Key Trend in cycling tourism: Bikepacking 

by Staff

One of the main trends in the cycling industry in recent years is bikepacking. A lot of things testify to this: a huge frequency of requests for the word bikepacking in search engines, a bunch of hashtags with it on social networks, a lot of articles and video reviews, a big revival in the bicycle accessories market, and even serious changes in the range of bicycles themselves. In this article, we tried to answer the question: what is bikepacking and what are its advantages?

What is bikepacking?

Most likely, you will not find a clear and comprehensive definition. In short, bikepacking is a concept of transporting equipment on a bicycle that stands on two pillars: the application of easy-going practices and the even distribution of equipment along the entire bike.

Bikepacking does not involve the concentration of all cargo on one of the trunks. The equipment is laid out in several small bags, the main of which are: seatpost, in-frame and handlebar. Also, part of the load can be attached to the frame and fork of the gravel bikes. Of course, the total volume of bikepacking bags is most often inferior to typical side bike bags and “pants” backpacks that are placed on the trunk. Therefore, the second distinguishing feature of bikepacking is ease of movement.

Do not think that it all comes down to the use of ultralight equipment. The emphasis is rather on the rejection of excess equipment, which is preceded by a thoughtful analysis of the route, when it is decided what is really needed on the way and what is better to leave at home.

In the United States, the word bikepacking is strongly associated with long-distance self-sufficiency cycling races, among which the most famous are Tour Divide (4418 km), American Trail Race (8047 km), Iditarod Bike Race (563 km / 1609 km). In Russia, the route of such a cycling race is still being formed by a team of enthusiasts and consists of three explored segments with a length of 1000-1300 km. The race is called Tour Unite and has been held annually since 2017.

Racers are autonomous – there are no stages, food points, escort cars and support teams. Race routes in most cases lie far from busy roads, mainly on soils and gravel roads. Fast passage of many sections requires sensitive control of the bicycle, and for overnight stays you need a set of bivouac equipment. Therefore, the idea quickly took root here to use a minimum of equipment distributed along the entire bike – for maximum speed and control on the route.

The most striking feature of bikepacking is a set of several bags of small volume. Today they are used not only by racers, but also by cyclists and even city dwellers. Therefore, we dwell on them in a little more detail.

Bikepacking bags

At the heart of any bikepacking kit are three bags that hold most of the gear:

  • seatpost,
  • handwheel,
  • intraframe.

When bikepacking is of little use

With all its advantages, the bikepacking concept has a number of limitations and in its “pure” form is not always applicable in some cycling trips:

  1. Bike trips with an autonomous part for more than a week: Usually these are many kilometers, often off-road routes at a great distance from settlements. It will take a lot of effort to fit all the gear and food for more than a week into bikepacking bags and fork mounts. Nevertheless, many cyclists succeed, which requires considerable experience, very thorough preparation for the trip and the most compact equipment.
  2. Cycling trips with lots of equipment: Bikepacking is hardly suitable if you need to ride bicycles to a picturesque place and arrange a comfortable camping trip there for a few days or take a set of photo and video equipment with you. All this equipment will require a lot of space, and bulky equipment like a bivouac cooking pan will be very difficult to fit on a bike without a rack.

The impact of bikepacking on the cycling tourism industry

Bikepacking has given a powerful impetus to the development of the previously conservative cycle tourism industry. Moreover, not only bicycles and accessories for them began to change dramatically, but also tourist equipment. For example, Big Agnes even released a separate series of tents for the needs of bikepackers. The Fly Creek and Cooper Spur models, already popular among them, will be released in the Bikepacking version in the summer of 2019. Their bars have shortened sections to fit even on narrow ram handlebars, and the case is a ready-made bikepacking handbag with the possibility of attaching additional equipment. Also a cool feature of the new tents will be an outer pocket on the inner tent for neat storage of a bicycle helmet.

Bikepacking has also become one of the powerful triggers for experiments in cycling tourism. The reduction in the number and weight of equipment allowed new equipment to be taken along, which made it possible to combine cycling with other, often unexpected, activities. So, bikepacking bikes began to be used in the Alpine regions as a means of approaching climbing and multi-pitch routes. Fortunately, the density of bike paths and trails allows.

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The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.

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