hydration & Cooking
|Snowpeak Titanium & DIY lid+cozy||lost my hot lips on Isle Royale|
|Snow Peak Giga Power Stove|
|Homemade insulated cozy|
|Blue long-handled spoon|
|mini bic lighter|
|iPhone w/ case|
|Anker w/ cord|
|InReach Mini||did not need-bring anyway|
|Watercolor Field Art Kit+ journal||See link for full list of supplies|
|Read more about my kit here||Backcountry Hygiene: Pee, Poop & Period like a Pro|
|Poopmoji Spacebear DCF bag||This kit comes on every trip|
|Toothbrush + toothpaste tablets|
|Dr Bronners in dropper|
|Kula Cloth||Pitstop @ Mile 12|
|Culo Clean portable bidet||Big fan|
|Diva Cup Menstrual cup|
|Back up tampons and pads||Double as first aid items|
|paper towels instead of wipes||biodegradable|
|Hike Goo Foot balm – Small||used for hiking|
|Deuce of Spaces shovel|
|Solo First Aid kit 4 days||This kit comes on every trip|
|Foot care kit|
|Sunscreen||CeraVe makes tinted natural sunscreen!|
|(4) Micropur Tabs|
|SOL Survival blanket orange/mylar 2 person|
|Swiss army classic|
|Map||used phone gps|
|Fire starting kit||used|
|pocket rain poncho|
|Sharpie w/ duct tape|
|25 ft Amsteel rope|
|Small bottle Picardin||did not need, brought anyway|
|WP Stickers x 12|
|Bike Water Bottle|
|+1 small water bottle|
|Breakfast, lunch dinner + too many snacks|
|Small Fuel Canister||Used leftover fuel|
I’ll probably do a little better job researching my route and having along a paper map. This was a local trip with cell phone and gps service and I still got re-routed.
Regarding gear, I think I can lose a couple of lbs on the next trip by bringing less cold weather gear and food. Temps were in the low 50’s at night and by a lake, and remembering being chilly on my last backpacking trip and didn’t wanna take any chances. Brought too many snacks…as usual
Wore my wool base layer at night and loved having my purple rain skirt. Having a skirt without attached shorts is a great way to do quick and discreet changes at camp especially if you are sharing space and sleeping in a tarp without doors.
I also might swap out the z lite foam pad to my inflatable lightweight big Agnes sleeping pad on the next trip. Our son’s foam pad was great for throwing over the bench to sit on but wasn’t very comfortable on my hips as a side sleeper. The pump bag for the big agnes also doubles as a drybag.
Next time I’m on gravel, I’ll probably run a little less air in the tires – it was a bumpy, brain vibrating ride, but fun all the same.
Other than these few adjustments, I feel pretty good about what I brought along and it was a fresh challenge to get to combine my day hiking, commuting and backpacking gear set ups for a new kind of adventure!
As I wrap up this post, I’m just so happy I finally got to get out on that S24O I’ve been daydreaming about. Some may read this and think that 57 miles sounds easy, some may think it sounds like a lot…some may think I brought too much or too little stuff… for me, it was a rewarding experience that feels like unlocking a new skill. It’s also given me something to feel proud of and look forward to.
I hope this post inspires you to dream up new adventures, great and small… and to get out there and learn as you go!
Have you been bikepacking, or are you itching to try your first trip? I’d love to hear about it! Drop me a note in the comments or say a little hello on the Wandering Pine FB & IG.
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