Preparing for a bikepacking trip
Preparing for your trip is all part of the fun. Here are some tips to get you ride-ready and raring to go!
Assemble your gear
Prepare a comprehensive gear list for your trip – from clothes and other personal items, to spare tubes, tools, bike lights, snacks and drinking water. Then there’s all the extra gear you need if you’re camping and cooking. You can see a recommended gear list here.
Learn to pack your bike properly
It’s important that you can load your gear efficiently and handle your bike when fully loaded. Every bit of gear should have its place and be packed in a certain order. Familiarise yourself with your kit: ensure you can affix your bike bags securely and pack them well.
Know how to look after your bike
Make sure you have the skills and tools to fix a puncture, broken chain, and bent wheel at the very least. Get a friend to teach you or do a course and practise with your own tools.
Try hitting some singletrack on a fully loaded bike or doing a short, local overnighter. Check for pressure points and, if possible, get a handle on your skills and fitness. Consider undertaking a training programme such as those created by Janet Stark. By building your core strength and stretching your leg muscles, you’ll be much less likely to suffer injuries, and you’ll become surprisingly more efficient on your bike.
Plan to be flexible
An overambitious itinerary can lead to exhaustion and poor decision-making. Keep your plans flexible and include buffers in your schedule. Where practicable, limit accommodation and boat bookings to a maximum of three days ahead, or you could find yourself unnecessarily pressured from unexpected hold-ups, such as bad weather or mechanical problems.
Carry navigational aids
Chances are, you’ll ride through some remote places with few people for miles around and no cellphone coverage. It’s vital that you know where you are and where you’re headed. Take two forms of navigational aids – paper and digital – so you’ve always got a back-up. A GPS is ideal, especially when loaded with up-to-date gpx files for your ride. Many riders opt for a Garmin, but your cellphone GPS will work okay in good weather; consider downloading NZTopomaps as a base layer. Other riders use a cycle computer in combination with detailed ride descriptions such as those in guidebooks (such as the Kennett Brothers’ Bikepacking Aotearoa) or cue sheets (a turn-by-turn guide, commonly used in bikepacking events). Read more in our Riding Safely section.
A heavy-duty lock is a pretty big weight penalty, but there are other options for keeping your bike safe. For quick zips into shops, use a lightweight cable lock or clip your helmet around the back wheel and shift the bike into the highest gear. That will slow down opportunist thieves. In other situations, you’ll need to keep your bike in your sights or ask for somewhere safe to store it such as a garage or shed. At camp, lie your bike down beside your tent and tie a guy rope to a wheel, as a minimum.
Pro-tip: a dynamo hub allows you to charge your lights and phone while riding. If this idea appeals, do your research as not all are created equal and you won’t be able to get it serviced in the middle of nowhere.
This summary of tips and recommendations have been provided by the Kennett Brothers; for more in-depth information, purchase their fab Bikepacking Aotearoa guidebook – you can find out more about the book and buy a copy here.