"In terms of weight, the unloaded bike, with a double chainring plus electrics (dynamo, lights, USB charger), weighs 11.3 kg which is not bad at all. My travel load, not counting food and water, is 5.1 kg, which brings the loaded bike to 16.4 kg. Weight has a big impact on the amount of energy expended, not only on the flats but especially, and exponentially so, in the climbs. Steering is also influenced by the weight of the bike, so when riding offroad it's essential to stay lightweight.
This is in fact the philosophy of bikepacking: do away with pannier racks to ride lighter, with better distribution of the weight, and be able to ride faster and further than when journeying on a traditional bike by contenting yourself with taking the bare essentials. I've known plenty of people who set out on a long trip with too much gear and ended up shipping it back home by post as the days went by.
We tend to fill our bags with our worries, but this is a leisure activity so we can do without. "
"I'm setting out with a load configuration consisting of three bags, plus one."
- Sleeping pad
- Sleeping bag
- Survival blanket (used as ground cover, or in case of intense cold or an accident)
- Rainproof jacket
- Merino wool warm socks
- Merino wool leggings
- Merino wool long-sleeve top
- Silk glove liners
- Long underwear for the night
- Repair and maintenance kit (tools, inner tubes, lubricant, ...)
- 10 litre compressible backpack
- Titanium fork
- Toiletries bag
- The remaining space is for food.
- Power bank (battery)
- Knife with pliers
Plus an additional bag on the handlebar for my camera (because Italy is a beautiful place), and the rest of the space for food.
In terms of electrics, I added an electric circuit powered by a modern rim dynamo. It has a "day" configuration with a USB charger that recharges a power bank which in turn powers the GPS and charges my phone as well as my headlamp when necessary. Plus a "night" configuration where the dynamo powers the front and rear lights.
What I'll be wearing:
- Cycling undershorts
- Cycling jersey
- Light socks
- A helmet with the headlamp on it.
"I tested this configuration one week before setting off on a flashpacking trip, which is like bikepacking but instead of exploring remote and distant corners, it involves discovering places close to home, on a short trip. It's an adventure that's ... just around the corner.
So we set off towards one of the bivouac areas in Belgium across the border from the French city of Lille, passing through the hills of Flanders. I selected the destination at random, because that's what exploring is about! The route was a total of 120 km round-trip, with a bivouac in-between, which gave me time to give my dérailleurs and double chainring a little tune-up. Shifting gears was fluid and the gear ratio provided a nice range. The sleeping setup was ideal for the average conditions I'll be experiencing in Italy. I'll just need to avoid bivouacking at higher altitudes.
Everything went well. The bike is comfortable and a pleasure to ride. There was plenty of faster terrain and little climbs and descents through forested areas. On those descents, I was pleasantly surprised by the responsiveness and power of the semi-hydraulic brakes, with a good progressive feel when more was needed. The bike is enjoyable and playful even when loaded. In all, it was a successful trial run, with a configuration suited to a good range of riding on gravel and bikepacking.
I'm eager to see how it will perform over several long days! "