101 Bikepacking Straight from Work.

Amongst the team here at Commuter, Kia Binch has gained a reputation for repeatedly showing up to work with her bike fully loaded, and rolling straight out at 415pm Saturday and crushing some huge route! We asked Kia for her tips about preparing (both mentally and from a gear and logistics point of view) to make the absolute most of the weekend on your bike. Take it away Kia…!

I used to find bikepacking by myself at night intimidating, and I still do a bit, but I have grown used to this endeavour. Let me be real clear – I get scared and nervous every time! But the liberating and joyous experience of being out in the backcountry on your bike massively outweighs the initial pre-trip anxieties. It’s not always easy to drag yourself to the train station straight from a full days work but it is ALWAYS worth it. I work full-time hours, I only have a two day weekend and all I want to do is ride my bike! My mentality is that I need to squeeze in the fun with the very limited time I have. I have a few helpful tips so you can squeeze in the fun for bigger adventures too!

Be organised days before so you are mentally prepared for your trip

Bike ready
I pack my bike a couple of days before so I feel organised with my set-up leading up to the ride. My set-up is bike bag dude sling and handlebar bag for my sleep kit, revelate top tube bag with my electricals/dynamo chargers, frame bag for easy access snacks and revelate nano panniers for clothing/food/toileteries. You can see a full breakdown of my gear HERE. In February, I worked a full Saturday shift at the store and rode the Vic Divide route from Prentice Street Brunswick to Albury NSW after work. Honestly, I was scared as hell to do this, but having your bike dialled before you depart really helps you be mentally prepared for your adventure. This is really important box for me to tick, as I need to be mentally confident with my set up to be able to ride by myself.

And always check your brake pads before you go. I’ve learned this the hard way!

Plan the route
I plan my route throughout the week, and spend the week perfecting it. I like using a mix of Ride with GPS (I find the functionality easier to edit and modify the route on this platform), Strava (because heatmaps is everything. If you are riding off-road you want to make sure people are riding these trails, especially if you are by yourself) and Mapout (the A to B function on there lets you see the vertical metres for each section and you can estimate how long you are going to take riding each sections). Studying the route gives you greater confidence in completing the route you choose. I load the route on my eTrex 20, Strava and Mapout incase any of the routes fail. I am lucky enough to work at Commuter Cycles on Friday and Saturdays. On Fridays, I show my route to my brains trust (Adam, Kia, Pete and Will) and they give me feedback on how to alter the route. I am so grateful to work with an inspiring and knowledgable bunch who cycled across regional Victoria, and know the regional roads and trails extremely well.

Plan your clothing
If you go up a mountain bring a goretex jacket always. Two pairs of merino socks and a down jacket always. I will wear the same outfit the whole time (merino top and bib shorts). Having confidence in your clothing and gear, and its ability to protect you in all weather conditions will give you the trust in being able to ride.

Check the weather

If it says it is raining, I check the BOM time to break down the estimate mm of rain for the hour. If I plan on sleeping during the rain, I would ensure I find a location with shelter or accomodation (because I know I hate camping in the rain and I turn miserable). Summer is so much easier for leaving straight from work to go bikepacking. There are way less variables to worry about such as sunset being at 9.00pm opposed to 5.00pm, less chance of rain and less chance of needing to find shelter for rain/bad weather. If you want to start bikepacking straight from work, starting in Summer would be ideal. I know I get a little eerie even listening to wind when it’s night time by myself. If the weather is good, I can literally just roll out my Terra Rosa sleeping cover which takes 2 seconds (as per image above).

Base the route on what you feel comfortable riding at night.

If I am night riding by myself, I will mostly base the route on places I know well and feel comfortable doing for a night ride. For example, this year I rode Lilydale to Benalla after work (Lilydale-Warburton rail trail – half way up Donna Buang climb – Acheron Way – Yellow Dog Track up Lake Mountain – Big River road – Jamieson – Mount Samaria – Benalla). The route was 290km and about 5000vm and I only had my Saturday night, Sunday and Monday. At night, I caught a train to Lilydale after work. Because I have ridden this trail 1 million times, I felt super comfortable pushing through the night on this rail trail because I know it so well. It helps with gaining confidence in what you feel comfortable doing at night time solo. I somewhat (if I can) avoid trails/roads I haven’t ridden before if I am riding by myself at night. My experience is that country roads at night time (ESPECIALLY ON A SATURDAY NIGHT) can have extremely fast cars and can be particularly dangerous. When I climbed Donna Buang on a Saturday night, there were so many cars speeding up the road that I would stop riding and stand in the ditch with my bike. In retrospect I would never do that again at night because it was so dangerous. I would certainly feel comfortable catching the Saturday night train to Tallarook or Wangaratta because the rail trails there are extremely low technical with no climbing, and no drunk people in fast cars. Pushing out a few kilometres in the dark on a rail trail you know well is a great start to a straight from work trip and you’ll wake up somewhere nice with less miles to cover on your actual weekend.

Excellent front lights is critical

I have the MTB K-lite which is incredible. It is dynamolight so if I am going up a hill at night it does die down as it is based on the energy from my SP dynamohub. I also bring a headtorch which is critical. This is important for when you turn your head left or right so you can still see what the hell is going on, and setting up your sleep system at night. The exposure light joystick is also amazing. I have the rear K-lite qube flash. It’s perfect because I never have to think about dealing with my rear light because it is constantly flashing.

Two way tracking device: Garmin InReach

You would have to be crazy to ride solo without a tracking device. I use the Garmin InReach which is a two way messaging system. When I rode the Vic Divide route by myself, a lot of the stretches had no reception (Big River road, Howqua River and the back side of Mount Buller). My loved ones were able to message me, and I was able to message them. It was pouring rain with no reception as I was by myself at Ritchies Hut when I rode the Vic Divide route. I had a small internal thought thinking ‘what the hell am I doing’. I was able to receive messages from my loved ones, which made me feel so happy when I was experiencing immense self-doubt within myself.

I hope from reading this, you will be able to have a little more confidence leaving straight from work for your bikepacking adventure. Feel free to email me at the shop or swing in for a chat on a Friday or Saturday. I’ll be the one with the fully loaded bike.

Kia B 🙂

3 comments

  1. This so hard core and inspiring! Not sure I could/would do it myself but great to read and think about stretching my boundaries. Thanks!

  2. Loved reading this! I wish I was half as brave as you, Kia. Keep on truckin’ bike queen!

  3. A bit late to this post but amazing and inspiring!
    Reminds me of some posts on “There Will Be Dirt”

    http://therewillbedirt.com/about/

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Commuter Cycles acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional custodians of the lands and waterways in the area now known as Brunswick, and pays respect to their Elders past, present, and emerging, as well as to all First Nations’ communities in Australia.