Starting June 3rd, 2023 I rode my bike for thousands of kilometers from Calgary to Tijuana, throughout western Canada and the US. It was a truly unique and remarkable life experience, marked by breathtaking landscapes and wildlife, with innumerable interesting encounters with amazing strangers and life-shaping experiences.
Life on a bike is simple, every day is new and filled with experiences. At the same time, you have a lot of time to think and truly enjoy your surroundings. You learn to live with the bare minimum that turns out to be just more than enough.
Part I: Calgary to Vancouver
In early 2023, inspired by my passion for bicycles and seeking adventure, I started planning this journey. I knew that once university was over I would use the time off to travel around for as long as I could. One thing led to another and after a long 3 months of planning, I took the first pedal stroke on June 3rd, 2023 at 7 am. It felt crazy to know that from that moment I would be on a bike, with a tent as a home, for the next 3 months. There was no going back and the Rockies were getting closer and closer. It took me around 26 days to cross the Canadian Rockies. 26 days alone in the wild. The route I had meticulously mapped months before went north from Calgary through Banff to Jasper. From there I cut southwest towards the Kamloops, then Lillooet, Whistler, and finally Vancouver.
For almost a month I was wandering through ancient and untouched forests, accompanied only by bears, wild elk, beavers, moose, and other incredible wildlife.
When traveling with a bike you are very exposed and the outdoors becomes your only home so some days were extremely hard, due to heavy rain, freezing temperatures, steep roads, and strong winds. But if one is persistent and doesn’t give up easily the rewards are an infinite sense of accomplishment that makes you forget all the suffering and makes you appreciate all other days even more.
Traveling alone in deserted areas of the Rockies it is also essential to plan where and when to get food. It is important to have all the gear necessary to be autonomous for 3 to 4 days, including large enough water flasks, cooking equipment, a stove, a knife, etc. It happened to me once that I had underestimated the steepness of a mountain road between Lillooet and Pemberton. I was very tired and finished almost all the food in one meal instead of 4, which left me with almost nothing for the next day. Luckily I was able to ask a friendly Swiss couple, that was driving by, for some extra food and I made it to Pemberton just in time. I then passed world-famous Whistler and following the Sea to Sky trail, I reached Squamish. Here I stayed for a day to boulder in the forest. The next day I finally arrived in Vancouver.
Vancouver to San Fransisco
After a few days of rest in Vancouver at a friend’s place, I was very happy to get back on the saddle. I missed sleeping in my tent and I missed the continuously changing landscapes you can observe when traveling on a bike. My next stop was very far ahead, I was aiming to get to the Redwood State and National Park in northern California. To get there I had to cross Washington State and Oregon. Both are incredibly beautiful but sadly my pollen allergy made life a little complicated and I was not able to fully enjoy this part of the coast. Nevertheless, there were some incredible scenes and I met many cool bikepackers, since the west coast is relatively well-equipped for biking. I remember Washington State being very, almost unbearably, hot while the Oregon Coast was covered in dense fog and therefore very cold. After I think three long weeks of continuous cycling I finally arrived in California where I rested in the Jeddiah Smith Redwood State Park for two days. There I observed with admiration these prehistoric trees that reach over 100 meters tall and can grow for thousands of years. They get so old that their scientific name is “Sequoia sempervirens”, which literary means immortal. The next week heading toward San Francisco I passed through all four National and State Parks with each more impressive than the other. These trees I like to define as “monuments of time”.
Throughout this part of the trip, I needed to eat a lot of protein since I was cycling an average of 90km a day. My main meals consisted of rice, beans, and two cans of tuna, which together made around 140g of protein. For dinner, I then heated up two packs of instant nuddles.
San Fransico to Tijuana
I stayed in San Francisco, for four days to rest, which where more than necessary. I visited some good family friends and was able to take their car all the way to Yosemite to take a look at those immense and unique granite rock formations. Well rested I then left San Francisco heading south towards the infamous Big Sur NP, together with a friend from my hometown who joined for this last part of the trip. Having someone to talk and laugh with was beautiful after 2 months on my own.
We had just passed by the long beach in Monterrey when we were warned that the street to Big Sur was closed due to a landslide. We decided to go check it out as far as we could and then cycle back to Salinas and take a train from there. Los Angeles was getting closer, through the train we skipped around 200km. We arrived in Venice Beach 3 days earlier than planned and decided that we would use that extra time to reach Tijuana, Mexico which lay just about 300km more south. Traveling together you motivate each other and some days we easily cycled more than 100km. The coast was getting flatter, the streets longer. We reached Mexico on the 5th of August 2023 concluding this incredible adventure.
My Bikepacking Gear
Now lets discuss the gear I used. For this adventure I was able to get the sponsorship of Patagonia and SilverAnt. Of course everyone knows Yvon Chouinard’s Patagonia but SilverAnt is a much younger outdoor company.
The reason for reaching out to them is because I wanted ultralight gear that would reduce the overall weight of bike. With some sections of my journey having steep elevation I knew I needed lightweight outdoor gear that is both functional and versatile.
After reaching out to SilverAnt I received two large 1.5 litre titanium water bottles, a hipflask, the 3-piece titanium cutlery set, and the 2-piece titanium cookware set.
The 1.5 litres flasks were a lifesaver during the extremely hot days and my trusty titanium cooking set had to endure 2 meals every day.
I remember while crossing Washington State, temperatures would reach 37 degrees Celsius and I was drinking around 3 to 4 litres a day. Since refill stations were limited and hydration very important, it was essential to have large flasks to never run out of water. I also remember dropping one while riding downhill on an especially rocky dirt road and the flask was just fine after the impact. Overall very durable and lightweight, easy to clean, and comfortable to use. I also made use of the titanium tent stakes/pegs and the already mentioned cooking set regularly and both were handy, well-designed, and durable which makes them sustainable as well, since I did not use or buy any plastic bottles, forks, or plates for the entire duration of the trip.
After 75 days and more than 4000km of cycling, I can say that traveling by bike on my own and with others was a truly unique life experience. Living in the wild and overcoming difficult situations makes you grow and you learn a lot.
Wandering through ancient and untouched forests in the Canadian Rockies and the Pacific Coast, shaped and abraded over centuries by the strong and persistent waves and currents of the ocean, made clear how important the conservation and protection of these precious and fragile ecosystems is.
So I can just highly recommend anyone to grab their bike and even for just a few days go out, explore, and just appreciate all our home planet has to offer.
About the Writer
Moritz Gebhard, born in Milan in 2001, is currently an architecture student at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). Between 2022 and 2023 he studied at the Toronto Metropolitan University in Canada, and once the academic year was over, he left on his bikepacking journey. The bike took him through some of our planet's most important natural parks, which protect vital and unique ecosystems. From the beginning, the objective of the trip was to document, inspire, and put a value on biking, a more conscious type of travel, and on the beauty of our planet. Often we don't understand the importance of undertaking such a journey when we are free and in the prime of our youth. Too often along the way, Moritz heard from those he met, with regret and nostalgia, that they had not undertaken similar journeys when they had the chance.
He therefore dedicates this article and the book he is writing to his and the younger generations that he hopes to inspire.
This article is written by our ambassador Moritz Gebhard, with edits by Shaun Littlewood.