Bikepacking has seen huge growth within the cycling industry in the past few years. This rise in popularity means more and more people are getting out and giving this new style of cycling a try. So what is bikepacking? Simply put, it’s a blend of backpacking and mountain biking. Packing lighter and more strategically than traditional cycle touring allows us to ride off-road routes like snowmobile trails, service roads, and even technical singletrack. For me, I was drawn to the opportunity to travel further than I could walk or hike, but still benefit from great adventures found off of paved roads.
Cycling panniers are often replaced with bags that mount directly on the bike: on the handlebars, behind the saddle, and in the main triangle of the bike. This keeps the weight of gear spread out, while also keeping the entire ensemble tight to the bike for bombing through singletrack. For a Canadian-made bikepacking bags, check out Porcelain Rocket, as well as Mountain Equipment Co-op for what’s offered. The cheapest option is to pack your gear in two 15-20L dry bags, and use nylon straps to fix them behind your saddle and on your handlebars. Use a small backpack for any leftover lighter options like snacks, cameras, and light layers.
I often get asked what kind of bike works best for bikepacking, and the best answer is the bike you already own. Saddle bags, frame bags, and handlebar bags do not require any special mounting points, so you can pretty much get away with any bike that is comfortable for you. With that said, larger width tires (2.4” – 3.0”) and maybe a suspension fork will open up rougher terrain that wouldn’t be suitable for your hybrid or commuter bike.
So you’ve figured out how to carry your gear… now where do you go? I recommend starting with what you’re comfortable with, and if that means driving to get near a gravel road that leads to a provincial park, then do it. The idea here is to pick terrain that suits your style of riding, and then think about where you will buy food, get water, and plan some basic itinerary for the trip.
Exploring by bike is a refreshing way to see parts of Ontario we often just fly right by. Take your time, eat well, and bring some friends along – bikepacking could just be your new favorite hobby.
This was a guest blog post by Miles Arbour. Visit Mile’s website (www.milesarbour.com) for Rides and Reports on Bikepacking across Canada!