By Kerry Donovan
Off-road cycling, also known to others as ‘bikepacking’, is a thrilling activity for those who enjoy basking in nature’s beauty. Experienced adventurers know this well, but novices may feel nervous about hopping on a bike and going on an adventure somewhere new. If you’re going off-road cycling for the first time, it’s vital to plan beforehand to ensure a safe and fun ride. Even if you’ve done it several times, it’s always good to have a refresher. So, before you go off on a journey on rough terrain, read this list of bikepacking essential tips:
- Riding The Proper Bike
Not all cars will survive running on sand or mud, and it’s the same for bicycles. It would help if you chose the appropriate bike to ride when you plan to go off-road. Bikes with thicker wheels, like Leon Cycle e-bikes, will withstand both rocky ground and slippery surfaces. The knobby tires are perfect for keeping traction despite sacrificing speed. Most mountain bikes are built this way to protect bikers from discomfort and accidents.
Whether you choose a standard or electric mountain bike for your ride, you have to ensure that you feel comfortable on it. Check the saddle, the drop bars or bar-ends, and the seatpost’s adjustment. If the bike’s handlebar is easy to manoeuvre, you’ll have an easier time traversing rougher roads. A decent off-road bicycle will also have a large enough frame for your luggage, but one with a smaller frame is lightweight and is excellent for those who prefer comfier rides.
While you may feel tempted to go for expensive bikes that promise endurance and comfort, not all durable bikes have to cost a lot. Sometimes, new technology can break apart in a matter of minutes. No one, not even you, wants to get stuck in the middle of nowhere with a broken bike. Make sure the bike you’ll be riding is easy to fix should it get damaged.
- Travelling Lightly
Since you’re riding a bike, you mustn’t pack too much. While it’s possible to bring a fully-loaded off-road bike to various terrain, that’s not always an option. Extra weight from your luggage will also add strain on your bike, forcing you to exert more effort pedalling on rough ground or upward slopes.
The items you need to bring on your trip are:
- Food: Snacks or meals with higher calories keep your energy up for long bike rides. It’s recommended that you eat something every hour, even just a little bit.
- Water: Many off-road areas don’t have public drinking fountains or establishments that provide drinking water. So, you need to bring your own full bottle.
- Toolbag: If your bike fails during the trip, you can still repair it if you have the tools to fix it.
- Extra clothes: Biking is a strenuous activity which will get you sweating a lot. Bike rides also tend to get you dirty sometimes.
- First-aid kit: Accidents can happen, and you must tend to them before the situation worsens.
- Money: It won’t hurt to have some money for a trip. Bring just enough for those unexpected events.
- Phone, power bank and charging cable: Off-road cycling may be a way to ‘disconnect’ for a few days, byt you must bring something for communication. Aside from these, have a piece of paper with your three most important phone numbers written on it.
These items can fit nicely inside your travel backpack without weighing you down. If you aim to spend the night outdoors, you’ll also have to bring camping equipment. Make sure that the place you’re planning to stay allows people to set up camp. Some areas might require the landowner’s permission, while others are too dangerous to stay outside away from the city.
- Wearing Appropriate Clothing
The general rule is to wear something you find comfortable and will keep you safe on your adventure. You’ve already got the essentials, like a helmet and a pair of goggles, but you can add or improve your usual mountain biking outfit to suit other locations and climates. Many affordable biker clothing brands are available, while some also take pride in being ethical and sustainable.
Other things you can wear on your off-road cycling trip include:
- Full-finger gloves
- Knee pads
- Waterproof trousers
- Padded shorts
As long as you’re comfy and protected, you can enjoy your ride. Even bumps on the road won’t bother you.
- Having A Route
Most places where off-road cyclists venture on often already have official bike trails for first-timers and veterans to follow. Yet the beauty of bikepacking is freely exploring the land at your discretion. Even if you’d rather check off-trail grounds, having a route will bring you back to safer spots if surprises pop up along the way.
Planning a route also helps you prepare what to bring and expect. You can use an app like Google Maps to gauge the land’s terrain and find bikeable trails. Or, you could map out the route on old-fashioned pen and paper.
- Listening To Locals
When travelling, it’s important to keep your ear on the ground, as they say. You might go to a place unknown to you, and only the locals know its ins and outs. Your planned route may not reflect what you saw online 100%, so it’s best to ask around if you get lost or confused.
Some trails may be designated for bikes only to avoid encountering hikers. If you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask. People who spend lots of time on the land and the road, like farmers and truck drivers, are excellent sources of terrain knowledge.
Bikepacking should be fun, so don’t overthink your plans too much. Sometimes, it’s okay to forget plans and just let the wheels take you where you need to go. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!