I was back from Alaska for only a couple of days when Jeff, who I rode the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route with last year, mentioned he wanted to ride the XVT and he wanted to leave that weekend. Perfect, enough time to unpack, repair, and repack my gear, with a little time to research the route. The XVT, or XVtBkPkRte as it’s also referred to, is a 300 mile long bikepacking route that runs the length of Vermont, from Whitingham on the Massachusetts border to Derby on the Canada border. It’s the brainchild of Vermonters Dave Tremblay and Dave Blumenthal. Tragically, Dave Blumenthal was killed in a collision with a pickup truck while competing in the 2010 Tour Divide.
While Vermont doesn’t have the big mountains and wide open spaces of the west, it has plenty of rolling hills, lots of forest (about 75% of the state) and not a whole lot of people. And with over 8,000 miles of dirt roads, it has more miles of dirt than pavement. There’s also trails- all different kinds and lots of them. Everyone has their favorite dirt adventure ride and the XVT links up some of the best in the state. But keep those rolling hills in mind, Vermont doesn’t have the 20 mile climbs of the west, but you’ll hit endless short, steep walls that will have you pushing on the shifter praying for one more gear. All total, about 33,000 feet of them along the route, which encompasses some of the best mountain biking in the state, from old school (or skool?) roots, rocks, and mud singletrack, ribbons of smooth, banked pine duff, forest roads, class 4 roads, rural dirt roads, and bike paths; pretty much anything to avoid pavement.
The current record for the XVT is just under 38 hours, set last year by Calvin Decker; Jeff and I planned to take about a week. We also decided to ride fat bikes, a decision I don’t regret, and to ride the route from north to south, opposite how most people have ridden it, but that seems to be a trend for us.
Some notes on the route:
- First – bike choice: Jeff and I both rode rigid Surly Pugsleys with 4″ tires and while they’re a little slower on the smooth stuff, they make up for it in the rough sections. For those who forgo suspension, B+ or 29+ may be the perfect compromise.
- Second – gear: Less is better- much better. This is not a dirt road ride, along with rocks, roots, and steep climbs, there’s some pushing. You can see what I carried over HERE. Jeff ran rear panniers and even with extra straps to keep things from bouncing, ended up breaking his Surly Nice Rack.
- Third – Please respect the other road and trail users. Many sections of this route cross private land and use the VASA, VAST and Catamount Trail systems.
- While sections of the route seem really remote, you’re rarely more than a few miles away from some sort of civilization if something goes wrong.
- If you detour to the Eden General Store, Cemetery Road next to the store is a fun class 4 road that intersects with the XVT.
- Trust your GPS – There are a few sections we wouldn’t have found, or wouldn’t have known we could legally pass through, if it wasn’t for the line on the screen.
- The bridge over the Lamoille River at Cadys Falls was closed for repairs, so Bridge Street in downtown Morrisville, to Cadys Falls Road is the alternative route to Duhamel Road we used.
- Depending on the time of day and season, northbound riders may have to pay to enter Little River State Park in Waterbury.
- Southbound riders get to climb the east side of Lincoln Gap – the steepest mile of pavement in America
- Many people confuse the XVT Bikepack Route with the Cross Vermont Trail, they are not the same.
The XVT goes right past Jeff’s house in Ripton and that’s where we decided to end this part of the ride. I have to give a huge thank you to Dave Tremblay and everyone involved in creating this route for all their years of hard work, it’s so much better than I could have ever imagined. To find out more about the XVT, check out the XVtBkPkRte Facebook group, or the Vermont Mountain Bike Association.
Thanks for stopping by; riding the XVT: Part 2 Can Be Found Here.