We made these mistakes so you don’t have to!
We asked two of our favorite dirtbags Kristi Jewett (preparing for the Black Hills Expedition, a 430-mile bikepacking race) and Michael Lanning (who just finished the Florida Divide, an 800-mile bikepacking race) all about the best and worst decisions they made when preparing for their adventures. And, because we just couldn’t resist, we threw in our own two cents as well. It can be a bit intimidating (to say the least) to prepare for a bikepacking trip of any length. Some people feel so overwhelmed by the process that they end up not taking the trip at all. We don’t want that to happen to you! We know how these trips not only reconnect you to nature, but also to yourself- and the knowledge that there is SO MUCH MORE in this world than what we spend most of our time fretting about. Trust us; you need to take a bikepacking trip! Here are some mistakes to avoid.
1. Not Bringing the Right Tools
While there is limited space in the bags on your bike and back, don’t scrimp on the tools you may need to fix and repair bike malfunctions. This includes bringing at least two tubes and a patch kit for fixing flats. You will be working your bike hard for several hours every day, so make sure you plan for the worst in terms of bike breakdowns.
2. Relying on Technology
iPhone apps and a GPS are usually godsends for tracking mileage and navigating trails. These devices have, for most, replaced clunky maps and old-fashioned compasses. But, when planning your trip, it really is best to prepare for little-to-no reception, as well as losing charge on these little devices. Not only should you have a map and know your planned route, make sure EVERYONE in your party has one. People ride at different paces. While on shorter rides, it isn’t difficult to stay together as a group, longer, multi-day rides can make it hard for everyone to keep the same pace. Be prepared to navigate yourself WITHOUT the use of technology; that way, if your devices do happen to work, that’s a bonus!
3. Disregarding Your Off-Bike Comfort
You are going to be riding your bike, a lot. This is typically at the forefront of your mind while preparing and packing for your trip, but- don’t forget- there will also be times you WON’T be riding your bike. This is crucial recovery time, not just for your body, but for your brain as well. We suggest bringing a pair of flip-flops and comfy pants to upgrade your downtime . Every little bit of relief you can get while you are off your bike will make a difference in your mental prep for the next day. You deserve a little luxury!
Still feeling reluctant? Here are some words of wisdom and encouragement from a couple of dirtbags who’ve “been there.”
“Start small. You don’t have to go big right off the bat. For many of us, it’s difficult to get time off work, or to take an extended vacation. You will learn a lot about bikepacking, and yourself, on just an overnighter and it’s just as fun as going on a longer trip! And you don’t have to travel to some great destination to bikepack. There is a lot of backyard exploring that can be done, and it is super fun to start right at your home, and go explore old forest service roads or gravel roads that you’ve never traveled before! You will more than likely see some pretty cool areas that you had no idea were right in your neck of the woods!”
Kristi Jewett, Race Director/ part time barista
“You can’t be scared of failure. I was scared my very first TNGA [Trans North Georgia]. Sometimes the best way to learn is to just jump in. I was told after my dnf [did not finish] that the best way to train was to first attempt, that way you know how to better prepare for the next time. Each event is different. Also, always carry a back-up GPS or someway to get directions. Cue sheets are only so good. And electronics fail. I’ve been using gaia on my iphone. It’s great.”
Michael Lanning, Tattoo Artist / Racer Extraordinaire
Completed the Florida Divide and is training for The Tour Divide
“Start with small goals. Smaller than you expect. When on bikepacking trips, every mile is a little slower and every hill is a little steeper than you expect. The beauty of this type of trip is flexibility, and being able to adapt your plans or throw up a tent when things don’t go according to plan. Give yourself permission to readjust and plan plenty of downtime. Your overall trip will be more enriching if you take the time to relax, journal, daydream, or meditate. Bikepacking is all about communing with nature rather than just being focused on some arbitrary goal. It can be hard to make the time in your busy life for these trips, so when you do, enjoy your downtime!”
Heath Brown, Founder of DirtBags