Bikepacking, this year's trend
A bike ride is the perfect way to explore yourown or a new region. Slow but steady you explore the local nature, culture andhistory. Travelling by bike, you’ll get back in touch with your ownsurroundings. When you go on a trip for several days, we call this bikepacking.To spend the night bikepackers often camp somewhere, but this is certainly notnecessary. Choosing to stay in hotels, bed and breakfasts or hostels can makethe trip more comfortable. While traveling with your bike you will createauthentic experiences you will cherish forever. Adventure is literallyeverywhere. The feeling of freedom is priceless.
“A weekend of biketouring in my ownbackyard gives me an incredible feeling of freedom. It is ideal to unwind afterbusy weeks, without arranging much beforehand.”
You can plan your own trip. You are in controlof every part of the adventure: the period, duration, route, pace, accommodation,… That’s why no bikepacking trip is the same. Each time you create new uniqueexperiences. Take a look at our routebuilder, where you can create your owntrip very easily.
Your very first trip mustn’t be very expensive.You don’t necessarily need the latest materials or must-haves to startbikepacking. Surely, your current bike could do the trick for your first tour.Afterwards, when you are totally convinced, you can always invest more.
Good plans make good trips
It is important to keep enough freedom on theroad, although we recommend to plan a route in advance. While creating yourcourse, be aware of the terrain, distance in a day and how many days on the roadyou’re able to pedal. Furthermore, give proper consideration to the altimeters,because climbing can cause acidification of the leg muscles.
When you’ve decided on your starting andendpoint of each day, you can start searching for accomodation options. Thereare numerous possibilities: to camp or to stay in a (youth) hostel, bed &breakfast or a hotel. Read more aboutpossibilities to spend the night on a bikepacking trip here.
Preparations are relatively simple. Although onsome choices you need to contemplate a bit longer. It is best to plan yourroute before you start preparing and gathering everything together. The choiceof bike, underground, duration, period of the year, … all have impact on yourpreparations. When you become more experienced, you’ll need less time toprepare, and you can start deciding on going on last minute trips. Read more on how to plan your trip here.
First, let’s guide you through the essentialsfor a short bikepacking trip. Let’s say a long weekend. Do check our checklistbefore leaving, so you don’t forget essential material.
- Yourbike is of course the most important. Like we said before, it is definitelypossible to go on your first trip with your current bike. Of course, it isadvised to get your old bike in good shape before leaving. For this, definitelylook at the attrition of the tires. Worn tires easily result in flat tires. This, you want to avoid a much as possible. It causes unwelcomed stress, and you canonly bring a few spare tires. The state of your brakes and gears are importanttoo. The more smoothly your gears shift, the more enjoyable your trip is. It iseasy to clean your gears and chain usingwater, detergent and an old toothbrush. Afterwards, you lubricate the chain andgears. When the gears have problems shifting, then it is probably better to gofor a small maintenance, or of course make some adjustments yourself. If youstill have a bike with brake pads, please, don’t forget to tighten them,certainly when you have to descend a lot. If they are totally worn, changethem.
Are you convinced after your firsttry? Then you could always invest in another more suited bike. Which bike tochoice depends very much on the terrain and the routes you like to take. Ingeneral, there are different types of bikes for each underground and terain:racing bike, mountain bike, gravel bike, touring bike, etc. For each one,furthermore, there is nowadays also an electric powered one. Additionalelectric support can be very usefull and allow you to add some extra miles toyour daily route. Click here to read more about all different types of bikes.
Don’t forget to pack a repair kitand some spare tires (both in- and outside). When you have a flat tire, you canalways first try to patch up the inner tire and use it again. This way you savesome space in your bags. Never say a breakdown won’t happen to you! It willcome to you eventually, certainly on a multiple day tour, if you like it ornot. So better be prepared.
- Bikepackingbags are a necessity, that’s clear. They help to get your much-needed stuff to your next camping spot. Today you have bagsfor each free spot on your bike. You can attach up to almost 10 bags on yourbike. The amount of bags you need, depends on of course the things you have tobring with you and if you will camp or not. Bikepacking is the art oftravelling light weight, so don’t bring too much, just the bare minimum.
“I alwaystry to bring along as little as possible on my bikepacking trips. On my firstbiking tours this wasn’t easy at all, ending up struggling to choose what tobring. Practice makes perfect!”For a short trip without campingusually three bags are sufficient. Ideally, you should mount a bag of serious volume (14 to 16 liters) toyour handlebars and saddle, and an additional bag to your bike frame. It is important to carry enoughwater and food for the road. If your cage bottles are seized by your frame bag,you can always add bottle cages to your fork or handlebars. This way, you can conveniently carryenough water for the road. For a quick snack while riding, a small bag on thestem and frame is interesting. If you are also planning on camping, you cansave some space by investing in a fork bag. In terms of space and shape, thisis perfect for storing camp gear, such as a gas bottle. We talk about this some more in our article on touring bags.
If you run out of space in your bags, you can always opt for an additionalbackpack, although this is often not necessary. Cycling without a backpackfeels much better, so that your back is not burdened even more while cycling.
- Itis important to be able to start the next stage sufficiently rested. To getthrough the evenings and night in the most comfortable way possible, it isnecessary to pay attention to your camping equipment. Because you are limitedin luggage space, you also need to look for materials that can be transportedcompactly. Camping during bikepacking tours is searching for the optimalbalance between comfort and minimalism.
To protect yourself against the whims of nature, a good shelter, mat andsleeping bag are a must. Here you have many options, about which you can readmore here. For cooking, it is best to take a small stove (gas, wood, …), ahandy small cooking pot and a small spoon/fork. With only a few simpleingredients you can prepare very tasteful and nutritious meals with a minimumof cooking instruments. Be sure to discover our recipes here.
“Personally, I believe carrying enoughfood and drinks is one of the most important elements during a bikepackingtour. Remember that you are the engine of the bike and therefore there mustalways be enough fuel in the tank. Often the amount of nutrition isunderestimated, because it takes additional space and weight to your luggage,but they are indispensable. Once I found myself completely empty, with only 10miles to go. I had not felt this hunger knock coming, and I had not takenenough food with me. I will never forget this moment, so now I always takeenough food and drinks with me.”
- Ifyou want to stay on your planned route, a printed route or digital GPS are indispensable. Before GPS devices and mobile phones were standard, speciallyprinted maps were standard. You can still choose for an old school approach –it has its charms – but obviously it requires more skills in map reading.
However, most cyclist and bikepackers nowadays invest in a digital GPS that isdesigned to make it very easy to follow a mapped out route by bike. This way,you can easily follow the given route and at the same time enjoy thesurroundings even more, without having to study the map intensively at everyintersection. Nowadays, you can get a good GPS device with differentfunctionalities for acceptable prices.
- Whenchoosing your outfit, take something you are comfortable riding in. Thecharacteristics of the route, as well as the forecasted weather, will influencethe clothing to bring with you. Here in Belgium, it is advisable to work withseveral thinner layers of clothing, which you can put on or take off along theway. It is also best to bring a raincoat; not an unnecessary luxury in our partof the world.