bikepacking or bicycle touring

Bicycle touring or bikepacking | 7 important questions to make up your mind

How do you choose between a bicycle touring or bikepacking setup? They differ greatly in some aspects but are similar in other aspects. The differences between a touring bicycle and bikepacking bike are more important and will decide if you made the right choice about what bike suits you or your bike travel best.

The following seven questions can provide an insight into what setup suits you best as a person or your upcoming bike travel. It might even change your mind about your bicycle touring or bikepacking plans.

Before you read any further, know that with any bicycle, you can get anywhere in the world. People have done crazy things on crazy bikes and this article will not change that. However, for those in doubt or new to bike travel, these questions might help you get some answers. 

Let’s start!

#1 Are you a road runner or trail runner?

Bicycle touring setup:

If you love cycling on smooth roads that allow making good progress going 25 km/h, then a bicycle touring setup might be your style. Hundred kilometers per day is easily done when you ride on perfect tarmac. A touring bicycle is specifically designed for this kind of bike travel

Bikepacking setup:

Or do you prefer the challenges of overcoming difficult terrain? Dirt road, single – or double track, even freestyling in the mountains will make you go slow. Distances per day are much shorter and less important. That’s when a bikepacking setup is more convenient.

bicycle touring set up

# 2 Are you a nature lover or city dweller?

Bicycle touring setup:

If you’re mostly interested in culture like architecture, art, music, local food, etc. and want to use your bicycle to from city to city, a touring bicycle is perfect for that kind of bike travel. There is no need for big tires or front suspension when you’re cruising on asphalt to the next city.

Bikepacking setup:

When you feel most at home in nature, you might consider a bikepacking setup. Unpaved roads are often a guarantee for a more ‘being in nature’ experience. They often lead to more remote areas and traffic will be light or even absent on them. With bigger tires and light setup, you are more able to get to that place.

# 3 Are you keen on comfort or more the minimalistic type?

Bicycle touring setup:

Do you like to have a helinox chair to sit on when camping or a set of fashionable clothes with you for wearing in cities? Then a bike touring setup enables you to bring them along. The panniers and rack pack provide ample space to carry them with you.

Bikepacking setup:

If you don’t mind having just two pieces of underwear, one pair of trousers, and are totally fine with sitting on anything? Then a bikepacking setup might be more your style. The ability to leave out everything that adds comfort and is not a necessity is a key character trait for a happy bikepacker.

bicycle touring or bikepacking
image: Toby Elliott,

# 4 What kind of adventure do you like?

Bicycle touring setup:

Do you like to meet new people on a daily basis, get invited to stay over at their house, and share their culture? Then bicycle touring might be the better way for your bike travel. Most of the time, infrastructure is better in populated areas and there is no need for a minimalistic expedition bike.

Bikepacking setup:

Should you like difficult to reach and remote places, away from people, where you have to carry a week worth of food and three days of water, then a bikepacking setup is more suitable. There are even bikepacking routes where you’ll be completely alone for more than a week.

# 5 Are you quickly frustrated with packing?

Bicycle touring setup:

One of the biggest advantages of panniers is that you can organize your stuff easily. They are big so it’s easy to dedicate each pannier to certain gear. One for camping, one for food, one for clothing etc. This way you’ll have a good overview where you can find or pack it. 

Bikepacking setup:

One of the biggest disadvantages of a bikepacking setup is that you’ve got many tiny bags or not a lot of space per bag. Packing can be quite chaotic and sometimes frustrating. It’s more difficult to find the thing you’re looking for. No big deal if you have patience and don’t mind needing to look for stuff a lot.

# 6 Where is your next bicycle touring or bikepacking trip going to be?

Bicycle touring setup:

Let’s say you want to explore Europe by bicycle. Although there are some amazing dirt road routes to be found, you prefer sticking to paved roads for 75% of the time. The choice, in this case, is simple. Stick with a bicycle touring set up for comfort, tarmac, and distance.

Bikepacking setup:

You’re planning your trip to South America and want to get a taste of what the Andes has to offer. Roads in this part of the world are mostly unpaved if you leave the highway and truly get into the mountains. In this case, you would feel more comfortable on a bike more capable on technical terrain with a light setup.

 # 7 Have you thought about your image? 😉

Bicycle touring setup & bikepacking setup:

The most important question for bicycle touring or bikepacking setup! Whether you’re on a bicycle touring or bikepacking setup, you want to look at your photos and think ‘dang I look good on that bike!’. The bike and its setup should be part of who you are and resemble what you stand for. Don’t ignore that.

Bicycle touring or bikepacking | 7 important questions to make up your mind 1

Bicycle touring or bikepacking

And there you have it. Hopefully, the answers helped a little bit to decide whether ‘bicycle touring or bikepacking’ is better for you and your bike travel. Happy cycling and keep the rubber side down!

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