In general I don’t mind wearing a pack when riding a bike. In fact a lot of the time I think it’s the best place to carry stuff if you have to haul it with you. For example hike-a-biking tough terrain with a pack is definitely preferable to all that weight on my bikepacking rig. Similarly riding rough technical terrain with weight in a pack I find a better option than no pack and an extra heavy bike. It just so much easier to throw the bike around and respond to the tech. That said if I can reduce my load down to a very minimal level so my bike is not overly burdened I do enjoy riding packless.
Trail riding is the time this makes the most sense since I am not far from the trailhead and I don’t need to have too much with me. The obvious way to do this is to ride with nothing. Easy to do, but I am not a fan of being thirsty or walking a bike back to the car with a simple mechanical like a flat tire. So the challenge for me was finding that balance between having so much “What If?” gear I needed a pack vs. having so little stuff I was walking or having to borrow things from a better prepared friend.
One of the factors that made me choose the Knoly Endorphin is that it can take a water bottle in the frame unlike my other two full-suspension bikes. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but one water bottle in an easy to reach spot makes packlessness much easier. It also means there is space in the frame for a frame bag, which is nice for bikepacking.
With a water bottle sorted the next issue is carrying tools/spares. I am not going to be that guy with walking back to the car with my bike because I had one CO2 cartridge and I misfired it or my tubeless failed and I didn’t bother bringing a spare tube. My minimal gear requirements are:
- spare tube
- tubeless plugs
- multi-tool with chain breaker
- spare quick-link
That’s not a lot, but it’s not nothing either. Luckily I have a Porcelain Rocket frame bag that will hold all of my gear under the downtube including a small pump. It goes on the bike fast and comes off easy so I can ditch it if I am going to wear a pack. I like to keep both my pack and this frame bag loaded at all times rather than moving stuff back and forth. There is less chance I forget something that way. Having the weight down low on the bike is nice and I don’t notice it at all when riding.
The main downside to this setup is that the frame bag will see a lot of muddy spray from the front wheel in winter. I’ll have to do a really good job of wrapping the contents in plastic so they are not ruined. Luckily I have access to a bag sealer at work so I can waterproof my gear easily.
One water bottle and this basic set of tools/spares works great for rides up to 2hrs in everything, but really hot summer conditions. At the peak of summer and/or for longer rides I need more than one water bottle to drink. My solution is a cheap MEC fanny pack. It’s nothing special, but a 710-800ml bike bottle will fit inside. There is even room for an energy bar and a light windbreaker. I wasn’t sure if I would dig wearing a fanny pack, but after trying it there is no issue at all. In fact since I drink the water in it first the fanny pack very quickly becomes unnoticeable when I ride. I have a couple older MEC fanny packs that can hold 1L in a soft bottle plus some gear if that was needed. I haven’t messed around with this mid-weight setup outside of my man cave so I am not sure at what point of water/gear load I am over fanny packs.
With 1.4L of water I’m good for 3-4hrs of riding depending on the temperature, which covers pretty much all my normal rides. For 5-7hrs+ epics there is no getting around a pack and the 3L+ of water it will carry plus the extra food and some additional spares [like a derailleur hanger] that are a smart idea to carry. Not to mention a first aid kit and a Delorme InReach for true emergencies.
If I am feeling like snapping photos I’ll throw a camera on my belt or the fanny pack waist strap. I’ve been experimenting with carrying my smartphone on rides. It provides a decent camera and I can make a call in the case of an emergency if there is cell reception. I am a bit paranoid about strapping nearly $1K worth of delicate tech to my hip, but I sort of feel like I need to get over that and just use the damn thing vs. buying a cheap-ish point and shoot. The jury is still out on this!
Going packless feels nice, keeps me cooler and forces me not to carry anything extra. On the other hand I don’t have everything with me I would have in my hydration pack. So far I haven’t regretted it, but I can see some rare situations where I might. As long as I am not running out of water, walking my bike back to the car or having to borrow stuff from my friends I figure I am doing it right. 🙂
2 thoughts on “Packlessness…”
I don’t understand why you would rather have weight on your back instead of on the bike. On your back it makes you top heavy, affects balance, beats up your taint and could injure you in a crash. I chose my FS bike in part because it fits a 24 oz bottle in the frame, and has bottle mounts on the bottom of the downtube where I keep a 1 litre bottle filled with multi tool, pump, tube, chain links, quick links, derailleur cable, tubeless tire plug kit, foil blanket, energy bar, eye drops, tubeless valve, safety pin, tick remover and a couple of things I forget. Obviously my bike is heavier with that on the downtube. But when I remove it I only notice the weight difference, no difference in bike handling. My rides are usually around 2 hours. Horses for courses I guess.