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Quench'd: On Bikepacking

Ali Becker is a freelance writer, adventure storyteller and full-time nomad. She spends half the year traveling by bicycle with her partner, Mathieu and the other half sleeping in strangers' beds as a professional house sitter. This summer, Ali and Mat will be embarking on their longest bike adventure ever: traversing the Great Northern Bikepacking Route. They are fundraising for the World Bicycle Relief, and you can donate here. Follow along on their adventure at @trip.longer on IG /wetriplonger on FB. Thanks for joining us on Quench'd, Ali!


I first became interested in bike touring after my partner Mat shared a journal he had kept on a solo cross Canada bike tour he had gone on a few years earlier. I had no prior experience with long distance cycling but his stories were so intriguing - full of spontaneity, serendipity, connection and adventure. 

After reading his stories from the trip, I was hooked on the idea of going on my very own, big bike trip.

A year later, Mat and I were loading up our pannier bags on our new touring bikes and setting off on what would become the grandest adventure of my life up until that point - riding our bicycles 9,500 km (~6000 miles) from the West Coast of Canada to the East.

That three month trip was one of the most pivotal experiences for me - it changed my values, my priorities, and my beliefs and started me on a journey towards better mental and physical health and well-being. 

It also had me fall madly in love with riding bikes and the feeling of freedom it provides for me. 

Since that ride in 2015, I have been on many more multi-month bike trips, with a lot of smaller ones sprinkled in between. Over time, these trips have migrated from paved roads to dirt tracks, allowing us to spend more time in the beauty and quiet of the wilderness, and away from cars. 

Each trip has been unique, exciting and challenging and helped me become a better version of myself through the lessons and experiences I have derived from them. Drawing on this, I wanted to share a bit of advice for beginner bike travelers, but take it with a grain of salt!

General advice for beginner bikepackers: 

1. Be Prepared, But Go Before You’re ‘Ready’

If I would have waited until I was “ready” to go on my first big bike trip, I never would have gone. 

When I left on that cross Canada ride, I was out of shape and knew very little about my bike, how to fix it or which gear was necessary or unnecessary to bring. 

Although I would recommend a bit more basic bike knowledge (like how to fix a flat) and physical training than I underwent prior to leaving, I ended up (eventually) ‘riding my way into fitness’, shipping superfluous items ahead to our destination and learning more about my bike through experience as I went. 

If you remain open to learning and trust that you’ll figure things out as you go along, you’ll be good.

2. Ask For Advice, But Take it With A Grain of Salt

The internet is full of forums and riddled with opinions. It can be easy to fall down a black hole of mostly well intentioned advice until you’ve found yourself spending three days trying to decide if you need an insulated Bivo bottle or a non. (Spoiler alert : there is no wrong choice.)

It’s great to ask for help and be open to other peoples advice, but there is no one size fits all solution for bike touring - you are unique and so are your wants and needs. Take advice, but take it with a grain of salt and remember there is no substitute for experience gained by tip #1 - going and doing!

3. Savor Life in the Saddle

Bike trips can be overwhelming, especially when there is so much land to cover, often in a set amount of time. My only regret on my first bike tour was not slowing down to enjoy it more - and this goes for life in general.

Instead of rushing from one task to the next, one town to the next, one camp spot to the next, do your best to connect with each moment, each view, each pedal stroke the best you can and really be in it. 

I once came across a group of bike travelers who had set up their hammocks in the midday sun so they could relax and enjoy the view along the stunning shores of  Lake Superior. They looked so happy and peaceful, but all I could think about was how crazy it was that they would stop moving for so long when there was so much riding left to be done!

When we arrived at the campground a few hours later, I sat at the picnic table, staring off into the sky and realized at that moment that there was plenty of light left in the day. I could have slowed down, stopped and savored the view with those hammock hangers instead of hurrying on with ‘somewhere to get to’.

I think about this moment often when I find myself rushing past something that feels right.

We won’t always nail this one, but if we set an aim for bike rides, and time outside to help us cultivate more mindful awareness for the wonder of this world, we’ll gain more out of every adventure than we ever thought possible.

A few more practical tips

Finally, I have a few more tips that are a bit more on the practical side of bike touring.

4. Go Out on Fully Loaded Day Rides

This will help you figure out where all your gear goes, which will likely change as you go but at least you’ll get a starting point. It also helps you train your body for a heavy load (which might just encourage you to leave some of that gear behind!)

5. Start With An Overnighter or a Weekender

Depending on your fitness level, and experience with cycling and camping, it can be really helpful to go on a few smaller trips to get a feel for things. Pick a route that isn’t too remote or challenging - this will increase your likelihood of having a great time and wanting to do it again. It’s also wise to have an exit strategy (like someone to come pick you up) if anything goes really sideways.

6. Recalibrate

After any test ride or trip, evaluate your experience. Ask yourself what went well and what didn’t. What gear did you need that you didn’t have, what did you have that you didn’t need? This is a great way to check in with yourself, build confidence through experience and learn a little bite from each opportunity.


Have any questions about getting into bikepacking? Have advice to share for beginners? Share these in the comments!

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