‘Despair on the Colorado Trail’: A Bikepacker’s First FKT Attempt

Payson McElveen had never gone out for a bikepacking race before his recent decision to attempt an FKT.

In September, McElveen set out to best the 3-day and 21-hour unsupported bikepacking FKT on the Colorado Trail. The epic 530-mile route runs from McElveen’s backyard in Durango all the way to Denver, with only a few sections different from the traditional on-foot route (as bikes aren’t allowed in wilderness areas).

payton mcelveen bikepacking gear

The pro MTB racer and Durango resident has racked up national titles in single-speed and gravel races. But never before has he bikepacked for time.

The solo bikepacking FKT push was just McElveen, his trusty Trek steed, and a healthy supply of CLIF bars in a race against the clock.

The route required McElveen to tackle 75,000 feet of climbing over the 530 miles, plus obstacles in terrain and weather. Even in September, he encountered unexpected snow.

“On paper, this thing scares me,” McElveen said before the attempt. “It’s one of the hardest bikepacking routes there is.”

He’s right. It’s a grueling and life-changing bikepacking effort, compressed into less than 4 days.

It sounds like a rollercoaster. And it was. Luckily for us, McElveen documented his attempt here so we can relive his wild ride.

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Mary Murphy

Mary Murphy is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and serves as the leader of Lola Digital Media’s DEI Committee.

She has been writing about hiking, running, climbing, camping, skiing, and more for seven years, and has been on staff at GearJunkie since 2019. Prior to that, Mary wrote for 5280 Magazine in Denver while working as an outdoor instructor teaching climbing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and mountain biking at Avid4Adventure. Based in Denver, Colorado, Murphy is an avid hiker, runner, backpacker, skier, yogi, and pack-paddleboarder.

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