Do you enjoy cycling? Do you like adventure? Do you ride on the road and off-road? Are you a fan of camping? Do you need an excuse for a mini or maxi expedition? Bikepacking - the new cycling craze has finally reached the mainstream.
Years in the making the evolution of Bikepacking is the fusion of mountain biking, cycle touring and other variations in between (gravel biking, cyclocross, adventure cycle touring).
Why bike packing and why now? It is easy to forget how niche and weird the cycling industry actually is when you venture in amongst the geeks (like myself). Equally there are as many people who couldn’t care less about the bike.
Bikepacking is something that used to be called mountain biking with hike-a-bike sections or perhaps it used to be called adventure cycle touring. Or maybe it used to be called etc…. In recent years, maybe because of the exposure that the internet brings to subcultures, a constant desire of the biking industry to diversify new niches have emerged.
The highest level of bike geek is obsessed. Obsession breeds creativity and experimentation. Whether that is going further, lighter, higher, longer. Sometimes innovations gain traction, the first adopters make stuff look cool and a movement gets momentum. Niche companies fulfil gear gaps in the market and eventually mainstream companies catch on. We have been able to see this with Apidura bags and now Ortlieb are also making bikepacking bags.
Bikepacking offers the chance for versatile multi-terrain adventure on a strong bike with luggage that is strapped to the frame to make the bike more manoeuvrable and streamlined. However, bike packing is a more friendly term than cycle touring, so I have a feeling that it will start to replace it.
Bikepacking doesn’t have to be a ‘tour’ which is a bit of an old fashioned word. It can just be a short escape to the woods and doesn’t need fancy kit. Perhaps it is easier to warrant a bike packing adventure than a cycle tour when making a case to take the family.
Going on adventures has gained huge popularity. In Britain especially more people are choosing to holiday in the UK and are increasingly getting outside and embarking on homemade expeditions to discover trails far and wide. Microadventures (or macro for the truly adventurous) have been shown to be a brilliant activity for families as well as the loner adventurer. Introduce kids to maps and tell stories whilst planning a route. Make exploring your local area with your kids more exciting! Or take your family around the world by bike.
You can either take it easy or challenge yourself, go alone or in a group. You can ride trails as well as the road or explore countries and continents. Bikepacking offers more opportunities to get off road into nature to recalibrate senses and connect with the outdoors. Breathe in the pungent countryside air - experience the seasons. Escape from technology and screens by taking only analogue kit - avoid laptops, gps, and phones or strap a camera and tracker to every limb and turn yourself into a walking media experiment. Sleep in a hammock and make a campfire A new generation of lightweight camping gear has been designed for bike packing ranging from stoves, to sleeping bags and tents.
However, there are pros and cons. Disappearing into the wild with scant supplies is a feat one should never take lightly, even for the most courageous or practised rural explorer. 90% of land in the UK is private, so ideally you can ask the landowner for permission. Elsewhere free camping is allowed so check before you go about the rules where you are visiting. The 2003 Land Reform Act, for example, restored the right to camp throughout Scotland.
Bikepacking vs Road Touring
- You the the opportunity to get away from road culture but you don’t have the support of other people on the road
- You get to feel the ride by taking less and packing the kit into the frame but you can’t take as much which may limit your time on the road
- Bike packing on a mountain bike can offer more options than a road-oriented cycle touring bike, but it may limit your speed and not be as comfortable for long
- Off road offers more variety of terrain
- There are some nice bike packing websites like http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/
- Bike packing can charter new routes away from the road and take existing routes like shepherd trails and jeep tracks
Photocredit: @rauckhaus Flickr