Togetherness on Two Wheels: Bikepacking with Christian and Stephanie Kuhr
Sometimes, the “race” part of riding is ready to take a backseat. For many, there’s a realization that riding doesn’t have to have a start line and a finish line, but rather an undulating line along the way, one that wends about with a lot of looking around lives on the same wavelength as your special someone, it sometimes becomes serendipity.
Such is the case for Christian and Stephanie Kuhr. The couple from the Seattle, Washington area share a lot more than most couples. They share the same profession—she a physician at University of Washington, he a physician at Virginia Mason. And they share a love of all things outdoors. Like many in the Pacific Northwest, the Kuhrs have long shared the love for cycling, running and hiking. She’s long a road racer, he an ardent mountain biker, and both have been dedicated bike commuters. While weekends saw them dash off onto their bikes, nothing would bring them tighter than a single purchase of two Obed Boundary gravel bikes.
“I did a bit of racing back in the day, and Christian rides a lot of mountain bikes,” says Stephanie Kuhr. “We’ve done a lot of riding together through the years, and as we’ve gotten older, it’s just more about being outside and doing cool things. For us, racing is over; it’s about enjoying life. And the Boundary, it hits that sweet spot for us, allowing us to find new adventures.”
“It was funny; Stephanie and I were like ‘why did it take so long for someone to think of something like this?’” Christian says with a laugh. “The gravel bike lives so well in that intermediate space between where you can just go and explore."
And surrounded by placid waters filled with wild salmon, orcas and forests of Douglas fir, cedar, spruce and maple, explore they do. Loaded with a seat pack, frame pack and top tube storage, the duo disembark at ferry stops departing Seattle, into some of the most scenic exploration grounds in America, to places like the San Juan Islands, Vashon Island, Cle Elum or Lopez Island.
“We love to bike camp, and the Boundary has been amazing for that,” Christian says. “We like to take the ferry out to the San Juan Islands, explore there, and set. Vashon Island, we load the bikes down for the night, take a ferry out, ride, set up a tent and enjoy a great overnight.”
The Kuhrs hit inland mountains east of Seattle for another adventure. “One gravel trip took us 45 or 50 miles on the John Wayne Trail in Cle Elum, a rails-to-trails path that is rated like a smooth gravel road,” Christian says. “It was just great. Really, we can’t go wrong. We’ll get up to the San Juans this winter, and we’d love to go to Vancouver Island when things open up a bit again."
Not even Christian’s Boundary being stolen for a few days could tear apart the Kuhr riding bond (though it took a bit of work, luck and serendipity to bring that stolen bike back to him).
“We always keep our bikes in our backyard shed, and we’ve never had anyone break into our it in 22 years,” Christian says. “Stephanie is less risk-averse than I am, and had her Boundary inside, but I got all decked out in my bike gear to ride to work one morning—and my bike wasn’t there.”
A police report and serial check later—along with a Craigslist scour and post stating a search for an Obed Boundary, things were looking grim. “I was coming to grips with the fact that I’d never see that bike again. A day and a half later, Christian received a cryptic text on his phone.
“I have your bike.”
“I wrote back saying ‘please call me,’” Christian recalls. “I received a text picture of my bike, and a woman called me, saying it had been found outside a shop.” A few days after his Boundary was jacked, it was back in his hands.
“The bike was meant for me—I know that now,” he says with a laugh. “The horse came home.” For now, the bikes live in a safer place in the house. “I think I’m gonna lock ‘em together!” he says and the duo will continue to enjoy rides—not races—together on their Boundarys.
“The gravel bike is going to transform cycling,” Christian says. “There’s hundreds of thousands of miles of forest service road around the country, where you can never get hit by a car, never hit a pedestrian—you just go out and ride. And that’s what we love now, just riding all over the Cascades.”
“We realized that there were all these roads that we’d never even thought about riding, and we’re having so much fun on them now,” she says. “There are just new ways of looking at riding for us, and it’s always going to be about having fun.”
And the next adventure? A cross-country trek isn’t off the table, they say.
“We’ve talked about it, departing Seattle and riding across the country,” Christian says. “We’ve said it’ll be fun riding across Washington, Idaho and Montana, then boring across the flat states after that—but if we do it, it will be on the Obeds.”