Lael Wilcox’s bikepacking tips for newbies and pros alike

Lael Wilcox has traveled 100 000’s kilometers on her bike, sometimes in the name of ultra-endurance events like her recent Hope 1000 ride in Switzerland, sometimes with the goal of getting an FKT (fastest known time), and sometimes just to explore for the sake of it, or to hang out with the girls on the GRIT program (Girls Riding Into Tomorrow). She loves being on her bike, no matter the circumstances and has loads of experience and wisdom to share. But as with all kinds of adventures you try for the first time, her motto is about keeping things simple: Get your head right and then just go! 

To celebrate the new & improved bikepacking content discovery on komoot, we asked Lael to chat a bit about her advice for bikepacking. One thing you’ll notice is that although Lael’s been on countless bikepacking adventures, the stuff she considers before she heads out is the same thing a complete newbie needs to consider. And with that in mind, it’s over to the pro herself…

© Rugile Kaladyte

Bikepacking doesn’t have to be complicated. Strap a sleeping bag to your bike – maybe a sleeping pad and a tent too. Ride a few hours from home. Set up for the night. Eat some food. Go to bed. Wake up and ride home.

The excitement of bikepacking is two-fold, it’s in the decisions you make and the unpredictable events that occur. Where do you want to go? How do you want to get there? Where will you sleep? What will you eat? Who’s coming with you? How’s the weather?

My initial advice is to not get overwhelmed by possibilities. Go bikepacking as soon as you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have all of the right stuff. Do it once and then do it again, maybe it’ll be better the second time. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot about yourself and your preferences.

The most important thing is to get out the door! And then there are three main elements to consider: The route, what to pack, and whether to go solo or not.

© Rugile Kaladyte

Deciding on a route

Riders all over the world are building routes. You can find great Collections and Tours on komoot. Or you can build your own route. Plug in start and end points. Choose your style of riding. See what happens. I even do this in Anchorage, Alaska, my hometown and I’m often surprised by what I find – little connectors through neighborhoods, new ways to get to familiar places. It’s fun to mix it up. It puts you physically and mentally in a new space and that’s exciting.

Pack overnight equipment on your bike

What do you actually need? Definitely a sleeping bag! What else? Food! What do you want to eat? Do you want to cook? Do you need a headlight to see at night? If you forget something, it’s not the end of the world. You can bring it next time. The lighter the bike, the more fun it is to ride, so avoid bringing too much. I’d highly recommend a warm packable jacket and maybe a spare pair of socks if you’re riding through wet weather. Make sure you can layer your clothing. It’s ideal to be able to wear all layers at once to have your warmest setup.

Who’s coming with you?

Do you want to ride with friends or family or solo? All are great options and make for very different trips.

Make a plan and get out the door! The only wrong way to do it, is to not go. So go have some fun!

And there you have it, Lael’s thoughts on how to go into your first bikepacking ride (or your 1000th ride). 

Follow Lael’s adventures on komoot here.

Header image by Rugile Kaladyte

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