The art of nailing a bikepacking adventure, according to Francis and Chris...
Bikepacking (baɪkˈpækɪŋ): a multi-day tour by bike, completed on mixed or off-road terrain with the rider carrying their equipment on their bike.
Read time: 3 mins
More and more cyclists are discovering the simple pleasure of bikepacking - hitting the tracks and trails with just their trusty bike, a few basic essentials, and themselves. As the summer months loom on the horizon, we know that many cyclists in the SunGod community will be dusting off their saddlebags and digging out their maps in search of summer bikepacking adventures.
So who better to share their tips than SunGod Ambassadors and bikepacking devotees, Francis Cade and Chris Hall? Their latest mission was a 1400km bikepacking loop around Spain, where they racked up an impressive 19,000m of elevation - it's safe to say that if anyone knows the art of either nailing or failing a bikepacking trip, it’s these guys. They share their tips...
1. Don't overpack.
Chris: "Everyone does it, and it’s a mistake - you need a hell of a lot less stuff than you expect. I'm a big believer in taking the bare essentials and packing smart. For example, a down jacket and rain cape can work wonders in all conditions - the down jacket keeps you warm and covered when it gets chilly, and the rain jacket works as a windbreak as well as as waterproof. That way, you won’t need a winter jacket and arm warmers. It’s all about packing smart! Add to that:
- two sets of cycling kit
- a few T-shirts and pairs of pants
- washbag (hygeine is crucial!)
- a pair of off-bike shoes (trust me, your feet will thank you! If you really don't have the space, consider going in SPD)
- tools and spares
- camping gear if you’re planning to sleep out
With that, you’re pretty much set. The lighter your setup, the better your bike will feel, and the quicker you can pack and hit the road each day."
2. You don’t have to ride mega-distances.
Francis: "In the past I've planned trips which have, because of the distances, become more of a cycling challenge than an enjoyable experience. Sometimes less is more! Having time to take in the scenery, meet the locals and explore off the bike is so valuable.
Riding a bicycle gives you the chance to take advantage of those incredible moments in a way you never would in a car - make the most of it! Those moments are the parts you'll remember for years to come. 100km a day still adds up and gets you really far after a few days. If you limit your distance, you'll be fresher to enjoy all the other things travelling has to offer."
3. You don't always have to camp.
Chris: "I know some people find the idea of camping a bit daunting and I completely get that. I only tend to camp when I'm doing ultra-distance races because it's efficient. But there’s no harm in booking a hotel or AirBnB for the night. It means a guaranteed chance to shower, wash your kit and get a much-needed good night’s sleep! On the subject of hygiene, whether camping or not, make sure to look after your nether regions… trust me, having to deal with saddle sores is not fun."
4. Keep your schedule flexible.
Francis: "So many opportunities arise while you're exploring a new place. Feel like spending an extra day or two riding in the mountains or hanging out in a new city with friends? You can do it if you don't book everything in advance. Accommodation can be booked more easily than ever online, so there’s no reason not to really! In addition to this, not everything always goes to plan… When something goes wrong, if you’re sticking to a strict schedule this creates extra stress, which is never helpful. The best trips I've done have been the ones with the most rest days and the ability to be flexible."
5. Do a test run.
Chris: "This doesn’t have to be a long ride - it could be riding to a mate's and camping in their garden. But it’s important - doing a test run helps you understand how the bike feels loaded, and also gives you a bit of comfort that you have a great and tested set up. Staying overnight also reassures you that you haven’t missed any key items off your packing list!"
With Francis and Chris' tips at hand, you should feel better prepared to pack up your tent, recruit a few friends, and hit the road on a bikepacking trip. Follow Chris (@chrishallrides) and Francis (@francisccade) to stay up to date with their latest bike adventures - bikepacking and otherwise! You can also head over to Francis' YouTube to check out the vlog from the Spain trip and more.