Biking, or bikepacking, has become increasingly popular in recent years. There are many reasons to go on a long trip on a two-wheeled friend. For some it’s a way to test their endurance, for others it’s better to explore the area, and some just want to diversify the already familiar hiking and increase the range and speed of travel.
The main beauty of riding a bike is the great freedom of choice. You can adjust the route on the move, change the planned place and time of parking, or even stop in town and rest for a day or two in a hotel, which is especially important in case of adverse weather or technical problems. In an emergency, you can get on public transport by packing your bike in the luggage compartment of the bus or taking it with you in the train, train and even plane.
Where are we going?
Long-distance trips can be conventionally divided into three types:
Fully autonomous cycling trips imply a break from civilization and infrastructure for several days or even weeks. Such trips, as a rule, go already experienced hikers and cyclists who can easily cope with the search for water and overnight stay and solve technical problems even “on the knee” in the middle of the deserted route.
Full autonomy requires more equipment and the ability to place it correctly on the bike. As a rule, such rides have a longer range – 500 km and more. For example, many travel in Russia and Central Asia, where the distance between cities is much greater than in Europe. The Silk Road, an ancient trade route to China through Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, is especially popular, including among foreigners.
Semi-autonomous journeys are the most balanced in terms of the ratio of interest to labour costs. In such trips you spend the night in a tent, travel long enough distances for a day, but on the way every day there are small cities where you can stock up on food and necessary expenses, and in an emergency situation to find a bed. Equipment for such trips should be taken much less, tired for the day will not be so much, and money on the way will not be spent much, because the bulk of food you cook yourself and do not spend on hotels.
The length of such hikes can also be very long, the main thing is to at least outline a route, so as not to be in an uninhabited part of the country without food and water.
Non-autonomous journeys are as comfortable as possible, as they mean overnight stays only in cities or on campuses. The set of necessary equipment for such trips is minimal, some even practice the so-called “Credit card tour”, when with a minimum of change clothes and credit card, nothing else is needed. The main thing is to make sure that the places of overnight stays are caught on the road more often, and there is always enough money for hotels and hostels.
Sites for travelers, such as couchsurfing.com or warmshowers.org, through which you can get acquainted with locals who are ready to accept free of charge. However, the probability of finding overnight accommodation on them is not 100 percent, and it would not hurt to try them out beforehand on ordinary trips.
When choosing a route for yourself, you should first of all take into account the distance you travel in one day. To learn your abilities, try to spend the whole day in a saddle – go to the nearest suburb, keep a comfortable pace, take frequent but short breaks. Once you’ve assessed your fatigue levels the day after your ride, you can plan your daily race objectively for the bike tour to come.
Choose your bike
The main assistant on a cycling trip is, of course, a bike. It’s the bike that determines how easy it is for you to travel long distances and how comfortable it is for you to carry your equipment.
The main criterion when choosing a bike is the route. Whether there are large differences in altitude, asphalt or dirt roads, how much space we need for provisions – all this is important to know to make the right choice.
For regions with asphalt or good dirt roads, a touring or gravel road bike is ideal. Low weight and good reel will allow you to easily travel long distances, and an increased speed range will allow you to climb mountains with ease. These bikes usually have trunk mounting spaces and additional mounting points for flask holders.
If you can’t choose a bike specifically for your ride and you have to ride on what you already have, it makes sense to upgrade it slightly for the specific purpose of the journey. For example, if you only have good roads on the road and your bike is mountainous, you can change the tires from dirt to narrower “slicks” for less resistance and better grip on the asphalt.
If you get carried away in hilly terrain and your bike has a small gear range, it’s worth changing the cassette to a variant with greater variations in star size. Such upgrades will not require much investment and will make your ride more comfortable.