What is Bikepacking?
Bikepacking is all about adventure – traditional touring, but off-road and with as little strapped to the bike as possible. It is a multi-day tour by cycles, done on mixed terrain or entirely off-road terrains. It is a medium to go out mountain cycling trips, exploring new places and camping in the countryside. In simpler words, you ride to nearby places on your cycle, instead of using your car or bike!
Why Are People Bikepacking?
It struck the right chord with a new group of people who are fitness focussed, want to camp out on their cycles, explore trails and the venture into the great outdoors. As our roads become congested with traffic, there is a fledgling group of riders seeking routes that are quieter, closer to nature and more adventurous.
Gear For Bikepacking
Well, it’s quite simple. All you need to start with bikepacking is the following:
- Mountain Bike
- Camping Gear
- Bikepacking Bags/Saddle Bags
- Cycling Apparel
- Cycling Tools
- Food and Water
What Bike To Use
Although you can use any kind of cycle for these tours, we recommend you get a mountain bike. Irrespective of the cycle you use, please ensure it has the following.
- Big rim, broad tubeless tires
- Extra eyelets on the frame for accessories
- No suspension
- Comfortable seat
Here’s a great article that highlights how you need to choose a cycle for bikepacking.
Stores like Decathlon now carry saddle bags for cycles and you can try those or visit an e-commerce site for more options. But before you do, here are some suggestions for appropriate bags.
- Bottle carrier that can store 1 or 2 water bottles
- Daypacks, for shorter rides to carry bare essentials
- Panniers used to carry heavier articles like clothes, food, tools etc
- Side bags or saddle bags for camping equipment, clothes etc
Comfort is the key criteria while selecting cycling apparel. Go for lycra or nylon clothing that has a comfortable fit; not too tight or loose. You will find plenty of options for cycling shorts and jerseys in sporting stores or online sites. For tropical weather, buy waterproof jackets.
Along with these, you need to pick up a pair of good cycling gloves. They will protect you during a fall and also prevent blisters on your hands due to long bouts of riding.
Stiff soles are the main feature of cycling shoes. Compared to typical sports shoes, cycling shoes are made with stiffer soles to provide more efficient energy transfer to the pedals. Cycling shoes use “Clip-less” or “Clip-in” technology; with a ‘cleat’ on the bottom of the shoe, you clip into the pedals.
Where Can You Go Bikepacking?
Unlike the US and Europe, India has very limited options near urban centers for bikepacking. But the best way to start is by exploring the countryside near your city. Start small and gradually increase the distance you travel. You don’t have to start with multiple day trips initially. Go out for day rides and when you are comfortable try a weekend trip as well.
For ex. if you live in Pune, the villages near Lonavla or the lakeside near Pawna/Bhandardara are excellent bikepacking spots! If you are in Bangalore, you can start with heading to Kanakpura road, or Mysore road!
You’ll be carrying your own weight and the weight of your gear while riding a cycle. This requires you to be extra careful on your trips. Be sure to:
- Go slow, especially on downhill terrain
- Brake in pulses. Sudden braking can lead to skidding
- Don’t corner like a MotoGP rider
- Wear comfortable and good fitting apparel
- Always wear a helmet
- If you are carrying luggage, fill up air accordingly
- Stay in the extreme left and let the traffic go ahead
- Use mirrors on your cycle. You cant keep looking back each time you need to turn
- Use tubeless tires or use anti-puncture liquid or carry a puncture kit on your tours
We also advise you to use hand grips that give additional padding to the handlebar and cause reduced fatigue to your arms. Going on a bikepacking tour is very similar to going on a motorcycle tour. We have some great motorcycle riding tips that you can use on your cycling tours as well!