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New to Bikepacking - 12 Tips for your shakedown or first tour

I'm a meanderer, I like to ride slowly, savour nature and chill at camp. I'm in no rush to bash out the kilometers. I think with this in mind, the two short bikepacking rides I've done in the past year didn't give me the feeling of freedom and serenity that I felt when I rode the Altravesur in Spain, where the plan was, 'There is no plan' I think it's the fact that a time restriction takes something away from the experience. That said, I still enjoyed my shorter rides, I was still able to savour being in nature, and I was still grateful to be able to do it. The time restriction is 'normal' for those in work and I have to just get used to it.

One thing with a short ride, that made me feel a little uneasy, apart from the time restriction, was that there is no settling in time. I can't quantify what a settling in time is but it is a thing!.

First-Time Bikepacking - Things to Expect & Things to Do

  1. You probably would have made a packing list - Check it off properly! On my last ride, I just ticked my item named Clothes off, without looking at the detail of the clothes, which resulted in me forgetting to wear my sponge pants or taking them with me. Sore bum city!

  2. Test any new items you have - For example I went on an over-nighter with a new, good quality (Sea to Summit) cooking pot, I had washed it but hadn't cooked in it at home. On my ride I found that the hard anodising was leeching an awful taste into any boiled water or food. It spoiled the ride somewhat.

  3. Test electronics the day before you leave - Check everything works, check everything is charged and make sure all necessary software is subscribed to and downloaded and works properly, including offline, if it's meant to

  4. Label your luggage - I have Rollpacker 1, Rollpacker 2, Gorilla Cage 1 and Gorilla Cage 2 plus a few small ones. On my phone I have a list of exactly what goes in which piece of luggage. This makes pack-up tidy and quick. A half-arsed, lop-sided pack-up will annoy you all day!

  5. When you get to camp unpack fully - Packing and unpacking can be fiddly especially when you're tired. But resist the temptation to skimp on the unpacking, get into a routine and unpack everything. When it's the middle of the night and you realise you've left your head-torch or toilet paper in the luggage it's a PITA!!

  6. Stopping to make adjustments - You may have to stop in the first kilometer to adjust a piece of luggage that just doesn't feel right. 500 metres later you may have to stop and adjust something else, this could happen many times. Don't worry, you haven't done a bad job, until you ride or shake-down, it's not easy to know what will work best. The same with your clothes, you may swap your T-shirt for a vest, and long shorts for short shorts etc

  7. Take a strong elastic band or use a cable tie to hook over your front brake lever when you park up. It makes the world of difference to the ease of propping your bike up

  8. Check the weather forecast - Do this before you leave and daily on the ride, be prepared for any rain or heat-wave events

  9. Your fitness might not be quite up to managing the weight of your loaded bike - don't plan on extreme distances for the first week, unless you know you are fit enough

  10. Cramping - If you are not used to pedaling such long distances you may find you get cramps in your hamstrings and calves. I found that to relieve this, if I occasionally positioned my foot on the pedal so as to have my toe pointing down, shortening my calf, and rode like that for 5 minutes, it eased any cramping. Be careful that your toe doesn't hit the ground!!

  11. Difficulty getting up inclines - I always understood that you should never stomp on your pedals and that if you did, you would go to hell! I'm not particularly fit and often get off and push up hills, but found that if I lift my feet off the pedal a small amount and gently stomp on it, actually it's more like a rhythmic tap, I could actually get up inclines that I would normally push up. This may be an additional load on your drivetrain, but I would expect it to be in tip top condition if you are planning a tour

  12. Consider getting some quick release pedals - These really have helped me, especially when pushing the bike, no damaged shins. See my YouTube here

I hope these observations are helpful to you. Enjoy your ride👍

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Dave North
Dave North
Jan 13, 2022

Do you take any precautions about theft?

btw, I love that photo with the setting sun.

Angela Hart
Angela Hart
Jan 13, 2022
Replying to

The photo is the sunrise on the Hillis Farm on the George's Creek Road. The sunrise was beautiful, and the night sky even better, with a big swathe of the Milky Way across the sky. I have a cable bike lock, with a long cable around 1metre long, so attach the bike to a loop on my tent, hopefully I'd hear it if anyone touched it🙌

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