TRAVEL LIGHT, RIDE FAR
Bikepacking is the joy of touring with your bike with only the bare essentials. It feels almost like practicing the subtle art of detachment, because “less is more”.
Besides being the ideal way to take all necessities on your bike when participating in long-distance races, bikepacking is also a great skill to learn, for everyone who wants to travel far by bike without sacrificing comfort, speed or distance.
When touring with a traditional touring bike, your average speed drops significantly, compared to riding your preferred road or gravel bike, and your position on the bike is completely different. This is one of the major reasons why bikepacking gained a lot of popularity the past years for a large number of riders. In this blog post we will introduce you to the wonderful world of bikepacking by sharing our own experiences. We believe everyone who likes riding their bike can and should experience this way of traveling sooner or later.
PACKING THE ESSENTIALS, LESS IS MORE
Most people who are new to bikepacking or touring with a bike have the tendency to take too much luggage. Bicycle touring or bikepacking isn’t about having all the comfort you have at home, it’s about reflecting about what you really need during a trip. The first time you do this, it can feel pretty primitive, limiting your luggage to fit into a small saddle bag, top tube and handle bar bag. All first timers experience the same feeling: 'How on earth will I be able to fit all my necessities into these bags?'. But the more experienced you get, the more you realise you need less and by deconnecting from those obsolete objects (like 3 pairs of shoes, 2 pairs of jeans, … ) the better your trip will become. It feels almost like practicing the subtle art of detachment.
When packing light, you will be able to worry less about your belongings (because you don’t have much on you) and focus more on the essentials: riding your bike and being in touch with your surroundings. Less, definitely is more.
WHAT DO I NEED TO PACK?
When packing your bags, repeat the following sentence as a mantra: 'Do I truly NEED to take this with me?'. When riding in summer time, in a warm climate, you won’t need leg warmers, gloves,… but when you go bikepacking in Central Europe in March the weather can be rather unpredictable. Depending on the area you’re planning to do your trip, ask yourself if you really need three spare tubes when riding tubeless or can you live with one, and buy extra ones in a local bike shop along the way? Everything depends on the climate, the area, the remoteness and the goal of the trip. When you are camping or sleeping in a bivy sack, you need more stuff than sleeping in a hotel for example and it makes the experience totally different.
Here, you can download our own packing list for trips between three to five days in a mild climate and sleeping in hotels (so no camping attributes are needed). This is also the list of objects my dad and I took, during our seven-day bikepacking trip in the Northern part of Thailand (Mae Hong Son loop) and that we took on our two-day bikepacking trip with co-workers a few weeks ago.
Last important remark on this topic: pack smart. Put heavy items you don’t need while riding, at the bottom of the saddlebag, close to your seat post. Lighter items such as a rain jacket, arm- and legwarmers, … preferably go at the end of the bag so you have easy access to them during the ride. It is of paramount importance to pack your saddle bag very tight and fill every empty spot of it. The tighter you pack, the more stable the bike bag will stay during the ride. Make sure to put a lot of pressure on the attachment straps to further compress the bag and pull it closely to the seat post.
THE ROUTE - PREPARATION IS KEY
Depending on your own level of fitness and the goal of the trip, you can make the trip as hard or as easy as you want. When planning the route in a routebuilder (we mainly use Komoot since you can see the different types of surfaces), think in advance of the places you want to see during the trip and where you want to stop for lunch, dinner, snacks,… Having a clear view of where you can stock up on water and food, ensures you don’t need to carry as much from the start, which makes you travel lighter, easier and faster.
Some riders prefer to be fully independent (or ride outside of shop opening hours) and need more space in their bike bags to carry food, but that depends on the trip you have in mind. As a rule of thumb, when building your own route for a leisure bike packing trip (so not racing-pace), we suggest you take into account that you loose twenty minutes every hour for food stops, taking pictures, sightseeing,… For example: a 125 k ride at an average of 25km/h takes about 5 hours of riding time + 1h40’ of additional recreational time. When you leave at 8 a.m. this predicts you to arrive at the destination around 3 p.m. Therefore take into account that bikepacking a 125 k takes you much longer than a Sunday morning group ride of 125 k.
JUST DO IT.
It might be the inspirational slogan by a, not further specified, sportswear brand, but that’s basically it. Just try bikepacking once and you will soon be addicted to the simplicity of riding your bike with only the bare minimum, to make the trip an unforgettable experience. The more you do these trips, the better you become in organising them. Start off with a decent saddlebag (which is usually enough to carry all belongings for a 2-day trip) and a top-tube bag or handlebar bag for food, cellphone and personal belongings like a credit card, ID, sunscreen… It will be an unforgettable experience. And don't forget: 'Less is More'.