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Photo Story: Joey Schusler's Solo Bikepacking Adventure from Munich to Milan

Mar 28, 2024 at 9:18
by ENVE Composites  
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[Words by Joey Schusler]

There is something a bicycle can give you, that really nothing else in the world can. Make that bicycle a mountain bike, and the amount of freedom and exploration at your fingertips is almost unparalleled. It was this feeling that urged me to spend the better part of a month crossing the Alps this past summer - for the first ever time setting off on an adventure of this nature alone. I would begin in Munich with my sights set for Milan, aiming to ride as much dirt and as many high mountain passes as possible.

Arriving into Munich was a wonderful feeling. I only brought what I would need for the adventure - nothing more, nothing less. This means I was on the airplane in my bike clothes. My bike came out in a cardboard box I would later leave behind, and I began assembling it right there in the terminal. Before I knew it, I was pedaling south along the river towards downtown Munich. The feeling of the first few miles is so invigorating knowing how many hundreds of hours and countless trials and tribulations may lay ahead. Rain gave way to sun and I was on my way.

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Before the trip, when confronted with the question of why go solo, I wouldn’t say I really had a great answer. It’s just something I had always wanted to try, after countless trips of this nature over the past decade. About 5 days in, and well into Italy, my third country, I had the best day on a bike I have ever had. This was what I was searching for. The feeling of being solely responsible for my pace and my route, every single decision resting on my shoulders - I found a new rhythm on the bike I had never before experienced. I felt as if I was able to hop over a 3,000 ft pass with hardly any effort; being rewarded with all new views of the next valley beyond and an incredible new single track descent on the other side.

The miles flew by. I found a pace and level of enjoyment on the bike I had never before found. I would start the next big pass with enthusiasm and seemingly be at the summit again in no time. Fueling this was the perfect abundance of food and water, nearly around every corner in the alps. When I would get hungry, there always seemed to be an alpine hut or guesthouse, serving up a small beer and fresh pasta or pizza. I would eat and quickly be on my way again. When I was thirsty, a stream was never too far away to dip my filter-bottle into. All but one day of the adventure the singletrack proved to be amazing. The alps are really a wonderful place to be traveling and moving through the mountains.

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My route took me on average over three large mountain passes a day as I wound my way through the Dolomites. I began to find more and more joy in the nature of my solo journey, but I equally began to cherish the characters I would meet along the way. Perhaps my favorite encounter was meeting a crew of four 18 year old boys out for a birthday rip on XC bikes. We miraculously got to the top of a pass at the same time, ascending from opposite sides. When I came across them, one of the boys whose birthday it was, had suffered a flat tire.

Being the loose operators they were, they didn’t have a pump. I offered up mine and we became instant friends. They insisted I alter my route to drop in to the valley below with them. I agreed and down we went. The boys were absolutely shredding with reckless abandon, and I felt it my duty to keep up on my fully loaded bike, despite having already been in the saddle for 8 hours on that particular day. We were hooting and hollering all the way down, until we stopped for a beer at the half way point, singing happy birthday in Italian with complete and utter enthusiasm. We carried on down the valley as the crew eventually dissolved with everyone headed to their respective homes. This interaction was so damn fun, it fully recharged me.

This style of ride can change the way you view your bike. It’s incredibly rewarding to hop on, and ride for many days in one direction. The people and places along the way are really what make it all worth it! To me this is what the mountain bike is all about.

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I finished my journey with a massive 130 mile day pushing into Milan, stopping for fresh Gelato no fewer than 5 times. What a journey it had been. While I love bikepacking with friends, I will always find time in the future for a good solo adventure too.

Stats:
Days: 13
Miles: 533
Elevation Gain: 76,929 ft
Bike: Yeti Cycles SB120 LR

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Author Info:
ENVE avatar

Member since Jan 29, 2014
24 articles

49 Comments
  • 64 0
 That's a long lunch ride!
  • 56 0
 These are the things I crave to see on Pinkbike! Solo multiday epics!
  • 9 1
 Glad you liked it. I’m sure Joey has some big plans this year!
  • 34 0
 Almost as good as Rochelle Rochelle's exotic journey from Minsk to Milan.
  • 3 0
 Minsk you say?
  • 1 0
 Is there a written story about it?
  • 7 1
 Tried to watch it, but the tape was stolen. $98 to replace it!
  • 2 0
 "A poor girl's journey from Milan to Minsk...Rochelle, Rochelle!"
  • 6 0
 Route would be nice. Im also very interested in the packing list. What do you carry with you when you still want to be able to ride trails properly?
  • 3 1
 Solid question for Joey. From our conversation with him, he packed pretty light since he was coming in contact with civilization most days (villages and cafes). Food and water could be minimal to keep weight down, and there were places to stay in case of emergencies.
  • 8 1
 Me on day 1: “I’ve given up and it feels great”.
  • 12 0
 About 6 months in to my two week trip, search crews would find me in the middle of nowhere with a scraggly beard talking to an over inflated inner tube named Wilson and eating rotisserie chipmunks.
  • 5 0
 And then there is what this girl who lives up the street from me did: bikepacking.com/plog/ana-jager-iditarod-trail-2024
  • 5 0
 So cool. Love the photo stories and Schusler's adventures are so fun to follow. Those stats are insane. Awesome all around.
  • 2 2
 Glad you liked it, Joey is the man!
  • 5 0
 Route map???
  • 2 1
 Yes!! Map please!!
  • 1 0
 Linked in the comments above (in case you didnt see)
  • 4 0
 Whose the photographer?
  • 6 2
 can't tell if you're serious or not. Joey is such a rad photographer!! all these are his work...
  • 7 2
 @lehott: I'm not buying that he took that photo jumping through the woods at a 1.4 aperture in perfect focus. If so, I need another article just on that shot.
  • 2 0
 @chriskneeland: all you need to do is set the camera on a tripod, set the camera to manual focus, focus on the spot where you want the rider to be (in this case the jump), and remote trigger the shutter
  • 1 0
 @beeeefkirky: Remote triggers while riding aren't easy. Props on the shot if so.
  • 5 0
 @chriskneeland: setting the camera to burst mode helps. Props to the shot regardless of how it's made.
  • 4 0
 @chriskneeland: Shoot video and screen grab.
  • 3 0
 Next time you don’t solo, can you just call me please?
  • 2 0
 I wouldn't recommend doing this in peak summer as around milan it gets really hot.
  • 1 0
 Awesome inspiring story, I've wondered how bike packing works on the return. Just swing by a local bike shop and see if they have a spare box to re-pack it in?
  • 3 0
 “Loose operators”
  • 2 0
 76,929 ft elevation gain in the European Alps? Insane!
  • 2 0
 Sick, Joey! Inspiring adventures.
  • 2 0
 It would be really nice to see the route he's taken...
  • 2 0
 Amazing trip! However, I see no dangle mug so it it cannot be bikepacking
  • 1 0
 Really?? An average of 65kms and climbing 1.800mt per day??
  • 1 0
 I'm curious to know how he ran transmission for a bikepacking trip
  • 1 0
 Carrying a spare 25 gram battery shouldn’t weigh him down too much
  • 1 0
 Fully loaded you say
  • 2 3
 woww a back packed bike/rider that can actually rip!
Rethinking my approach to it...
  • 3 0
 Joey used to race DH World Cup some years back, so yeah, he can rip
  • 1 0
 @gooral: yes I mean when you are full packed sucks normally... also he appeared at Kranked right ?
  • 2 0
 Joe Nation is another one. Has a good youtube channel and came third in the 'Tour Divide', raced downhill and enduro. His videos are very cool if you like adventure racing.
  • 1 0
 Looks amazing!!
  • 1 0
 Very cool adventure!
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