Basics for Making Your Tour or Bikepacking Adventure Successful and Safe
An Outdoor Gameplan to Prepare Your Present Self – Your Future Self Will Thank You
Since the advent of the bicycle, two-wheeled outdoor adventures have been part of bicyclist culture. With today’s access to public lands, developments in multi-surface terrain bikes, and the electric variants cropping up exponentially, more and more adventure seekers are capable of riding up steep mountains and through forest roads.
However, with more access comes more risk of calamity. Various reports have come out showing a sharp increase in deaths in the outdoors and wilderness over the past year. Most disconcerting, a striking up-tick in deaths while taking selfies. While we are the first to encourage an epic adventure, we want to emphasize the importance of preparing for success and safety. To that end, we provide some generalized considerations before seeking adventure. Review, then seek your destiny among the roads and trails beyond. Go forth and explore!
Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance
For the cartography buffs, this tip may seem like a obvious one, but for those eager beavers who want to get on the trail, direction not-with-standing, it’s worth taking the time to review the terrain and surrounding areas on a map. Wander-lusting is a great way to explore an area, but have a general lay of the land before you head out. Side-trails can turn into canyon descents, fire roads can turn into heavily trafficked automobile pathways.
User contributed projects such as MTB Project, Traillink, and even Hiking Project can be useful for understanding terrain. Google Maps has been updating their maps with more relevant cycle information including an elevation chart for biking or walking, which gives users an idea of how much effort they can expect to exert for their route, but Ride with GPS still reigns supreme for route planning with a dedicated tool-set that makes plotting your next trip a breeze.
Check the Weather, Dude
Considering the climate is important when selecting apparel and determining your departure. Have an awareness of high and low temperatures for the area you will be in and adjust your apparel and water requirements accordingly. Check for any indications of incoming inclement weather and modify your provisions as required. For wet weather, the adage ‘cotton kills’ holds true and is to be avoided. We prefer merino wool for moisture-wicking and temperature regulation, though suitable synthetics do exist. For hot weather, UV protecting Lycra in light colors is the ticket.
Early Bird Gets the Worm
Starting early helps lessen the risk of suffering through the high heat of the day. Additionally, you’ll be giving yourself enough time to get where you need to go before dark, with a buffer for a nap in a tree, a swim in a stream, or whatever unexpected surprise you may find on your tour. There is no excitement quite like chasing the falling sun as it makes it’s way behind a ridge on the way to base camp, but there is also nothing worse than way-finding in the dark. Start early, go further
The Night Before
Set aside time to prepare a small bag of some essential tools the night before. Your journey will dictate the gear selection, but don’t wait until the morning of departure to decide what to bring. Be mindful to select a bag or case that will suit the weather of the area you’re traveling, and also light enough to not slow you down. A small handlebar bag is convenient, very portable, and allows for easy access while on the bike. Include the essentials in this bag: extra tubes and levers if applicable, inflation device, picture ID, a bike multi-tool, 200-300 calories of food. Proceed with provisioning as required from there.
Share Your Plans
Bring a friend. This will greatly increase the chances of getting help quickly. If you choose to go it alone, let those close to you know your plans for a wilderness trek with route information and an understood check-in protocol in the event that you don’t arrive home as planned.
You may want to turn on location sharing services on your phone as an extra precaution. If you have an iPhone, access your “Find my Friends” app and send a request to share location services. If you are in a club or have a lot of cycling friends, create a Facebook or MeetUp event page a few weeks before your ride. You can communicate with everyone through these channels, and it also informs others as to where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing.
Adventure Cycling Association – The ACA has a long legacy of promoting touring North America by bicycle, and is a great resource for the touring bicyclist. They are responsible for establishing the most expansive network of tours throughout the United States, and their maps are a cartographic dream for the touring and bikepacking bicyclist. Beyond route information, they lead self-supported and van-supported organized tours and bikepacking adventures that vary in length from overnight to over summer.
Ride with GPS – The utility provides tremendous value and utility for planning, discovering and wayfinding routes near you. Many uploaded rides are complete with notes and details to make the most of your time in the saddle. Other offerings exist, but the user-uploaded detail and information on specific routes is very helpful to the planning stage of your ride.
Bikepacking.com – If spending multiple nights on your bike away from the glitter of city lights sounds like a dream come true, the good folks at BikePacking.com have put together a tremendous resource that details routes all around the world, some truly awe-inspiring rides. And for the nuts and bolts of bikepacking logistics, their BikePacking 101 series is a great place to start.
Recreational Equipment, Inc.– REI, the outdoor retailer, has made a big push over the past two years to better provision the bikepacker and touring bicyclist. Along with the gear, they also offer a selection of free and paid classes available at locations throughout the United States. rei.com/events.
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