The process of setting up a bikepacking rig is an infuriating, expensive game of tiny tolerances, bodges, and compromises. A good setup is worth its weight in gold and roughly as expensive as its weight in gold. Here’s my experience in setting up a bikepacking rig.
Words & Images - James Raison
The interwebz are frankly jam-packed with videos, photos, written word, and podcasts about how to get your stallion ready for a bikepacking adventure. So many options! So many choices! It’s all so wonderful! Jump right in, the waters of information are deep and warm.
Oh, that guy ran 180 mm cranks for some weird reason. I should do that! That person mounted a bottle cage to their own face. That’s genius. 50 spoke wheels? Makes sense. Yes, I should take moustache wax. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Take all advice with suitable caution. What works for them on their bike/in their climate/for their body/for whatever weird reason they chose may not work for you.
SPEND ALL YOUR MONEY
Hey so financial stability, shelter, and food are all kinda BS, right? Right! That’s good because you’ll have none of those things after you’ve bought all your stuff.
Ok so, you’ll need a frame bag, saddle pack, handlebar roll, and a top tube bag. Great! Seeya later savings.
I know, I know, Australia is dry right? Well maybe it won’t be. Better spend $800 on waterproof gear just in case it rains. Or just invest in some garbage bags. Who cares?! Your bikepacking! You smell like garbage anyway. Might a well look the part.
What are you going to sleep in? You kinda do get what you pay for with sleeping gear so decide now how well you want to sleep. Perhaps the best advice I have is to buy a good bivy and mattress. It’s entirely likely that’ll become your permanent home.
TRY YOUR STUFF
Ermagherd, I’m so excited! Time to strap everything onto your bike. This is the best day ever! Ahh crap, that took 5 hours. The day is already over.
Uh-oh, my frame bag won’t fit above my bottles. The handlebar roll is too wide. I don’t have enough spacers under my stem to strap the top tube bag. I can’t fit everything I want in the saddle bag.
All the research and obsessing over every single item could still leave you with a lot of stuff that doesn’t fit. You won’t know until you try. Any try you will. Over. And over. And over and over and over and over.
"Yes dear, it's another bag. No, the last one didn't fit. No, I can't return it because I cut the tags off and used it briefly. What...? Ok but can this please be my last night on the couch?"
RIDE YOUR BIKE
Finally! I can hit the road, eat some mega kilometers, and conquer the continent.
Wow, this thing is heavy. The centre of gravity is really high as well. Why aren’t the handlebars turning? That saddle pack swinging around is pretty annoying. Is that a strap rubbing on my tyre or is it a puncture? Ok so I officially despise hills now.
Yes, bikepacking rigs give you +50 awesomeness points but you better get used to going 25 kph. With fresh legs. On the flat. With a strong tailwind.. These suckers are heavy as a fridge and equally as aero, have bizarre weight distribution, handle like a drunken pig, and you rub your goddam leg on everything. Oh unladen bike, I will never take you for granted again!
Then there’s the hills. The horror! I love hills. When bikepacking I loathe them. Heavy bike and exhausted legs result in abject misery.
I know I just whined for several hundred words, but bikepacking is amazing. It’s all worth it for an eye-popping sunrise, or a beautiful view, or someone agape at how far you’ve ridden, or seeing another bikepacker. There’s so much to hate about it, but that’s what makes it special. Nothing easy is truly rewarding and the only easy thing about bikepacking is spending money.
So what are you waiting for? Start putting your bikepacking rig together!