Until recently I had the mistaken idea that “bikepacking” was a strictly non-competitive activity that combined bikes and camping, and synonymous with the “bicycle touring” and “adventure cycling” genres. Whatever you call it–bikepacking, bicycle touring, or adventure cycling–have all been around as long as bicycles have existed, and long before paved roads.
To add to my confusion, it turns out there is a competitive variation of “bikepacking” that I previously thought was called “self-supported bike racing.”
Which sounds similar to randonneuring. The Seattle International Randonneurs are all about “self-supported long-distance cycling,” yet their events include control stations (time checkpoints) where participants can usually get (support?) food and a place to sleep. And since randonneuring includes time cutoffs, there is a competitive incentive, yet they emphasize they are not “racing.”
Meanwhile, bikepacking.com says bikepacking requires a mountain bike: “Bikepacking is the synthesis of mountain biking and minimalist camping; it evokes the freedom of multi-day backcountry hiking, with the range and thrill of riding a mountain bike. There are three bikepacking genres to choose from – Multi-day Mountain Biking, Ultralight Race & Gravel, and Expedition & Dirt Touring.”
Yet, there are folks bikepacking on gravel and cyclocross bikes.
bikepacking.net says: “Short answer: it’s backpacking with a bike. Longer answer: any ride that includes an overnight stay. This could be anything from ultralight singletrack tours to fully loaded dirt road touring (e.g. on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route)…off-road touring, away from cars, and especially on singletrack touring. But the concepts and gear transfer equally well to all types of rides that stretch overnight.”
iridefar says they cover “self-supported bikepacking, long-distance cycling, and ultra-distance cycling (aka ultracycling.)”
The vocabulary about these cycling sub-disciplines is most certainly a confusing mélange of overlapping themes.
How does this working definition for “bikepacking” sound to you:
1. it requires a bike,
2. an overnight stay, and
3. a bias for routes on dirt and gravel
Add official timing and it’s a bikepacking race.