Now Your Legs Hurt in A New Way!: Cranky’s Bikepacking
Bike / BMX
Clad in full-body lycra and skin-tight ass pads that function as giant sponges more than anything else, I continue to outpedal my own mental health as I summit the hills of the Salt Lake metropolitan area. Narrowly dodging death from a lifted Dodge truck for the third time today (the truck bed weighted heavily with groceries from Whole Foods), I ask myself, “How could I make this more difficult”?
The answer, of course, is carrying all my belongings with me and sleeping next to the bike. Bikepacking follows the obvious footsteps of backpacking. But, biking is even more fun given that you’re sitting, doing it for several days and carrying everything you need with you.
“If you’ve ever been backpacking before, you already have most of the gear you need. Just strap it onto your bike instead of your back.”
Long have aerodynamically dressed people been bicycle touring long distances on highways, but the nature of bikepacking implies a more off-road nature of travel (not to be confused with mountain biking, which implies that you’ll be returning to your condo for a restful night of sleep). Under the framed, watchful eye of Ted Kaczynski—Cranky’s’ Employee of the Month—Owner Cris Pereira says, “It’s all just travel by bicycle, and that’s what’s important. You have to be self sufficient [since] you’re limited to what you can carry on your bike.” He continues, “If you’ve ever been backpacking before, you already have most of the gear you need. Just strap it onto your bike instead of your back.”
Already digging my daily bike commute and thoroughly convinced that more discomfort will add meaning to my soft existence, I am sold. In that one book where the philosophy professor’s kid turns out to be a ghost or something, it’s suggested that “driving a car across the country is like watching a movie, but riding a motorcycle is like starring in it.” If that’s the case, then bikepacking is like being in a documentary about feeling sweaty and tired and consuming huge volumes of gas station candy. Keeping that analogy going, you’re also way cooler despite your smaller budget, and you do well at Sundance.
“Driving a car across the country is like watching a movie, but riding a motorcycle is like starring in it.”
Pereira has bikepacked in more places than most have driven and is no stranger to self-imposed discomfort. Living on a bike for long distances in the Arctic Circle, Cuba and Mexico, his travels are a testament to the fact that your bike can take you more places than you can drive. Thankfully, we have so much outdoor access in Salt Lake that you can cut your teeth right here in Utah, and then take your bike further with some hot tips from SLUG and Pereira.
Realistically, the minimum you need to break into bikepacking is a bike and a bag. “After that, it really just depends how comfortable you want to be and how far you want to go,” Pereira says. The bike is carrying your gear, so the added weight is less significant than when you’re backpacking. For a weekender trip or your first overnight, you could get by with a tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag and all the calories you need, as well as a way to cook them. (SLUG pro tip: ditch the extra clothes and bring more SPK*). “Probably the most important necessity is a basic understanding of bike mechanics and a basic tool kit,” Pereira says—you’ll want to be prepared and trained to fix your bike when it inevitably breaks.
While the sport (“It’s a lifestyle, man.”) is still relatively new, the community is huge and always sharing new, established routes online. A quick Google search reveals tons of different options ranging from short overnights to odyssey rides. To get involved locally, Cranky’s Bike Shop hosts group rides in the Uintas throughout the summer. Spring is in full bloom and you can’t get hit by a car in the woods, so take what you were about to spend on therapy and start bikepacking instead!
*Sour Patch Kids
Read more on biking in Utah:
When 100 Miles Isn’t Enough: Biking With Salt Lake Randonnuers
Sweet Streets: Making Movement Safer for Salt Lake City
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