/ Article: bikepacking for beginners
On UKH today: What exactly is bikepacking; what gear will you need; and how should you make a start? Markus Stitz, one of the UK's leading bikepacking exponents, shares some advice for beginners...
Best bike for the job: The cheapest half decent second hand mountain bike you can find. Lugs on the frame to take rack and working brakes essential; front suspension useful but not vital.
Other hardware: Rack that can be persuaded to fit on the bike frame. Panniers that won't fall apart or catch on your heels on every pedal stroke.
Other gear: Usual basic bike repair kit, including a small bottle of chain lube, cable ties and duct tape.
Almost the main idea of bikepacking is NOT using racks. Did you read the article?
I did, and two thoughts came to mind. The first was that I'd ridden for long distances on very rough tracks and paths with racks and panniers, without falling off or feeling in danger of doing so. On most trips I covered a lot of ground in a short time and enjoyed myself.
The second was that a set of frame bags, let alone a special "bikepacking bike", would almost certainly cost more than the bike, rack and panniers I used for dozens of trips over a number of years.
It's fair enough dropping a couple of grand on specialist kit if you can afford it, but there's nothing to stop you having almost as good a time, or maybe better, if you can't.
I've asked what 'bikepacking' means a couple of times & it just seems a new term for an old activity (was rough stuff cycling when I was a teenager). Like you I've cycled with gear for bothying/camping on fairly rough terrain with panniers/rack - the only time it seemed a problem was on the odd occasion I had to carry the bike & that would have been the same with these trendy replacements for my trusty panniers.
Reading this article brought back memories of conversions with mountain bike fanatics back in the 1980s who had just discovered mountain bikes & thought they were doing something new, in complete ignorance of what had been happening for years.
But if folk get out into the hills, who cares what names they use (a rose....)
Actually one of the reasons I got into bikepacking was exactly that it was cheaper than getting racks and panniers. I think Alpkit are still charging only 60 or 70 quid for a custom made frame bag made to your template, but most people using mountain bikes probably don't even need one of them, at least not for one or two night trips. A couple of dry bags from Alpkit or Lumo, some straps or bungy cords and off you go.
Lots of the trails I've ridden in the Peak I wouldn't fancy with panniers. I think in the ruts i'd be dead nervous of catching the panniers and at best ripping that off, at worse ripping the rack off!
> ... A couple of dry bags from Alpkit or Lumo, some straps or bungy cords and off you go.
But what do you strap them to ? One to your handlebars (but I'd prefer a handlebar bag), but the next ?
But all this stuff about racks (whatever they are) is mere quibbles. The main concern here is that, once again, an article about the UK has used the term "backcountry". Enough is enough; the skiing and cycling scene is bad enough but heaven forbid that it ever enters the vocabulary of actual walkers and climbers.
To be fair to Markus, English isn't his first language (though he does a good job of hiding it). I can't say it upset me enough to change it
This is a very odd article. It's supposed to be for beginners but suggests buying one of the most complex and expensive bike components ever made, the Rohloff hub. Something that if broken needs to be sent to Germany for two weeks where as standard gears can be bodged if not entirely replaced within a couple of hours at any bike shop. Similarly eschewing suspension because it might break, it's a long time since suspension couldn't handle a few days in the wilderness.
There are a whole host of people managing just fine without specialist bags hanging off specialist bars on specialist bikes.
It wouldn't have hit the word count but this should have just said "give it a go somewhere local with what you already have and work out what you want after that".
Same as you - my bike touring setup is a steel-framed mountain bike with an Ortlieb handlebar pack and a dry bag on top of a rack. I find this easier to pack and more stable than the saddle packs - and much cheaper. Total cost ~£90, as the rack was effectively free. I will probably pick up a frame bag if I get into it more, but these can make carrying the bike harder.
I didn't have any panniers to start with, so I had to get something and these just made sense. Another friend of mine uses an almost identical setup, another has the full Apidura set, another has the Blackburn equivalents and one is using a bar bag and small rear panniers.
I have seen people bodge a bar bag with a small dry bag and a couple of straps, it all depends on cable routing and how far your bars are from your tyre.
> Similarly eschewing suspension because it might break, it's a long time since suspension couldn't handle a few days in the wilderness.
A mate of mine had his forks collapse in the middle of Nepal, resulting in some very enterprising diagnosis and repair of problem, followed by desperate search for some sort of pump to get them back up to pressure.
Similarly, another mate had his hydraulic brakes leak somewhere in Asia, resulting in some tweaking and topping up with olive oil.
> There are a whole host of people managing just fine without specialist bags hanging off specialist bars on specialist bikes.
> It wouldn't have hit the word count but this should have just said "give it a go somewhere local with what you already have and work out what you want after that".
That's how I started and, mainly, am carrying on...
Things do go wrong but this is a beginner guide not an all eventualities guide while you are in the middle of Nepal.
> One to your handlebars, but the next ?
Under your saddle. I've got a purpose made saddle pack now from Alpkit, but for a number of trips over a couple of years survived fine just using a dry bag. I first bought a seatpost mounted rack to put the bag on but it snapped on a second overnight trip. Couldn't take the vibrations I guess. Put me off even minimal racks.
Instead of a handlebar bag (they all seem to need brackets and such to attach) I now have little bags on the stem and top of the cross bar, so I can get to them while riding. That is extra kit but I doubt them and the dry bag together cost more than a good handlebar bag, particularly from Ortleib or similar. https://goo.gl/photos/in4SLYS8Hw23dKwD7 some pics from 100 km almost all off road Saturday evening/Sunday morning ride last summer.
Didn't I read on another thread that you are, or at least have been, a sponsored hero (sorry: brand ambassador!) appearing in a logo laden, commercially produced video?!? If so, starting to say 'backcountry' a bit seems to be the least of the ethical trangressions from the righteous path. ;-)
Some years back I got a custom frame bag from Alpkit for my CX bike, I think when I was in Finland I needed more space during colder times: http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/an-early-winter-bikepack.html?m=1 but I haven't used it so much in the UK. I did use it for this trip http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/bikepacking-around-peak-district.html?m=1 but with drop bars you are a bit limited to how much you can fit between the bars. Since getting a smaller sleeping bag i've bike packed on that bike without it. That also means you don't need to fork fit bottles, they can go back in the normal place!
> Didn't I read on another thread that you are, or at least have been, a sponsored hero (sorry: brand ambassador!) appearing in a logo laden, commercially produced video?!? If so, starting to say 'backcountry' a bit seems to be the least of the ethical trangressions from the righteous path. ;-)
It's got nothing to do with ethics - it's just hideous misppropriation of language.
Oh, and by the way, I believe the word you were looking for was 'ambassathlete'.
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