Imagine exploring the back-country with all the essentials for an overnight, a week-long trip, or even months at a time but you are on your bike. Just a few years ago that would have seemed to be only something you could do while on a road-style touring bike with racks and panniers and was also limited to the warmest times of the year.
In just a few short years the bike industry has taken to hear the concept of riding a mountain bike with enough gear to ride the continental divide from Banff to Mexico. A small group of avid cyclists and an innovative group of entrepreneur / adventure seekers set out to turn bike touring and mountain biking into a full blown race-style expedition.
Bike packing has been made possible by relentless innovation from bike manufacturers and small companies creating lightweight solutions to carrying the essentials on your bike. Frame bags, seat bags, top tube bags, front handle bar rolls, feed bags and so many more little inventions have been made to allow a lightweight bike and travel gear set up to be achieved. Most bags are waterproof and use compression to hold the contents in place while riding on varied rough terrain.
So whom is bike packing intended for? It’s actually amazing to see how diverse the bike packing community is: from the ultra fit cyclists, to the weekend warrior, male, female, couples of all ages and even full on families taking it up. It’s an adventure that almost anyone can enjoy if they have a few basic skill sets: first, basic mountain bike skills, second, an understanding of back country activities such as hiking, third, a keen sense of adventure, and fourth, a willingness to keep learning and evolving with the sport.
Numerous websites, Facebook pages, talks, summits, video series and small guide books are becoming more and more available to help the new bike packing enthusiast navigate the pit falls and help them through the learning curve.
One of the challenges bike packers currently face in our province is an understanding of good bike packing routes, camping locations, and access that is close enough for short weekend adventures. Luckily GPS, local experts, and the quick pace at which this sport is moving forward should make those challenges a bit easier to navigate in the near future.
For those looking to try bike packing for the first time but want to do it on the lighter side, options do exist with destinations in the province offering back-country style accommodations, such as yurts and cabins. This way, sleeping gear and cooking gear can be left behind so you can travel lighter or experience the concept first before over committing. If you are looking to rent a bike specific to bike packing, some rental shops now offer packages. Those packages can include your bike, all your bags, backcountry advice, suggestions for routes, and even maps.
So, the next time you’re out hiking or driving in the back country and see an odd looking bicycle with a smiling pilot, just know that they are the new face of adventure by bike.