Updated: May 20, 2019
Adventure cycling is gaining popularity globally and South Africans are joining in and riding more and more longer distances.
"If you haven't joined in on the fun yet then read on..."
Adventure cycling in it's purest form is riding "self supported, but can also be enjoyed as supported or semi-supported overnight macro or micro weekend adventure rides.
When adventure cycling self supported you carry everything you might need to complete your journey without any outside help. This usually includes, but is not limited to, equipment for camping, food, water, bike tools, navigation, clothes, cooking utensils, personal hygiene items, communication devices, emergency kit, electronics, fuel and money.
Joining an organized semi-supported bikepacking ride is a great option if you are new to adventure cycling or just prefer riding with a group of like minded people without the burden of planning the ride.
Why attempt it?
Simple, it's cycling and it is fun and an adventure.
When new to adventure cycling start with short town to town bikepacking weekend rides. It allows for testing of your bike and gear, but more importantly it will give you the opportunity to adjust to this new form of cycling.
Short bikepacking routes do not necessitate the need to pack food, stoves or even camping gear as accommodation and shops are most likely available at towns. You will still experience bikepacking and it is the best way to build confidence and grow your skills.
In my experience two or three trips is about the time you will need to get used to and comfortable with what to pack and get your mind into the pace of bikepacking. PACE IS IMPORTANT more about this further down...
Soon you will be planning bigger adventures in more remote locations possibly in countries other than your own, this is when things start to change in a big way.
How does long hours cycling change the game?
When you plan bigger adventure rides you might spend longer hours in the saddle, have longer distances between towns and you might even have longer intervals between meals with increased energy spend.
Long distances between towns and the possibility of limited water, food and accommodation could change things in one of two ways...
One: You could choose to just keep on moving until you reach the next town. This approach is doable, but does come with challenges and is only possible with good planning.
Ask yourself if the distance to the next town is within your physical capabilities and not much further than your available water and to a lesser degree food supplies. Pushing beyond these limits to the extreme might put you in harms way.
You also need to consider the mental challenges of this approach. When not prepared and fatigue sets in with looming time constraints of shops being closed for business at your destination not only changes a bikepacking ride into a race, but mentally strains the experience. Clearly this is not the preferred outcome and it can even become dangerous.
Two (recommended): Pack food, camping gear, plenty of water... to sustain you until you again reach civilization.
You will be prepared, relaxed and you will be having a bikepacking adventure. Neither fatigue nor hunger should ever be a consideration as you can decide when you want to stop, eat, rest or turn in for the night.
The importance of pace:
Pace is what sets an Olympic MTB winner apart from the more casual rider. The pace of a cycle race is different than that of a social club ride and adventure cycling also has it's own associated pace.
This pace is what gives you time to enjoy nature and relax, but more importantly the pace will set the tone of your entire adventure. Attempting too long distances where you are dependent on venues for food, water and accommodation and it will result in a higher pace changing the tone of your ride. It could also introduce mental strain, anxiety and physical fatigue.
In my view introducing time constraints, limitations and dependency while bikepacking is sort of missing the point of adventure cycling, but can be overcome if you have limited time by choosing weekend adventure trips called micro adventures with manageable daily distances that require less planning and gear!
Bigger adventures are better unsupported and changes the adventure for the better. It introduces a calm pace and mentality. You can stop when you want to, eat when you feel like it and overnight when you decide to call it a day.
"Set your goals to evolve into a self supported bikepacker and experience the rewards of pure adventure knowing that you can make it on your own."
Until next time, pack and ride.