Hitting the Road with the Blackburn Rangers

Bikepacking. It’s one of my favorite ways to travel and for Blackburn, it’s not only a passion for them, it’s a challenge. How can design be intelligent, intuitive, reliable and most important, resilient to constant wear and tear? You can spend all day designing products in an office, but the real test is out on the open road.

One of the ways Blackburn vets their products is through the Ranger Program. Each year, they send out a call for entries before selecting six or seven Rangers to get kitted out with a bike from Niner and full Blackburn product. Their journey begins, oddly enough, at the San Jose Airport… Well, parking lot B at the San Jose Airport.

Amanda is this year's Ranger Wrangler. She completed the Tour Divide on her Niner last year.

It’s always a scene. One giant rental box truck, loaded with gear from Niner, Blackburn, Big Agnes and Bell Helmets. The Rangers (and select media) arrive, pack their bags, load them on their bikes and we take off. Each year, Brodie, a Blackburn employee and San Jose local, takes us through a series of bike paths and hobo trails to Black Rd, one killer climb.


Over the past few months, a new ribbon of singletrack has opened up on our route: the John Nicholas trail. Coincidentally, this trail takes us literally to our camp the first night: a Boyscout’s Camp nestled in a redwood grove. We arrive, pitch our tents, pour some drinks and await dinner.

From there, the Rangers get the run-down on their responsibilities, their gear and are introduced to various Blackburn personalities. Meanwhile, the following morning, us “media” get to go shred trails in Santa Cruz, which are almost all illegal, making my “job” of photographing the weekend easy. No photos = no camera bag!

Watching the sun set.

After getting coated in Poison Oak, we returned to camp, ate, drank, threw metal objects at targets and passed out underneath redwoods.

The morning always comes faster than anticipated. Faster and colder. Luckily, breakfast was enough of a motivator to pack up our belongings and get back on the road. Our route was easy-peasy today. Drop down into Big Basin, the oldest State Park in California and make our way up Gazos Creek before dropping back to Highway 1 for lunch at Pie Ranch, a non-profit, farm and education center that serves amazing pies and food.

Post-pie nap

Now, if you’ve ever done a tour down HWY1, you have to know of the Pie Ranch. If you don’t, I won’t spoil the surprise with food photos… You’ll just have to trust me.

This could but us but you...

Post pie-food coma and with only 15 miles or so to town, we regrouped and began to pedal our way to Santa Cruz, where dinner, drinks and a movie screening awaited us at Verve Coffee. From there, everyone either headed home, with new gear and new stories, or to Sea Otter to suffer…


The Blackburn Ranger’s journey has only just begun, with many of the rangers taking on the Trans America trail, the Pacific Coast and the Tour Divide. Best of luck to all these rad individuals. I can’t wait to see their tales from the road.

If you’d like to do this ride, here’s our route. Just take the John Nicholas trail halfway up Black Rd.
Day 01: San Jose to Mountain Camp
Day 02: Mountain Camp to Beach Camp