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You’ve seen some videos of people going on multi-day off road cycle trips and you think you might like to have a go.
  • Where do you start?
  • What bike do you need?
  • What should you pack?
  • How do you plan your route?
Lets break it down and take a look

Why would you do it?

For me, it’s to explore the region, get away from crowds and back in to nature. I like to find the paths less travelled. Time in nature, time to think and time to test myself (a little).

What bike do you need?

Anything that will go off road! Especially when you’re starting out.
It’s not about the bike, it’s all about you, but the wider the tyres or the more suspension you have, the more comfortable you will be. But wide tyres are slow and suspension system get in the way of bags. So there’s no perfect answer.
I am going to assume that you have a bike that is capable of going off road. Not off the side of mountains, just gravel roads, farm tracks and fire trails. That’s all you need.
If you don’t have a decent bike, see if you can borrow one. I wouldn’t recommend buying a new bike for BIKEPACKING until you’ve been on a few rides. Your needs are going to be specific to you, your country and your style of cycling. And you won’t know what an ideal bike is, for you, until you’ve done some rides.

Multi-day rides

When you start to do some overnight and multi day rides, you’ll need some way to carry some of your stuff, but we’ll deal with that a little later.
And a good helmet. It’s terrible to think about having a crash, but should you come off, when you’re long way from home, you’ll be glad you bought the good helmet, not the cheap one..

Cycling off road

I would recommend cycling the trails closes to where you live; their usually the easiest to access and can be ridden in bite-sized chunks.
Initially, you might only be able to ride for a few kilometres. That’s okay, but if you’re going to build your capability, you’re going to have to cover some decent distances.

Rail trails and riverside pathways

A great place to start your off road journey are the rail trails and gravel paths. If you can get out to a National Park or Forest Trail, that’s even better.
Day trips of 20, 30 or even 40km should be where you’re aiming.

Cycling 50km per day

Ideally, if you want to get from town to town, you’re going to need to increase your capability to roughly 50km or 30 miles per day. Even when you’ve been riding for a while, that can feel like a lot, but if you break it down in to a morning, lunchtime and afternoon session of 10 to 20km each time, it’s quite manageable.
Many road cyclists might scoff at a “mere” 50km ride! But remember, you’re going to be riding a heavier bike, wider tyres, weighed down with bags on rough roads.

Speak to your doctor

Before making any change to your level of exercise, but particularly if you want to go off grid, on long trails and on your own, you must make sure that you can physically cope. Personally, I’ve had a full heart function test and got the okay from my doctor before embarking on my current level of trips. I would not recommend just jumping off the couch after many sedentary years and heading off on a multi-day, remote bikepacking and camping adventure. Progress in small manageable steps.

Too much baggage

At some point, you’re going to want to take the plunge and “do” an overnighter. My simple recommendation is:
  • Make it a relatively short distance away from the civilisation.
  • Carry as little as possible. A clean pair of undies, toothbrush and a credit card is really all that you need.
  • Cycle from one town to another, and stay in the local pub, motel, hostel so you don’t need to carry a tent, cooking stuff, food, etc.
  • And preferably, go with a friend who has some experience.
The less you carry, the easier it will be and the more you will enjoy it. Remember, you’re going to have to add in some snacks, lots of water, your phone.. so it quickly mounts up. And a heavy bike, on rough ground can be become a monster if the track is muddy and you’re a long way from home.
Less is more. Trust me on this one.

Planning your route

I will make a separate video about how I plan my routes and what I use when I’m cycling. For the moment, I have found Komoot the best program to plan and use for navigation because I bring up a large, detailed map on my PC at home, set my preferences to Mountain Bike and plan a great route very quickly and easily. As the program is web based, I can then pick it up on my phone and the GPS in my find will track where I am and give me pretty decent turn by turn instructions.

I know there are more detailed apps to use, and more specialised units to use on my bike to navigate, but it all comes at a cost.

Safety in numbers

Not long after I’d first started out cycling some of the rougher, more difficult trails, I collapsed from exhaustion. I’ll put a link to the video here. It was hot and I did not have enough water for the trip. Luckily, I was cycling with my adult son, who is an experienced outdoorsman and he saved the day. Ideally, you want to ride in a group of three; If one person has a problem, the second person can go for help while the third stays with the patient to render assistance. Again, not great to think about, but much better to consider the issues upfront, rather than in the bush, on your own while everything is going wrong.

Tell someone where you’re going

When I go bikepacking, I always tell someone where I am going, how long I think it will take and when I expect to get home. That way, they know when to start being concerned, if I’m overdue and where to start looking. I’ve never had an issue requiring rescue like that, but I still tell someone before every trip. And when I’m in the local towns, or see someone on a trail, I always say hello. I do that for two reasons;

  1. It’s nice to say G’day when you see someone
  2. They might remember seeing me, if I do get in to trouble, or get lost

Remember to breath

Sometimes, riding in the bush can be hard work. Days can be long and bits of your body might hurt, but always remember why you’re out there. For me, I love being out in the bush. I love Australia’s National Parks and I love finding quiet gravel roads to ride.

Happy cycling