When we were tagged in the image below, we felt the need to investigate further. Our community are an adventurous bunch, but cycling is a little out of our wheelhouse (pardon the pun) so within a few short messages, we’d discovered a whole new world. The world of Katherine Moore, and Bikepacking.
We kept talking, and Katherine very kindly penned the words below to introduce us to this new pastime. It may not always be by the sea, but the spirit of an untethered adventure is one that we can identify with whole heartedly.
I write this hiding in the shade of the scorching midday sun, occasionally casting my gaze afar to the staggered peaks of the French Pyrenees laid out ahead, the mighty slopes of the Mont Fourcat and beyond to Andorra. Twenty-eight riders set off yesterday morning to ride Further, a self-supported bikepacking race taking in 12 obligatory segments and totalling between 500-600 kilometres, depending on each rider’s navigational strategy. To say that a great proportion of the race is off-road, does not do it justice; there will be miles of tortuous hike-a-bike, mountains to summit, and all with heavily laden bikes.
The reason I’m looking over to the distant summits and thinking of the riders atop them instead of suffering them myself, was a recent decision, essentially ‘scratching’ weeks before the race ever began. A recent epiphany made me really think about what we do ‘for fun’ and why.
In any sport there’ll always be a range of perspectives and abilities, from beginner to pro and casual to dedicated. Cycling is one of those great ones where there are so many different avenues to try, and off-road, multi-day bikepacking just happens to be where I’ve found my happy place. Just finding the balance of speed and distance is one that’s taken a bit more time.
There’s a lot that appeals when you consider a slower pace. Leaving tarmac behind and choosing dirt tracks; whether that’s bridleways, farm roads, mountain bike singletrack or remote sheep trails, takes you to some incredible places that you might not discover otherwise. Having the time to take it in, to poke around that abandoned mine tower, to splash in the sun-drenched river or to watch the raptors circling on thermals high above you - that’s what makes the difference to me.
Whether you’re seeking solitude or company, the global bikepacking community is naturally a very welcoming one. There’s so much to learn from seasoned adventure riders and most aspire to help newcomers too. Like many other gear-heavy hobbies, there’s always an online forum or cafe discussion about the best tools for the job; sleeping set-ups, stoves, insulated jackets.
Whilst it’s easy to get inspired by the biggest ultra-endurance bikepacking races or long distance routes, some of my favourite nights under stars have actually been closer to home. A small group of friends clubbed together half by accident to form our ‘School Night Bivvy Club’. We pick and choose nights every few weeks where the weather looks half decent and set off from work with bikes packed with kit, dinner and beers. The ride might be longer, but more often than not, short, to find a spot in the woods or hillside string up our hammocks or lay a bivvy, then cook up a meal and chat rubbish as the light fades and we eventually crawl into our warm cocoons. In the morning you’d have never known we were there and heading to work again we smugly feel like we’ve cheated the system, like that much fun during the working week somehow shouldn’t be possible.
I guess what I’m trying to say is; there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Even if you really enjoy the competitive, serious side of your hobby, there’s so much pleasure to be had in chilling out every now and then and certainly a huge sense of fulfilment to be had from passing on your learnings to others. For now I’ll be chilling out under this tree and ‘watching the dots’ on my screen of the riders’ GPS trackers up in the mountains. Who knows, some other year it could be me.
Words by Katherine Moore
Images by Katherine Moore & Forthehellofit.cc