Bikepacking, the art of travelling light, by bike.

Bikepacking is an activity which has its origins in various practices. Conventional cycle touring with panniers and hiking on foot with a backpack are both among the influences. Bikepacking is the art of travelling light, by bike. Below, we take a look at bikepacking in more detail.

Light bike luggage solutions for bikepacking

Bikepacking generally does away with the traditional luggage rack set up. Sometimes, a few metal accessories are rigged to the bike, but the most common types of carrying systems are fixed directly to the bike frame using velcro straps. The entire bike becomes a luggage carrier. Systems are light, keeping weight low, and are practical, since they will fit any bike. All bikepacking bags can be fitted to virtually any bike – without tools.

Bikepacking is not restricted to any particular type of cycling either. This form of travel could well suit the road cyclist, mountain biker or gravel biker. Depending on the space available on the frame, you have various bikepacking luggage solutions, such as saddle bags, handle bar packs (known as bar bags) or frame bags. A fork bag can also be fitted to your bike.

Bikepacking versus cycle touring

It is not a question of opposing tradition cycle tourers and bikepackers. In reality, both seek the same thing: to ride, enjoy the nomadic style of travel that cycling offers and see different places. However, if we were to try and distinguish one from the other, we see cycle tourers as travellers who go by bike while bikepackers are cyclists who travel. As for the first, the bike is a means of transport; for the second, cycling is the goal (of course, ask cycle tourers and they will tell you they love to ride, too).

Travelling light

Bikepacking solutions necessarily restrict the volume of belongings you can carry. You want to avoid weighing yourself down any more than necessary. The result is a lighter bike. And a lighter bike means a more agile, quicker and enjoyable-to-ride bike. You could compare it in some ways to ultralight backpacking.

The heaviest accessories are eliminated, turning the bike into a truly versatile machine that is more effective in the event of obstacles – and there can be many obstacles on a cycling trip, like barriers, ditches, streams, fallen trees etc. A bike equipped for bikepacking is also one that can go off the beaten track and explore sections of trails on which a heavily loaded bike would be uncomfortable.

An alternative form of bike travel

One could even say that bikepacking is an alternative form of bike travel or another cycling adventure philosophy. By requiring you to leave the superfluous at home and take only the essentials on your trip, bikepacking promotes minimalism. It is also a way of freeing oneself from a certain vision of material things. You get to see what true freedom is like.

Obviously, this method of packing your bike is not without its drawbacks. Bikepacking forces you to make choices – the least useful items are banished to make room for the items that you really need.

The notion of budget also comes in. Although basic bikepacking equipment can be bought reasonably cheaply, the price of some bikepacking luggage collections can soar high. The equipment you pack in your bags can also be expensive, too – like your warm clothing, sleeping bag, camping stove, cooking equipment and so on – often, the lighter the gear, the higher the price per gram.

Gravel biking and bikepacking around Angers

Gravel biking lends itself well to bikepacking. Since gravel bikes are versatile, performing equally well on roads and trails, they offer a great many possibilities in terms of itineraries.

France’s long-distance cycle routes are of course an option for a bikepacking trip. The Loire à Vélo or Vélo Francette routes, for example, both pass through Angers. Take your adventure further and head off the beaten track. If you’re equipped for backpacking you can consider leaving the marked cycle paths and adventuring through fields, valleys, forest or woods.

The Angers area is an excellent place for gravel and bikepacking (Angers is home to the Nature is Bike gravel festival). We are lucky, around Angers, to have a multitude of small lanes, trails, tow paths and woodland paths that are ideal for nomadic cycling. Why not plan a bikepacking weekend to enjoy gravel biking at its best?

If you don’t know where to go, we’ve concocted two gravel routes of about 100 kilometres each, one exploring the Angers rivers and the other between the Loire and the vineyards. Both routes can be cycled at your own pace either self-sufficiently in bikepacking mode, or by taking advantage of the many cyclist-friendly accommodation options along the way.