I have the urge like many of you - the wanderlust. That special place where I want to cycle to. Yet, this special place doesn’t come cheap. Both in time and resources. I will plan for months to undertake this adventure. One that takes me to that special place thousands of kilometres away. But, I’m sure that you - my fellow cyclist also have such special place in your heart.
But I also have a life. A life is that not 100% about cycling. A life less constrained but with enough real world compromises. I am sure it is the same with you too. Balance work, hobbies, friends, family, pets, finances and more.
So in that spirit, I’ve been seeking out smaller bikepacking tours closer to where I live. This as opposed to that one magnum opus tour every year. It all started when I was scrolling though Google Earth one late evening. Browsing my neighbourhood and realising how little I knew of it. If we look. I mean really look, as opposed to a cursory glance. We realise that there are so many places in our neighbourhood that we’ve never visited. Some because they are not as alluring as that place far, far away. Some because we never knew they existed.
In the past year or so, I’ve done 10s of these short 3-5 days bikepacking tours around my neighbourhood. I’m here to convince you that short bikepacking trips are not a bad thing.
In fact, I now believe that shorter bikepacking trips offer a lot of advantages.
First and foremost, I do not need a tour specific bike to do a short bikepacking tour. This means that any bike I own is my touring/bikepacking bike. A hardtail - no problem, I can ride it for 5 days. A gravel bike - even better. A road bike? Fine i will look for a route that has more tarmac. This is a revelation, because i can pick up what I have in my bike shed without obsessing over what I’m missing out on.
Second, I do not need to invest in expedition ready gear. On a small tour and shorter distance I can get away with gear that is less than perfect. Gear that I can borrow or buy cheap.
No Ortlieb panniers? No problem, a budget trek-n-ride bag will do.
Smaller trips come with a better, more accurate weather forecast. Due to greater weather certainty, there is even less gear to carry. Moreover, a less than perfect gear setup will hold up for a week as opposed to say - an year. This also means I can beg, borrow and scrounge for gear. Because my friends are happy to lend me their outdoor gear for a week but would throw a fit if I borrow it for a year.
Third, My life doesn’t come to a stop. A week’s trip means I have less to explain to my girlfriend/spouse, my parents and my friends. They are not obsessed over me getting lost, maimed or killed in some distant part of the world. This is less stress for them and as a consequence, fewer calls for me. My work can suffer an outage for a few days. Getting back to where I left off and finding my feet is almost instantaneous. I’ve been on trips that have been months long and finding my bearings after such a long trip is not easy. Sometimes it can take months.
Finally, planning takes a shorter time. A shorter trip closer to home, means i don’t have to obsess over breakdowns. I know in the worst case scenario i can ask a close friend to come pick me up. Or I can find a local Jeep/Tata Ace to drop me back home. Both me and a busted bike in the back. That is a lot of weight off my mind. It also encorages me to push my body, my bicycle and my gear. Because, I do not have to baby them for a long trip. This means more fun, more speed and pushing the bounderies of gear that I own. Hence, more realisitic reviews for you.
So you might be wondering - does a lot of small tours mean that I’ve forgotten about my next multi-month jaunt. No! Far from it, Nepal still beckons to my soul. But, I know that with many short trips under my belt I am better prepared - both mentally and physically for my magnum opus, when it happens.