Words about how planning, equipment etc can be intimidating an put people off going. That never ready feeling. What are 'essentials'. DIY bikepacking pics.
We love a plan, people do. Whether its popping to the shops or thinking about an adventure, We often write lists and plan every detail. If we dont we can get intimidated or overwhelmed by the unknown. Tasks often seem more digestible when broken down into a formulated routine, we are always more comfortable having a rough idea of what will happen, what the sequence of events will be.
Because of this, a Bikepacking adventure can often be over thought. Have I got enough time? Have I got the right equipment? What if I run out of food or cant book a BnB on the day? These are fair questions and to a degree you need to think about these things. However not letting these things overwhelm us is another matter.
As with most things you will never be 100% ready, sometimes you must take the leap and adjust on the way. Much like when learning to drive - Our teacher's would always say you really learn after passing your test.
I understand the intimidation I really do, especially this day and age where we are inundated with kit choice, route choice, bike choice. The Bikepacking market is awash with different brands and styles and although most will do the job, things dont seem as simple as 30 years ago when you had one bike choice, a vintage old racing bike and just strapped the fishing tackle bag to the handlebars and donned a flat cap.
I have done two very different trips over the last two years. I wont go into great detail as that is another blog. However one trip I was an absolute puppet to bikepacking marketing and invested in a good rigid bike, I bought some mid-range bikepacking bags and all the various straps and attachments until I looked like a cycling version of Buckaroo, I even prepared my own zip lock dehydrated meals before departing. Equipped like this I crossed Iceland. It worked, I had everything I needed and It was a fantastic trip.
Two months after my return I did the complete opposite. I boarded a Plane to Peru having booked it only two weeks prior. With a small backpack containing a small stove, sleeping bag and lightweight tent, I looked like I was heading on a relatively short backpacking holiday. In reality I was heading to Lima, to buy a bicycle with £300 and cycle the 8000 Km South across the Andes to Ushuaia. This also worked and I had a fantastic trip. I bought the bike for £170 off 'Mercado Libre' (The local version of Ebay in Southern America) and I made it work. I had less, I travelled light and had far more human interactions than in Iceland. Albeit the terrain and cultures certainly influenced that, but having less made me engage more. I would ask for help if I needed it, ask for water if I needed it. On a many of occasions I would ask in the village square if there was anywhere I could buy a meal or some bread and eggs. If there wasn't, you would be invited or directed to someone who can help. Before you know it you might be dining with a Peruvian family in the high Andes.
Often I have set out not knowing where I would sleep that night, or where I would eat that day. As far as I'm usually concerned for short trips as long as I get a decent breakfast of oats down me I have enough fuel to get me to the next feed stop. Unless of course I plan to head out for a day or two across a wilderness in the Highlands of Scotland or mid-Wales. But generally on the British Isles you will hit a village, fuel station or some kind of place to re-supply at least once a day. I love to ask questions, ride with intrigue. Often I have cycled through villages or hamlets and stopped to ask a local about a local monument or the history of that area. After a brief exchange it is not uncommon to be offered a cup of tea or sometimes a meal! People are fascinated by adventure and they will be by yours.
Once I had been riding in Europe and arrived back in the UK on a late ferry into Harwich. I had eaten on the ferry and landed in the UK around 8pm and knew I had only an hour or so of light to get out of the urban area. My plan was to ride the 5 mile or so beyond the suburbs and find a field to turn off into to sleep the night. The following day I would ride into the city of London. As the lanes grew quieter it was about 9 pm and I called into a country pub with the intention of filling my water bottles for the night and morning. Dressed in my clobber and wandering into a good old British pub at that hour with a Welsh accent often raises eyebrows. I got talking to the locals and before I knew it, I had a pint of Guinness in my hand and was speaking to the local farmer who offered me a bed in one of his caravans on the land. There is nothing particularly special or different about that occasion, its just how things turn out if you are open to random-ness. Its neither that I rely on the generosity or kindness of people, but more often than not by being intrigued, welcoming, smiling and polite - as we British do so well, you will never go hungry or fail to find a place to lay your head.
The moral of the story I suppose being dont worry about the plan (Too much).
I think this applies to any adventure, Macro or Micro.
So, Have a go at this..... Got some leave to take or the weekend off?
1 - Get a map out. Put a pin on where you live (Point A).
2 - Multiply the number of days you have by your desired daily mileage. E.g 3 x 60 = 180 Total Mileage
3 - Pick a train station/bus station that far away (Point B)
4 - Head out your front door with your essentials strapped to bike.
5 - Pick out some highlights you would like to visit along the way.
6 - Follow your nose to your destination. Ask for directions. Allow for spontaneity. Eat when you're hungry. Sleep when you're tired.
7 - Arrive at train/bus station and return home.
8 - Put bike in shed, go to work on Monday.
Obviously take some precautions. Let a loved one know where you are heading and how long for. Take a phone for emergencies and have an escape plan (A mate on speed dial).