Tips & Recipes
Lauren Stephens’ bike packing tips
Lauren’s top tips for your next bike packing trip
With the summer heat beginning to abate and Labor Day around the corner, the late summer and autumn can be an ideal time to explore and what better way than on two wheels?
Lauren Stephens took her first bike packing trip a few years ago with her husband when they rode 300 miles to his aunt’s house for Thanksgiving. It’s now become an annual tradition and she enjoys planning a different route each year.
Whether you’re a bike packing novice or a seasoned veteran, check out Lauren’s top bike packing tips.
1. Where do you want to go?
First, the destination. Where do you want to go? Route planning is the first part. It goes through a lot of different phases. You make your general route but then you have to see where the towns are, where you’re going to sleep. That adjusts the route you take because maybe there’s nowhere to sleep at mile 50 and then next one is 80 miles later so you have to decide your stops based on that kind of stuff.
If it’s your first time backpacking, try an out-and-back trip. It doesn’t have to be far. Just try an out-and-back for one night and see how it goes. That’s what a few of us did from Fayetteville, Arkansas once. We stayed in cabins at Devil’s Den. Find some cool cabins or a camp ground to ride to. You might even be able to find something 40 miles out from where you live or something.
2. Where do you want to sleep?
For camping versus hotels, a lot of it has to do with time of year and weather. My first bike packing trip, I was a little unsure about it and we stayed at his grandma’s the first night and we stayed at a hotel the second night. The trip we did from Joe Martin Stage Race to Dallas, we were a group of five people and because not everyone had camping gear, we stayed in AirBnBs. The trip that I planned for last Thanksgiving was my first one to do tent camping the whole time and it was great.
3. What should you pack?
When we did the AirBnBs, we just needed pajamas. We were washing our kits when we arrived and changing into our sleep clothes. Mat and I have water shoes as our shoes so they roll up really small and are like little slippers so you don’t need anything else and they pack really well. They have a good enough sole on them. Bring a toothbrush of course. Mat’s really into the powdered deodorant. It works! Especially when you go on a trip with multiple people, then everyone doesn’t have to pack deodorant. You can share those kinds of things. I always bring my spork. You never know when you’ll need it. If you’re doing AirBnBs or hotels, you really don’t need much more than you do going on a normal training ride.
You’ll definitely want some extra tubes because most of the time you’re not passing any bike shops. On that end, you’ll want to bring a few extra than you’d normally bring. We had a hand pump. I usually use a front handlebar bag and a top tube bag. Keep it light and avoid anything bulky.
4. What about eating and drinking?
I’ve always planned it so we stop for food. If it’s a shorter trip, you may want to bring a camping stove but I really enjoy finding out what they have in these small towns because I live in a big city like Dallas where you’ve got endless options and you always get exactly what you want but when you go to these small towns, you embrace the culture and see what it’s like to live there. It’s kind of similar to when we go to Europe. Embrace the culture. What do people do here? How do they live? Let’s live like them and not just keep doing the things we already know.
I’ll bring my Neversecond gels but we’ll also stop in gas stations. We ate a lot of donuts on the Joe Martin trip! ‘Oh, we’re going to stop at this donut shop? Ok!’
For water, the rule of thumb is if you pass somewhere with water, you should probably fill up because you don’t know how long it is until the next one or what’s going to happen in between.
5. What about the weather?
I’m always checking on the weather the night before and definitely just before we leave. We’re checking it out at the stops. It’s not changing so rapidly that you can’t check it at the stops but for sure we had family tracking it, too. We were using a tracker so people could follow our dot. We were getting a few text messages also.
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