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What Exactly Is Guided Bikepacking?
As we prepare for our company’s first ever bikepacking experience, we have been having some interesting discussions with people who have a variety of opinions about bikepacking, cycle touring and everything in between. We also learned in our annual survey (we summarized the results here) that almost 80% of people that follow us have either bikepacked or are curious to try it.
So what is bikepacking? Cycling Weekly described it as “a multi-day tour by bike, completed on mixed terrain or entirely off-road with the rider carrying their equipment on their bike.”
Bikepacking.com – one of the best resources for finding routes, learning about gear and being part of the larger bikepacking community – explains the sport in The Rise of Bikepacking, A Manifesto:
“While bicycle touring has existed since time immemorial, bikepacking has come to define a style of travel favoring routes that are predominantly off-pavement, sometimes featuring significant components of singletrack. Routes that by their nature tend to demand lighter weight setups than the traditional four-pannier bike touring setup — at least to be enjoyed to the fullest…Ultimately, we’re fans of bike touring in all its many incarnations and tribes, so we’re the first to acknowledge that there’s often a lot of overlap and shared stoke, however you choose to camp out on a bike, and whatever bike and setup you choose.”
How We Define Guided Bikepacking
So that leads us to the question of what exactly is a guided bikepacking trip? Well, it’s everything that people love about bikepacking but with some backup and guidance. That means you can expect:
- Small groups led by an experienced guide
- Challenging routes deep in the bush
- Carrying all your own gear but with emergency vehicle on standby
- Navigating along a GPS track provided by us
- Sourcing and carrying food along the route
Craig Dalton and Ben Shillington (our guide for our first bikepacking trip) also discussed this on The Gravel Ride podcast…
Many bikepacking purists will see the guided aspect as a bit controversial. Should companies like ours be making packaged bikepacking tours? Does this take away from bikepacking culture or enhance it?
Our opinion is that a guided trip opens up bikepacking to a wider range of people who may feel too intimidated to plan and execute their own trip – making the experience more inclusive and welcoming to all. Bikepacking stories continue to captivate all of us. Our first trip through Quebec will try to stay true to the idea of bikepacking by getting deeper into the wild, away from public roads and car traffic, being self-sufficient, and experiencing the joy of discovery.
Just as there are guided kayaking and skiing expeditions, we hope this new offering allows more and more people to try their first bikepacking trip. As we develop this new idea, the structure and support may change over time as we learn what works best and what creates the most enriching experience for all participants.
Our annual calendar of tours will still consist largely of supported cycling tours on public roads but we hope that these new bikepacking experiences can get even more people to try a big bike adventure – traveling further and longer then they might have in the past or on their own. Part of our mission has always been to enable regular people to take on big memorable trips that enhance their lives – and guided bikepacking trips are another way we can achieve that.
What are your thoughts? Do you consider yourself a bikepacking enthusiast or a cycle tourist or neither? Do guided trips appeal to you or should bikepacking remain as a independent / do-it-yourself culture? We would love to hear your thoughts. Leave us a comment below.
If you are interested in participating in our first-ever guided bikepacking tour and pioneering a new kind of group bike travel, come join us in Quebec this August. Details here.
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