Last weekend was a twenty five mile 24 hour bike packing experiment. We’re new to bike packing and with bags packed; food; tarp; water and as little camera equipment as possible, we headed to the train station, the destination – Great Malvern in Worcestershire. The route was not challenging, it wasn’t designed to be. I’ve not ridden a bike for over three months due to a busy schedule, so we planned on the most direct route up the Malvern Hills, wild camping and a train journey home, this was the plan, or so we thought!
We’ve never had so many interested folk stop and talk… “Where are you lads going?” “Where have you been?” “Are you camping?” “Is that bike and all your kit heavy?” “Are you travelling a long way?” It’s amazing how a few bags strapped to a bike and a small day sack can conjure up so much interest, perhaps it’s the adventurer in all of us, that pique peoples’ interest!
We learnt a lot in a short time, bike packing is a different kind of cycling for both of us, being self-supported on two wheels. For example, heaving a fully loaded bike up train station stairs and man-handling over gates isn’t easy.
Now onto lessons learnt and a little advise: We were not used to carrying stuff so only pack the bear essentials, keep it light, you’ll thank us in the long run! Be prepared for bad weather, don’t pack wet weather gear in the most hard to reach packs, you can get wet quickly, apparently in the UK and on occasion, it can rain! Take ample pegs for your tarp or tent, it may get windy and a secure tarp is better than no tarp at all. Always check the train timetables in advance for your return journey. It saves cycling a further ten miles to Worcester and catching the train back to Kidderminster due to “scheduled engineering works” (the best laid plans!). This is a big lesson learnt for me; I took dried food and when water is added you get what I can only describe as eating a ‘kind of chaff’. Can anybody out there in ‘bike packing land’, direct me to a gluten free food source that’s easy to carry and actually tastes like food? Please do contact me if any such food exists! ‘Pot Noodle’ lovers need not apply! Finally, the bicycle is a wonderful invention – it’s environmentally friendly; transport to millions of people around the world; is a form of recreation and has enormous health benefits but if you turn your bike upside down it also makes a perfect support for your tarp, who’d have known!
We encountered beautiful UK landscapes, friendly locals and, to be honest, a 24 hour journey of discovery and a rekindled love for the great outdoors. The highlight of our overnight experience was, without doubt, wild camping on top of Worcestershire Beacon and watching that big ball of fire in the sky descend behind the horizon. Personally, I’ve never spent so much time just looking! In fact at this time of year, the sun sets late in the evening and with almost a full moon, total darkness never really arrived. Day break came all too quickly at around 4.45am. We wouldn’t have missed either the sunset or sunrise, what a spectacle!
So what’s next….perhaps a multi-day coastal ride, who knows! We enjoyed stepping out of our comfort zone and being totally self sufficient, albeit, even if it was just for 24 hours!