Bike touring has always been very popular, but when bikepacking came along, everything changed. We had so many more riders out exploring and many cyclists choosing to ride further over riding faster.
One interesting thing we noticed is that when bikepacking generally started, it focused mainly on road and light gravel riding. As the sport and community advanced, we noticed it started to go off-road, and eventually, people started using mountain bikes and taking to trails.
As an ultra-distance rider and bikepacking expert, I found mountain bikepacking completely different from your traditional road and gravel bikepacking. In this article, I am sharing my top tips to help you on those off-road adventures.
Research Your Route
Our first big tip when mountain bikepacking is to properly research your route. Although it might seem fairly straightforward, looking at the distance and elevation, some more valuable tools can help you.
Applications such as Komoot will tell you what kind of terrain to expect and even an expected time to finish depending on your fitness level. This information can be so valuable when riding off-road as you know where to save your energy for.
Be Prepared For Everything
Although it goes without saying, we highly recommend, when it comes to mountain bikepacking, to be extra prepared. Unlike road bikepacking, you are generally much further away from civilization, and things can be much more challenging.
When I go mountain bikepacking, I take more clothing in case of bad weather, extra water and food in case my progress isn’t as good as I wanted, and I allow much more time for technical sections. On top of all that, a much more extensive repair kit in case of mechanicals.
Don’t Overthink The Bike
Many riders find themselves thinking they need incredible bikes with all singing and dancing components for mountain bike packing when actually, sometimes, the basic bikes are much better for it.
We highly recommend using a beginner’s bike as they take much more abuse, are cheaper to buy and repair, and it doesn’t matter too much if it gets a few scratches. Here are some great recommendations for beginner mountain bikes.
Train For The Occasion
One mistake I see many cyclists make when it comes to mountain bikepacking is a lack of training. It’s really easy to plan 100k a day, but when it comes to riding it, if your fitness isn’t there, it’s going to ruin the experience.
We recommend either having a training plan before going or just getting a decent amount of training miles in to ready the body for the experience. Mountain Bikepacking should be fun and not a painful experience.
Get Creative Packing Bags
When it comes to mountain bikepacking, you often need help with space. This is because the frame is typically smaller than other bikes, and having much more movement in suspension makes it difficult with bags.
Getting the storage space for you means you need to get creative at times so you can carry everything you need. Do lots of research on different types of bags, and don’t be scared to use a backpack or hydration bladder to free space up.
Appreciate Everything Takes A Little Longer
One thing I have always found when it comes to mountain bikepacking is everything takes a little longer. The terrain can be much more challenging, and with larger tires on a heavier bike, you will find the miles don’t come as easy as road bikepacking.
It can be pretty bad for morale if you feel you’re getting behind on time and can make you feel constantly rushed, which isn’t a great feeling for an adventure. Allow a lot of extra time and enjoy the miles instead.
Carry More Water And Food Than Usual
Mountain bikepacking can take you to places very far out of the way and generally is much slower going than if you were on a road bike or gravel bike on tarmac. You will also find resupply to be much less common.
We highly recommend carrying a little extra to ensure you can get to where you need to be and allow some extra supplies in case of any problems or delays. A few energy bars weigh nothing and could be the difference between getting to your destination comfortably or suffering.
An Extensive First Aid Kit
Often when it comes to any bikepacking, you want to be as light as possible. At the end of many trips, you often look at what you didn’t use and don’t take it again. A first aid kit can not be a part of this general rule. It’s something you have to take but never want to use.
A decent first aid kit with bandages, plasters, disinfectant, and more will come in handy if you fall off. In our opinion, there’s much more chance of it happening off-road than there is on the road.
Be Light But Comfortable
When it comes to mountain bikepacking, getting your setup perfect does come as a challenge for many. Finding the balance between being nice and lightweight and having everything you need to be as comfortable as possible takes time and effort.
We recommend setting up as light as possible while still having everything you need. A few easy ways of doing this are using lighter-weight equipment or getting rid of anything you do not need.
Little Trip Often Over Long Epic Adventures
Many riders find themselves looking at long epic adventures straight out of the gates. Weeks away on the bike does sound amazing, but it’s not always ideal for the body or the mind. Sometimes playing it a little bit differently can make it much more enjoyable.
I always started by doing longer trips, but over time, I had much more fun doing a few weekends instead of going away for a week. It meant I didn’t use up too much holiday from work and also I enjoyed the trips much more as I didn’t wear my body down too much.
A Final Note
Mountain Bikepacking is a lot of fun and, by far, one of the most incredible experiences for any cyclist. It takes you out into the wilderness and challenges you in many ways. We highly recommend buying a mountain bike and experiencing it. Thanks for taking the time to read our article.