Bikepacking is a great way to enjoy cycling and get your adventure fix.
I have been lucky enough to have been bikepacking all over the world in incredible places such as Taiwan, Peru, and Oman, and I’ve raced across Europe multiple times.
It completely changed me as a person and not just taught me some great life lessons, but it came with many benefits you wouldn’t expect.
In this article, I want to tell you all about them.
We’ll be covering:
- What Is Bikepacking?
- The 10 Most Underrated Benefits of Bikepacking
- How To Get Started With Bikepacing
Let’s dive in!
What is Bikepacking?
Before we start, for those that don’t know what bikepacking is, let’s explain the concept.
The best way to explain bikepacking is lightweight touring. A typical bikepacking bike could be a mountain, road, gravel, or even a hybrid bike.
You will strap some lightweight bikepacking bags to your bike. Only take the bare essentials, and off you go on an adventure!
It could be a slow tour taking in sights, or you could be racing other bikepackers in an ultra-distance event.
The 10 Most Underrated Benefits of Bikepacking
I have been lucky enough to do a lot of bikepacking!
It has been excellent for my fitness, taken me on many adventures, has been a great tool to de-stress from normal life, and has also been the challenge I needed at times.
These are the benefits I never expected to find when I was on my adventures and many of the reasons I continue to ride big miles and get out of my comfort zone regularly.
#1. You get to see everything in between
In all my years of bikepacking and traveling, I found myself always going with a purpose, typically to travel to places I wanted to see.
When I first started, it was the Eiffel Tower, then the Atomium, and other famous landmarks across Europe. However, I realized quickly that the places I had set out to go to turned out to be some of the least memorable parts of my adventures.
The parts I enjoyed most were all the surprises I found in between.
Local families who took me in for meals, incredible climbs and views I never knew were there, and the peaceful quiet roads off the beaten track where you’re lucky to see another person – these were some of the experiences that make bikepacking so worthwhile!
#2. Bikepacking is the best kind of freedom
There’s nothing like the freedom that bikepacking offers.
Generally, you have no schedule you need to stick to, as you have all day to get as far as you like. Providing you’re not too far from the wilderness, shops are often open, and most hotels are 24 hours.
This freedom gives you a lovely feeling that takes the worry of what time is away, and you can focus on things you love doing, such as riding your bike and drinking lots of coffee.
#3. You can eat all the calories you want!
With a normal holiday, you can find yourself going away indulging a bit more than you normally would and getting home to find yourself a bit heavier than before. This is normal when you let yourself relax, and it happens to all of us when out of routine.
When you go bikepacking, you find yourself exercising so much that you can get away with eating anything you want. In all my experiences bikepacking, I have always returned home after a week a few pounds lighter.
#4. The Bikepacking community is incredible
Bikepacking has an incredible community associated with it.
With so many people turning to the pedals on holiday for similar experiences, the support you are offered from others is excellent. Many groups on Facebook and other social channels are willing to offer help and support.
You will often have people who not just ride but closely follow the races too, and these are called Dot Watchers. They follow as an event, but some are often referred to as road angels as they can help ensure the safety of riders from afar.
In all my years being part of it, I have seen people replace other riders’ broken bikes with their own. I have seen people rescued from mechanical bike issues roadside, and even people offer their place for accommodation for riders.
#5. Bikepacking Is a very cheap holiday
You get a lot for your money when you go bikepacking!
You can spend a week away and spend much less than a typical holiday – once you take away the initial investment of a bike. Here’s where I found I made the most savings:
- The majority of travel is done on a bike, saving transport costs.
- If you’re camping, you save a fortune, and hotels out of cities are much cheaper.
- You generally eat mostly from supermarkets and not so much in restaurants.
- You tend not to shop for non-essentials as it’s challenging to carry them.
- You can often start your holiday from your home, or fly out and cycle home.
Although you find yourself saving money in places, you also find yourself spending more money in others.
Here’s where you might find yourself spending more:
- Bike and equipment costs are a big first outlay.
- If you want to go far, far away, then flying with a bike is more expensive.
- You will end up servicing your bike more often.
Generally, you will find a bikepacking holiday cheaper than a normal holiday. Our best advice to keep costs low is to start and finish at home and avoid large cities.
#6. Bikepacking Opens your mind
Even though I was lucky enough before I started cycling to see some amazing places in the world, nothing was quite like doing it on a bike.
For me, the further I cycled and the more people I met, the less I worried about the little things and the more I wanted to explore.
It helped me embrace new cultures and not take life too seriously. Whenever I went on a bikepacking trip, I returned with bigger goals and a better attitude.
#7. Bikepacking is an incredible confidence booster
Being constantly on the road and traveling to new places keeps you outside your comfort zone. You might not know where you will sleep that night or your next food stop, but that makes it exciting.
After a few days of my first trip, I embraced this feeling. By the end of the week, when I went to travel home, I felt like a new, more confident me.
This transferred over to my daily life, and I felt that nothing could stop me at home if I could handle bikepacking for a week.
#8. Bikepacking is Environmentally Friendly
Pollution is becoming a huge problem for the world and the more we can all do our part in reducing our carbon footprint the better. Cycling is a great way of exploring without putting pressure on the environment.
With bikes having such a positive effect on the environment, we are now seeing many big cities create much better cycling infrastructure to accommodate people that want to ditch their cars and travel with pedal power.
If you want to know more about how cycling benefits the environment you can find it here.
#9. You make amazing friends
When I first started bikepacking, I thought it was a very lonely way to travel, but you generally never find yourself feeling alone often. You make friends at campsites, in hostels, and even when you stop at cafes.
I always found that when people saw me traveling with lots of luggage, I was always asked where I was going and why. If you were lucky enough to see another bikepacker, you always found yourself sharing miles and stories.
It was very refreshing as in daily life, when you meet people, one of the first questions they ask is what you do for a living. When bikepacking, people ask where you have been and where you are going. It’s a very refreshing change.
#10. You can turn it into a race
If you fancy a challenge instead of a relaxing holiday, you should turn your bikepacking trip into an ultra-distance race.
With bikepacking races turning up in most countries and companies organizing routes and competitors, why not give a race a try?
Although it may not be the most relaxing holiday you will have a lot of fun. It will push your endurance to the limit, and you will be able to see how good you are against others.
How To Get Started With Bikepacing
Step #1. Preparation
Get yourself a bike and some bikepacking bags.
We recommend a bike that will be fairly light and give you great comfort. Touring bikes are the classic choice for adventures that stick mainly to the roads, while a gravel bike is ideal if you want to mix in some light off-road terrain.
For bikepacking trips that take you deep into the backcountry wilderness, it’s probably worth looking into a proper hardtail or full-suspension mountain bike.
If you’re looking for bikepacking bags, you can spend as little as $60 or as much as $600. For excellent high-end bags we recommend Apidura, and for basic budget bags Amazon always has plenty of options.
Step #2. An adventure Near home
Now once you are all set up and ready to go it’s time to go for an adventure nice and close to home. Get all the essentials, such as a bivvy bag, sleeping bag, mat, and clothing. Then pack it on your bike.
We recommend staying somewhere close to home and just getting used to riding with a lot of luggage and just making all the adjustments you need to make.
Book it in advance if you’re going to stay in a hotel. If you plan to sleep out, find somewhere nice and safe and get a feel for the experience.
Step #3. Plan an adventure
It’s now time to plan your adventure.
Are you going to go enter a bikepacking race? Is there somewhere you have always wanted to go by bike? Have you got a mileage challenge for yourself?
If you’re in need of some inspiration, check out our 9 Epic Bikepacking Destinations article here!
Once you know what you want to do, you will need to make a route and add sleeping and feed points. Research where you are going and ensure you have everything you need.
Finally, find your way to the start point, and get going!