Growing up as a city kid I was always curious about the outdoors. My love for bikes started from a very early age, but I didn’t have much (any) exposure to camping or being too far away from a subway line. As a young adult, I began to camp and fell in love with the peace of being in a remote place and enjoyed being somewhere and doing something that was just so different from what I was used to. I loved the ‘survivor’ element of being in nature with no electricity, no bathrooms, making fires for warmth, etc. – the more primitive, the better.
Bikepacking is the epitome of taping into your truest form of being vulnerable. You pack up all your necessities onto the bike and get out there for a multi-day ride or extended week to month-long adventure. You are vulnerable to any and all situations that can make for a memorable adventure whether is to be the people you meet, the animals you may encounter, or potentially unexpected weather conditions.
I completed my first bikepacking adventure in 2016. I was invited to ride the 5-day Kokopelli Trail and accepted even though I didn’t have all the gear needed, but was excited to try off-road cycling. I bought a saddlebag and used bungee cords to mount my dry bag tent for my handlebars. While it may have not been the best setup, it worked. The trip was an amazing experience – it was a way faster means of travel than hiking and combined my obsession with cycling with off-road adventures and my new love for camping.
I was hooked after that trip and bikepacking is something I like to call a ‘mellow extreme sport’. It can get technical or be very chill; it can have very rugged or clear paths; it can be fast and or slow-moving.
Food For Thought
The term ‘Bikepacking’ is relatively new, but it has been around for quite some time and many people just call it touring. Some examples of when backpacking began were in 1897, the Iron Riders, a group of African American military men rode a 1900-mile bicycle route from Missoula, Montana to St. Louis, Missouri. The military was exploring different methods of moving troops during battle that was faster than marching and less expensive than horseback. There is also the Rough-Stuff Fellowship that was a popular off-road cycling club from 1955 that road in the Alps and other parts of Europe.
Fast forward to the present day and bikepacking is becoming more popular with cyclists. The advent of fat bikes, gravel bikes, and frame manufacturer’s making it possible to retrofit larger size wheels while still accommodating multiple tire sizes and other great gear inventions are a big reason for the growth of its popularity today. More recently with COVID, the allure of the ultimate social distanced activity of being in the outdoors has been intriguing, and along with biking, outdoor activities have seen an increase in popularity.
Bikepacking is also a great outlet for those that love cycling but perhaps are ready for a new outlet. I am sure you have seen it, pro tour racers not pinning numbers on jerseys anymore and discovering a new thrill in riding a bicycle, or maybe the transition from say a crit racer, to gravel rider and then to bikepacker. While maybe it has come with age or just wanting to try something new, I have redirected my interest in racing to bikepacking myself.
What’s not to love about bikepacking? It truly is the best way to experience a place and its people and offers the freedom to travel, explore, and have fun at the same time. Bikepacking offers a way to feel free in nature, plan a route, bike off-road (I love a dirty bike!), enjoy the adventure of the unknown, and camp outside. Since my first backpacking trip on the Kokopelli trail, I have completed other adventures in Colombia, Vermont, Upstate New York, Virginia, and New Mexico and look forward to more locations in the near future.
Share This Article!
Ridden & Written by
Dwayne Burgess (Manual Pedal)