A mixture of two fun activities, backpacking and biking, bikepacking has recently garnered much attention among the cycling community. But what exactly is bikepacking? And how do you prepare for it? Here are some commonly asked questions and tips for bikepacking for beginners to prepare you for your first ride.
What is bikepacking?
While there is no official definition for the term, bikepacking simply means carrying your camping gear and heading out for an adventure on an off-road/mountain bicycle. Since you are not travelling on foot as you would in traditional backpacking, you can cover more ground in a shorter time. The core of bikepacking is simple: camping and cycling (mainly off-road!)
What kind of bike do I need?
Most camping destinations are reached via trails and forest roads, so a bicycle designed specifically for off-road would be an ideal choice. Additionally, it would be best if you had a bike with a setup to easily and securely carry your gear. Look for bikes with rugged tires for traction and a rack system to carry your gear.
What bikepacking gear should I carry?
A general rule of thumb when packing for a bikepacking trip is to travel light. This short list of bikepacking gear covers all the basics you need for your first trip as a beginner –
- Bike gear – Basic biking gears like a helmet, tire repair kit, multi-functional bike tools, chain lubes, and a bike light is an absolute must during your bikepacking trip
- Food and water – Depending on your trip duration, ensure you carry enough food and water to adequately fuel and hydrate yourself. Also, make a note of reliable food and water sources on your route before you start your journey.
- Clothing – Opt for padded bike shorts and gloves to make your ride comfortable. Plan your apparel as per the weather and dress in layers. Always carry warm clothes and/or a waterproof jacket if you are camping overnight. Don’t forget to pack insulating jackets, hats, gloves, and socks if travelling during harsh winters.
- Shelter – If you are camping overnight, carry a weatherproof tent and other shelter essentials like sleeping bags, quilts, and sleeping pads or mattresses. Good quality sleep is crucial to rest and recharge for the next leg of your journey. So do not compromise on these vital pieces of equipment.
How should I choose my bikepacking route?
If you are a beginner, choose a route close to where you live, has reliable cell phone service, has easy to moderate terrain and elevation, and has adequate food and water sources along the way. Speak to other cyclists in your area or search online forums to understand the route before you begin. When just starting out, plan shorter, overnight trips and gradually work your way towards a bigger adventure!
Also, read 5 best cycling routes in India.
Some more bikepacking tips for beginners
- Before you start your trip, make sure your bike is in excellent working condition. Check your tires, chain, gears, pedals, breaks, and seat.
- Brush up on some basic bike maintenance and repair skills like how to change a tire, lube or fix a chain etc.
- Organize and test all your gear before you leave.
- Inform a few people about your exact route and your estimated time of departure and arrival, especially when travelling to areas with limited cell phone coverage.
- Track your activity with apps like StepSetGo.