It has been over 4 years since Seize the World Foundation founder, Stephen Allen, completed his round the world bicycle tour to raise awareness for epilepsy. In fact, Seize the World was founded as a conduit to inform the world of this tour and inspire others living with epilepsy. In July, Stephen embarked on another inspirational adventure, a 2-week mountain bikepacking tour of the Colorado Trail. Bikepacking for those who don’t know is basically strapping camping gear to a mountain bike for a multiday bike/camp tour. I recently met with Stephen to discuss his ride.
Ian: What made you decide to take on this challenge?
Stephen: About six months ago, during the winter, it just popped into my head that I wanted to do another big bike trip.
Ian: How did you prepare for this bikepacking tour?
Stephen: I tried to get in as many miles on the bike that I could. I decided that I would only commute anywhere by bike and not use my scooter at all. I also scheduled 4-5 mountain and road bike rides a week. I missed a lot of them because I was very busy, but I also made a lot too.
Ian: Did you take any special preparations due to your epilepsy?
Stephen: For me, my triggers for seizures are stress, lack of sleep, and not getting enough to eat. Getting into shape for the tour felt really good for me. I ended up going on lots of mountain bike rides and connected with lots of people who were up for riding. This all helped me feel happier and less stressed. Preparing for this goal made me feel less likely to have a seizure, because I was healthier and more energetic physically. Having a seizure out on the trail never was too much of a concern. I carried a Spot Finder, so I could share my location and communicate with my family. I thought carefully about what my triggers were, and I took on an activity (mountain biking) that I felt really comfortable with.
Ian: What was the Colorado Trail like?
Stephen: When I was closer to Denver, there were lots of day hikers and bikers, but once I got further out I’d be pretty much alone and only occasionally see a through-hiker. There is a lot of wilderness and you really see a lot of Colorado. Biking the trail was cool because you can make a lot of mileage each day. I had through hiked the Colorado Trail during college in 2005, and biking the trail felt a lot less isolating. I kept thinking it was a fantastic trail to do by bike.
Ian: What did you eat during the tour?
Stephen: It depended on where I was. At the beginning I had a good supply from a grocery store that got me through the first few days: bananas, power bars, coffee, Gatorade mix, tortillas, salsa, cheese, and chocolate. After that I could only really find food at gas stations, so I had crackers, potato chips, beef jerky, and stuff like that.
Ian: What was your favorite part of the Colorado Trail?
Stephen: I really liked some of the riding around South Park and Kenosha Pass. There were some awesome hour-long descents and single track. It was unbelievable! Also, during the long descent into Leadville, I literally burned through my brake pads, but the ride was just spectacular! Some of the most amazing single track ever is on the Colorado Trail. Also, meeting people on the trip was great. I met another though-biker from Colorado Springs, Tony, on the first day and ended up riding the first week with him. We had some great conversations along the trail and I’m really glad that we were able to join forces.
Ian: Did you have any seizures during the tour?
Stephen: Yes, it was on a day were I was particularly exhausted after a very long day. I needed to get to the summit of Monarch Pass to restock on food. I started that day at Mount Princeton Hot Springs and hoofed it all the way up to the summit of Monarch Pass, riding along the highway. I was feeling dehydrated from the previous 50 mile day of riding. Before I began the long climb up the pass, I sat down to have a break and a snack. Before I knew it I was lying down and feeling confused and disoriented. I realized I just had a seizure. I took some extra time to rest and recover and then continued climbing up to the summit. I’ve noticed that my seizures are becoming less tiring, but it definitely took some out of me. After that I was riding shorter days and slowing down some.
Ian: What was the hardest part of your journey?
Stephen: Riding across Sargents Mesa. This was the day after I had my seizure. It was 20 miles of really crappy trail full of big rocks. Tony had gotten off the trail by that point as well, so the day felt longer without any conversation.
Ian: Did you have any crashes?
Stephen: I did have a small crash on the first day. There was a snake sunning itself on the trail that I thought was a stick at first. I was going pretty fast at the time, so I turned sharply to try to avoid him. It wasn’t a bad crash though, and I was just happy to not kill the snake.
Ian: What advice would you give to other individuals with epilepsy who would want to try a challenging activity or trip like this?
Stephen: Reach out to others who have done similar things to what you want to do. Look into it, research the necessary info, and start getting excited about it! Once you really learn about it, often times it will seem totally within reach. I’ve never been on a solo mountain bike tour before so I reached out to others like Deanna Adams who gave me some great advice. I found out what gear I needed and realized that the Colorado Trail was totally feasible for me. Whatever it is you want to do, there are ways to do it safely. Whether you have epilepsy or not, just be willing to go for it!
The Colorado Trail was a great experience for Stephen. He tells me he really wants to go on more bikepacking trips in the future, “It seems like the best of all worlds; mountain biking, bike touring, and camping.” Stephen says he would be happy offer his advice and expertise to anyone who aspires to go on similar adventures.