One of the key motives of those who went backpacking – at least originally – was a desire to save as much money as possible, to ensure they could travel for as long as possible. So they spent hardly anything on food, often did not do too much during the day, and visited countries which were particularly cheap to ensure their pounds or dollars went as far as possible.
But although some of them even went as far as to hitch-hike, travel was – and is – one of the largest costs for back-packers. These days, people tend to leave with a little more money if they go back-packing but the same principles still apply.
And so, we come to the concept of bike-packing: in its purest form, it was all about cycling, rather than travelling, and so people would go on cycling holidays and try to carry everything with them so they could tour, rather than always taking circuitous routes. Since then, bikes have become much lighter – making bike-packing accessible to people with lower levels of fitness – and so has the gear which people wear, making it easier to carry clothes for a week-long trip in a rucksack.
But with the rising cost of travel, bike-packing isn’t now just for hardcore cycling enthusiasts. It has attracted a whole group of people who have brought back-packing together with traditional bike-packing, and want to bike-pack for months at a time. Obviously, it’s an amazing way to see a country – rather than just visiting major cities or tourist attractions, you can end up cycling through tiny villages and meeting people who’ve never met a Brit before. It is, quite literally, a fantastic way to get off the tourist trail. It’s also a great way to improve your cycling – bike-packing inevitably involves a variety of terrain and weather conditions, and the hours on the bike help to improve overall fitness. Like cycling in general, there’s enormous benefits which are completely free.
Even so, most people aren’t in a position to go bike-packing for several months – but even if you just go for a few days around the UK, bike-packing works out considerably cheaper than paying a private company to ferry your gear from place to place so you can just focus on the cycling. Especially if you have a bike where few things can go wrong, there’s very little you actually need to carry on the road – a tool or two, a spare inner tube and a pump will largely do the job, and some energy bars, food and a few clothes is really all most people need to take with them.
Packing minimally has the biggest benefit of all: you can enjoy the ride like you’re just out for a day’s riding because you’re not weighed down with tons of stuff, but also are able to go for a few days. It’s these two things working together which probably explains why bike-packing has suddenly become so popular – you should probably try it out!