Nowadays, more and more people are trying to get off the pavement and try some of the different off-road modalities of bicycle travel. Going off the road can have many benefits when traveling, such as less stress due to cars’ absence or being closer to natural landscapes. But like all things, it has aspects that must be considered so as not to have a hard time.
An off-road trip requires anticipating situations that a journey on pavement -usually- does not have,
Tips for Off-Road Bike Adventure Riding in 2022
So in this article, we share 7 tips that will help you enjoy a first off-road trip with minor complications.
1. Plan the Route and take a map with you
When traveling on asphalt, it is easier to leave some things to chance. It is easy to assume that you will pass through a town, at least a gas station or a store. However, when you get off the pavement, things become less predictable. Don’t underestimate an unfamiliar route.
It’s easy to get lost on the trails and other unpaved and unmarked roads. For this reason, it is important to plan and study the route you are going to take very well. To plan your route, you should consider where you are going to stop to resupply yourself with food and water, in addition to having an idea, even if it is vague, where you will sleep.
Identify the towns or villages close to the route you will take. This can help you to calculate how many groceries to bring, if you will have to carry water and food for the whole day, for more than a day, or only for a few kilometers.
There are GPS bike computers that are very useful but can be a significant investment. Alternatively, you can access a mobile phone and save your route offline.
It is worth learning how to use applications that help you map your route and export and import routes with files in gpx format.
They really make life easier. Also, depending on how remote your trip is, it is highly recommended to bring a printed map.
2. Try to be self-sufficient.
The more remote the region you are going to visit, the more equipment you will have to contemplate for your survival.
It is not necessary to have a bicycle or the most expensive equipment. It is simply a matter of identifying the elements that may be necessary depending on the difficulties that may arise along the way.
It will be enough to ask yourself the following to define what you will need on your route:
Will you have access to drinking water?
Access to drinking water on your route is vital to avoid dehydration. If you do not know if you will have access to drinking water, you should consider bringing some type of filter, tablets to disinfect water, or a stove (gas, alcohol, or gasoline) that allows you to boil the water you are going to drink.
There are routes where you will not have access to water for days, so in those cases, the recommended solution is to load several liters of water on your bike.
Keep in mind that you will not only need to save water to hydrate during your route, you should also consider the water you will need for cooking, for your coffee, for washing, or for your personal hygiene.
Yes, they are extra kilos, but water is life.
What are you going to eat?
When you are traveling off the pavement, you require more energy. You use muscle groups that are hardly used, and carrying your bike-loaded tires you more, especially on climbs.
Taking care of your energy levels becomes very important.
During the journey, it is advisable to eat constantly to avoid running out of energy. Even if you plan to go through a store or other refueling center, try always to save an extra snack such as dried fruit or some non-perishable food to recharge emergencies.
Depending on how long your adventure will last, you will most likely need to prepare food. Remember that anything you carry in your bikepacking bags or saddlebags represents the weight that you will have to carry, so try to carry low-volume, high-energy food.
Consider foods that are easy to prepare, such as oatmeal, rice, quinoa, couscous, pasta, etc.
Will you have access to electricity?
Like it or not, devices and other items that use electricity to function are everywhere, and cycling is no exception. Be it GPS, the (ubiquitous) cell phone, camera, and other bicycle accessories, they all run on electric power.
If you consider that you will not have access to electricity when planning your route, the idea is that you carry a portable battery or power bank to be able to charge, at least, your cell phone.
If you are going to be without access to a source of electrical current for several days, you may want to consider taking a solar charger with you.
Where are you going to sleep?
The things that occupy the most volume and add weight to your luggage on the bike are camping equipment.
To define what to bring, you must know the type of climate of the region you are going to visit.
Sometimes it is enough to carry a hammock, but in places with low temperatures or with abundant rains, you should bring a tent, a sleeping bag according to the temperatures, some canvas, and floor insulation to avoid getting cold.
What can you do in the event of an accident?
It never hurts to carry a small first aid kit with essentials such as alcohol, a bandage, pain medication, and serum sachets to avoid dehydration.
1. Learn basic mechanics and know your bike
Knowing how to change a tire, what to do if your chain breaks, put a patch on a camera, know how to adjust your saddle, calibrate the brakes, disassemble your bike, know how to adjust the gears these are all valuable skills for any cyclist, especially when It is not easy to find a bicycle workshop nearby.
These usually come with a Phillips screwdriver, a flat screwdriver, and several Allen keys, which are generally enough to help you in the event of an unforeseen mechanical event.
It is also essential to bring a spare tube and what you need to repair a puncture and a good air pump.
2. Be patient. You will advance slowly
On the road, it is relatively easy to estimate the time it will take to cover a certain distance; however, it is more challenging to make an accurate estimate on an off-road route.
The type of terrain, the elevation, and the weather conditions will greatly influence the kilometers that you will advance during the day.
If you are in the habit of pedaling 100 kilometers or more during a day on pavement, you may be in for a big surprise.
When you get off the paved roads, your pedaling will be harder, coupled with the fact that is rolling with weight tires more and slows you down.
Like I said, the type of terrain, geography, elevation, and weather greatly influence the pace you will take.
If you do not have the technique or if you simply have a hike-a-bike segment (where you will have to load your bike) or a path with a very steep incline, it will take you longer to advance.
Also, note that dirt trails tend to have more curves and are less straight than asphalt roads.
In my experience, a range of advance with a loaded bicycle and on dirt roads is about 10 to 15 km / h. And if it is uphill, it can be less than 10 km / h. Well, below is what you usually do if you usually ride a road bike.
Given the above, it is better to adjust your mileage expectations to the characteristics of this type of terrain.
3. Consider people’s advice.
You likely have contact with local people or who at least know the area better than you. Surely they can give you an opinion or solve any questions you have about your route, even help you solve a problem.
Sometimes they can suggest where to get water, food, or even help you find an excellent place to rest.
What I mean is that, even if you travel alone, you can always find someone along the way; shepherds, rangers, or someone who can give you valuable tips to enjoy your adventure.
Try to be friendly with the people you meet. This, in general, is a good rule of thumb.
Depending on the context and the region, it is important that you use your intuition. If someone does not give you a good feeling or it seems that they are not giving you helpful advice, you can go ahead and continue with your route.
If you are traveling in another country, it is convenient that you learn or have on-hand phrases in the local language such as……
Hello, thank you, water, food, I got lost, sleep, I need help.
3. Be flexible
I know the first tip was to plan and keep in mind that there is a margin of error. Not everything in life, not even on the bike, can be planned down to the smallest detail. Things may not turn out exactly as you planned, and they often do.
It is important to take this into account from the beginning. Otherwise, it can generate frustration and turn what should be a pleasant experience into something unpleasant.
Sometimes you can become overconfident and think that you can have everything under control.
Unfortunately – or fortunately – life doesn’t work that way.
Based on my experience doing bicycle trips, I can affirm that you cannot plan or control everything, but we can adequately prepare ourselves to face and adapt to the different challenges of the road.
And many times, when the path does not lead us where we expected, other unexpected opportunities present themselves, which can turn into a beautiful adventure.
While planning these types of trips can seem overwhelming, taking one can be one of the most rewarding things in life.
There is no way to make everything perfect, especially on the first try. Only by trying will you be able to know the things you are capable of doing, as well as what you can improve on.
On each trip, you learn something new about yourself, your bike, the person you travel with, the region you are in, and the people who live there.
Each trip is different and unique because it will be the first and the last with these characteristics.
The important thing is to learn from the experience you are acquiring and to enjoy every kilometer pedaled.
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