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Cycling the Annapurna Circuit Trek–On a Moots!

File under; Where in the world will your Moots take you? This week we’ve got a guest entry into the Moots blog by Alex Monroe. Have a read and let your day dreaming commence!

Alex writes:

After encountering more than one group of hikers asking if you’re the tall, crazy American they heard was attempting to cycle the Annapurna Circuit trek, one would be crazy not to question if biking 250 miles with more than 38,000 feet of climbing to a high mountain pass at 18,100 feet of elevation was a good idea for a 41-year-old who just sold his global company and was using the time to think about his next career move. Even the locals laughed at me and tried to deter me from continuing. But I saw this small window of opportunity as my only chance for the adventure I had been thinking about for years.

My wife and I had hiked the Mt. Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes Circuit trek seven years ago, which planted the seed in my mind for this adventure. However, I chose to do this ride alone, without a companion or guide so that I could go at my own pace. The route I chose was designed for hiking not cycling, and it was clearly evident once I got into the ride why very few cyclists have attempted this. The “bike route” is not well-established or well-documented and starts and ends in Pokhara, Nepal, a hot, humid rainforest, cycling on wet-clay Jeep roads. The road then winds through boulder-strewn, very dry and dusty singletrack hiking trails to culminate in high alpine windy, snowy, frigid narrow hiking trails weaving through three-feet deep snow trenches alongside thousand-foot-drops where you have to dangle a loaded bike over the cliff’s edge in order to stay on the narrow path. I was fortunate not to stumble and have to choose between my bike or my life. Since I had invested in my custom Moots Mountaineer specifically for this trip, it wouldn’t have been an easy decision.

The variety of scenery and terrain was amazing. In the nine days it took to successfully complete the journey, I experienced three seasons and brutal conditions, which required carrying significant gear and clothing. I cycled on wet-clay Jeep roads through rainforest with monkeys howling at me. I pedaled through very dusty loose dirt and chunky gravel trails past dozens of blue sheep, yaks grazing and transporting supplies and a few Tibetan foxes. I traversed two river crossings, one with rapids that nearly knocked me and my bike over; rode across numerous suspension bridges high above rivers and canyons; and precariously maneuvered along several extremely dangerous landslide and high-exposure cliff areas. By the end of each day, my bike and I were covered in clay, fine dust and/or snow and ice, making a Buff or facemask an absolute daily necessity.

Fortunately, there were teahouses along the route that serviced both hikers and local yak herders and farmers. They offered meals (with a very limited menu) and basic sleeping quarters, outfitted with plywood planks covered by two-inch foam pads as beds. While I didn’t need a tent, I brought a warm sleeping bag for nights and a stash of electrolytes and energy provisions to keep me going during the day.

I had trained nine months for this ride, and overall, it was as challenging on my mind as it was on my body. I was frequently pushing the limit of not gaining 500 meters per day over 3,000 meters in elevation in order to avoid altitude sickness. Yet, above 16,000 in elevation, I started experiencing some mild altitude sickness symptoms of headaches, stomach cramps, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. I was able to push through and once I got over the mountain pass and began descending, the symptoms quickly subsided.

My Moots Mountaineer was designed for this trip. The burlier titanium tubing, coupled with the YBB soft tail with the ability to roll 2.6-inch tires, proved to be the perfect bike to take on all challenges the conditions offered. I had made minor modifications to my initial set-up by swapping out my XTR brakes for a set of durable mechanical brakes due to the frigid temperatures and constant rock hits. I replaced my dropper seatpost with a rigid seatpost, and put tubes in my tires. I substituted clipless/platform pedals in case of the conditions breaking the clipless mechanism.

In addition to the bike, I had a custom-made frame bag, an 11-liter saddle bag, a 15-liter handlebar bag and a 12-liter backpack, which miraculously provided enough space to carry all my gear. Fully packed, the bike more than doubled in weight.

Even with all this punishment, my Moots Mountaineer exceeded my expectations and performed flawlessly. The bike took at absolute beating, from flying across the world in a basic bike suitcase to riding under full bikepacking weight in some of the toughest conditions imaginable. Yet I didn’t have a single bike malfunction or bike issue. The Mountaineer remained strong, true and highly dependable. And when I see it on its stand in my garage, I get the distinct feeling it’s begging to know where we’re going next… 

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