Cat 5 Bikepackers

“Yeah…you won’t need that either.”

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This is Jay Petervary’s garage in early July. Our clothes, body products, maintenance and repair kits, water filters, and sleep systems…everything had been laid out to discuss what we’d take to the Silk Road Mountain Race. And the recurring phrase we heard? “You won’t need that.”

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Jay won SRMR last year in its inaugural edition, but aside from that, he’s racked up 25 years of experience in bikepacking and adventure racing. Ernie and I came to Idaho to learn from the best. And Jay is definitely a category of his own. It was quickly apparent we were Cat 5’s. A couple of roadies, we just signed ourselves up for one of the hardest self-supported races on the planet…with zero experience. I must’ve laid aside at least 10-12 items, as he explained how they were not essential to reaching the finish line quickly…I also was accumulating a checklist of items we hadn’t even thought of…but would definitely need.

Throughout the next few days, we learned more about Jay’s processes, or as he calls them, “systems”. We minimized our gear, then logged some long hours on the bike putting things into practice.

But the golden nuggets were in the dialogue. Jay is incredibly open to helping others, and “story time with Jay” (as we coined it later) became my favorite part of the trip. This guy is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to this sport.

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One of the things I highly underestimated was self-care. When it comes to bike packing, I think about being tough — about ignoring pain and pushing through. That creates the mentality that I just have to “put up with” discomfort…and Jay explained that’s not the case. Preventative self-care…from head to toe…is essential for logging huge days on the bike. When I say self-care, I mean the little things: sunscreen, getting warm clothes on BEFORE you get cold, addressing the knee twinge that’s coming from your cleat placement, stopping to fix things before they become worse…basically it’s the process of thinking one step ahead of where you are now, and anticipating what you can do to either make up time, or speed up your recovery.

You’re in one of two places…on the bike, or off the bike — and you have to make the most of both to be efficient and save time. Self-care early on, means time saved in the long haul.


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Another main take home was pacing. Ernie and I are both roadies to the core, and we know how to push hard...for limited amounts of times. A 3 hour road race…we’ll leave it all out there. However, Jay said you simply can’t ride that way in a multi-day bike packing event. We worked a lot on strategizing for pacing, and taking the edge off the pace if that means you can keep pedaling several hours longer. It’s about being careful to NOT go in the red. I’m not sure we have that dialed yet…but we’re working on it.

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Before we landed at Jay’s place, he emailed and said, “Grab this map of Kyrgyzstan,” from mapscompany.com

The night before we left to ride, we pulled out the map and talked through the major legs of the race. There is something rewarding about hard copy maps. Let’s face it: SIRI won’t be able to tell us how to get to the next place, so we’re learning the route and committing to memory the major points of resupply, mountain passes, river crossings, and border checkpoints. I’ll continue making notes as we get closer and will have a “cheat sheet” with the bullet point items. It’s an important part of our prep and our decision making processes while out there racing.

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One more thing we learned from Jay…don’t forget to stop and be thankful for where you are. Sure, it’s hard to do 12 hour days on the bike…but not in the grand scheme of things. It’s a privilege to be out exploring the world and pushing limits. Jay encouraged us to take our phones to Kyrgyzstan. When I asked “Why, if there’s no service,” he replied, “To take pictures!”


Ernie and I walked away from this experience with so much knowledge. While we still are super green, we are infinitely more prepared than before we landed in Idaho.

This week, we’ve been geeking out on our fit, changing our packing style, ordering lighter versions of things, and continuing to creep on Jay Petervary’s instagram account to see what he’s doing :)