Video: Payson McElveen Documents His FKT Attempt on the Colorado Trail

Dec 22, 2020
by ECHOS Communications  

Pro MTB Racer Payson McElveen has won National titles, been crowned Singlespeed World Champ and proved himself with a victory in the punishing conditions of the Mid-South Gravel race...but before September he’d never contested a self-supported bikepacking record.

So he planned to go big on his first time out and knock down the record time on the 530-mile Colorado Trail from Durango to Denver. This long-standing gem in the crown of ultra-distance mountain bike racing has recently seen the records drop as riders challenged themselves to best the Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the trail. 

This has been a year for solo efforts, and FKTs have proven a reliable yardstick for racers looking for a challenge, with new records set on the Kokopelli Trail, Grand Loop and Oregon Outback routes. 

So with his typical racing schedule on hold in 2020, Durango resident McElveen had the time to work on beating the unsupported FKT of 3 days and 21 hours, and the local knowledge of the course needed to pull it off in his first attempt. To succeed, he just needed a crash course in the art of bikepacking. He’d be bringing everything he needed for days of fast-paced riding at high elevation, climbing more than 75,000’ across the 530 miles of the course. Luckily, he was able to tap the knowledge of the community of veteran bikepack-racers, who lent him generous guidance in preparing himself to face a challenge that tests physical and mental fitness as it punishes gear.

This was not Payson’s first go at a big ride. Just this summer as his calendar shifted, he kept on the gas with an all-singletrack Everesting (climbing 29k’ in a single ride) in May, followed by filming an epic 1-day 100-mile loop in Crested Butte for an upcoming Matchstick Productions project. 

With his fitness in a great place, he dialed in his bikepacking setup over a few weeks of prep and set out for his FKT attempt in late September, taking advantage of a favorable weather window between an early snowstorm and the rapid onset of winter in the high country. 

However, despite generous guidance from many of bikepacking's veterans, Payson would learn that there is no substitute for experience. In a ride that took him through a rollercoaster of discovery and despair, the rewards of his first bikepacking adventure ultimately left Payson excited to make another attempt and newly passionate about bikepacking.


  • 18 3
 Unfortunately the fork does not match color. So I can't watch the video. My eyes hurt too much.
  • 4 0
 Nahhhh dude it looks more pro-factory-f1-race-team-awesomeness like that Wink
  • 11 0
 That was intense. I remember seeing him fly by me when he set the fkt on the stretch from silverton to durango. I was bikepacking and it took me 3 days to do what he did in under 8 hours. His place was mind-blowing. I know several endurance athletes with permanent nerve damage from washboards, vibration, and fatiguing their body to the limit. It's inspiring what they do, but not for me.
  • 8 0
 Awesome to see a pro giving the CT a go but man this guy seems pretty amateur in the outdoor survival realm. Irresponsible to travel that light into the high country and push yourself that hard. No margin for error. Sure, he's got an inreach but he could be waiting a long time before help showed up and it's irresponsible to put that much reliance on outside help, especially during covid. Props to him for speaking humbly about the experience and recognizing the error. Would be cool to see him give it another go with better preparation. Also, please, enough already with the drone flying in such beautiful areas.
  • 1 0
 Why do you say that about the drone flying out of interest?
  • 1 9
flag dieuci (Dec 23, 2020 at 7:06) (Below Threshold)
  • 8 1
 Doing this in stiff xc shoes is nuts. There is so much hike-a-bike. I feel like the comfort and efficiency you would gain by wearing something made to hike a bit more... or even using flat pedals... would be worth it. Might help avoid some of that nerve pain as well.
  • 1 1
 Totally. Terrible choice of footwear!
  • 6 0
 Remember when Lachlan Morton did the trail "just for fun" and came within 2 hours of the record without even trying? That guy is freaking nuts.
  • 1 8
flag Garantson (Dec 22, 2020 at 17:03) (Below Threshold)
 Shows how fit UCI top ProTour riders are or they just take drugs, not sure...
  • 4 0
 @Garantson: even if they take drugs they are still really fit. One still has to train. It's not like, just take the drugs and boom! Instant elite level fitness.
  • 3 0
 I rode a section by Monarch Pass in September probably around the same time Payson went for this FKT. The 100's of down trees were a nightmare. It's been a while since I've had my soul crushed so hard and that was with 4 other friends and in the daylight. I can't imagine encountering that at night and solo. What an impressive effort and story!
  • 2 0
 That was a good watch for me. It's approaching about 15 years since my CO trail P2P. Good to see even the pros find the experience humbling & inspiring - the back country, terrain, weather is simply unforgiving. You must respect it and the effort. But good on Payson for pushing it to where he needed - I think add something to your character for life.
  • 1 0
 That is some unbelievable strength and stamina! Kokomo to Searle is an a$$-kicker section of trail, very humbling. It looks easy but once you're up there you have far less strength, balance and coordination than you wish, and the trail is entrenched with hard, vertical edges that grab your tires. The descent into Copper is awesome though!
  • 1 0
 Tremendous effort and stamina!

What was the red puffy hoody you wore (Patagonia Micro Puff?) and how did it work for you?

Other items you thought worked well or fell short?
  • 2 0
 hell yea. so cool seeing other people hop on the CT for a first attempt at bike packing. such a rad experience
  • 2 0
 Dang, helluva story. Thanks for sharing. IMO, no one beasted the CO Trail race more so than Kevin Thomas of Salida.
  • 1 0
 Thanks for the share. The CT is a brute. It gives aaaaannnndddd it takes. Smile
  • 1 0
 Is that an inline water filter? Anyone know who makes it?
  • 2 0
 MSR and Sawyer Straw both make ones, I believe
  • 1 0
 Love the Silverton store!!
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