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January … the madness of the ‘festive’ season is behind you and the worst that winter has to offer possibly lies ahead. It’s often a time for reflection, a chance to look back at the year gone and ponder what was and what might have been. When you’ve finished staring at your naval, just consider that more importantly, it’s an opportunity to look ahead and hopefully shape the next 365 days into something worth reflecting on come this time next year.

If you’re reminiscing about 2014 and can’t recall any memorable ‘bikepacking moments’, then right here, right now is the time to make sure the coming year doesn’t turn out to be quite as shoddy as the last.

Chew – wide bars, broard smile.

Don’t Wait.
If you wait for the good weather you’ll never go anywhere, the grass isn’t greener and contrary to what Guinness say, good things don’t come to those who wait, they just miss out on stuff. Spring could spring at anytime but chances are it won’t and even if it doesn’t, a little ‘liquid sunshine’ or a good hard frost shouldn’t signal the end of your world. When the elements are likely to be ‘challenging’ a little preparation and planning goes a long way and can really help smooth the sharp edges off a night outside. 

Lower Your Sights.
In winter the ‘easy miles’ can be a little harder to come by. Trying to bash out 50 miles through sideways rain or ice covered lanes is going to be a much tougher (and slower) proposition than the same distance in mid-July. Keep your mileage expectations down, combine the conditions with the short hours of daylight available and be realistic about how far you’re going to get … even if you only ride 15 miles, it’s 15 miles more than you would sat on your arse watching the nations bewildered and desperate on Strictly come X factor. There’s also the added benefit of staying close to home in the fact that if you do confuse your intentions with your abilities, then central heating and the love of a good shower remain within striking distance.

Memories are made of this – go and get some.

Location, Location, Location.
Where you choose to spend the night will usually have a bearing on how enjoyable that night is and at this time of year selecting the very best location could make the difference between waking up …. or not (although things would need to be particularly bad and you genuinely stupid for this to happen). If it’s raining, snowing or frosty then a roof of some description is well worth searching out. I say some description because a roof doesn’t need to be a roof in the common sense. Although a man made structure’s usually a welcome addition, a forest canopy or overhanging rock will make a reasonable substitute. Windy? Get out of it … a wall, a tree or even a dip in the land can be enough to shelter you. Consider which direction the sun rises and try to align yourself with it, setting up for the night facing east or south / east means that the first rays will do what they can to warm you up while you go through the morning ritual of faffing. The thought of sleeping in a valley bottom often seems appealing but in winter they’re usually best avoided as cold air higher up will sink into the valley where it’ll remain all night (with you) … half way up is generally a much safer and warmer bet.  Just engage brain before deploying bivvy bag.

Jase seconds before being attacked by the Yeti in the distance.

Two’s Company.
Although bikepacking is often perceived as a solitary venture, just like sex it’s often much more satisfying when done in the company of others. The long hours of darkness can really start to drag when you’re by yourself, electronic devices can help with the boredom but there’s nothing better than the company of others. Having someone to share the experience with will make the memories last much longer, make the good bits even better and stop the bad times from being too bad. I’m not saying don’t go out on your own but if you can press gang someone else, then all the better.

So what are you waiting for? Get your map out, pack your bike and get going … like they say, time waits for no one.

Pics by mike.


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