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The 2022 Grand Depart is on!

Updated: Dec 10, 2023


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 dan@vermontbikepackers.org. There is no entry fee. Please include the following in your letter:

  1. Your intended mileage option

  2. Your mailing address.

  3. 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.

  1. 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.​

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