What is bikepacking and what is it for?
One of the main trends in the bicycle industry of recent years is bike packing. This is evidenced by a lot: the huge frequency of searches for bikepacking in search engines, a lot of hashtags with it on social networks, a lot of articles and video reviews, a lot of excitement in the market of bicycle accessories and even serious changes in the assortment of bicycles themselves. In this article, we tried to answer the question: what is bikepacking, and what are its advantages?
What is bikepacking?
Most likely, you will not find a clear and comprehensive definition. Briefly, bike packing is a concept of transporting equipment on a bicycle, which stands on two pillars: the application of light-running practices and the uniform distribution of equipment along with the entire bike.
Bikepacking does not imply the concentration of all cargo on one of the luggage racks. The equipment is displayed in several small bags, the main of which are: Seatpost, intra-frame and well bike wheel. Also, part of the load can be mounted on the frame and fork of the bike. Of course, the total volume of bikepacking bags is most often inferior to typical side bike bags and “pants” backpacks that are put on the trunk. Therefore, the second distinguishing feature of bike packing is the ease of riding.
Do not think that it all comes down only to the use of ultralight equipment. The emphasis is more on the rejection of excess equipment, which is preceded by a thoughtful analysis of the route when it is decided what will really be necessary on the way, and what is better left at home.
In the USA, the word bikepacking is strongly associated with long self-sufficiency cycling, among which the most famous are Tour Divide (4418 km), American Trail Race (8047 km), Iditarod Bike Race (563 km / 1609 km). In Russia, the route of such a cycling race is so far only being formed by the team of enthusiasts and consists of three explored segments with a length of 1000-1300 km. The race is called Tour Unite and has been held annually since 2017.
Racers are autonomous - there are no stages, food points, escort vehicles, and support teams. Racing routes in most cases lie away from busy roads, mainly on soils and gravel roads. For the rapid passage of many sites, sensitive bicycle control is required, and for overnight stays, a set of bivouac equipment is needed. Therefore, the idea to use a minimum of equipment distributed along with the entire bike quickly took root here - for maximum speed and handling on the route.
The most striking feature of bikepacking is a set of several bags of small volume. Today they are used not only by riders but also by cycling and even city dwellers. Therefore, we dwell on them a little more.
The basis of any bikepacking kit is made up of three bags, which accommodate most of the equipment:
- handlebars pouch
Most often it is a twisting lockable bag that is attached to the Seatpost and saddle frame. Twisting, you can adjust the volume of the bag to a limited extent, adjusting it to the amount of equipment. At the heart of some models of seatposts is a rigid console. It is attached to the bicycle, and the bag itself is already inserted inside it. Thanks to this, the bag can be quickly removed from the bicycle or fixed on it back.
A great option for a Seatpost bag would be this bag:
Bicycle handlebars pouch
Typically, a normal bag is a cylindrical bag that closes on a twist on each side. With their help, its volume is regulated. The trunk is attached to bicycle handlebars either directly or through the holder platform. Sometimes the bag itself is not even required - it is replaced with a stitched cargo platform and a pressure bag is carried in it. Naruto bags with a vertical entrance are less common. Some models are equipped with a removable patch pocket to increase the volume and better organization of equipment.
In case you need a handlebar bag, then we use these bags. A very good option both in quality and in versatility.
In-frame bicycle bag
Installed in the front triangle of the frame. Since the geometry of all bicycles is different, intra-frame models are poorly mastered by mass production. Bags, which occupy the entire area of the frame, in most cases have to be sewn to order. Elongated “herring” bags and relatively large triangular bags, which are attached to the upper tube of the frame, are serially sewn in series. But even they are most often produced in several sizes since the length of the upper pipe can vary greatly.
The outdoor industry today offers many more small bags that are actively used by bike packers for all sorts of little things that you want to keep handy:
Feedback (from the English feedbag), or “feeders,” are handbags that are attached to the take-out and steering wheel. Typically, snacks and small flasks for food and drink are transported inside.
A wonderful bag option that we can safely recommend to you. This is probably the best thing on the market right now.
Wrapped bags on the upper tube - used to store a set of snacks, snacks, and small equipment.
Bags for a bicycle fork are most often flat and small in volume. Usually attached with slings or clamps to special platforms that are mounted on a fork.
Bike Packing Benefits
Biking is an alternative to the traditional methods of transporting goods by bicycle:
Rear trunk + cycling backpack- “pants”
The most popular kit among most cycling tourists in the post-Soviet space. The classic “pants” are a mono-volume U-shaped bag with straps so that it can be carried on the shoulders if necessary. Such backpacks are cheap and reliable, but get wet, difficult to pack and install, not universal, and are also adapted for use only with the rear trunk.
Sufficiently roomy, comfortable, and very durable bags. You will appreciate them along the way, believe me.
Rear and / or front trunk + side bike bag kit
In English, such bags are called panniers. As a rule, they are airtight, quickly removed, and installed on the trunk. They are easier to pack and more versatile to use. For example, in the case of a short hike or city driving, extra bags can be removed. But such bags are significantly more expensive than bicycle pants and also require luggage racks for installation.
As you can see, both methods have a number of disadvantages, the answer to which was bikepacking. Let us examine the points in which aspects of its advantages are most fully disclosed.
Due to the weight distributed along with the entire frame, the behavior of the bike remains virtually unchanged. The increase in the total mass affects the acceleration and speed of the bike - the bike feels a little heavier, but its handling does not suffer from this.
Compared to bicycle bags on the trunk, you can make steeper turns, maneuverability improves, it is easier to overcome obstacles, and the front wheel does not try to climb up while climbing, as is the case with bicycle trousers. Most fully, these advantages are revealed on the road, as well as on single tracks, the passage of which requires technical and sensitive control of the bike.
For many riders, the ability to keep the ride quality of the bike unchanged becomes the main argument in favor of bike packing. After all, it allows you to not only pedal from point A to point B but also to get more pleasure from riding a bike.
I myself constantly travel with these bags on the steering wheel, they are also called feeder bags because it’s convenient to put a snack in them.
Unlike traditional bicycle backpacks and side bags, bikepacking bags do not stand out from the bike and generally follow its contours. Therefore, ceteris paribus, aerodynamics suffer less, which is especially felt when driving against the wind. Also, the best aerodynamics noticeably saves the cyclist's strength on long and mostly flat routes.
It is easy to customize the bike pack package for the needs of a particular route, whether it is a weekend hike, an extended bike marathon, a 2-week bike trip, or just daily city trips. Depending on the amount of equipment and supplies you just need to remove or add bags. Such modularity is possessed only by the classic side trunk bicycle bags. But the "bicycle pants" are sharpened only for a specific amount of equipment. As a rule, for hikes of different lengths, they require a minimum of a couple of pieces - small for LDPE, and large for expeditions.
Most of the bikepacking bags are equally convenient to use on cycling trips and in the city. On daily trips, a shoulder bag can be replaced by a saddle bag or a normal bag, and in a handbag-bag, you can carry a thermostat with morning coffee or a camera lens.
Lateral bicycle bags and velour backpacks - “pants” are more prominent to the sides and are located noticeably below the bike-packing. And this is a big minus when you have to ride a bike over rugged terrain and bad roads. If you have to drive the bike along the deep rut left by the truck, then the “pants” backpack and side bags must be removed. Otherwise, they shorkat on the ground or get stuck in a rut. The same applies to narrow paths and rocky clamps - strongly protruding bags simply interfere with walking and rolling a bicycle nearby.
Bike-packing bags almost do not change the dimensions of the bike, which makes it much easier to maneuver with them on narrow paths and ruts. Or drive a bike next to you if the need arose.
Compatible with any bike
As we noted at the very beginning, the trend for bike packing has become one of the engines in changing the range of bicycles for a number of manufacturers. Many brands have even begun to produce “ground” bike models for it. But the beauty of bikepacking as a way to transport equipment is that it applies to almost any bike.
Until recently, if luggage carriers were not provided on the bike, there were three ways to carry cargo on it:
Shoulder bag. There is nothing to worry about in a lightweight backpack for a cyclist, but as soon as his weight exceeds 4-5 kg, problems begin. With a long ride, low back pain is added to the wet back, and the straps put great pressure on the shoulders. The practice of riding cycling trips with a tourist backpack of 30-40 liters in volume almost does not leave any chance to enjoy the trip, for which it is actively criticized by all experienced cyclists.
Console trunk. Such luggage carriers do not rest on the bicycle frame and are mounted on the seat post. Among the experienced cyclists, they are not in use, since cheap models are famous for their unreliability, and soundly made ones have a number of limitations. On the console trunk is not recommended to carry more than 7-10 kg, so the cyclist still has to carefully select equipment and strive to facilitate it. At the same time, the trunk itself adds 0.5-1 kg to the total weight of the bike and equipment.
Handicraft fixtures. Ordinary luggage racks are artificially mounted on forks and frames that do not have standard mounts for them. Often this method was the only way out for many cyclists, but it is time-consuming and risky. Frames and forks that are not designed to fit luggage carriers can simply break, sometimes at the most inopportune moment.
But the above methods not only have the above disadvantages but also are not applicable for entire classes of bicycles - road rails, double suspensions, fixes, carbon frames, and forks. And bikepacking bags can be mounted on any bike, which opens up a lot of opportunities for long trips to many cyclists.
Fans of road cycling can now hit the road on an easy and fast roadway, while dual-suspension owners do not need to use console racks and complain about the suspension's poor performance. Yes, there are certain limitations here. For example, because of the rear suspension, you will not be able to put a large intra-frame bag in a double suspension, which forces you to reduce the amount of equipment. But the bikepacking kit is still almost the only alternative to shoulder backpacks and console luggage racks.
Jimmy Rai is a life long adventurer and a long distance hiker. He can often be found in the expanses of Alaska, the Caucasus, North Korea and near the Alps. Rai writes about his experiences with gear he used at one point or another.
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