Josh Ibbett: Bikepacking Around-The-World Q&A
We sit down with Josh Ibbett three months — seven countries and over 6,000 miles — into his year long around-the-world bikepacking trip to see if his packlist has held strong, learn more about his Mason Bokeh, and hear from his girlfriend Caroline, who is almost as new to bikepacking as you can get. Teaser alert: he still has all 4 pairs of socks.
Three months ago Josh Ibbett left his job at Hunt Wheels and set aside his cravings for ultra-endurance racing to pursue an epic adventure that has long been in the making. An around-the-world bikepacking trip with no predetermined route, no records to be broken, and definitely no lack of socks. His bikepacking kit list and video had us thinking about what might change after a few months of riding. We managed to set up a Q&A in Kelowna, British Columbia on August 7th, almost exactly three months — seven countries and about 6,000 miles — after his journey began.
As an added bonus, Caroline, Josh’s girlfriend, who has been riding with him for the past 2 weeks joined in on the conversation. Up until this trip, Caroline admits to being nothing close to an avid cyclist. After a week long shakedown trip in Italy, she decided to join Josh from Canmore, Alberta to Seattle, Washington to cover the better part of 600+ miles. This conversation took place in and around the middle of that journey…
Tell us about your trip so far.Josh: Well, Europe is Europe, I’ve been there loads. I knew what I was going to do, and the only truly surprising thing was how massive everything was in America. I was quite shocked by that […] It was an eye opener, especially coming from Spain […] riding all of these big roads and having big trucks everywhere, everything is bigger. That was a bit of a shock. I’ve been to Canada before, and pretty much every country in Europe. The first big challenge for me, in terms of learning a new culture, will be Mexico. Which I’m sure will be fine. It’s more expensive than I thought it would be, maybe that is more of a reflection of where I was in Europe. It’s weird, some things are cheap, some things aren’t. But certainly in the States the thing that shocked me was the amount of shit you buy for not a lot of money. If I want to buy a bottle of water it’s 4 bucks, if I want to buy a massive can of Monster it’s a buck. I can’t get my head around it. I don’t understand how people can think that’s alright and how big companies can get away with it. I remember the first meal I had. I got a train up from New York and I was really hungry so I thought I’d get a large pizza. And it turned up and it was the size of the table. That was the first mistake.
What has your daily mileage been like?
Josh: [At the beginning] I figured I’d have loads of time, didn’t have to force myself and just cruise, but as it was I was still in racing mentality for the first few weeks. I think I did 1,000 miles in just over a week. But yeah, out here I’m normally averaging around 100 miles a day […] I think in certain areas there is more of a backpacker culture, like in Southern Mexico and places, and I’ll be by myself then and I’ll tend to just pick a town or a cool place I want to get to and ride there over a few days, just non stop, and then I’ll hang out for 2 to 3 days. That’s kind of a good balance: riding, culture, and resting. If you make it past a town, but it’s 50 miles to the next one, you know you’re going to make it. I’ve got years of endurance racing, and I really quite like that, but that’s not a very nice holiday for Caroline, is it? Dragging her around in the pits of hell.
Caroline: It gives you the option to stop, top up your food and drinks, eat loads of food and feel a lot better and you’ve probably got that next 20 miles in you.
Josh: Unfortuantely for you, I’ve done a lot of really long rides, so my version of short rides aren’t really that short.
Have there been any major setbacks so far?
Josh: Not really. Well besides getting into America. I had to buy a flight at the airport because I only had a one-way flight and they wouldn’t let me fly until I had a return flight. Which I’m going to end up cancelling because I’m not going home from America. I’ve had a few minor mechanicals, like a split tire and a frayed cable.
Has your gear list changed since the original video you made?
Josh: It’s essentially stayed the same, nothing major. I’ve gained more stuff than I’ve lost, I think. I bought a nice enamel mug in New York, at some fancy pants outdoors store and I met a guy at the Rapha store who recognized me from the video. He gave me loads of cool stuff but I felt guilty so I bought a new cup. I then proceeded to crash about 4 days later and smashed it, which took some chips out of it […] I bought a Petzl head torch from MEC actually. I’ve got my exposure lights and I tend to use that, but I sneak into camp spots quite often so I thought a little red light would be better. We bought a coffee drip earlier, that’s mainly because when I’m by myself I just pack up and leave, but I have to be kind of civilized now, for a few weeks anyways [while travelling with Caroline]. I snapped my spork in the first week, and then someone gave me a table spoon, which I just carried around for ages. Then I upgraded to a titanium spork. The reflective triangles on the back [on the bikes] just to be seen a bit more are also new.
Is there anything you wished you would have brought?Josh: No, not really. It’s different because I’ve done so much riding before. I’ve kind of done it backwards because all my first big trips were races, so actually having more than one set of shorts is a luxury. I’ve had to bring enough clothes to be civilized, but I’d be quite happy looking scrappy all of the time. My only concern is that I’m going to have to change my kit in certain countries, like when I get into the Andes I’ll tend to spend a lot of time up high, and I might have to end up getting a proper down jacket. I’ve brought a bivvy bag with me, and I’ve only used it twice, so I’m probably going to get rid of that. I like the luxury of a tent now and I’m getting cheeky enough to pitch it in random places. I’ve pretty much factored in the fact that I’ll be in a range of places, but at the moment I’ve seen like 5 days of rain in 10 weeks, well no, 5 rain showers in 10 weeks. No days of rain. I think most people can overthink what they bring. Like the Trans Continental Race, you see some guys the first year they do it and they bring so much shit on their bikes, and then the year after they’ve got nothing. It’s the same touring, but obviously you do have to live civilized, and for me I’m away for a whole year so I kind of had to think ahead a bit.
Caroline: I wish I had some things that Josh brought, like the Rapha Randonnėe Shorts, the ones that Josh has got on now. You can wear them on the bike and they actually look smart enough to wear off the bike or just wandering around town. He’s got a similar rain jacket that’s not a race fit, it’s kind of like a more everyday fit that you can just wear around, and that’s quite handy. If I had to pick an item that I don’t have it would probably be something like that. If you really want all of the luxuries then put them on your bike and deal with it. It’s all about that ratio of what you want; how much weight do you want to carry versus what you want to have.
Caroline, does your gear list differ from Josh’s in any way?
Caroline: I have no tent, because we’re sharing, but besides that it’s pretty much the same. I have a slightly different idea of what are essentials and non-essentials, in terms of my lady comforts. Like mascara, I think that’s essential and I found a space for it, you know? There are a lot of things you think, “can I use this on more than one occasion?” Yes? Then it’s going in the bag. But it’s all roughly similar. […] It helps to scale things back, so if I packed an item and never really used it or only used it once, then I haven’t brought it here. Lots of things double up. I have a pair of shorts that I can wear if we go out in the evening, but also to just throw on if we’re at a campsite. I have a sports bikini that I can wear out on the lake, but I can also wear it on the bike, so everything sort of has a dual purpose. That process of finding out what I do want and don’t want was really helpful because, as a woman, you have different needs and concerns, and that was actually quite a big deal in my mind before I started. What am I actually going to need, what am I going to want to wear? I don’t necessarily want to be looking like a cyclist the whole time while I’m on a holiday, because there is a certain holiday aspect to it as well. A lot of people cycle tour to see places, but also to have a holiday. It’s finding that balance between the two really. I think I’ve sort of got that, we’ve refined it as I’ve gone along.
Josh: It’s kind of a basic packlist for anyone really, and then Caroline has tweaked it when she realized how much crap she has to carry up a hill.
How have you been choosing your route?
Josh: I kind of have a rough idea of where I want to go, and tend to normally stick to it, and plot it on Ride With GPS and follow the .gpx trail. But then sometimes when you get somewhere you realize there is a better option or you just change your mind. My original plan was to ride across North Dakota into Montana, and then pick up the Divide trail and ride up to Banff to meet Caroline. I want to do the divide some time, so I figured I’d sneak in 200 miles of it, just to get a feel for it. But as it was, I just couldn’t hack it in a straight line for that far. I wouldn’t have been able to ride Highway 2 right across, and there were the fires down there as well…so you have to be flexible. It ended up allowing me to hang out in Winnipeg with my friend and do some cool Canadian stuff like jump in a lake, eat maple syrup, float on a lake, hike next to a lake, sleep next to a lake, go on a boat on a lake… that’s the standard kind of thing in Manitoba, I think. I like to break it up and have a target, maybe 500 to 600 miles down the road. For example, I flew to New York and I wanted to see my friend Billy in Toronto, so my first target was Toronto. Then, I was seeing my friend in Winnipeg so that was a chunk, so I wouldn’t necessarily stop that much in between. Then I was in Winnipeg and across the Prairies there wasn’t…well…I didn’t stop much. But I did really quite like it, and I’m happy I’ve seen it. Then I was meeting Caroline, and that was another target.
What kind of maintenance have you kept up with on your bike?
Josh: I’ve had three chains, I’m on my third chain now. My cassette is slightly worn out. It turns out I probably use my 14T most because that’s what’s skipping. But I’ll change that again before I get into Mexico. I’ve changed out the bottom bracket in Europe and I’m on my second set of tires. But apart from that, nothing really major. Oh, and bar tape but that doesn’t really count. I just try to keep on top of the chain and cleaning. It’s not such a big deal as stuff is readily available, but when I get to South America and maybe Mexico to a certain extent I need the bike to be in like-new condition. I’ll probably make sure everything is fresh. I’ll put fresh tires on and a new chain and cassette, and take a spare chain. I did 3,000 miles in Europe and gave it a bit of a service. I did another 3,000 now, and changed the cables and put new tires on, so it’ll be alright.
Any last bit of advice for someone looking to hop on their bike for 12 months?
Josh: Just do it. You don’t learn enough until you start doing it yourself. You can read all of the blogs and watch all the videos you want, you can look at everyone else’s kit lists and use it as a basis. But once you do it, you’ll actually find out what you need. Don’t sit at home worrying about it, just go and do it!
Caroline: If it doesn’t have a double purpose, don’t take it. Maybe for people more at my level, dictate your own pace and go at your own speed.
Josh’s Mason Bokeh Force 1x
Besides his custom built dynamo wheel, swapped bars and saddle, and different tires, Josh’s Mason Bokeh is the stock Force 1x build. Oh, and the ultra custom Salsa Anything Cage that we mounted to the seat stay is not stock (see second set of bike photos below). Here is the complete parts list and some photos.
- Frame: Dedacciai custom-shaped performance Aluminium
- Fork: Mason Parallax full carbon Thru-Axle
- Headset: DEDA Low profile, carbon top cover, integrated headset
- Handlebar: Richey Ventura Max
- Stem: Deda Superzero
- Seatpost: MASON Penta carbon, microadjust
- Saddle: WTB Saddle
- Grips: Fabric Hex Tape, double wrap
- Crank Set: SRAM Force 1x HRD
- Pedals: Shimano XT
- Bottom Bracket: Mason ‘ThruBB’ 50Ømm, internally routed bottom bracket shell
- Chainring: SRAM Force 1x
- Chain: SRAM PC-1170
- Cassette: SRAM XG-1180, 10-42t, 11 speed
- Shifter: SRAM Force 1x
- Rear Derailleur: SRAM Force
- Brakes: SRAM Force Flat-Mount Hydro
- Brake Levers: SRAM Force
- Rear Wheel: Mason X HUNT 650B AdventureSport Disc
- Front Wheel: HUNT SuperDura Dynamo
- Tires: WTB Byway, 650b x 47mm
Caroline’s Niner RLT 9
Caroline’s Niner RLT 9 2-star Apex 1 build is almost entirely stock as well, except for the upgraded wheel set, tires, and saddle.
- Frame: RLT 9, hydroformed Aluminum alloy
- Fork: Niner Full Carbon RDO with rack mounts, 15MM
- Headset: Niner integrated headset
- Handlebar: Niner Drop Top Alloy
- Stem: Niner Alloy
- Seatpost: Niner Alloy
- Saddle: WTB Deva Saddle
- Crank Set: SRAM S350
- Pedals: Shimano XT
- Bottom Bracket: SRAM PF30
- Chainring: SRAM 42T
- Chain: SRAM PC1110 11SP
- Cassette: SRAM PG 1130 11-42T, 11 speed
- Shifter: SRAM APEX
- Rear Derailleur: SRAM APEX 1
- Brakes: SRAM APEX HRD
- Brake Levers: SRAM APEX HRD
- Rear Wheel: Mason X HUNT 650B AdventureSport Disc
- Front Wheel: Mason X HUNT 650B AdventureSport Disc
- Tires: WTB Byway, 650b x 47mm
Josh and Caroline would both like to thank Rapha, Apidura, Mason Cycles and Hunt Wheels for their support. Make sure to check out Josh’s Instagram account where he regularly shares videos from the road. A big thank-you to Josh and Caroline for taking the time to talk with us, and we wish you good luck on the rest of your travels. Take this final piece of advice with a grain of salt…