image credit Pixela Pictura Films
Looking back on this year's Grand Depart
13 Nov 2022
The 2022 Grand Depart saw 37 riders line up and 21 complete their intended mileages (check out full finish listings on the results page). This year the weather was harsh: cold temps with rain every other day, some days many hours of driving rain with little reprieve. This makes for slow going on the bike and extreme wear on gear, clothes, and bodies. Congratulations to all the finishers for their endurance and self-possession!
Below are links to four ride reports, including an interview with Tatianna Wawrzynski, the new women's Fastest Known Time holder of the Vermont Super 8.
Tatianna on her FKT ride: her background, sacrifices, and pushing yourself to the edge (The Town Bicycle).
Will Savitri's detailed ride report, including gear breakdown.
Alex Getty's south lobe ride report (3x Super 8 rider).
4x Super 8 veteran Erik Nelson's take on the Montpelier Vortex.
Ryan Sarka's video of his north lobe ride.
Andrew Currier's singlespeed north lobe ride report & gear breakdown.
The 2022 Grand Depart is on!
22 March 2022
Update: We've decided to walk back the no-fly-in rule for the Super 8 this Grand Depart this year. Instead -- while we absolutely still encourage riders to travel by train or bus, or carpool -- we are asking those who choose to fly to the GD to purchase carbon offsets, either from the airline directly or from a third party vendor like Terrapass.
At the same time, we absolutely continue to encourage all riders -- especially those coming from far away -- to investigate train, bus, and carpool options. If you're open to carpooling, reach out and we might be able to put you in touch with someone coming from your area. We can also offer logistical help in/around Montpelier for riders who need a shower and a place to crash while, for example, their carpool buddy finishes up their ride.
For bus services in Vermont please find the below links:
That's all for the update. If you're curious, below is a little more in-depth explanation behind our reasoning related to all this. Our ultimate goal is to make the Grand Depart as near to carbon neutral as possible, with the hopes that this will inspire other events to promote carbon-conscious travel as well.
The decision to limit air travel stemmed from two concerns, the first of which is the climate crisis. While flying "only" represents ~3% of GHG emissions globally, it certainly represents a larger chunk of the emissions of the outdoor adventure community, which otherwise prides itself on low-impact activities. The per-passenger carbon footprint of a single round trip flight across the U.S. is roughly equivalent to: over a years' worth of switching from vegetarianism to a red meat diet, the fuel economy delta of 5 years of commuting in an SUV vs an economy car, or leaving all the lights on in a house for two-to-ten years. Flights are huge impactors, and they are easy to overlook because they happen so quickly and are marketed as the peak of convenience.
At the same time, a one-person road trip in a sprinter van across the same distance has a similar per-passenger carbon impact as a flight. Trains and buses are much greener options, but the U.S.A.'s travel infrastructure is not set up to make these options as convenient, and it may remain this way until more of us demand these options. If we are privileged enough to go bikepacking, then we are empowered to demand change.
The second concern behind our decision was the desire to introduce a soft limit to the number of participants in this event to minimize impacts on trails and other sensitive areas. Some rides use a lottery system, some rides require qualification, so we thought: why not control numbers with a no-fly-in rule instead? The result is that we found ourselves singling out and alienating individual riders. We drew very stark divisions in the community in ways we did not fully anticipate. The last thing we all need right now is another arbitrary source of polarization.
So rather than keeping a no-fly-in rule, we're asking riders who fly in to offset the impact of their flight by purchasing carbon offsets. This is nothing out of the ordinary for other "free" bikepacking grand departs in New England, where it's common to require riders to make donations before they line up.
Bikepacking events are great things that foster community and adventure. At the individual level, a bikepacking event can renew a sense of purpose, restore mental health, even inspire a big change in someone's life. These are great things, but great things come with costs. We want to acknowledge the costs without standing in the way of participation. At least not yet.
We're excited to announce Sep 23, 2022 as the date for the 5th annual Grand Depart of the Vermont Super 8 bikepacking route.
The Grand Depart will take place in Montpelier, VT on Friday, Sep 23. Exact time and location TBD. Riders have three mileage options: the 260-mile North Lobe, the 380-mile South Lobe, or the 640-mile Full 8. The route contains every kind of terrain surface you can imagine exists in the Green Mountain State, including sections that may require hike-a-bike. See full details of the route here. The route .gpx is frequently revised, and may continue to be revised up to the week before the Grand Depart.
You will need to be solely and completely responsible for your own services and support. Preparation should include ahead-of-time research to acquaint yourself with the route, with camping options and commercial resupply along the route. You need to bring enough gear to ride safely, visibly, and to stay dry and warm. We will provide you with a detailed .gpx file and some camping/resupply resources and information, but the rest is your responsibility alone.
It will be paramount for riders to set well-informed expectations and to make contingency plans for the case that expectations aren't met. You're encouraged to peruse the results listings and ride reports of previous Super 8 riders.
Super 8 riders strive to adhere to the self-supported standard common in bikepacking events around the world and described here in detail. Deviation from the self-supported standard may result in a scratch (disqualification).
To register for the Grand Depart, send a Letter of Intent to firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no entry fee. Please include the following in your letter:
Your intended mileage option
Your mailing address.
Your plan for getting to/from Montpelier. Some notes:
Traditionally we accept GD riders starting at any point along the route, including Brattleboro or Derby Line, because of the potential added convenience and decreased carbon footprint. If this interests you then please mention it in your LOI.
This year we encourage any riders traveling from out of state to carpool or take a train (Amtrak's Vermonter line goes to Montpelier).
Update: all riders flying from out of state will be required to purchase carbon offsets.
Your previous bikepacking experience (if any!). Previous bikepacking experience is not required. The Super 8 is a very challenging route, but novice riders have successfully taken it on in the past. If you are new to bikepacking, feel free to include questions in your LOI, and we'll do our best to direct you to helpful resources.
Keep the embers alive
6 Nov 2021
Results and ride reports for the 2021 Vermont Super 8 Grand Depart are in! Check out the GD page for detailed results. Here are the ride reports that rolled in this year:
image credit Pixela Pictura Films
Take on the 8 in 2021
1 Jan 2021
Join us on Friday, Sep 24 for the start of your self-supported bikepacking adventure. There will be a group start in Montpelier, but you may choose to start from Brattleboro or Derby Line, VT if it's more convenient. There are three mileage options: north lobe (260), south lobe (380) or full 8 (640 miles) of the Vermont Super 8 bikepacking route. For more information on the route, see our routes page.
This is not a group ride! Riders will be responsible for their own supplies, services, and navigation. Riders will be provided with a .gpx track file and should complete the chosen course under their own power in order to be included in the results. There is no entry fee, but riders will be encouraged to register with a satellite tracking service for the duration of their ride. To learn about other riders' past experiences on the Super 8, and to find out more about the self-supported bikepacking standards, check out the GD/ results / reports page.
The Super 8 is an extremely challenging course, but with the right expectations, preparation, gear, pacing, and mindset, riders of many skill levels can take it on. Vermont has an inclusive community of bikepackers. If you have questions about the route, you are encouraged to float them to this facebook group.
To register for the Grand Depart, send a Letter of Intent to email@example.com . Please state that you understand that you are solely responsible for your own services and support. It would also be good to know your intended mileage option and previous bikepacking experience as well.
See you in September! Maybe before then. Cheers and happy new year.
2020 Grand Depart Trip Reports
26 Dec 2020
Rob Levasseur's North Lobe ride. "I thought that I must be near the top by now but I was wrong. Each time I crested the next hill and started down, I would come around the corner and see another uphill. It seemed to go on and on.."
2020 Grand Depart: razor thin splits and one badass female finisher
1 Nov 2020
On Sep 25, nineteen riders lined up for the 3rd Grand Depart of the Vermont Super 8. 7 riders finished the North Lobe only, 2 riders finished the South Lobe only, and 3 riders finished the Full 8. Notable finishes include Erik Nelson, who set the new FKT on the North Lobe of 1:07:59, besting Jeremiah Macrae-Hawkins's 2020 time by about 10 minutes, and George Lapierre's 2020 time by about 30 minutes. Rob Janelli was the first place finisher of the South Lobe.
The highlight accomplishment of this year was Brittni Gorman's finish of the Full 8, making her the first place overall 2020 finisher as well as the first known female to complete the Full 8!
Matthew Tschiegg completed his second successful ride of the Full 8. Matt is now our only two-time full-8 finisher.
Check out the Results page to see full details. Over the coming weeks, we expect trip reports to roll in so keep your eye on our social media for updates (IG @vermontbikepackers), or check back here to see if anyone has sent in a report!
UPDATE (30 July 2020) to the Vermont Super 8 Grand Depart, scheduled for 25 Sep 2020:
The Vermont Super 8 Grand Depart (GD) will go ahead on Sep 25 only as state guidance permits. On and after Sep 25, riders will be subject to any changes to state guidelines as they occur in real time.
In order to mitigate the potential impacts that a traditional self-supported bikepacking event could have on the spread of COVID-19, all riders are encouraged to adhere to a new self-sufficient standard of bikepacking. The Super 8 GD's self-sufficient standard is defined as follows:
All restrictions of self-supported riding apply, plus:
You may not use any commercial services except campgrounds.
You may not enter any buildings.
You may resupply at your vehicle (or another neutral, non-commercial location) in Montpelier, at the center of the 8.
An exception will be made for campground bathrooms. If you are staying at a campground and the facilities are open, you should abide by the campground's rules and use those.
To summarize: self-sufficient riders will stay outdoors for the duration of the ride, and they can't buy anything. If you enter as a self-sufficient rider and then violate #2 or #3, you'll be scratched from the self-sufficient category, and your time will be reported under the self-supported category, assuming you continue to adhere to the self-supported standard (see below).
Alternatively, all riders have the option to ride by the self-supported standard, which is more traditional for bikepacking events. For the 2020 Vermont Super 8, the self-supported standard is defined as follows:
You must complete the route under your own power.
You may only engage in commercial services that are generally available to all riders.
No support crews, pacers, or caches. However, you may resupply at your vehicle (or another neutral, non-commercial location) in Montpelier, at the center of the 8.
Note: at present, public restrooms and washrooms at gas stations and campgrounds may be closed. All riders will need to be prepared to practice Leave No Trace (LNT).
Riders coming from out of state will need to abide by state guidance as it stands at that time. This could mean quarantine and/or testing.
We are capable of more than we know.
When a rider enters a self-supported bikepacking event, they choose to abide by voluntary restrictions with the understanding that violating them will result in a scratch or an unofficial result. Violations are self-reported. This structure relies on trust and communication. The new self-sufficient category is an extension of these limitations that riders may choose to impose on themselves -- if they wish! Some riders face limitations in equipment, diet, health, or experience that may prevent them from choosing to ride by a self-sufficient standard. All riders, regardless of category, are encouraged to set intentions for their performance individually. If you choose to race, you will be most successful by setting the intention to race yourself rather than racing others. This principle is proven over and over again in bikepacking grand departs.
In ultra-endurance cycling events, we repeatedly see expectations upended. Singlespeed riders outperform geared riders, and mental strength proves to outweigh physical conditioning. Within a system of trust and respect, bikepackers push their own limits and make accomplishments that seemed impossible beforehand. The restrictions of an event give rise to unexpected accomplishments.
We want to push the envelope, and we want to find out what's possible. COVID-19 has required us all to make changes to the way we live. In bikepacking, we now have an opportunity to pioneer a new way of conducting outdoor sports. Most sporting events across the globe have been cancelled this year because of COVID-19, including many ultracycling events. But the Vermont Super 8 is uniquely positioned to continue on Sep 25 if state guidance permits due to the small number of expected riders, the dispersed nature of a bikepacking grand depart, and the restrictions already imposed by the state on travelers to Vermont. Self-sufficient standards are new not just to the Vermont Super 8, but to ultra endurance cycling in general (with a nod to the GBDURO), and it can serve the dual purposes of 1) mitigating potential impacts of the event and 2) normalizing a safer way to travel by bike that might be considered extreme today, but could become a standard tomorrow. We have a chance to pioneer a new way of conducting our sport that could give rise to innovations in gear, in policy, and in the outdoor sports community at large.
If we don't push the envelope, we may never discover our true capabilities.