Bikepacking: It’s backpacking. It’s biking. And it’s taking Oregon by storm.
For those who’ve dabbled in bicycle touring on Oregon’s miles of scenic roadways or backpacking on our picture-perfect trails, bikepacking might be the adventurous next step you’re craving.
One of the beauties of cycling in Oregon is the sheer variety — there’s a flavor for every pedaling palate. Bikepacking gives you the chance to not worry about following pavement; with thousands of miles of backroads crisscrossing our forests, high deserts and valleys, your possibilities are exponential. You might ride all day without seeing another person — or you might plan it so you emerge late in the day at a small town that just happens to have a brewpub, gourmet restaurant, bed & breakfast… or all three.
“Bikepacking is just a fancy word for off-road or dirt road bike touring,” says Donnie Kolb, dirt- and gravel-riding aficionado, founder of VeloDirt and Oregon Bikepacking, and creator of such rides as the Oregon Outback. “People have been touring on gravel roads since the bike was first invented, but it’s been gaining popularity in recent years due in part to the availability of new, specialized bikes and gear.”
But bikepacking, which can be a physically challenging and mentally taxing endeavor, isn’t for everyone. “You have to like riding dirt and gravel roads, which some folks don’t enjoy. You also need to be able to navigate your way around areas with little to no signage, and you should have competent camping skills,” Kolb says. “If you’ve ever been bike touring before, you likely already know what you need to try bikepacking. And if you’ve ever been backpacking before, you likely have the necessary camping skills to give it a try.”
Ready to give bikepacking a try? Here are a few pointers:
- Generally, if you have standard backpacking gear and access to a bike, you can equip that bike with fatter tires and take it bikepacking.
- Before you go, spend plenty of time researching gear, bikes, tires and routes to give yourself an idea of what you’re getting into. OregonBikepacking.com is a great resource.
- Local bike shops around the state are starting to put on clinics for beginners, and many rent out appropriate bikes and gear. Check with a bike shop near you.
Of course, when you’re planning out your route, please make safety your top priority. Ride at your own risk, ride legal and have a plan for emergencies, since many off-road routes include long stretches without cell service or water.
Want to find out more?
Browse gravel and off-road routes at OregonBikepacking.com.
Learn about bike camping.