Recently, there has been some controversy around a famous rider not being recognized for a record-breaking ride on a popular bikepacking route. The film crew that covered the ride included a spouse. They took video of the ride at various places along the route, and documented the ride.
I’m not going to wade into the debate about this particular record, or this particular instance. But, I want these rules dialed back. They are currently draconian, and overbearing. Here is my explanation why.
I want to watch bikepacking videos, and that’s not going to happen unless the videos get made. I know that I’m not the only fan. I sometimes only watch them for entertainment, but sometimes the racing videos have interesting techniques or gear that can make even a recreational ride more comfortable or easier.
I want to ride cool bikes, and though I’m in the demographic that buys boutique bikes, I’m also in the demographic that buys mainstream affordable bikes. If I want those affordable bikes to meet my needs, there should be a robust market for them, that means people wanting to ride bikepacking bikes. People get excited about seeing bikepacking videos, so thy are way more likely to buy those bikes.
I recognize the people who want to make a living doing bikepacking races, I want to hear their stories, their training, their sacrifices, and their passions. That is not going to happen if nobody pays them. Whether it’s sponsorship, advertising, gear testing, or prestige, the people who are going to hand over the pay want to see something. Whether that something is a video, product exposure, goodwill, mentoring, or any other reason, it isn’t going to happen if we need to do fast rides in secret.
Bikepacking routes often cross land to which access can be restricted. Showing a couple of bikepacking videos to land managers, governments, or owners, can create a lot of reassurance that we aren’t there to destroy.
For event organizers who are trying to enlist the support of local business (who can benefit from the eating machines that pass through their town), again, a choice video or two can at least let convenience stores know to stock up on the gummy food group. In the best cases, the town businesses will recognize that a sporting event is taking place, and even if they think it’s crazy, they could at least see the potential to provide accommodations, food, or services.
Many of my relatives do not understand my passion for ultra-endurance cycling. The joy that can be seen in riders from some of the more popular videos that people have made can help others outside of bikepacking to understand the fun. Even if they never throw a leg over a bike,, the clerk in the trailside store can at least know that we’re out for a good time that doesn’t harm anyone (also understand why the 4 boxes of Oreos).
Back in the day (2002), I witnessed a video crew who were supporting their racers, and also impeding other racers in a major bikepacking race. This was an obvious violation of the self-supported ethos of the race. I obviously do not condone this. I believe this was a large part in today’s outright bans on media crews. Like many reactions, I feel this one went too far.
For those who want to maintain the “purity” of the experience, unencumbered by a film crew, then maybe there should be a special class. Just like many records have a separate single-speed class. The “monastic” class will have no media coverage, no cell phones (this was an original Great Divide Race rule), rim brakes, no suspension, only paper maps, and can only shop at stores that were established in 1965 or earlier.