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Travelling Light On Two Wheels

‘Bikepacking’ appears to be the new buzzword for cycle-camping. Hardly new, of course, as the late Robin Adshead wrote the neat book Bikepacking over 40 years ago. I’ve seen a lot of cycle-campers this year and it became something of a game to work out the homeland of the cyclists.

By the way most of the cyclists had packed their luggage, they appeared to have never heard of lightweight gear. Bulging front and rear panniers, bar bag, frame bag, stuff sacks lashed to the racks and, sometimes, a rucksack worn as well.

I’m sure many had fallen prey to buying loads of lightweight gear and, in the process, defeating the object of it all. Plus, succumbing to the lure of filling space because it’s there.

Stripped to the basics, cycle-campers need a tent, sleep mat, sleeping bag, stove, pots and a head torch. Of course, there are loads of other things you can pack to make camping more ‘comfortable’. That word is used advisedly as every ounce and pound has to be moved all day.

The lighter the load, the longer the overall time frame of comfort. In my early cycle-camping days, there was so much packed ‘just in case’ that it was no surprise that steep hills proved to be a nightmare of pushing.

It’s often said that with experience comes the ability to manage with less but starting with less is a far better tack to take. Not only starting with less but sticking with it. Camping is fun but, surely, the point of cycle touring is to enjoy the journey with its new places and people not battle with heavily laden bikes each day?

Considering their usefulness, it seems rather odd that trailers are not more popular in the UK. Maybe it’s to do with tradition and old loyalties to British bike luggage brands? Here’s a much-loved Super C set from Carradice spotted on Arran.

Teaming up

Travelling light is about more than considering what you pack on the bike. Are you a solo traveller or somebody who prefers company?

If you’re thinking of a long trip with a friend, then spending a few days pedaling together to check out how you get on is a sound plan as a day trip doesn’t have the same stresses and strains that emerge after a while.

After staying with me for a few days many years ago, veteran global cyclist Heinz Stucke invited me to join him cycling to West Africa. It made me think hard – I didn’t go.

Here are a few things to chew over and discuss with potential partners:

  • how many miles do you hope to cover each day?
  • how flexible is that expectation?
  • how fast do you cycle?
  • how much do you expect to spend?
  • what are your accommodation expectations/standards?
  • what about rest days?
  • what about mutual support in the event of accident or illness?
  • what about food and cooking?
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