Bikepacking races, would you!?

Updated: Mar 22, 2019

Bikepackers get ready

What is a bikepacking race and how is it different from other mountain bike races.

  • There are a few differences, the first and main driver is that routes are long distance and self supported without outside support. This means that contestants need to carry all that they might need on their bikes (shelter, food, clothing and tools) which qualifies it as bikepacking.

  • Routes usually run long distances over multiple days through towns where riders can stop and buy supplies.

  • The more extreme trails might have no overnight spots and riders often camp in the wild before continuing the next day. It is also not uncommon to find that some competitors ride during night-time to either gain an advantage over other competitors or to escape extreme heat during day times.

  • Safety is normally in the form of a tracking device with SOS capabilities that also allows the organizers to monitor the event.

  • Trails are open to the public throughout the year and riders can also enjoy the trails without entering the race event itself. Tracking is available for races as well as trail riders.

Tracking also allows spectators to follow the action from their PC or Smartphone

Here at Bikepacking.Africa we are passionately exploring the possible first South African bikepacking race series. Watch this space as we aim towards the first event as early as 2020.

Here is a list of 12 of the top bikepacking events:

1. Tour Divide Race - 4,418 km

2. Colorado Trail Race - 805 km

3. Arizona Trail Race - 483 or 1,207 km

4. Iditarod Trail Invitational - 1609 km

5. Huracan 300 - 563 km

6. Stagecoach 400 - 644 km

7. The Idaho Smoke & Fire 420 - 676 km

8. Highland Trail - 901 km

9. Holyland MTB Challenge Race- 1,384 km

10. The Freedom Challenge Race - 2300 km

11. The History Route - 542 km

12. Ganna Route - 3,190 km

THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE - all bikepacking events and trails are journeys of experience, finding your own limits and creating special memories that will last a lifetime. Most often reaching the finish line is awarded with a small momentum to remember things by, prize money is usually absent.


  • Daily distances - no set daily distances mean you can ride as far as you choose to gain a possible advantage.

  • Sleep - the less you sleep the more you can ride, maintaining the right balance is of utmost importance.

  • Gear - The more gear the heavier your bike will be, but leaving essentials behind is never a good idea.

  • Bike - gravel or MTB, the sage continues...

  • Tools - self supported racing means you need to have contingencies for maintenance and breakages.

  • Navigation - GPS devices need power that might not always be available, careful planning is required to not get lost.

  • Timing - racing into the night might give an advantage but shops and towns could be closed for business making re supply challenging.

  • Sustenance - carry what you need as water points and support stations are not part of the bikepacking race philosophy.

  • Pace - sustainability, need I say more.

Are you a bikepacking racer or adventurer? Share your comments below.

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Bikepacking Adventure Routes