Bikepacking is becoming an increasingly popular method of adventure travel, very noticeably in the Instagram-osphere. We decided to go straight to the source and ask one of Instagram’s most influential bikepackers how was can get started. Below is a guide to bikepacking from the one and only, Ultra Romance.
What are your longest and favorite trips so far, and why?
Well the longest trips are the ones that never end, and it feels like I’ve been on one long bike trip since I graduated high school. That being said, there are certainly stretches that have felt longer than others. My first tour was probably something like that. I tried to ride home to New England from Colorado in 20 days. I was young and alone for the first time. I had an extracycle attached to an old MTB with wicked skinny tyres that wore out to the threads after 7 days. All my stuff was in trash bags, haphazardly strapped to the back, and by the end of it all pretty much everything useful had fallen out on the road. So fun! So those 20 days felt like 2 years. I haven’t toured like that since. My favorite trip would have to be just last summer doing the northern section of the divide with 20 really #cool people.
What are the biggest mistakes novices make when preparing for a long bike trip? What are the biggest misuses of time?
The worst thing you can do is set your mileage goals too high. It kills your morale, and you end up missing so much chasing those numbers. Touring is a lot harder than most people account for, so I always advise to take the number you wanna do, and cut it in half. Seems drastic, but once you do it you’ll see it’s just plain realistic.
If people had to teach themselves, what would you suggest they use?
Go out for a bunch of over-nighters. Build up to maybe a weekend trip. That’s a great way of figuring out what you need and don’t need. It’s a safe setting to test just how light you can go. Resource wise, bikepacking.com is incredible.
What are your key principles for planning a successful bike packing trip?
Food is the biggest for me. I won’t eat gas station food. No way. So packing 7 days of food takes some practice, but it’s something I also enjoy figuring out. My on the road diet consists mostly of 85% dark chocolate bars, dried figs, coconut oil, quinoa, baked sweet potatoes, tempeh, foraged greens, and foraged berries when in season.
If you were to train me for a bike packing trip and had a million dollars on the line, what would the training look like?
Well we would invest that 1 million in performance enhancers first off. I don’t think they test for that yet. After yer hematocrit was taken care of, I’d have you fully loaded on yer bike doing long miles at tempo. Do as many as you can after work or whenever. The days you have off yer gonna be camping in the woods to get used to sleeping on the ground with an ultra-light set up. Many people also neglect to train for how much bike pushing yer inevitably gonna have to do. It’s like pushing yer loaded bike upstairs–for a really long time. So you could try that! But I think the performance enhancers would be enough.
What guilty pleasure do you bring on a bike packing trip?
I bring a cut out foam pad to sit on. I don’t sit in the dirt. I’m too good for that.
Tell us about Ultra Romance, and where people can learn more about you.
Most everything I do is accessed through my two instagram accounts. Yes, two – @ultraromance and @ultraromance_mach2. I have a web store that’s linked from my accounts that sells mostly on a pre-order basis. Things sell out rapidly dü in part to how easily self-promotion through social media has become. I’m a bicycle camper committed to sustaining the longevity of the sport by presenting it in a lifestyle format. I commission products to be made that don’t exist yet, but I think should. So if you are buying anything from me, yer really just trusting my judgement. Trust me!