Professional bike racers spend a lot of time on their bikes. But creating a balance between hard workouts and fun is paramount. Sometimes it’s good, even for the pro’s, to toss the schedule in the trash and go on an adventure. The need to hit the proverbial “reset button” can refresh the mind and body.
Specialized/Feedback Sports cyclocross superstar Maghalie Rochette used the rails-to-trails P’tit train du nord in Canada for one such adventure. Make sure to check out the sweet video at the end.
GETTING STARTED – BIKE PACKING PREP
It can be intimidating to prepare for a bike packing adventure. What should I bring? How should I pack? How much food should I prepare? Will my bike hold up for the ride?
Being a professional bike racer, it’s easy for me to prepare for a race…I always bring the same things, and I always pack more than necessary. But a bike packing adventure is not something I do everyday. So I didn’t really know how to prepare for it, and I knew I didn’t really want to carry more stuff than what I would actually use.
My goal was to make this adventure fun and simple. While I didn’t want to stress over the preparation – I wanted the whole experience to be relaxing and enjoyable…which is kind of a double edge sword! For the adventure to be enjoyable, I would have to prepare a little bit!
For sure I can make sure your bike is in good shape so you can ride without a worry. A bolt check is a must – such an easy way to prevent avoidable catastrophes! We love the Feedback Sports Range for this! And there’s no point in heading out on a long adventure with worn tires, brake pads, or drivetrain parts – treat your bike nicely, and it’ll be kind back!
And for sure bring a few tools – tire levers, a pump, spare tubes, a mini-tool and maybe even some lube will keep you up and running should anything happen. And, if you’re a bit more seasoned, you probably already know zip ties and duct tape are a must!
When it comes to food, as conditioned athletes we certainly have efficiency on our side, but we still had to eat. After all, our first day was 200+km, so fuel is necessary. But in our favor, our adventure was on a bike path that used to be a railway. That meant that we were riding through small towns every 25 to 50 km, so it was (mostly) easy to find food during our trip. For that reason, we mostly carried CLIF Bars, and relied on the small towns to find food for our meals.
This takes “convenience store” dinner to a whole new level! Chips, candy, soda….and a few things we’re scared to even mention.
For the first dinner our original plan was to stop at a local cheese monger & and sausage shop in the last town before our camping spot, but we got there too late and both were closed. So we stopped at a store and grabbed some corn and sausages. We thought those would be easy enough to cook over the fire…washing it all down with beers makes just about anything taste OK.
The only meal I had brought with me was breakfast – something about being the most important meal of the day.
I saw in a cook book that you could prepare pancake mix and put it in a water bottle for easy transportation. That sounded like a pretty great idea – execution of the idea on the other hand… A few splatters of pancake mix in my face later (and on my jacket when I opened the bottle) it kind of sort of worked out. My pancakes were far from looking as good as the cookbook I had seen, but they still tasted good – my friends could taste the love. Probably just being nice 😉
But I also had a breakfast plan B – I had mixed quick oats with a bunch of nuts, cinnamon, dried fruits, and coconut flakes. I put the oat mixture into little bags, and we carried them in our luggage. We only had to pour boiling water on the oats, and had a delicious oatmeal for breakfast!
For other meals, we just stopped when we saw something appealing on the side of the road. Sometimes this works out amazing – granted, we were starving so just about anything sounded good, but it turns out the place we found was amazing! Probably the best Roma pizza of my life, in a family-run bakery, in a tiny village. To this day, I’m so glad we found this place…I still dream of the pizza. But, isn’t that the point of throwing the leg over a bike seeking adventure? The unknown!
And for our eating, we really only had a pocket knife, wooden utensil (spoon/fork/knife), a burner, 1 collapsible cooking pan.
And while I’m no bike packing expert, I’d say the most important thing is to wear a cycling kit that is very comfortable. You’ll spend many hours riding in it, so it may not be the time to break out a new kit, or some new shoes. To save on space, only brought a spare sports bra and pair of socks…I “washed” my shorts with a biodegradable soap and let it dry over night, but I wanted to save on space.
Aside from clothing we had sleeping bags, a puffy jacket, a pair of pants, a t-shirt, a toothbrush, a headlamp, a pair or flip flops, a swim suit, and a towel that we all four shared. It was pretty minimal, but we didn’t need to live in luxury!
As I said above, I’m no professional bike packer. This is something I don’t do often enough to have valuable experience to share… So my tips are not based on world-class experience. However, that little preparation worked out for us!
Maybe just preparing for an adventure is part of the fun; you get excited looking at the map, preparing food, and packing your bags for your trip. Plus, having a good working bike simply makes the trip more enjoyable, because you know you can trust your equipment.
And if something happens despite your preparation?! Well, that’s also part of the adventure. It may not be ideal in the moment, but reminding ourselves that we do this for fun will make the obstacles much more bearable, and even quite funny!
At the end of the day, getting into misadventure, and being a little bit uncomfortable is part of why we go on those adventures…and those misadventure always make for good camp fire stories!
While Maghs and David may not be professional bike packers, they do understand what it takes to perform at the highest level of sport. And if you ever get the chance to meet them, you’ll understand why they hit the “reset button” – they’re two people that exude such an energy that you simply want to be around them.
If you enjoy the story – check out the whole video here.