Bike packing is all the rage now. It’s trendy in bike circles and it even transcends our sport to get adventure bro’s and sis’s involved too. It lifts the average mountain biker from the lowly plains of ‘weekend warrior’ up on to the lofty pedestal of ‘epic journeyman’. It’s a collision between exploring, radness and old-timey outdoor pursuits that leaves a pile of exciting adventure debris all over the floor.
I’ve tried bike packing twice before but neither were really proper experiences. They happened, time passed and events concluded but other than the passing of time there wasn’t much else going on. The first was a complete failed attempt which resulted in a broken bike and a train journey home for tea (even tea wasn’t great). The second was a weak and unadventurous experience which saw me stay on a campsite next door to a family of five on a weekend break from Stoke. This didn’t really capture the true wild spirit. Therefore, I felt that a proper ride was needed. I did it. It was successful. Lessons were learned.
To get a proper ‘wild’ experience I decided to keep it simple and go bivvying. All I needed for this was a bag on my back and a bar bag. These held tools, flask, food, mattress and sleeping bag. Everything I needed. For those not familiar with bivvying, it is basically a waterproof cover for your sleeping bag. Imagine the human as a trendy late 90’s flip phone, and the bivvy bag as a sleek and practical leather holster with adjustable belt attachment. No tent or structure is needed. Convenience is king. The lightweight get up allows you to get funky on the bike. Maintain high stoke. Jump jumps. Skid skids. Most importantly, it keeps the riding fun and agile.
Once fully ladened, I pedaled off into the sunset for an evening Peak District ride. As the light disappeared I may or may not have slept in a bush. Wild camping isn’t condoned in England so this may or may not have stopped me doing it. Please consider the rest of the text as a blur between fiction and non-fiction.
From my bike packing experience, I learned the following lessons…
- I’m naturally optimistic until I’m put slightly out of my comfort zone
When our group of riding buddies are planning trips, swapping fun ideas and storming brains, I’m always the one who suggests the biggest ideas. If someone says they think we can do a lap of the XC red trail, I’ll then suggest trying the black downhill trials as an additional loop. I have optimism bias. ‘Present me’ is excitable and writes big cheques that ‘future me’ isn’t necessarily going to be able to cash or even read. When it comes around to actually riding and I am presented with a challenge that doesn’t line up with my expectations, then this optimism soon disappears.
This was demonstrated in my latest bike packing ride. The idea of heading out without a plan, finding somewhere to sleep and finding myself seemed easy. I had played the whole ride out in my head and everything went to plan. However, when I was out in the not so wild peak district and realised I didn’t really have a plan of where to sleep my optimism bias shutdown. I instantly started to convince myself I would get shot by a farmer or have my bike stolen. Bugs would crawl into my brain because I hadn’t camped in a suitable ecosystem. Unruly pheasants would brainwash me with their seducing screams and I’d have to live in a hedgerow with them. All of a sudden, a slight bit of uncertainty in the days events just triggered my inner pessimism.
- I have an inability to focus on the moment
Bikepacking should (according to every adventure article I’ve ever seen) be about the spirit of off road adventure, re-integrating with nature, and getting away from it all. Throughout most of this ride, I was thinking about taking photos to show colleagues the next morning, getting a panoramic opening scene for my gopro edit, or noting down sage observations to show how enlightened I am. I was thinking about how I could write about I was thinking about writing.
- Deep below the surface, I have a fundamental distrust of humanity
Once settled in my own private and secluded hollow I started to settle down. My thoughts began to wander. My loins warmed by the moonlight. I couldn’t help but think “If someone wanted to kill me now, they easily could”. This thought disturbed my supposed reconnection to nature and ripped my emotional ethernet right out of mother natures hole. It’s a big thought but I somehow came to terms with it and let it slide.
One thought that I couldn’t deal with however was “someone could steal my bike while I’m asleep”. I acted on that immediately. A bit of spare string tied around the pedal was connected to my head to create a makeshift burglar alarm. I felt like a lonely, cold and under-resourced Kevin Mccallister.
- I think I like the idea of bike packing more than the practice
Pretty self-explanatory really. See above.
My first ‘proper bike packing’ ride was an interesting experience. I learned a few things about myself and can now officially say that I’ve slept in a bush on my own. Now to see if Alpkit will create a custom a frame mount for my emotional baggage.