Armed with the knowledge and preparation from past episode, we venture out on the road. This chapter dives into the real experiences of bikepacking, narrating tales from the trails.
Sometimes there's no specific reason or theme for a journey; you just do it because your heart and body crave adventure, an escape, a break from the routine. Bravo, bikepacking is a great tool for relieving mental and physical pressure from your daily life.
However, a trip can also be thematic, focusing on a historical aspect. In these cases, the pre-trip phase and the enjoyment during the journey become more interesting as you discover places and aspects that give meaning to your initial idea. Other times, our adventurous spirit will lead us into unknown territories without much prior information, allowing us to give cultural or thematic substance to our route.
For example, exploring a region defined by a single economic theme can be intriguing: Woolen Wheels, Smuggler's Route, Olive Oil Route, Southern Forests... Or combining these themes with historical aspects or characters, like the Path of El Cid, Silver Route, etc. The possibilities are endless, especially considering the rich history of the Iberian Peninsula offering numerous options to pinpoint on the map.
If you decide to embark on a pre-defined journey, enjoy the work others have done before you. If you opt for a new route, plan it with future bikepackers in mind: mark water points, potential overnight spots, points of interest, places to buy bread and supplies, as well as shops for batteries, and note mobile coverage (3G-4G) and other interesting aspects for fellow adventurers who may follow in your tracks.
As you undertake more bikepacking trips, the entire process will become more natural and enjoyable. From designing a route to experiencing it, recalling it, and improving upon it. We always recommend starting with overnight trips, then two nights, and as you gain experience, trying longer journeys of more than three days (up to a week). Once you're comfortable with week-long bikepacking logistics, you're ready for multi-week trips (if you have a flexible and open schedule). Take it slow, burn through stages at their own pace, and bikepacking will become a lifelong companion. You'll continually learn about training, technology, navigation as you accumulate experiences on your bike.
Ok, cool, but how much will it cost?
You might wonder about the more practical aspect... How much will it cost? The most expensive part is the gear you need for traveling, mainly the bike and the necessary equipment for some degree of autonomy. If you've covered that expense, you've already won half the battle, and more than money, you need the willingness to design a good adventure trip.
Bicycle travel itself is not expensive compared to typical 'tourist' trips. Unless you travel by plane to the starting point, you'll be using your bike for transportation, only paying for the fuel your body requires. Food expenses depend on whether you eat at bars/restaurants, stock up at grocery stores, or even cook what you buy along the way, for which you'll need a stove to serve as a mini-kitchen for hot meals.
To give you an idea, in Spain, covering one daily meal in a bar or restaurant plus the rest of the day's meals (and drinks) can range from 15 to 30 euros, depending on your choices. We always recommend asking early in the day about the local bakery to stock up on provisions for breakfast or snacks, prepare a good sandwich for lunch, etc.
Cyclist or Traveler?
It's common to enter the world of bicycle travel either as a pure cyclist or as a traveler (usually someone who travels on foot and identifies as a 'backpacker'). For both, it opens up a world of new experiences as the cyclist will likely slow down their pace to increasingly enjoy the journey. For the traveler, despite feeling inexperienced with the technical aspects of pedaling with loads on a bike, they will appreciate a faster mode of transportation that's more suited to the human scale of things in the 21st century. Both profiles have much to learn and absorb, making bicycle travel so attractive and addictive.
Do I need a GPS, or can I use an app on my phone?
Before worrying about whether to buy a GPS or which app to download on your phone, we recommend you get used to handling maps (physical ones), understanding, and reading them. Orienting in the wilderness is straightforward, but it's better to be comfortable with a map because a GPS or smartphone can run out of batteries, leaving you unable to orient yourself or choose a route.
We like the map because it also allows us to recall the route in front of a campfire or plan the next day's route. However, we are aware that in many remote areas of the planet, accessing good maps can be challenging, so GPS cartography can help reach places where physical maps are unavailable.
Regarding which GPS technology to use for orientation or following a route, if you have a purchased GPS, great. Use it, as despite carrying extra grams, you'll have a battery dedicated solely to navigation. Many GPS devices allow use with AAA batteries or rechargeable batteries (or both), which you can charge via dynamo or power bank thanks to a USB input.
If you don't have a GPS, don't buy one. You likely already have a GPS if you own a smartphone, where you can load a specific app and enjoy the GPS technology implemented in most modern smartphones. However, keep in mind that free navigation apps are fantastic, but we recommend opting for a paid one, as every cent invested will be reflected in map quality, app usability, user community, routes, etc.
Navigation apps are not ideal for long trips where you use them continuously on the handlebar, but they fit perfectly for bikepackers who enjoy micro-adventures and weekend S24O and S48O trips.
As our journey unfolds, the final chapter awaits – taking our skills to the next level with advanced bikepacking insights.