I recently finished a long-distance bike ride (also known as a “bike tour”) from Canada to Mexico along the Pacific Coast. I wanted to give biking a fair shot, even if to prove what I already suspected: I prefer backpacking over bike touring. Nonetheless, it seems wrong not to share my knowledge with anyone who’s interested.
If any other hikers out there are interested in giving biking a shot, then here’s what you need to get started.
Essentially, you will need most of your backpacking gear since you will be camping along the way.
- Sleeping bag and sleeping pad
- Camp stove and cooking pot, unless you’re eating food you don’t have to cook or buying lunch and dinner on the road.
- A set of warm clothes to wear in the evening
- Shower stuff, camp shoes, headlamp, the usual stuff
There is some biking specific gear you’ll need as well:
- A bike, obviously. If you’re just giving it a try for an overnight trip, you can use most bikes. Road bikes are most practical if you’re sticking to paved paths.
- A bike rack. The bike rack attaches over the back tire. You can get a cheap one at a second-hand bike shop.
- Panniers. These are like the backpacks of the biking world. You put all of your gear in them, and they attach to the bike rack on the back. I have a pair of waterproof Nashbar panniers. They’re good quality panniers, but they are not the most expensive.
- Comfortable shoes to bike in. If you’re just starting out, you can wear regular sneakers. You can buy a nicer pair if you get really into the sport.
- Bike shorts. If you are biking a long distance, you might want to consider getting a pair of bike shorts because they are padded to cushion your butt against the seat.
- Safety gear like a helmet and a flashing red light for the back of the bike.
Where to Go:
The nice thing about biking is that you can leave from your house and most likely make it to a campsite in one day. Start by looking up state parks or private campsites close to where you live. For your first trip, shoot for around 30 miles. You can do 20 miles for a more mellow day or 40 miles if you’re feeling really ambitious.
If you’re nervous about biking on the road, try to find a bike path or a pedestrian path in your area.
You can use the Google Map app (or whatever you prefer) to route your ride yourself. You can also do some online research to find routes that other cyclists have also ridden.
Why Do You Want to Try Biking Anyway?
- If you don’t live close to a hiking trail, it’s a great way to test out your camping gear.
- Civilization: You have plenty of opportunities to get food and snacks. If the weather takes a turn for the worst, you can get a motel.
- It’s a lot faster than hiking.
- Because trying new things is nice.