Lael Wilcox has covered hundreds of thousands of miles on her bike, sometimes as part of ultra-long-distance races, like the recent Hope 1000 in Switzerland. Sometimes she wants to break the fastest time ever driven on a route (also FKT – "fastest known time"), other times she just wants to go exploring or spend time with the girls of the GRIT initiative ("Girls Riding Into Tomorrow"). She loves to ride her bike, no matter what the circumstances, and has gained some experience and wisdom over the years. But as always when it comes to doing something for the first time, Lael's motto for adventures is simple: take it on and then just go for it.
For the launch of our new bikepacking content and improved search in the "Discover" tab, we asked Lael to share a bit of her endless bikepacking knowledge with us. One thing you'll notice right away is that even though Lael has had countless adventures, the questions she ponders before heading out are exactly the same ones that rank beginners ask themselves. And with that, let's turn the word over to the pro bikepacker herself…
Bikepacking does not have to be complicated. Attach a sleeping bag to your bike – maybe a sleeping pad and a tent. Drive a few hours in one direction. Set up your camp. Eat something. Go to bed. Wake up and go home.
Bikepacking is particularly exciting for two reasons. On the one hand, because of the decisions you have to make all the time, which are a big part of your adventure, and on the other hand, because of the unpredictable things that always happen. Where do you want to go? How do you want to get there? Where will you sleep? What you will eat? Who comes along? How will the weather be?
My most important tip for beginners is not to get overwhelmed by all the possibilities. Just ride as soon as you can. It doesn't have to be perfect. You don't have to have the best gear. Just do it, and then do it again, maybe the second time will be even better. But what will definitely happen is that you will learn a lot about yourself and your preferences.
The most important thing is to get out of the house. And then there are three important elements you should think about: The route, what you're taking, and whether you're riding alone or with a companion.
Decide on a route
Cyclists all over the world create routes. On komoot you can find great collections and tours. Or just plan your own. Enter start and destination points, choose your riding style. And then see what happens. I even do this at home in my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska and am often surprised at what I find – little connecting routes through neighborhoods, new routes to familiar places. It's really fun to add variety to it. That's how you get to new places physically and mentally – and that's what makes it so exciting.
Pack overnight gear on your bike
What do you really need? Definitely a sleeping bag! What else? Food! What do you want to eat? Do you want to cook? Do you need a headlamp to see things at night? If you forget something, it's not the end of the world. You can just pack it next time. The lighter your bike is, the more fun it is to ride, so avoid taking too much with you. I recommend a warm jacket with a small pack size and maybe an extra pair of socks if you're riding in wet conditions. Make sure you can layer your clothes, so you can just put everything on when it gets cooler.
Who comes with you?
Do you want to travel with friends, family or alone?? All versions are fun and make for very different experiences.