Written by: Noelle Battle, Executive Director.
Matt Mason has been a long-time Regional Advisor for Bikepacking Roots, and I have admired the magic he has seemingly created down in Las Cruces with the Monumental Loop bikepacking route and the annual Dangerbird ride and New Mexico Bikepacking Summit. But Matt would be the first person to tell you that this isn’t something he created, it has truly been a communal effort, with many amazing people coming together to make the event and the bikepacking community in Las Cruces what it is.
Pablo Lopez is a close partner of Matt’s – co-creator of the Monumental Loop and manager of the local bike shop, Outdoor Adventures where a Maker’s Mart spotlighting regional makers of bags, bikes and other gear (and nonprofits like Bikepacking Roots!) is held as part of the weekend of Dangerbird activities. Angelica Rubio, a New Mexico State Representative and member of the Monumental Loop Board organizes and moderates the NM Bikepacking Summit. The Dangerbird is co-hosted by the Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, a local non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation
and restoration of the National Monument and Visit Las Cruces. I’m sure there are many others working behind the scenes that deserve thanks as well.
I was able to represent Bikepacking Roots for the second year in a row, participating in the New Mexico Bikepacking Summit and co-leading the shorter, beginner friendly version of the Dangerbird, the Safetybird. Las Cruces welcomed me with open arms, and I found myself enchanted by the desert and inspired by the diverse community of cyclists there. I had a slew of amazing hosts for different parts of the weekend, from a City Councilor to a local schoolteacher, and even a BLM Ranger for the National Monument – all avid mountain bikers and bikepackers!
My weekend started out joining a special edition of the Thursday night Gravalerxs ride, a social-paced ride that took advantage of the extensive network of dirt paths along irrigation canals throughout the city. I got to do some last-minute planning with my amazing local co-lead for the Safetybird and chat with other locals and visitors in town the event.
Friday’s highlight was the New Mexico Bikepacking Summit. The event is designed to highlight various parts of the bikepacking experience that are often overlooked. Topics in past years have included land management, route building, outdoor equity, adaptive cycling, and economic development. I got to speak briefly about the projects I am excited to be growing at Bikepacking Roots, but the highlight of the event was two panels moderated by Angelica Rubio.
The first panel featured Jared Foster, professor at Texas Tech University’s award-winning Adventure Media Program, and Eloisa Torres, teacher and leader of youth outdoor programming at a local high school. Both of these educators were joined by students they have taught and mentored, and the panel got to explore the life changing experiences and personal growth that can be gained by getting youth out on bikes in nature. Jared’s Adventure Media Students produced a 3-part documentary series of their experience bikepacking the Monumental Loop as part of their course which is definitely worth checking out.
Saturday I watched the send-off of over 150 riders on the Dangerbird, which was another community affair with a parade around the plaza, before heading over to help riders prepare for the Safetybird. We had an amazing group of 15 riders, mostly locals from Las Cruces and El Paso but with a few visitors from as far away as Idaho. Several in the group were brand new to bikepacking and were able to borrow gear to load their bikes up for the trip. All of us overnighters definitely carried much more than the average rider doing the full Dangerbird – I still have to work on my light packing! The group conquered some serious Type II Fun, including 7 miles of challenging uphill singletrack riding/hike-a-biking on the scenic Sierra Vista trail portion of the Monumental Loop. But we were blessed with an awe-inspiring sunset at camp and some visits from a few trail angels, including surprise coffee, donuts and water re-supply on Day 2. The best of both worlds for bikepacking in my opinion!
This trip energized me and motivated me to continue working hard at Bikepacking Roots to help foster the type of community building and stewardship through bikepacking that is happening in Las Cruces. The community there is surrounded by 500,000 acres of National Monument land and they are passionate about sharing this beautiful place and ensuring that it is protected for future generations to enjoy.
The Monumental Loop is featured in our Community Routes Project. Learn more about the route here.