New generations of bicycle activities continues to add new elements to riding. Whether you look at 12, 18, 21, 27, 30, or 33 gear bicycles or fixed gear bikes ushering in new events such as bike polo, there will always be adventures to be enjoyed in bicycling. Adventure cycling, like folk music, includes a wide swath of possibilities. people tour the countryside, other countries, and find new places to ride a bike. Life really blossoms with touring by bicycle, exploring neighborhoods, towns, countrysides, and cities. Bikepacking can be touring by road or by trail. While lots of technical gear abounds, you can start anywhere, with almost anything. I started touring with two canvas backpacks tied to the handlebars and rack on my bike.
Start by planning something manageable. Keep in mind that learning how really can be the ultimate goal, not the destination. Start with a one day excursion, then add an overnight or two. This makes weekend adventuring manageable also. Look around your area for wildlife destinations, campgrounds, parks, or good hiking trails. Consider 15-30 miles as the zone to find a destination. Remembering that you will go out and back in the allotted time. Check out mapping apps such as Google maps, Ride With GPS, or Map My Ride. You can also search Ride With GPS for routes others have contributed. You might want to explore gravel roads as extra fun. Your destination might include a short hike, nature walk, interpretive walk, or scenic overlook, so provide enough time for stopping.
Keep water with you or make sure it is accessible. Consider filter straws as part of your things to pack. Hydration packs can help carry considerably more water. Convenience stores, churches, or grocery stores along the route can help. All surface water should be treated as it is all contaminated to some degree.
Frame, bar, or rack bags carry the goods. The more gear, the more bags you will need. Use frame and handlebar bags if you do not have a rear rack. Frame and bar bags will still be useful when you finally do get a rack. Start with an affordable bag and then move to 100% waterproof when you can. Waterproofing really helps to make bike packing an option much more often than not. Tents suited for bike packing come very compact. I started carrying a 4.8 lb. tent. Kept mosquitoes out but really weighed my bike down. Bamboo utensils really help to keep the weight down as opposed to metal utensils.
Sleeping really makes for a great or challenging experience. Go for waterproofed goose down sleeping bags. Lightweight and better suited for warmer weather bike packing. A good multitool, tire levers, a tube, travel pump, chain breaker, quick links, and an emergency derailleur hanger. On a ride in the Illinois country near the Mississippi River, a buddy broke his derailleur from cranking. We stopped and another bike rider happened to have an emergency derailleur hanger. This came as we tried to figure where we could get a hanger, miles from any town. In about 20 minutes we were back on our way. What a different story that made instead of the craziness of trying to get to a town and find something else to work!!
Consider training for your ride. You can just about any bike for the experience. Be sure to get help making sure it is fitted properly. Flat handlebars may be the best choice if you plan to get on mountain biking trails. Otherwise, ergonomic or drop bars can provide alternate hand positions for avoiding fatigue. Tires should fit your terrain. Gravel roads and crushed limestone trails require a 32mm or wider tire. Be sure your drivetrain starts out clean, lubricated, and adjusted. Many issues can be avoided by starting out with equipment in good working condition. Full suspension bikes’ best use is off-road riding. While the full suspension might offer you some bounce, it makes carrying gear challenging due to frame design. Get some bags packed and attached. Now go ride! Get a few or several miles under the belt.
Getting bags packed with all of that gear you set out to take. First step, root out as many items that do not seem totally necessary. Toiletry essentials only. Use Dr. Bronners soap as a one soap does all for washing body parts as well as utensils and bike parts. Water first-bladder or bottles. No more than two items of clothing. Two pairs of socks, two shorts, and two shirts will be good for two days or a week. Small backpacking stove, cup, and cookware .Lightweight polar fleece and a waterproof rain jacket can keep you warm down in the 30’s quite nicely. Backpacking towels are small and lightweight. Always pack some sunscreen. Sunscreen makes a great barrier in really hot weather to help your body regulate its temperature.
One adventure will lead to another. Along the way you will find new ideas for where to go, what to bring, what not to bring, and how to pack better.