April's MBWales 2012 Challenge is to take on a Bikepacking trip! We challenge you to get on your bike for a multi day adventure. I took part on my own first bikepacking trip recently and I'm hooked.
If you're the sort of rider who always wonders 'what's over the next hill' as you reluctantly turn and head for home, then Bikepacking might be for you. While it's true that bikepacking shares certain traits with touring, it's also true that the two things differ greatly.
There tends to be a real focus within the bikepacking community on weight saving and minimal kit. Rather than filling a set of panniers with everything they think they might need, the bikepacker will trim down their kit to the minimum possible. This 'carry less - enjoy more' philosophy will allow you to ride the same technical trails you'd ride unloaded without your bike becoming a burden. When you've finished your days riding, just unpack your gear, get a brew on and spend the night at the side of the trail ... next morning pack up and carry on riding.
Don't think you have to spend a small fortune on exotic gear before you can enjoy a bikepacking trip. A few simple basics will get out in the hills and under the stars but be warned ... if the bikepacking bug bites, you may find yourself amassing quite a collection of expensive goose down and titanium goodies! A sleeping bag, bivvy bag and sleeping mat would be enough to get you started, those three could be easily bought for under £70 with a little carefull shopping.
The popularity of bikepacking is increasing almost weekly. Within the UK it's now reached the point where it has it's own events, forums and websites. If your imagination has been fueled, then a good place to find out more would be bearbonesbikepacking.co.uk/
. You'll find information on the three annual Bear Bones Add-Ventures including the near infamous Welsh Ride Thing. There's also the blog which features plenty of kit reviews and inspiration for making your own gear and a busy forum too.
Obviously, carrying your home with you, opens up a lot of options for taking longer or more wild and remote rides. It also enables you to have 'mini adventures'. Imagine setting off on a Friday after work and riding for a couple of hours. Most people will have a secluded spot where they could spend the night within a few miles of home, you could be back the following day before the rest of the world is awake.
If it all sounds like something you'd like to try but you still find the prospect a little daunting, there's always the option of an arranged trip. Forest Freeride
run a number of Welsh bikepacking trips. You'll get the opportunity to sample it first hand and learn the ropes, wthout risking it turning into a cold, wet disaster.
Many people enjoy bikepacking along existing long distance routes. The South Downs Way in England, the West Highland Way in Scotland and the often overlooked Trans-Cambrian Way in Wales. The TCW runs from Knighton on the English/Welsh border to Dyfi Junction on the Welsh west coast, a distance of around 100 miles. The route takes in some fantastic and remote mid Wales countryside ... at times you really will be out in the wilds! Most people choose to ride the route over 3 days, staying in B&B along the way but there are those who not only choose to bikepack it but also ride it as quickly as possible in the form of an independent time trial. There's a website to record these endevours where you'll also find more details about the TCW in general -http://transcambrianitt.
If you feel inspired to take up this months challenge make sure you are prepared. We all know what Welsh weather can be like so if you're stopping out for the night it's even more important to be prepared for all weather scenarios. Also work on the basis that no one should know you're there or have been there, so always pack out your own rubbish etc.
We seriously hope you decide to take up this months challenge and if you do then please share your stories with us via the MBWales Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/mbwales
. Good luck!