Daan is one of our Eat Sleep Cycle team based here in Girona. When not fixing bikes, coding our website, or taking photos, he can be found riding huge distances & sleeping in the great outdoors. This week Daan is taking on Badlands, an unsupported ultra-endurance race around Andalucia. The route starts in Granada, heads east through the Tavernas desert, south to the coast & the Cabo de Gata nature reserve, before making a beeline for the highest peak in Europe, the Pico de Veleta. Daan is just 21 years old & has ridden himself into 3rd place on the road, behind pro riders Lachlan Morton & Hayden McCormack, & ahead of some of the big names in the ultra-endurance cycling world.
In the first of our series on Badlands, Daan share his advice on how to pack & choose the right gear ahead of taking on such a huge challenge:
It does not matter if you are a complete novice to bikepacking or an experienced ultra-endurance rider, packing the right gear always proves to be a challenge. In this quick guide, I’ll try to walk you through the process and make preparing for your next trip a little bit less stressful.
Knowing your trip
The most important thing when going on a bikepacking trip is to know your trip. The most basic metrics should be easily accessible. Things like distance, elevation and the weather forecast will give you a basic feel of the trip. However, it is the more detailed stuff that will be important for the planning of your trip.
The technical difficulty of the route can have a huge impact on your distance per day and will also influence your gear choices. I use a mix of Komoot and Google Streetview / Sattelite to get an idea of the type of roads and trails. It is also important to know how long you’ll be riding between resupply points. Riding around Girona you might be able to get a bocadillo in every town, but in more remote areas you could easily be riding for a day without finding food.
Now it’s time to think about your places to sleep. Assuming you’re not going credit-card packing (sleeping in hotels etc..), you’ll have to camp somewhere at night. How much equipment to bring depends on where you’re going and how much comfort you’re willing to sacrifice, but your sleeping system should consist of 3 layers; an outer layer, a sleeping bag or liner and some insulation from the ground.
Your outer layer will protect you against the elements and any insects or small animals. There are a few options, a tent will give you the most protection and will be the most comfortable. However, a lightweight tent will still be bulkier and heavier than the other options and will be pricey.
Another option is a hammock. Some people tend to like them, others don’t. It does get you off the ground, which means you don’t need a sleeping pad and you’ll be protected from any animals. You do need someplace to attach it to and to protect yourself from the rain, you’ll need some kind of cover like a tarp.
The most popular option is taking a bivi. A bivi is a big bag around your sleeping bag and sleeping pad. There are several models, but most will be at least waterproof to a certain degree and pack very small. As long as the weather conditions won’t be too extreme, a bivi will do a great job in keeping you comfortable and it keeps you protected from animals.
A sleeping bag is your most important piece of equipment. A good quality sleeping bag won’t be cheap, but it is an item worth investing in. You can either opt for a down or synthetic sleeping bag. There are great articles written about their differences, but in essence, a down sleeping bag will pack smaller but won’t keep you warm once it gets wet.
A down sleeping bag is normally preferred, unless riding in areas where it is very humid or rains a lot. Make sure to get a sleeping bag with the right warmth rating, this will make the difference between a cosy warm or freezing cold night.
To insulate yourself from the ground and have at least some form of comfort, you will need a sleeping pad. Although there are people who claim they don’t need a sleeping pad, I can highly recommend bringing one if you fancy at least some rest during the night. There are plenty of options out there, but even a cheap basic one will do the job.
Where to Sleep
Sleeping outside sounds easier than it is. Finding a safe and comfortable place to sleep can prove tricky, especially when the sun has already set. The more hours you’re planning on sleeping the more time you will have to spend on finding the right place. If you’re just going to bed for a couple of hours a bus stop will be fine, if you want to sleep a bit more you’re better of finding something a bit further of the road.
In general, you always want a flat spot that’s a bit sheltered from the wind. Make sure not to sleep in urbanized areas or close to busy roads as you want to avoid being awakened in the middle of the night by strangers. Before you choose your final spot, check the area for anything that could change during your sleep. A river that rapidly rises or a factory that starts operating could mean an unpleasant start the next day.
Staying well fed during your trip is important. It can literally mean the difference between finishing or stranding halfway with no energy left. Depending on the length of your tip and the area you might want to bring more or less food.
Because you will be riding slow, there is no need to worry too much about sugars. The most important thing will be to replenish as many calories as you can. Consider taking a mix of calorie-dense foods. Energy bars, cans of tuna or a nice trail mix are all good options to take with you. Generally, you would want to stay away from liquid foods like gels as they will disturb your stomach too much.
Take just the right amount, but not too much. A layering system works well – a base layer to regulate temperature, a comfy shirt, something to add warmth & something to keep the cold away. Shorts are a personal choice – the best things is to test ride your favourite paris over longer distances & choose what works best for you. How many changes of clothes you take is again, a personal choice. If you’re racing & aiming for speed over a shorter trip, changes of clothes are not a priority, plus it’s difficult to find places to wash clothes when you’re camping out. A full change of clothes is a nice luxury for anything more leisurely.
Carrying Your Gear
Choose bags that keep your kit dry, securely attach to the bike & are aerodynamic. I use Ortileb bags – they are fully waterproof, easy to attach to the bike & just work. It’s important to try & spread the weight evenly around the bike – too much weight on the front or back and the handling of the bike will be compromised. I prefer not to use a saddle bag & instead use a frame bag & a handlebar bag. The handling of the bike is much better & not as compormised – this is important on more technical terrain.
Make sure you test your set up & gear with day rides or even a one-nighter ahead of your grand-depart. Testing your kit in the first few kms of your big trip could be a disaster and casue delays right from the start.
Want to find out more about Bikepacking?
Read about Daan’s first ultra-endurance event & Moroccan adventure in his blog on the Altas Mountain Race & check out & our Cyclist’s Guide to Bikepacking for tips on how to plan your route make sure you plan something that you’re going to enjoy instead of suffer through! Plus, find out more about Daan’s Ridley Ignite SLX.
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