Bike Shed Blog Two: Bike Packing 101
For most people, their first bike was also their first true experience of individual freedom. Just because you may have grown up, have bills to pay and work the 9-5 grind doesn't mean you have to stop exploring. Gravel or touring bikes allow you to travel further off the beaten track and deeper into the wild for days at a time. To make the most of your journey we have created a “how-to” guide so you can make the most of your next adventure.
The first step to any adventure is to ensure your bike is one hundred percent ready to take on the journey. A quick clean, lube of the chain, check over the gears and take it for a 30-minute local ride to ensure your bike is working properly is key. Your tyres are also going to get punished on the ride due to the extra weight loaded on the bike so it is important to ensure they are up to the task so 10psi for each 5kg extra you add to the bike.
We recommend choosing tyres that have some knobs for traction in changing conditions but you’d be surprised how much extra traction you can get with the added weight of gear on the bike so “spikey” tyres are not essential. The MAXXIS Rambler is a great choice as it is tough, fast and offers tonnes of traction. It is also able to be set up tubeless which means, you are able to run lower pressures for comfort while reducing the risk of pinch flats. The EXO sidewall option also adds extra puncture resistance so you can spend more time riding your bike instead of fixing it on the side of the road.
An important thing to remember is that while it is important to get to your destination, it is also very important to return home again. A good kit of spares allows you to be self-sufficient while out on the bike and reduce your need to call a taxi to get you home. The Entity cycling bundle packs everything you need to be able to fix flat tyres, dodgy gears or anything in between. A spare chain link is a tiny piece of kit that can save you from a huge amount of hassle. Breaking your chain sucks and a quick link can have you back riding in seconds.
As you are pedalling a heavier bike and taking on big distances it is important to ensure you are taking in the right fuel. Running out of energy suddenly (a.k.a. Bonking) is one of the worst experiences you can have on a bike. Taking in good nutrition that has a low GI and slow energy release, think bananas instead of lollies, such as nuts, peanut butter sandwiches and electrolytes in one of your water bottles will prevent you from bonking hard. Being prepared with a quality camp stove, compact pan and nutritious hearty food that doesn’t need too much water added to it for your main meals are integral to easily fuel up in the evening and waking up fresh for the next day’s trip as well.
Speaking of carrying your stuff, let's take a look at frame bags. There are multiple companies with a massive array of offerings when it comes to frame bags. Topeak offers a great entry-level setup with their Midloader Frame bag, Backloader saddle bag and Frontloader handlebar bag. With this setup, you can have up to 30L of storage for you to keep all of your gear on the bike at all times.
It’s important to realize where you put stuff can make a difference in how easy the bike is to control, so make sure you try and keep heavy things as close to the middle as possible. An example of this might be taking your tent poles and pegs out of your tent bag and simply strapping them to your top tube or fork legs with a rubber strap from your local hardware store. There’s a lot of improvisation in bikepacking so nothing is off-limits when it comes to a Macgyver idea.
When it comes to sleeping, nothing beats a 5-star hotel but, that is not always available. A good small tent, bivvy or hammock can make sleeping under the stars a breeze. With some sleeping bags or Bivvy’s rolling up smaller than a pair of socks, they keep plenty of space for your other belongings to sit in your bags. Once you have a plan for your “sleep system” try it out at home first in the garden or lounge room to make sure you’re not missing anything. Trying it out somewhere that you are already comfortable should give you a bit of confidence in doing the real thing when your comfy bed isn’t close by.
Hopefully, these tips have prepared you for your next trip. There is no such thing as a poor ride, only poor preparation and we hope to avoid you ever having a poor ride again. We can’t wait to hear about you out and about as your bike takes you on your next adventure.