Thierry Crouzet

Automatic translation from french

I already told the story of bikepacking. A story is always better than a definition. It answers important questions: when we start using a word, why it was created, what use is made of it, how does it evolve? A story is enough to demonstrate the impossibility of defining because a definition valid one day may not be the next day. A story invites us to participate in this story, to appropriate the word, to use it. More than that, a new word, or used in a new sense, can be enough to open up possibilities (what did the word bikepacking for me).

This inaccuracy of any definition does not justify the attitude of those who refuse to think about the use of words and say "we do not care about all that". To have words, it allows to think, therefore to advance. If we did not care about all this, if this arugment was admissible, there would be no philosophy, no epistemology, no semiology, no culture, no humanity. We do not invent words for marketing reasons.

In the history of cycling, whether we like it or not, bikepacking is a milestone. It is not synonymous with cycle tourism / touring. Before the bikepacking, the hikes were more or less limited to the roads or the tracks (the cyclotourism having started by the tracks, because there was no road). Bikepacking starts with mountain biking.

From now on, one can be cyclotourist on all the grounds, which opens possibilities almost infinite. Being a bikepacker is all about hiking. It's going from the road to the track, from the track to the single, from the asphalt to the sand, from the snow to the rocky bars. This desire for openness implies a couple bike / light equipment, otherwise we do not pass.

This "we do not pass" must be understood in a broad sense. If we set long distances on the road in a relatively short time, which involves speed and endurance, bikepacking equipment is essential. For this to happen, once again, you have to be light.

Can we be a bikepacker by dragging a cart? No, the first drop is the disaster. Similarly if you hang heavy bags at the fork or luggage rack. The slightest descent on a single a little steep becomes suicidal, any branch can hang us and send us to the ground. The desire to go everywhere or to ride long distances is enough to characterize the bikepacker.

In my opinion, bikepacking is agile cycling, an agility that allows off-road racing or road endurance races, two rather distinct practices, which may require two different words, if there were not not an infinite gradation of possibilities between these two extremes.

Le Diverge de Sarah Swallows, exemple d'agilité (source The Radavist)
Le Diverge de Sarah Swallows, exemple d'agilité (source The Radavist)

A cyclist who does not worry about agility is not a bikepacker, it's not a problem, on the contrary, we now have two words for two ways to travel by bike. On the other hand, for the bikepacker like the thru-hickers, it is vital to reduce the basic weight, load of equipment without water and food. On his Youtube channel dedicated to thru-hiking, Darwin offers arguments that, adapted, are worth double for the bikepacker:

  1. When we go long distances and uneven, when we repeat the exercise day after day, the weight weighs on the body. All cyclists know this, which is why we are looking for the lightest possible equipment.

  2. Darwin gives the example of a car crossing a pass. Almost empty with her driver, she climbs with ease. Overload it, attach a caravan to it and its engine suffers. In our case, it is our body that suffers. When I went from an aluminum ATV to a carbon ATV, I felt like I was flying. Overnight I sprayed my Strava records. A lighter bike allows us to go faster, but also without going faster pedaling longer, so to travel further. Of course, we can agree to pedal less time and tire his body, but the bikepacker is not masochistic, he seeks to maximize his pleasure and comfort. As a result, he tracks down useless grams, otherwise he has to drag them for miles, making them climb mountains, drawing from their mass only a small profit on the descents, the few times he does not brake.

  3. A useless gram is a little less maneuverability, a little more fatigue, a little less fun in the technical roads. Too many, they push to dismount where otherwise we would pass without difficulty.

  4. More load means more risks to unbalance the bike, so reduce its maneuverability, so to make it more dangerous, which is to prohibit certain paths.

  5. More load means more wind, and I do not know any cyclist who likes to pedal against the wind.

  6. To carry weight, the bikepacker prefers to carry water and something to eat.

  7. We are not weightlifters. Our goal is not to spend the maximum energy / hour, but to have fun while driving (so no interest to equip heavily when we can equip ourselves slightly - even equipped slightly, we end our days on kneecaps).

  8. The bikepacker prefers that his bike wears his gear rather than his back, so he avoids backpacks.

  9. I will add that, as you get older, the weight weighs twice, and that the grams you earn are like years gained (this is true for all cyclists, not just for bikepackers).

  10. Finally, the reliability does not imply more heaviness. it is a common idea, or a way of hiding a fact sometimes difficult to swallow: reducing the basic weight often means paying more. Agility is always the result of a compromise. This is for a given budget to do the best. The bikepacker is like an optimizer, knowing that there is no ideal configuration, and that each hike implies choices of its own.