5 Essential Tips for First Time Bikepackers

My first brevet was the Sounds Fishy brevet in September 2017 - what a cracker! Starting from Anakiwa it included a tiki tour around the bays of Kenepuru Sound, a brief visit to Crail and Clove Bays, a loop at the head of Endeavour Inlet, and finished off with 60km of wonderful single track riding along the Queen Charlotte track.

Sounds Fishy route

Sounds Fishy route

The thought of riding my bike for two entire days was daunting. But it turns out I had nothing to worry about. The brevet events are very social, the route is only a suggestion and there are normally options to shorten it if need be, and everyone taking part is helpful and friendly. I rode with 3 friends which made for a fun adventure. John did an outstanding job of making sure we were always headed in the right direction!

Signpost on the Queen Charlotte track

We all packed relatively light* - no tent, sleeping bag, or cooking equipment - and stayed at Miners Camp in Endeavour Inlet. Gillian and Graham were the most outstanding hosts and we were certainly well looked after. You can read more about Miners Camp at minerscamp.co.nz.

Morning at Miners Camp

Morning at Miners Camp, Endeavour Inlet.

*Some more so than others. I seem to have a deep-seated anxiety about going hungry or thirsty when I venture even only a small way from civilisation. It's as though my brain triggers a warning when I know I'm going to travel beyond a 10 km radius from the closest supermarket or coffee shop. As a result I pack a variety of food, and plenty of it. For this trip I had bean burritos, cheese and crackers, bread and hummus, apple with peanut butter, fresh oranges, bananas, scroggin, chocolate, gels, and Tailwind endurance fuel. My extensive food supply was topped up with a scrumptious packed lunch from Gillian and Graham at the Miners Camp. It was a significant amount of extra weight, and there were some sniggers from the more experienced bikepackers in the party, but I certainly did not go hungry.

Following my foray into brevet and bikepacking, here are 5 things that I think are ESSENTIAL for first time brevet riders and bikepackers.

1. Have food in easy to reach places, like in a top tube bag and handy pockets on your backpack.

2. Wear your most comfortable shorts! Yes, your absolute best. Your most favourite, 'bring them out for a special occassion' riding shorts. Any niggly or uncomfortable spots will become a very real pain in the backside after a day's riding. Be sure to pack antichafe cream in case you do develop hotspots. I took great precautions by wearing my favourite Tineli shorts and using the Sweet Cheeks Butt Butter - and had many hours of chafe-free riding.

3. Get as much weight off your back as possible - your backside will thank you for it. The weight of the feast in my backpack really took a toll on my sit bones - they weren't used to the long hours of riding let alone an extra few kilograms on top!

4. Have a hard copy of maps with your route on them, as well as the route on your GPS. We were lucky to have the guidance of a great navigator, and many other people taking the same route as us. But it won't always be like this, so for my next trip I'll be taking my own maps.

5. Be happy walking in your mountain bike shoes. There are blister horror stories out there! This route involved quite a lot of bike pushing for me, but fortunately my shoes are comfy and well broken in so I didn't have any problems.