Bikepacking author Laurence McJannet explores the appeal of mountain bike riding and camping in Britain’s wonderful wild places.
This year, more than ever, mountain bikers are discovering a wonderfully exhilarating way to explore the outdoors. Bikepacking – a fusion of off-road riding and minimalist wild camping – is fast becoming a hot topic in the cycling world as many riders begin to realise that by heading home before nightfall they are missing out on half the adventure. Sleeping beneath the stars, waking to birdsong and the lingering smell of woodsmoke, miles from anywhere, is a wonderful antidote to the stresses of modern life, a refreshing recalibration of our senses.
Wild camping on off-road rides means you can strike out further along ancient trackways and along lost river valleys, discover forgotten trails that stretch out through rolling moors, verdant forests and mountain plateaux. A bike is a uniquely liberating machine and, when coupled with a lightweight tarp, tent or hammock, opens up vast tracts of our landscapes – much more distance than can be covered on foot and many areas off limits to even a 4WD.
To enjoy camping with a mountain bike you do need to get quite minimalist. Not being laden down with heavy panniers will help your bike handle more predictably on technical terrain but there is another benefit too – micro shelters bring you closer to the elements than a traditional tent, you can savour the stars and you might well awaken with a badger peering at you, or an owl swooping by. You really don’t need much equipment to enjoy wild cycle adventures, and what little you do need is cheap and can often be improvised (see the next page for more details).
The freedom of lightweight bikepacking is being able to stop for the night pretty much wherever you like. Perhaps the easiest option is to use campsites but finding an appropriate place to wild camp, though sometimes challenging, is always rewarding – you just need to use a little common sense and consideration.Buy Now