Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400, 2015 edition

The second edition of the Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400 rolls out from the Hyde Park neighborhood in Boise, Idaho at 6:00am on the morning of Wednesday, September 9th.  India and I will be among the 60-70 starters.  I rode the first edition last year on a whim and a prayer with assistance from the folks at Bike Touring News.  If you missed them, check out my posts about packing and planning for the 2014 ride.  This year’s approach will be pretty similar.  It was a pretty wild ride and led me down a lot of mental rabbit holes.  Afterward, I spent some time sifting the ashes from the journey and penned a retrospective.

India and I resolved to ride the route together this year and set about achieving that goal many months ago.  There were plenty of obstacles in our way, India’s need for a bikepacking-capable mountain bike high among them.  When the right frame turned up secondhand, we knew it was on!  Since then, we’ve ridden many miles, purchased, improved or repaired key pieces of gear and spent hours scheming, planning and revising our approach to this big ride.

Despite our best-laid plans, we can’t prevent Mother Nature from doing whatever she wants.  In this case, she saw fit to rip out a good portion of the route east of Featherville along the South Fork of the Boise River.  A late summer thunderstorm caused one of the river’s feeder streams to overflow its banks and carve a new channel straight through the road bed.  A stop through Featherville is one of the highlights of the route and the South Fork road is a mellow, gradually uphill warmup before the nastiness of the Dollarhide climb.  We were hoping a suitable trail or portage could be constructed but the extent of the damage was too great.  Riders would have been forced to scramble across an unstable boulder field or ford the cold, swift and deep river channel.  A reroute was the only sensible option.  In this part of the state, the rugged topography severely limits road construction and there is no short or easy way around this washout.  Thus, we will detour far to the south, adding 17 miles and some significant climbing to our first day out of Boise.

f'villerdwashout

Featherville Road Washout Carnage. Photo by Norb DeKerchove.

Nevertheless, we still intend to make the revised 417-mile round trip in less than four days and return to Boise by the evening of Saturday the 12th.  This will not be easy.  We have done our best to prepare for the realities of this ride but there will be circumstances we can’t predict.  The washout on the Featherville road will only be the first of many innumerable setbacks along the way.

However, we are resolved to enjoy ourselves out there.  We aren’t riding to set a record or push ourselves beyond the limits of endurance.  We’re riding because we love to ride and because there is no better way to explore the world around you than on a bicycle.  We’re planning on eating good food, sleeping good sleep and making the most of our time out on the trail.  This short video I put together from a recent overnighter captures our approach pretty well.

If you’re interested, here is our rough plan for the ride:

  • Day 1 : Boise to Five Points Campground, 133.5 miles.
  • Day 2 : Five Points to 4th of July Creek, 88.5 miles.
  • Day 3 : 4th of July to Deadwood Reservoir, 111 miles.
  • Day 4 : Deadwood to Boise, 82 miles.

If you’d like to follow along, there are lots of ways to follow this year’s race.

  • Trackleaders.com : Watch the dots move on the map!  It is like Pac-Man in super-slow-motion!  We are sharing a SPOT tracker and are listed as India&Ryan King.
  • MTBcast.com : Listen to podcast coverage of the ride (or “race” for some people) featuring riders’ phoned-in reports from the field.  Phone service is severely limited along the route so we may or may not call in but there should be some interesting content here.
  • Instagram : Follow India @piecruster for photographic updates where possible.

With less than 24 hours to go until the start, I can speak for both of us in saying that we’re ready to get out there and start riding!  All the planning and preparing is done.  All that is left is to turn the pedals.

P1170812

Smoke ‘n’ Fire preparation: pump service, fresh rubber and a hot grill.

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