Bikepacking 101 - How To Prepare For A Bikepacking Adventure

Evo Cycles | Sun 26th Feb 2023 13:14

What is bike packing and what gear do you need to be prepared? In this article we'll introduce you to the basics of bike and gear choice as well as provide some tips to help you get the most out of your next bikepacking adventure.

So you want to go bike packing?

The gravel, cycle touring and bikepacking categories have risen in popularity in recent years. These cycling genres allow self-supported, long distance cycling that involves carrying all the necessary gear and supplies on the bike itself. Loading up your bike and heading off the beaten path brings a sense of freedom and adventure, but does require careful planning, the right gear and good preparation. In this article we’ll provide some tips on how to get the most out of future bike packing adventures.

What bike do I need for bikepacking?

With the raft of gravel and bike packing bikes available on the market, it can sometimes be hard to determine what is right for you.

First of all you need to hone in on what you are looking for and wanting to get out of your ride. Are you looking to haul as much gear as possible where speed is not a priority? What biking surfaces are you looking to ride on? A bike designed purely paved roads will look a lot different from something designed to cover ground on gravel roads, beaches or singletrack. Tyre size, frame geometry and components vary significantly depending on the type of riding you need the bike to be able to handle.

Frame material and maximum system weights are things that are often overlooked but yet are one of the most important factors in helping you make that informed decision and getting you on the right stead for the job.

For example bikes in the Trek Checkpoint range (both aluminium and carbon frames) have a max system weight of 125 kg.

So what does this mean? Max system weights are defined as the maximum total weight including the bike, rider, clothing, on bike accessories such as racks and bags plus cargo you are carrying. Typically speaking, bike packing has always been about packing light, so ensuring you know exactly what you are going to be carrying and its total weight is extremely important and should be thought about prior to making your investment. Exceeding these max system weights puts you at higher risk of component damage or catastrophic frame failure and in turn a decision that could leave you stranded (or worse, injured).

Frame material should also be factored in, carbon frames have advanced significantly in the past few years, something that was once only available to high end road frames has trickled across to gravel and mountain bikes. We know that carbon is known for being a strong and lightweight material. That said, alloy or steel frames have tended to be the go to for many reasons. First of all the price, alloy frames typically are more affordable in price, but one may also argue they have the added benefit of being more durable for the adventure at hand. So again ensuring you know what you are wanting from the bike will assist you in your purchase.

What gear do I need for bikepacking?

Regardless of your bike purchasing decision there are still more decisions to make. In fact, it is often more important to understand what you will be carrying before buying your bike as to not exceed max weight limits of the bicycle.

This is a basic list of gear needed for bikepacking, depending on the duration and location of the trip, you may need more or less gear:

  1. Panniers or bike bags: These are bags that can be attached to your bike's frame or racks. They are used to carry your camping gear, clothing, and food.
  2. Tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. You can exclude what you don’t need if you are staying in huts or other accommodation.
  3. Camp stove and cooking equipment: A small camping stove and a pot or pan for cooking will be necessary for preparing meals.
  4. Navigation tools: A map and compass, or a GPS device, will help you navigate. It is not recommended to solely use a cell phone for navigation as they can run out of battery quickly or have limited capability when out of cell coverage.
  5. Clothing and accessories: Pack warm and waterproof clothing, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and good quality riding shoes. Ensure spare dry clothes are stored in a waterproof dry bag.
  6. Tools and spare parts: Basic tools like a multi-tool, pump, spare tubes, chain links and derailleur hangers are crucial.To help you carry out rod side repairs should you need to.
  7. Water bottles or hydration system: Carry enough water to keep yourself hydrated during the entire ride.
  8. Headlamp or flashlight: For navigating in the dark and for camping.
  9. First aid kit: Include basic first aid items such as band-aids, gauze, and pain relievers.

Maintenance tips

It's important to make sure your bike is in good working condition before setting off on your adventure. Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure you and your bike can go the distance, but also can save you money in the long run. Here are some key maintenance tasks you should carry out on your bike:

  1. Keep your bike clean - Clean your bike after every ride to remove dirt and grime, which can cause damage to moving parts. Use a bike-specific cleaner and a soft brush to scrub the frame, chain, cassette follow this up with a chain oil of your choice, remembering to wipe off the excess afterwards.
  2. Before every ride - Check tyre pressure and inflate them to the recommended pressure: Under-inflated tyres will increase rolling resistance, increase the chance for punctures and can cause damage to the rims and tyres.
  3. Before every ride - Check the brake pads for wear: Make sure pads are not worn down to the metal. If they are, replace them. Also, check the brake cables for fraying or rust and replace them if necessary.
  4. Before every ride - Nuts and bolts check: Rough roads and long distances create a lot of vibration, be sure to check and tighten anything that may be prone to coming loose - such as Thru axles, Seat Clamp, Crank bolts, Pedals etc. Pay special attention to manufacturers torque settings.
  5. Before every ride - Check the wheels :Look for any signs of damage such as bent rims or loose spokes.
  6. Check the gears: Shift through all the gears and listen for any unusual noise. If you hear grinding or clicking, it may be a sign that the gears need to be adjusted or replaced. (If you are not too sure how to do this yourself, look to visit your closest Evo service centre for a tune up).
  7. Check the chain: Check the chain for signs of wear, such as damaged links, rust, or a rough surface. A worn chain can cause damage to other drivetrain components, and create shifting issues so it's important to replace it if necessary.
  8. Check the bearings: Check the bearings in the headset, bottom bracket, and wheels for any signs of wear or damage. If they are have any play, feel rough or noisy, they should be replaced as soon as possible

It's a good idea to carry out these checks at least once a month and before any long trip. If you're unsure about how to carry out any of these tasks, it's best to take your bike to a professional bike mechanic.

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What's there to love about bikepacking?

Once you have your gear and maintenance dialled, bike packing is a great way to explore the outdoors and experience the freedom on and off the road. Here are just a few things that people love about the journey.

  1. Immersing in nature: Bike packing allows you to explore remote and beautiful places that are often only accessible by bike. The feeling of being out in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, can be very rejuvenating.
  2. The sense of adventure: Bike packing is an adventure and the unknown always adds to the excitement. The planning and preparation that goes into a trip, as well as the challenges you may encounter on the road, make the journey all the more rewarding.
  3. The physical challenge: Bike packing can be physically demanding, but the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a long ride is hard to beat.
  4. The camaraderie: Bike packing is often a social activity, and many people enjoy the camaraderie that comes with riding and camping with a group.
  5. The simplicity: Bike packing is a simple and minimalist way of travelling, which allows you to focus on the essentials and appreciate the beauty of the journey.
  6. The cost-effectiveness: Compared to other forms of travel, bike packing is a relatively inexpensive way to explore new places.
  7. The flexibility: Bike packing allows you to go at your own pace and make changes to your route as you go, which means you can adapt your trip to suit your needs and interests.

With all these things in mind and the right knowledge, there is no better way to see the world than from a bike. At a slower pace and through continuous immersion in the elements, bikepacking creates experiences like no other. Whatever your journey, bikepacking gives you the freedom to explore.