Rogue Ranger Brad Donze


For 2018 we’ve brought back our Blackburn Ranger Program, but to keep things interesting, we’ve made a few changes to the formula. In past years, we’ve sought out folks wishing to embark on summer long (or longer) trips but this year, we’ve teamed up with 4 riders that will be primarily concentrating on shorter, bite size, adventures. We decided to do this for a number of reasons, the main being we find it a bit more easy to relate to for folks who may just be getting interested in bikepacking. We’re calling these riders “The Blackburn Rogue Rangers” and we’ll be publishing a profile of each of them here on the blog over the next several days. You’ll be able to keep up with their travels via our social media feeds over the coming months, so stay tuned!

Introduce yourself. Who are you? How old are you? Where are you from??

Hey, I’m Brad — just a bloke on spokes from the Midwest. You know the type, a ‘George Bailey’ fighting against the Potters of the world and desperate for adventure outside of ‘Bedford Falls’ (Washington, IL). I’m 46, married to a wonderful wife, father to four great kids and a trail dog named ‘Chappie’ (@itschappie).
Peoria, Illinois is where I bought my first mountain bike and I’ve never loved anything more than single-track since. It’s where I ride, train, sweat and suffer from racing once in a while. Occasionally I go out on calls to clear downed trees off trails or help trim weeds with our local chapter of trail stewards in the Peoria Area Mountain Bike Association. They’re a pretty great group of bike people.

When did you start cycling?

I was a BMX kid…had a couple rarely used road bikes until 1993 when a buddy introduced me to mountain biking and I traded my Bianchi for a Bridgestone MB-3. I never wanted to come back out of the woods.

When did you start bikepacking?

This year. I’m a complete newbie!

Talk about your best/favorite bike packing trip?

Looking forward to telling you all about it.

Do you prefer solo or group trips? Who do you ride with?

I ride with Chappie most of the time and sometimes with friends. My favorite, though, is heading out solo, discovering new trails and challenges with only the sounds of the woods around me…the wind, the sounds my bike makes romping through the woods and my heart heaving in my chest while tackling climbs and navigating descents.

Describe your worst day on a bike, and talk about how you stayed motivated?

By far, my worst day on a bike is one attached to a trainer — I need to be be out there to feel like I’m biking, regardless of the weather. I regularly ride with a guy who makes it painful enough that I’m tempted to throw my bike in a dumpster, but by the end of the grueling effort I’m glad for the training and I get stronger. Exploring by bike is much more fun when fitness and preparedness doesn’t fail you.

What drew you to the Blackburn Ranger Program, and what do you hope to accomplish this year?

As I watched video after video of Rangers rolling out solo or in groups to discover new places, I thought to myself “I’ve gotta do this!” — I’ve gotta get out there. I get out for shorter rides before or after work and on trips, but I’ve never combined my love of mountain biking with camping. When I was in college, I ventured out with some buddies and my nephew with our bikes for a week between Durango, CO and Moab, UT. The riding was great, the van smelled like hell, we slept out under the stars and bathed in rivers. Nothing mattered but deciding where to eat and where to find the next trail to ride. To me, it’s the essence captured in the Ranger program…offering the goods to help someone get some much needed stoke.
My goal is to master self-supported bikepacking and promote biking for adventure, encouraging people to bike more, to #getoutthere and to let their local bike shop support them in the effort.
I intend to train my ass off and escalate from fair weather bikepacking, include a bit of dogpacking and roll into winter fatpacking – my goal is to end my season as a Blackburn Ranger in Virginia and to race in the RockStar VA, a 270-mile bikepacking race. This December I rode/hike-a-biked my fatbike up one of the ridges near this route on North Mountain and I know a number of folks in the Roanoke, VA IMBA chapter where the race concludes. I’d love for this race to be the Finish Line I cross after bikepacking numerous other locations.

What meal do you crave when you ride, or what meal do you like to make when you bikepack?

After a gargantuan effort, I crave nothing but chocolate milkshakes. I have no idea what I’ll do instead of milkshakes, but as I’ve thought through my light traveling protocol, I’m reasonably certain I’ll follow a cycle of:
● Coffee
● Jerky
● Nuts
● Mexican Food when possible
● Routes determined to include a burger and a shake, if possible

Tell us a crazy riding story?

My favorite ride to date was taking my fatbike up a remote service road to ride the ridge of North Mountain in George Washington National Forest last December after a 3″ snow. The climb was a stout 45 minutes on single-lane service drive just to find the trail head. The following 2.5 hours comprised 3% riding / 97% sketchy hike-a-bike (during Black Bear hunting season). I followed black bear prints a good way up on the way to Elliot Knob, but I started mid-day and they appeared weathered enough to not be fresh. The hike was grueling – I wanted to turn back a hundred times –I was alone and the winter wind increasingly whipped at me with elevation gains.
Trail details indicated the northward six miles following the summit were the best section, but I couldn’t find it to save my life. It was completely grown over even though GPS indicated it was “right there”. I had two hours of daylight left and had to evaluate whether to turn straight back down a sketchy trail or take the nearest service drive down and work a stout climb back to my car. The next 2.5 miles comprised 17 minutes of marginally-controlled fatbike sledding. So much stoke from a route-planning mishap…just the way I like it. The climb at the end was beastly and delicious.