Bikepacking for Beginners: Where to start? by Emma Connell
So you are thinking about heading out on your first bikepacking trip. There are definitely a lot of questions that need to be answered before you hit the road with fresh legs! What do I need for gear? How do I plan my route? Do I need to train? How do I fit everything into my packs? What about the chafe?
To some of these questions, there are no right answers, that is one of the beauties about bikepacking. There is a wide variety of bikes to travel on, many different types of sleep set-ups, and various route options. You have the freedom to make your trip exactly what you want it to be. I’ve compiled a list of tips that I have learned throughout my cycling journey!
1. Borrow or rent gear for your first time
Bikepacking is a gear intensive activity. Borrowing or renting gear can give you the opportunity to try it without breaking the bank! You can also experiment with different products, and learn what you might like to invest in for yourself.
2. Find a bike that fits you well for longer journeys
This can be tricky if you are borrowing a bike, however finding the best fit is crucial for comfort on longer journeys. Your local bike shop is an awesome resource for helping you find the right fit for your size and style of riding. The difference between an ill fitting bike and a proper fit is wild. Lower back, shoulder & neck pain when spending long durations in the saddle on a bike that is incorrectly sized.
3. Travel light
You only have so much cargo space on your bike, dependending on what type of storage set-up you are using. I’ve enjoyed travelling with a hammock and tarp rather than a tent to save space. I typically have one set of “bike clothes” and one set of “normal clothes”. If grocery stops are possible on your route I would definitely recommend stopping along the way to grab food to free up some space in your bag.
4. Set a goal for the trip
Before determining your route it’s important to set a goal for your trip! Are you wanting to take in the road trip scenery at a slower speed? Hoping to set your daily distance record? Make it a certain distance within a period of time? Determining your goal will help you set realistic daily travel distances, decide on the sleeping arrangements, and pack accordingly!
5. Comando underneath bike shorts is the way to go
Seriously, you can avoid all sorts of hurt with this! (a good pair of bike shorts are an absolute necessity as well) Make sure to bring a multi-purpose camp soap, (or laundry soap if you have access to a sink), to wash/rinse/and hang dry your shorts to keep them clean and avoid unwanted bacterias.
6. Put the necessary time into planning your route
Do your research! It is helpful to see what routes other cyclists are travelling. It is important to know your road conditions (as much as possible) to avoid undesirable hazards such as highways or road construction. Make sure that your bike matches your road conditions because trust me, you don’t want to end up on a loose gravel road with 25mm tires!
7. Enjoy radlers on brewery stops
Did you know that radler is German for cyclist? There’s a story behind the name but I totally appreciate that radlers have a lower alcohol percentage, allowing you to enjoy a beer, and still be able to safely hit the road after your stop haha!