Seems you can’t throw a Salsa Fargo without hearing someone talking about ‘bikepacking’ these days, that somewhat incongruent melding of backpacking and cycling.
I’ve done a few long tours over the years, but typically these are on bicycles outfitted with front and rear racks, and the associated panniers to carry your gear. Bikepacking is a streamlined version of touring, where frame packs, seatbags and handlebar-mounted luggage holders afford a lighter, similar set-up.
Last month, with the 4th of July looming, I took my sister up on an offer to visit her cabin, 235 miles northwest of my home in Minneapolis. It’d be my chance to test out some minimalist bikepacking gear, I thought, so I loaded up my Breadwinner Cycles B-Road, and did just that.
Covering 440 miles roundtrip over four days, I think I figured some things out with my setup. Though I would perhaps make some refinements, I used everything I carried, and I had no major problems.
The best part is that with this lightweight set up, I found almost no decrease in my average speed versus riding a bike without any bags.
The important take-away is this: You don’t need a special bike, nor equipment. Use what you have, keep it lightweight, and simplify. Here’s a breakdown of some gear that worked along the way.
Breadwinner Cycles B-Road: I’ve put more than 2,000 miles on my B-Road since March, riding road races, gravel, and everything in between. It’s an extremely agile, versatile bike that can handle any type of road or trail surface. It worked great on the bikepacking adventure, too.
Blackburn Outpost Seat Bag: Tent, poles, rain jacket, vest, leg warmers… this all fit inside the two-part bag with a compression sack that nestles inside of a “harness” under my bike seat. The harness attaches securely to the seat post and rails with velcro, and ladder-lock straps snug the compression sack in to place. I felt no swaying or obstruction, even when pedaling hard out of the saddle.
Jandd Frame Bag: This held my food, pump, arm warmers, and other small items. I’ve had this bag since the very first Almanzo 100 race in 2008, and it’s still going strong. Ideally, if it were slightly longer, I could store my tent poles inside, and then I’d cinch the Blackburn seat bag even smaller.
Bunyan Velo Crisp Holder: This was the first time I’ve used such a simple handlebar mounted bag. It kept snacks at the ready, and I used it to carry almonds, chips, and Bud Light Clamato 8oz cans. It’s really ideal and takes up almost zero space on the bars.
Big Agnes Seedhouse SL-2 Tent: This freestanding, lightweight tent has been in my arsenal for almost 10 years. The first night of the trip the mosquitos were so bad I think I set a personal record for getting the tent up. I left the rainfly off and the full mesh body provided great ventilation while saving me from the blood-sucking bugs.
Search And State S1-J Bib: I only brought this one pair of bibs, and I had zero issues with discomfort or saddle sores. The compression-fit offers great support, and the endurance-oriented chamois is perfect for long days in the saddle. I “washed” them after the second day by jumping in the lake and then later on the trip in a cabin sink. Even by day four, in a seven-hour rain ride, they stayed comfortable.
Donkey Label Chamois Balm: Protecting sensitive skin from friction and chafing over 400 miles is paramount. Donkey Label’s balm is made from organic ingredients and uses no water or preservatives. I attribute the comfort of the Search And State bibs in no small part to this chamois balm, and I highly recommend it for long rides.
Rapha Merino Mesh Base Layer: The open mesh weave is a perfect mix of comfort against the skin, breathability, and moisture-wicking. During the trip I didn’t remove this once while riding.
Rapha Superlight Jersey: This jersey is designed for the hottest days, and temps climbed close to 90° almost every day of the trip. It performed in the heat.
Giro SLX Shoe: Stiff and light, I chose these hi-viz orange shoes not only for their comfort, but also for a false sense of security on the road. Cars look at your feet, right?
Bell Gage helmet: Light, white, and well vented. Comfortable, too. Don’t need anything more.
Smith Optics Pivlock: The Pivlock design is lightweight, full-coverage, and offers easily inter-changeable lenses.
Mavic Ksyrium Gloves: These gloves are padded with a memory foam and my hands were comfortable for the entire duration of the trip.
Mission Workshop Orion Jacket: Lightweight, waterproof, removable hood… this jacket is a great all-around piece. It fits well despite a cut that is not as snug as some cycling-specific jackets. On the last day, riding seven hours in the rain, I appreciated the zippered vents on the underside of the arms to dump heat yet still keep the rain off of my skin.
Giro New Road 40M Tech Overshort: These lightweight, streamlined shorts worked great over my bibshorts when not wanting to look like a racer at Charlie’s Cafe in Freeport. As a bonus they doubled as swim trunks.
Panaracer Gravel King 28c Tires: Fast rolling, puncture-resistant, and the best tire I’ve found for road bikes on multi-surface rides. This tire gave me confidence to ride on the road shoulder amongst debris on the first two days, and all day in the rain on day four. Zero issues.
–Hurl Everstone is a contributing writer and the founder of Cars-R-Coffins.