It feels indulgent, to me at least, when I find myself at what would be brunch time on Sunday morning sitting on a fence, watching some cattle and eating peanut m&ms. I have always loved the sense of adventure that cycling gives me, and the fact that it lets me find pleasure in the most unexpected places. Like drinking awful coffee with hot chocolate packets mixed in on a gas station forecourt on a snowy day, or diving into a creek in my bibshorts in the heat of the summer.
Bikepacking, travelling unsupported on a bike without racks, is what gets me to these moments of serenity and, I’ve recently discovered, I can do it whilst everyone else is out to brunch. I used to think that I needed to set aside weeks at a time to enjoy the sense of adventure that I got on big trips. Then I started working, and realized that I wasn’t always going to have months with nary an obligation other than feeding and entertaining myself. I started to fit my adventures into my weekends. It turns out, that you don’t need to be a million miles away to get the same sense of adventure, you just need to turn off your cellphone, get out your sleeping bag and start riding.
Weekend trips are great, for one thing they take a lot of the stress out of planning. A big trip means a lot of logistics. You need to plan for food, water stops, different weather conditions and potential mechanicals. A weekend trip is much less stressful. You need dinner, you need breakfast, you need shelter and you need a change of clothes. These trips are close enough to home that you don’t need to cater for every eventuality, but far enough away that you’ll get to experience roads and trails that aren’t part of your usual loops.
These trips don’t have to be expensive either. Great bags are really nice, but if you’re headed out for the first time a sleeping bag strapped to your handlebars, a pad and bivy under the top tube and a change of clothes in a small hydration pack will do you just fine. It’s always good to have a cell phone or satellite phone with someone who loves you enough to come and pick you up if things go really far south, but I almost always find myself wanting to stay out longer, not come home sooner.
I know that it can be hard to break out of the schedule of weekend group rides, dinners with friends and road trips to races. But once you manage to make time for an overnight trip, you’ll realize that breaking the routine is exactly the point. In a world where our alarms go off at the same time every day, for work or for a workout, waking up with the sun and making coffee over a campfire is a rare luxury that many of us have access to. You should try it, even if it means skipping brunch.
Stay tuned for Part Two as James discusses “How to pack for your first Bikepacking Trip”
Photography: Sean Burke A4A Media