Bike-packing and gravel riding have exploded in the cycle industry in the past few years. While riders have been out in the wilds camping and adventuring with their bikes for years, there has definitely been an upward trend in popularity with more and more people strapping gear to their bikes and heading off into the wilderness.
It’s a great way of letting off steam and escaping the day to day monotony of modern life: no work, no social media, just you with your bike and the great outdoors. If you’ve been considering going on your own bike-packing adventure, our bike-packing guide will point you in the right direction, so you can get out there and enjoy being out in the wild.
What are the best bikes for bike-packing adventures?
The beauty of bike packing is that unlike other disciplines of cycling you can do it on pretty much any bike; your trusty mountain bike and even some road bikes will do the job with little to no modifications required, but that hasn’t stopped the influx of new bikes designed specifically for the job though.
This new breed of bikes is perfect for escaping the 9 to 5 and getting out in the hills to help you truly get in touch with nature. Bikes like the GT Grade, Cube Nuroad and Scott Speedster Gravel feature bigger tyres, more relaxed geometry and disc brakes making them perfect for logging as many miles as your legs can muster. Many also come with mudguard and rack mounts, making them even more suited to touring and bike packing duties. The MTB-inspired features also make them great fun on singletrack, so you can get your thrills as well as enjoying a cruise through the country side.
While these bikes are ideal for exploring, as mentioned earlier, there is nothing stopping you using your existing bike for exploring out in the wild. A few of the staff members at Tweeks Towers have had a crack at bike packing with their weapons of choice ranging from hybrid bikes right up to 160mm travel full suspension mountain bikes! If you want to use your current bike, it may be worth investing in a few small tweaks to make life a little easier.
What tyres should I choose?
Tyres are one area where the gravel and bike-packing rage has had a real impact. Gravel tyres are perfect for bike-packing, offering additional puncture protection and fast-rolling tread patterns that still deliver enough grip on varied surfaces. Vittoria’s Terreno Dry and Terreno Zero are both ideally suited to bike-packing, with fast-rolling treads that grip well on a range of surfaces.
The Maxxis Rambler and Re-Fuse are two more prime examples of versatile tyres that just love to ridden for mile after mile on a multitude of surfaces. These brilliant tyres are available in both 700c and 27.5-inch wheel sizes, so whether you have a road bike, hybrid or mountain bike there’ll be a tyre that will fit your bike!
What else do I need?
With tyres taken care of, you’ll want to ensure you’re comfortable on the bike, as you’re likely to be in the saddle for a number of hours. Saddles are a personal choice, but one of the most universally loved is the Fabric Scoop. Supremely comfortable and fantastic value, the Scoop is a real favourite here at Tweeks Towers.
Your hands will likely be in for a bumpy ride for hour after hour, so having comfortable grips or bar tape that can allow multiple hand positions is a must. Thicker bar tapes such as Fizik’s Vento Solocush and Lizard Skins DSP 3.2mm tape offer additional vibration damping thanks to their thicker, softer construction. It’s not unheard of for riders to double wrap their bar tape on bigger bike-packing missions in the search for ultimate comfort! For mountain bikes, ergonomically shaped grips like Ergon’s GA3 and Fabric’s Ergo Grips are designed to take some of the strain of your hands and allow multiple hand positions to help you get comfortable when logging big miles.
What’s the best way to carry all my cycling and camping gear?
So you’ve got your bike sorted and you’re comfortable, but what about all that camping gear and food you’ll need to take with you? In days gone by pannier racks were the preferred choice of touring and bike-packing riders, but the latest breed of frame, saddle and handlebar bags are changing that. These bags can fit to pretty much any bike and offer heaps of storage space for all the gear you’ll need on an over-night or multi-day epic out in the wild.
Massive frame, handlebar and saddle bags such as Blackburn’s Outpost series are extremely popular, while Topeak’s BackLoader Seat Pack and FrontLoader Handlebar Bag are both designed purely for bike-packing use, with huge carrying capacities and rugged construction designed to go the distance. Topeak even have your overnight accommodation sorted with their innovative Bikeamper tent, which neatly rolls up on your handlebar and is held in place with your bike!
Now you’ve got everything you need to get started, you can head out into the hills or moors and reacquaint yourself with Mother Nature. Bike-packing is massively popular for a reason; it’s relaxing, fun and allows you to escape any vices in your day to day life that can drag you down. It’s an easy way to feel good about life again and any excuse to get out on the bike is a winner in our book!