This past weekend I had the opportunity to put the new Paratrooper Highline to the test on a bikepacking trip in Vermont. The Highline is one of two folding mountain bikes in Montague’s 2016 line with 27.5″ wheels. This is the first time the larger wheel size has been offered by Montague and I was excited to do some serious riding on it.
The plan was to head up to the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area in northwest Vermont, ride in to a campsite in the middle of the park, camp the night, and ride the surrounding trails.
There’s nowhere to refuel or get drinkable water on our route, so we packed everything in. Pictured is most of the gear I had with me (not shown is food, my sleeping bag, or clothing). You’ll notice several bike specific tools. The last thing I wanted was to walk the 8 miles out of the woods pushing my bike in the event of a mechanical.
I used a combination of Blackburn Outpost bags, and Salsa Everything Cages for my rig. The only things I had on my back were a Camelback full of water, some food, and a camera. This system spread the weight out over the entire bicycle, so it never felt unbalanced. While you certainly feel the weight when riding with this much gear, the handling is just as you’re used to with this set up. A traditional pannier set up puts all the weight over the rear wheel, which can have quite an affect the feeling of your bike.
I will be the first to admit that the ride into our campsite was grueling. I’m not sure we paid enough attention to the topography and gradient of the area when choosing our route, and we paid for it with some tough climbing. Lots of climbing.
The first several miles was very challenging singletrack; steep and rocky. With all the gear we were carrying, that meant pushing our bikes up some sections. However, the descent might have been the most fun we had all weekend. We got down the backside of that mountain fast. I finally understood why downhill riders hike up mountains carrying their bike. It made our suffering worthwhile.
Instead of heading up the next thousand feet of climbing on singletrack, we diverted from our planned route and cut over to a forest road. It was by no means flat, but the climbing here was a bit more gradual and a whole lot less technical.
We eventually turned off the forest road to a more heavily wooded trail that would take us all the way to the campsite on Silver Lake. I believe it’s main use was snow mobiles, so it was a bit wider than single track. There were a lot of small creek crossings and muddy areas on the gradual descent to the campsite, which only added to the fun. The 27.5″ wheels and 2.10″ tires on the Paratrooper Highline had no problem floating over the mud and rolling over rocky creeks.
We came across this bridge right before a final steep climb and subsequent decent to the site. A nice spot to stop, hydrate, and take in the foliage.
When we made it to the site, sunset was not far off. We set up camp, gathered firewood, and scarfed down dinner. After a day of riding like that, we had no problem falling asleep early, even on a chilly autumn night in New England.
The next morning we packed in as many calories as we could, had our morning coffee (absolutely a necessity on camping trips), and headed out to explore more trails around the camp site. We left most of our gear behind so we could have some fun without the added weight.
The loop we rode heading south from the camp site followed a stream bed for several miles. It was a gradual descent on the way out and without loaded bikes, we could finally tear it up.
The trail crossed over the stream bed a few times, sometimes with bridges, sometimes not. We got wet. We got muddy. No complaints.
After arriving back at Silver Lake, we loaded our gear onto the bikes, bid farewell to “campsite 7”, and headed out.
Our route back was a whole lot easier than coming in. The only tough climb was as we left the campsite. After that it was gradual climbing back up the snow mobile path. Overall I was very pleased with the Paratrooper Highline’s climbing ability. I used every bit of the gear range but never felt it was missing anything, and definitely enjoyed the simplicity of the 2×10 with a large range cassette.
Heading back down the forest road was nearly one long descent, and the hard packed dirt road was extremely fast. I barely touched the brakes, but when I needed them, the Tektro hydraulics felt great.
When we made it back to the car and folded our bikes, we headed straight for the nearest pizza joint. It was a great weekend on a great bike. Look for the Paratrooper Highline in Montague’s 2016 line of full size folding bikes.