Are Bikepacking Bags About to Hit the Big Time?
Bikepacking - the idea of strapping purpose made bikepacking bags to the empty spaces on your bike for lightweight, streamlined carry capacity.
“Big time” and the hitting of - achieving a level of recognition or fame, well recognised and part of the esteemed establishment
Bikepacking has a somewhat romanticised origin, having developed as a way of touring off-road, on mountain bikes, for long periods of time. Bikepacking bags were rudimentary and handmade and nearly always custom made to a fit frame exactly. A quick web search pulls up accounts of rides across the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming & The Oregon and Overland Trails as two noteworthy examples; all wrapped up in the sort of romanticised language associated with a Lewis and Clark expedition (for those of you that know your history).
Touring & Adventure
Bikepacking is still going strong at its core - The Great Divide Race (from Banff Canada to New Mexico as quickly as you can) is as popular as ever, our pals over at Brother Cycles are taking part, as is the TV personality, Isle of Man TT racer and truck mechanic Guy Martin. On this side of the Atlantic rides such as the Grand Traversee du Massif Central in France or the Trans-Pyrenean MTB trail have become increasingly popular thanks to the rise of bikepacking bags.
However, these hard trail rides are not for everyone, and at Always Riding, we're noticing a trend for black-top cresting roadie to pack a top tube, frame or enlarged seat bag. The introduction of bikepacking to road bikes and often the fastest sleekest carbon machines has tested bikepacking bags not only for durability but for light weight and aerodynamics. Rides like the Northcoast 500 in the Scottish Highlands or the Transcontinental Race across Europe have set the trend with many adding a top tube bag, mid-sized saddle bag and handlebar roll for multiple days in the saddle. The development of materials such as super lightweight XPAC help preserve the handling of finely tuned road bikes, and even hardened Audax riders have begun to turn away from traditional canvas.
Shorter road rides, 100 mile days, point to point rides and overnighters also benefit greatly from having additional carry capacity on the bike. The once over-stuffed back pockets of the roadie have made way for a saddle, frame or top tube bag. Likewise, the full pannier set up of the tourer, requiring racks and specific mounts has been shunned, with many preferring to use bikepacking bags for their cargo; especially when catching a train or plane to their start point.
Brands such as Canada's Porcelain Rocket built their reputation on long trail rides but have recently released a production range of bags aimed squarely at short trips, road riding and commutes. Smaller UK makers are also joining the fray, with compelling start-ups designing dedicated pieces for everyday riding, and we're excited to have a couple of these new brands joining the site in the next few weeks.
Urban & Commute
And what of the future? We think Bikepacking won't forget its roots, but it will be just as at home riding along canal paths and bike lanes nationwide, as it will be traversing the Mongolian Steppe. Big Time? We certainly hope so.