Tips for beginners
Are you fed up with fixed routes, do you want to get to know nature from a different side or just try something new? Then bikepacking is certainly worth a try! In our guide “Bikepacking for beginners” you will discover what is important and what you need to know for your first tours. In this and the following articles we will take you into the world of bikepacking.
What is Bikepacking at all?
Isn’t bikepacking just the newfangled term for bike travel? No. At least not quite. You are on a bike and travelling is part of it, of course. Nevertheless, there are certain points that distinguish bikepacking from classic bike travel. Bikepacking originated in North America and is a further development of the long-distance mountain bike race. In these races, athletes had to cover stages of more than one day without the support of support vehicles. The atheletes turned circumstances to their own advantage packing just really necessary things and trying to attach them to the bike as practically as possible. In the course of time, bikepacking with tours off the conventional roads became more and more popular.Meanwhile special bags allow a certain flexibility and thus the possibility of agility, speed and off-road mobility.
In summary, bikepacking is the sporty alternative to bike travel. On trekking trips, the luggage is typically divided into 6 large bags, which are attached quite bulky to front and rear luggage racks and to the handlebars. In contrast, the bikebacking set-up is much more compact, so that the riding dynamics are not particularly affected. Of course, it is not possible to delimit this rigidly. Longer bikepacking tours also cause more luggage to be carried, and especially in areas without proper infrastructure, space for food supplies must also be planned for.
And the next difference to classic bike travel lies in the food. With bikepacking you stay overnight in nature and take care of yourself. A camping stove should therefore always be with you. But more about that later.
The preparation of your bikepacking adventure
The right bicycle
Of course, at the beginning there is the question of a suitable bicycle. If you are a beginner or would like to test yourself first, you have the choice of all bicycle variants. But if you are thinking about going on regular bikepacking tours, you should think about buying a bike that suits you because of the routes through mostly untraveled nature. Mountain bikes, gravel or cross bikes and fat bikes are conceivable. When choosing a bike, keep in mind that there might be some minor repairs that you should be able to do yourself.
The perfect route to start
In general, whether you are a beginner or a pro, it is wise to consider how much stamina, time and audacity is required before you start your ride. It is important that you do not overestimate yourself. It is better to start slowly so that you get a feeling for the outdoor experience and then develop over time. There are many ways to plan the exact route in advance. Services such as Komoot, Strava or Bikemap have proven themselves in the scene. Everybody can create his own micro-adventure there with the desired mix of asphalt roads, hiking trails, wild landscape or mountain bike trails. Always remember to have an emergency plan to be prepared for any problems that may arise. Depending on the level of training, there is also the possibility to participate in guided tours in smaller or larger groups.
How to plan?
You want to drive alone, but don’t have the confidence to plan your own route yet? Not a problem at all! There are already many pre-planned routes for different levels of skill and with recommendations for sleeping and eating locations.
If you want to plan your own route, this means a little more effort, but is also great fun. And don’t worry: it gets easier every time. Always keep your training level in mind when planning your route. 80 kilometers on asphalt are easier to ride than 80 kilometers through the forest. And 50 kilometers through flat land are definitely easier than those 50 kilometers through the Alps. It can also be a good idea to look at the average weather: Is the selected region known for strong winds, does it rain a lot there? Of course it is also essential to look at the current weather forecast.
Navigation during the adventure
The route is planned and everything else is prepared, then you can start. But how do you orientate yourself during the journey? There are solutions ranging from the normal map + compass, smartphone to GPS devices. Finding your way with the normal map requires some practice when you are off road signs and has slowly become obsolete for most bikepackers. GPS devices are very accurate and robust, but also cost a lot of money. In the beginning, the smartphone, which almost everybody owns by now, is the most practical tool. With many route planning providers, you have the possibility to use the maps offline, in case the coverage is not good enough or the battery is running low. In this case you are on the safe side if you have a fully charged powerbank with you. After all, the offline card is of no use when the smartphone is off.
More articles on the guide “Bikepacking for beginners” will follow in the coming weeks. Stay tuned! 🙂