We received several questions last months on how we combined our bicycle touring with multi-day hikes, this post provides some tips and tricks on how we combined multi-day hikes with bike travel. The text is based on our experiences with bike and hike in South America and a Q&A provided for the book: 50 ways to cycle the world.
BIke and HIke – Why combine bicycle touring and hiking?
For us, bike and hike is the perfect way to combine two activities we both enjoy a lot. On our first longer cycling trip, one-month cycling through France, we realized how much we missed exploring the more remote areas in the mountains, as we would normally do on our hikes. That’s when we decided we should bring our hiking gear with us to combine cycling with hiking. Cycling is a perfect way to cover the distances and see the landscape slowly changing, while hiking provides to perfect opportunity to get to the more remote places difficult to reach by bike.
There are so many beautiful areas to discover that is not possible or difficult to access by bike. Especially the more technical hiking trails like the Huayhuash circuit, which has seen many failed attempts. Skipping such a trek when you’re nearby is missing out on a huge experience. On top of that, we think some regions are better (and safer) explored on foot than by bike. We feel that with hiking there is more time and attention to your surroundings since you don’t have to push or drag your bike along.
How often would you put on your hiking boots and head for the mountains?
Our initial plan was to do at least one multi-day hike in each country in South America, with a few more hikes in Peru and in Patagonia. This amounts to roughly one hike per month. We more or less kept to this schedule for the first six months. In the second part of our trip, we hiked less, simply because we felt like we were running out of time. We spent so much time in Peru, we had to adjust our original plan if we wanted to reach Ushuaia before winter. We also started to enjoy the bikepacking routes more and more. These routes are more remote and offer the same experience we get from hiking.
Where do you store THE BIKES when departing on a multi-day hike?
We left the bicycles and gear in hostels when we were going for a multi-day hike. We always did some research upfront to find a ‘reliable’ hostel where we could store our belongings. We would then hitchhike, and take a bus or taxi to get to the start of the hike. Leaving from a larger town proved to be useful, because of the big markets and shops to buy food, decent WiFi to sort out the routes and logistics.
We always locked our bikes and took valuables like passports and wallets with us. Of course, there is always the chance of someone stealing your stuff, but with some prior research, and by communicating clearly with the hostel owners you minimize the risks. And a little bit of faith in humankind is needed anyway when going on a longer bike trip.
Do you need Specific gear for a bike and hike trip?
The good thing about combining bicycle touring with hiking is that the required gear for both activities is very similar. As a bike traveler, you already carry all your camping gear. There are only a few extra things you need: a good pair of hiking shoes and a backpack. The weight and packing volume of gear do matter a bit more for hiking compared to bike travel.
For instance, we have a large tent with a front vestibule to put our panniers in overnight. When packed this tent is relatively heavy and voluminous. For future trips, this is definitely something we would do differently. Investing in (ultra) light gear, which often packs smaller, is the way to go in our opinion. While most bicycle tourers have a rack pack (a bag that you put across the rear panniers), we simply carry a backpack attached with bungee cord elastic luggage straps. For the rainy days, we used the backpack’s rain cover to make it waterproof. It may look a bit shabby, but it works fine, and we’ve never had any problems with this setup
Can you combinE a bikepacking setup with proper hiking gear?
If you have shoes that you can use both for cycling and hiking, the only extra thing you need is a backpack. We love the roll-top backpacks that you can pack small when you put them on the bike or carry them on your back. These backpacks can extend to a large volume if needed for a hike. Some bikepackers already cycle with a backpack on their back or attach the backpack to a rear rack.
Biking on hiking trails
When you take it one step further and explore hiking trails by bicycle, another world of opportunities opens. In Argentina, near Bariloche we cycled the Sendina Huella Andina. The Huella Andina is a long-distance hiking trail (564 km) through Patagonia. The route has been developed in 2008 as one of the first thru-hikes in Argentina. Cycling this route with a bicycle touring setup is not ideal for the more narrow hiking trails, but this would be possible with a bikepacking setup.