What better way to spend some vacation days then long hours in the saddle discovering new terrain? Bikepacking is an ecofriendly vacation that will bring you massive fitness gains alongside an unforgettable experience. Here we summarize some of the biggest benefits and share some tips for your next bikepacking trip.
I was first inspired to take up bikebacking as a challenge to see how far I could ride and to explore new places. After my first bikepacking tour across the United States (Canada to Mexico), I was hooked and convinced it was undeniably the best way to travel. Now after several more bikepacking tours, this is a summary of what the biggest bikebacking benefits are and some tips for if you do a bikepacking trip.
My best racing season came in a year that I did a longer bikepacking tour and this is no coincidence. The aerobic fitness gains from a bike tour are unparalleled in regular training. When you are bikepacking, you spend nearly all of your waking hours pedaling. Then you wake up the next day and do it again. This low intensity and incredibly high volume will automatically result in an increase to your aerobic capacity.
Bike Handling Skills
The long hours on the bike don’t only improve your physical fitness but your overall bike handling skills. Bike handling is one of those things where practice makes perfect. There is no better way to get a huge amount of practice than bike touring. Spending hours going up and down hills on various new terrain while carrying weight will improve your ability to handle a bike.
Explore new places
A big reason we all love cycling is because you can soak up miles of beautiful terrain. The views and experiences you find on a long ride make cycling a uniquely beautiful sport. However, we can only see so many places in our normal daily training. The world is a big place and there are a lot of great places to go ride. Bikepacking allows you to explore more of these places than you otherwise ever would. You will also end up going through many beautiful small towns and villages that you would otherwise never visit. It is an experience you wouldn’t get on any other type of vacation.
Aside from being able to explore more new places than on a normal vacation, there are several things that make a bikepacking trip better than a vacation where you travel with a plane train or automobile. Traveling is exhausting and can take time away from your training. People often come back from a vacation in worse shape than when they left. People often eat and drink more and move less on vacation. It is nearly impossible to eat more calories than you burn each day on a bikepacking trip. You can eat and drink all you want and you will most likely finish your trip weighing less and in better shape than when you left.
You might think that bikepacking is not for you for one reason or another but there is no strict outline you have to follow. Bikepacking is highly personalizable. You can go as far or short anywhere you want with as much or little support as needed. You choose how you want your bikepacking trip to go.
So a bikepacking trip will make you stronger, thinner, and a better all-around bike rider while still being able to enjoy the benefits of a vacation. If this sounds good to you, I recommend the following things for your bikepacking trip.
Plan – Make a good plan but stay flexible so that when (not if) unexpected things occur you can adjust the plan as needed
Invest in good bags – Do not use a backpack. It will destroy your back over the long hours in the saddle. Bikepacking bags have come a long way since the original days of paniers on a rack with a few bags that attach to your seat, handlebars and maybe the bike frame you should be able to carry everything you need
Pack light – Think twice about bringing that extra shirt or pair of shoes. When you are climbing you will really notice that you are carrying extra weight. Also think you need to leave a significant amount of space in your bag for carrying foods
Bring tools – You need to be prepared for at least the most common mechanical problems so that you can get yourself in the worst case scenario to the next bike shop. In addition to the standard tools for changing a flat and multi tool, you might consider bringing an extra chain link, a lightweight tire, and a break cable.
When in doubt, more food – Maybe the grocery store in the next town ends up being closed. You will always be thankful to have a little extra food when you really need it.
Don’t stress when things don’t go according to plan – You will encounter problems. Don’t let these things bother you. This is just part of the experience and when you look back on the whole trip some of the most memorable days might be those where you faced the most challenges.
Have fun – Enjoy the views smells and feeling of the fresh air. Eat good food, drink good drinks and make it a high quality experience