Coming up to summer and not sure you want a holiday sharing crowded beaches with lobster coloured drunks in Union Jack shorts? In Weymouth it was well known that during the tourist season while the hordes of visitors came for the beach, the locals disappear into the hills… Even the hills in some locations can be very crowded – I remember the peak of Pen Y Fan in the Brecons being as full as a pub one wet summer’s afternoon. If you really want to be antisocial you must go that bit further, and with the advent of bikepacking you may just find the solitude that you just won’t find anywhere else…
What is Bikepacking?
Bikepacking is the term for a multiday cross country ride. You carry all the gear you need for your journey in specialist bags, navigate by GPS (such as Nogago) and cycle a route that involves at least one night’s sleep under canvass.
If you need to spend a day’s cycling to get to a location you want to explore, the odds are pretty good you won’t be sharing your solitude with 20 shouting Duke of Edinburgh Award students!
Where can you go?
In previous blogs I have shown how it is actually illegal to ride on many footpaths in England. In Wales and Scotland the law is less of a worry and you can ride good distances without annoying the local authorities. This isn’t to say that cycling is completely forbidden across England – there are thousands of miles of bridleways that permit cycling, as well as a number of byways and other paths.
Wilderness Scotland gives some great advice as to places you can cycle over a few days for example, while there’s a very good route from the north coast of Wales to the south coast that you can find here. You could consider the route from the Lake District to the English east coast or from south to north of Devon.
Bikepacking has strong roots in the US – a country where you can go for weeks without seeing another soul if you want. Have a look at bikepacking.net for information on routes both in the US and around the world.
What gear do you need?
There is specific gear that has been developed for bikepacking now. There are handlebar roll bags and frame bags that are designed to hook into your bike. Don’t expect to be carrying the kitchen sink, as these are designed to help you carry the minimum food, clothing, cooking utensils and tent for a 3-4 day expedition. The idea is to travel light enough that a decent hill you’d normally climb on a day ride won’t kill you with the weight of your gear.
We’ve looked at the question of the 29er versus the 26 inch wheeled bike before on this site. Again, do consider a decent machine that won’t yet you down. Tubeless, fat wheels to handle the mud, and as big a frame as is safe for someone of your stature.
Not completely antisocial?
Not everyone hates people and enjoy a bit of camaraderie as they cycle. There’s a contingent of bikepackers at the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling every year too. Here you’ll get to meet fellow adventurers and get the best advice as to where to go and what to carry.
Get on your bike!
Leaving the hullabaloo behind for a few days is core to keeping sane in this fast paced world. What better idea than packing up your bike and going completely off grid for a weekend…?