Bike Magazine Focuses on Bikepacking for September

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For the first time in the history of the magazine, BIKE has devoted almost an entire issue to bikepacking …

Bike Magazine has always featured storytelling, both literal and visual, with an adventuresome lilt. That’s what has placed the magazine in the upper escelon of mountain biking periodicals; it consistently ropes you in via promises of unspoiled dirt, incredible scenery, and the sense of bicycle induced freedom that sparks childhood déjà vu. It’s high time that they gave a proper bow to bikepacking.

Bike Magazine, September 2015 - Bikepacking

They loosely define bikepacking as “seeking adventure through multi-day, self-supported trips on lightly loaded bikes.” And that’s certainly how they approached it. All of the bikes featured in the stories and write-ups are full-suspension trail slayers carrying minimal loads.

It’s about using the bike you already have for exploration. For seeking the unknown. For bikepacking in uncharted territory. – Brice Minnigh

Bike Magazine, September 2015 - Bikepacking

The cover features “The Call of Kazbegi,” an epic chronicle written by Bike Mag’s editor Brice Minnigh, and perfectly photographed by filmmaker Joey Schusler and photographer Ross Measures. The story follows a high alpine journey across the Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. It’s best summed up in this mid-story outtake, “We were alone in some of the world’s most remote wilderness, carrying everything we needed to survive. And we were shredding some of the sweetest alpine singletrack any of us have ever seen. This was what bikepacking is meant to be.”

Bike Magazine, September 2015 - Bikepacking

“Outer Limits,” written by Graham Averill, is a colorful story told from the author’s own North Carolina backyard about a three-day bikepack through Pisgah where almost everything went wrong. Although he and the two other riders battled torrential rain and gale force wind for much of their trip, they found the beauty and solitude that comes from an immersive multi-day ride in the Appalachian mountains.

Bike Magazine, September 2015 - Bikepacking Pisgah

In place of the magazine’s typical bike and gear review section is a special feature titled “Cargo Space.” Three very different riders, Kurt Refsnider, Joey Schusler, and first-timer Evan Voss show off their rigs and bikepacking gear lists. All three explore the concept of bikepacking on full-suspension bikes in order to maximize the enjoyability of the ride, so these gear breakdowns showcase a modern approach to adventure by bike and explore concepts such as food, clothing, sleeping, and essentials.

Bike Magazine, September 2015 - Bikepacking

Bike Magazine, September 2015 - Bikepacking

In addition, there are several other worthwhile columns breaching the subject of bikepacking and a third feature about ultra-endurance rider, Jeremy Bishop. If you’re not a subscriber, go pick up a copy. Volume 22, Issue 07 will be on newsstands until 10/2/15. Also, a digital edition is available here.

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  • Nate

    It’s great that bikepacking is getting this exposure, albeit a little disappointing that the Bike mag issue is portraying such a one dimensional aspect of ful sus bikepacking. The vast majority of bikepackers are on rigid and hardtails. It would have been nice if they had taken a more grass roots approach and covered a more accurate and broader spectrum, but it’s still awesome that they devoted a whole issue to bikepacking.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    I think Bike Mag’s primary audience are shredders, or wannabe shredders. That being said, this is a good effort to introduce the concept and show that it can be done with minimal gear on a bike that you already have… and still maintain the ability to rip trails. This is definitely a fresh voice, which I can appreciate. However, I agree that It would have been nice if they offered a representation for a more ‘traditional’ approach…

  • http://www.gypsybytrade.wordpress.com/ Nicholas

    The BIKE representation of bikepacking is no more one-dimensional than the encyclopedias of fully-rigid Surlys found elsewhere, including Bunyan Velo and even BP.com. Let’s not confine ourselves to a clear definition of what a bikepacking bike should be, but rather, embrace the openness used in defining bikepacking in this volume.

    That kind of rigidity is one of the reasons I can’t stand to hear the words “loaded touring bike”, or even “touring bike”. It reeks of panniers and Kirtland handlebar bags, 28mm tires, and 1976.

    Also, Kurt has some kind of awesome prototype Revelate seatpack for a dropper post.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    A dropper specific seatpack is the kind of product development that will further BIKE’s definition of bikepacking… which I wholeheartedly agree with. My sentiment was that it might have been nice for BIKE to give a nod, via a couple photos, or even a small editorial, to someone such as yourself, Cass, or Joe, who has inspired from a slightly different perspective.

    Within the Bikepacking 101 section of the site, we took the initiative to expand the definition of bikepacking to several ‘genres’ and illustrate the fact that it can be a broad range of riding styles. This introduced a range of bikes… including full-suspension rigs, and even ‘off-road tourers’ that feature [gasp] carbon forks (see comments: http://www.bikepacking.com/gear/salsa-deadwood-review/).

    I see a future of additional compelling variations, such as what is being defined by bikes like the Specialized DIverge.

  • Vik Banerjee

    If I had a dollar for each rider that I knew/met that considers themselves a bike tourist, but rarely to never actually goes touring I’d have a new titanium bikepacking bike! :)

    I think getting some positive PR is great. We’ll convert a few people to bikepacking.

    The only reason bikepacking is hot is at the moment is that the bike industry needs a new trend to latch onto for a minute now that 650B and fatbikes are old hat. Plus tires are the main gig this year and bikepacking is the Plus tire side-kick.

    Next year it will be something else and people will have largely forgotten about touring on mountain bikes.

    The reason bikepacking will never catch on is that it’s just too hard.

    I know lots of MTBers that love to ride and love to camp and love to travel. They know I bikepack and I even own 2 extra sets of Porcelain Rocket bags I lend out so people can come with me at next to no cost. Do they get out bikepacking? Nope.

    What does happen:

    1. Facebook – Let’s ride
    2. Meet at trailhead
    3. Ride well known marked trail
    4. Drink beer
    5. Post pics on FB

    That’s what they can manage.

    Add in:

    – setup a bike with bikepacking bags
    – decide on what gear to take and pack it
    – decide on what food to take and pack it
    – pick a route, study it and figure out how to navigate it
    – decide when to ride
    – get your friends interested
    – head out and ride a loaded bike over challenging terrain

    ….and 99.5% of mountain bikers lose interest.

    Bikepacking makes for great photos and stories in magazines. It’s going to be a part of mountain bike culture the same way surfing is part of mainstream culture. Not because many people actually do it, but because it captures the imagination a lot more than meet, ride, drink beer and repeat does.

    As bikepackers we should enjoy our 15mins of fame, but not get too wrapped up in it. The internet age has meant niche groups like this can meet and communicate without needing any help from the mainstream media.

  • Vik Banerjee

    Yes.

    Bikes and bikepacking bags and camping gear are just tools. If you get wrapped up too much in one set of tools you limit what you can do.

    If you keep an open mind you are able to select the tools and methods that achieve your current goals as well as is possible. If you are working at your limits this can likely mean the difference between success and failure.

    Just like the fully loaded road touring crew ignore the dirt trails that lead off the roads the travel on because getting their rigs down them is unrealistic a rigid view of bikepacking limits you to the routes that your tools work on.

    Going one step further let’s not kid ourselves getting too deep into any sort of bike/gear geekery overlooks the fact that skills, fitness and mental toughness are the key ingredients in any challenging bikepacking endeavour, but are rarely mentioned on the countless gear lists posted all over the internet.

  • http://www.gypsybytrade.wordpress.com/ Nicholas

    Logan. I don’t mean to say that you or this site don’t embrace the many styles, but you have tasked yourself with compiling a Bikepacking 101, whereas BIKE magazine seems more interested in a series of inspiring features. They wouldn’t put an Ogre or Troll in that magazine on a regular day, there is no reason to do it for the bikepacking edition. Although, someone should report on Dylan Kentch’s inspiring hike/ride up the CDT this summer on a Surly Troll. That guy can get it done. As I understand, he finished the CDT and turned south on the Great Divide Route.

    Basically what Cass and Joe and I do is long-distance bikepacking. For that, rigid steel frames make a lot of sense. In reference to Vik’s comment above, if 99.5% of mountain bikers lose interest in the first ride, they won’t need a bike that can be hearth welded in Rwanda, and should take every step to make it a fun weekend. For many BIKE readers, this means they can ride the bike they currently own. I’ve heard too many people say they can’t go bikepacking because they don’t have the right bike for it– sigh– if only they could afford a proper bikepacking bike. In my opinion, it doesn’t exist, even if I have my own ideal.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    i totally understand… And I didn’t mean to sound defensive; my point is that I would like to bridge that content gap as well… Which is one of the reasons why there is a vintage Atlantis next to a full suspension trailbike on the How page. I think when/if folks realize the rewards that can be reaped on any bike, Vik’s 15 minute assumption will be proven wrong.

    It is funny how ‘any bike’ In that context is a 6k rig versus a 1k Troll.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Only time will tell… See reply to Nick below…

  • Vik Banerjee

    I would love to be wrong. I’ve been through the same “discovery” or “hype” process with other endeavours. None of them ever caught on for the same reasons. You only have to look at car camping, traditional backpacking, UL backpacking and then long distance UL backpacking crew to see what bikepacking will look like when it has matured. Except it’s harder, more expensive and requires a bunch of specialized skills and the potential for worse injuries so the numbers in each category will be correspondingly less.

    I just can’t get excited anymore when the mainstream media figure something out and gets crazy about it for a product cycle.

    A $6K bikepacking bike is cheaper to get started on than a $1K Troll if you already have the $6K bike in the garage.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    I think there may be a cyclical element to bikepacking. Now that it’s taken root a little, maturing MTBers may seek it out once interest in endurance and escape replaces the thrill of sessioning a local shuttle run.

  • Nate

    Nicholas, your comment rings true, and it makes sense that Bike Magazine is only writing inspiring articles to their target audience, which as both you and Logan have pointed out are shredders, and full sus riders. I embrace the idealogy that bikepacking is not limited to a narrow definition, and it’s great to see it being embraced by all types.

    I think this is a good conversation to have, to help us all realize that while we each hold our personal convictions of what bikepacking is to us, it’s much larger than just us and our view. I hope that as it evolves, bikepacking can maintain a sense of unity and camaraderie amongst all who call themselves bikepackers, regardless of their steed/ gear/ tools of choice.

  • Nate

    Vik, it’s possible that we may only see our 15 minutes of fame, as far as recognition from the mainstream bike industry goes, but it’s also possible that it will be much more than that. The mainstream just milks whatever they can, looks for (or tries to create) trends, and rides them as long as they can to make the most money. Then as you mentioned, they move on to the next thing they can cash in on. Just a year or two ago, people were calling fat bikes a fad. They caught on.

    Bikepacking *can* be hard, but it’s no harder than UL backpacking, which has become HUGE and mainstream. They both take similar planning and effort. The extreme/long endurance nature that many of the difficult bikepacking write ups portray contributes to the image of bikepacking being hard, and I think we really need to start pushing the idea that it can be easy and leisurly too. It’s whatever one wants it to be.

    I think bikepacking may be lost on some of the lazy cyclist type, but I believe it could bring in a whole lot of non-cyclists adventurers, which gives them a reason to get on a bike. Also, on road bicycle touring is huge and there is a lot of potential for these types to cross over.

    In the end, who knows where bikepacking will end up, and I’m agreed that only time will tell. Part of me actually prefers that it never goes mainstream, and stays just as it is, to avoid all the crap that comes along with a sport exploding. The other side of me wants to see the growth, trail/route/gear/cultural identity development so we have more content and possibilities. It’s a double edged sword….. more cool stuff and opportunities, but more regulation and nonsense too.

  • Vik Banerjee

    I don’t see UL backpacking as huge or mainstream. If I want UL gear or UL content you have to dig pretty deep to find it. It’s also drawing from a bigger pool of potential participants.

    It’s definitely established and mature compared to bikepacking and has some of the same challenges which is why I think is worth looking at when trying to predict where bikepacking will go.

  • Nate

    Ok, I might have been a bit enthusiastic calling UL backpacking huge and mainstream, prematurely, but it’s still growing and nowhere near peak, I think, and it looks like the backpacking trend is moving towards lighter gear in general. I haven’t found I’ve had to dig very deep to find UL gear. It’s easily found at large retailers like backcountry.com and REI. REI even has a page dedicated to UL

    http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/ultralight-backpacking.html

    Some mainstream manufactures such as the makers of Thermarest are marketing their top and highest tech products as UL gear, and investing a significant amount of resources in the UL market so I think that say’s a lot.

  • Robert Grey

    i think the discussion here is much more interesting than the actual article, no offence to the author! lots of great points getting made; reinforces my love of these quiet little corners of the internet.

    my two cents: i’m inclined to agree with kurt refsnider’s opinion in the magazine; bikepacking doesn’t mean carrying a heavy load, doing long days, or riding a rigid pack mule of a bike to go bikepacking – quick overnighters are all you need sometimes. fun is what you’re after, if you’re not having fun, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

    i think it’s great that the sport is getting some “mainstream” media coverage, a la this bike mag article, dirt rag’s recent coverage, and even outside magazine doing pieces on the colorado trail, “bikepacking basics” gear overviews, bike reviews, and even a story about how lael wilcox destroyed the tour divide race. it has been a good 15 minutes so far. a couple more converts wouldn’t hurt either.

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