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;
- It’s nice to say G’day when you see someone
- 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.