Your first gravel weekender. Get pro-packing tips from riders in the Shimano Gravel Alliance. Sharing vital dos and don’ts – informed by experience, mistakes, nights spent shivering in a tent, and moments that made them smile.
Henna Palosaari, rider, route planner, and all-round creative
✔️ Write down a packing list and follow it when packing. There are too many things that you're likely to forget otherwise. You'll find a lot of helpful lists online if you give it a search.
✔️ Party pace. This is your weekend ride, not a race, so remember to have fun and enjoy yourself.
👎 Don't rush. Plan a route that allows you to stop and embrace the surroundings you are exploring – that's half the fun of the ride.
Get more tips from Henna here
Erwin Sikkens, rider, photographer, and prized party-pacer
✔️ Hydration is key, but take it to the next level. Bring your coffee-making kit and stop at a beautiful spot for a fresh brew. Or bring something stronger to liven up the party at the end of the ride.
✔️ Plan a route, but be willing to take detours along the way. Nothing spells gravel like getting lost without actually getting lost.
✔️ Don't be afraid to hike that bike! A gravel ride isn't a true adventure without boots on the ground and at least one bit of climbing-a-fence action.
✔️ Ride in the dark (where it's legal). The world is different when the lights go out, and it gives you a richer sense of adventure!
👎 Don't turn your ride into a race. Gravel riding gives you a great opportunity to enjoy nature at a party pace, showing you places you may never see otherwise.
👎 Don't forget your spare parts. You wouldn't want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere, right?
Get more tips from Erwin here
Liam Yates, an all-round rider that knows speed has its place
✔️ Make sure you take enough clothes for all conditions! Your favorite weather app might be telling you one thing. But once you're out and away from civilization, it's better to be safe rather than sorry. A rain jacket is essential, but things like a buff, spare socks and an extra merino layer could come in handy.
👎 Make sure you don't plan too much. Normally, you would want to be well-organized and have everything booked up for a holiday. But, regarding bikepacking, having the freedom to change your plan and route is vital. Picture the scene: If you want to stay longer at a nice viewpoint or spot a beautiful beach for a swim – it could be anything! – having a free schedule will allow you to do any of that. If you ask me, those unplanned parts are normally the best.
Get more tips from Liam here
Saoirse Pottie, co-founder of Bikepacking Buds
✔️ Choose a route that inspires you. Wildlife, mountains, beautiful scenery, technical singletrack or just the coffee stops. Whatever excites you, plan a route that has you buzzing.
✔️ Plan time to stop. The best thing about gravel riding is the places that it can take you. Take time to stop, have a picture at a v point, a dip in a lake, or a cake in a local cafe. After all, it's about the journey, not the destination 😉
👎 Don't worry if it all doesn't go to plan. Adapt, change things up, and embrace exercising that problem-solving muscle — it's the most important one you'll ever need for adventures!
"No one tells their grandkids about the time everything went smoothly."
Get more tips from Saoirse here
Sofiane Sehili, the world's top ultra-endurance rider
✔️ Bring warm clothes. This one might seem obvious, but I've made this mistake too many times not to warn you about it. Bring that puffer jacket and woolen socks if you plan on camping. Long-finger gloves won't hurt if you plan on leaving early in the morning and it's not summer yet. If you have merino clothes, they're great for a weekender because they'll keep you warm and won't smell after a couple of days of riding.
✔️ Do a thorough check of your bike. The last thing you want on your nice gravel weekend is to have mechanicals stop you. How are those bearings doing? Is your bottom bracket creaking? Is your cassette tightened up on your freehub body? Is your chain clean and well-lubricated? Is the pressure in your tires optimal? You might also want to check your brake pads, just in case. Generally speaking, make sure that your bike is in a good enough shape to take you where you're supposed to go. Most of these checks are basic but if you are not confident in your ability as a mechanic, you can always ask your local bike shop.
✔️ Bring lights. Even if you don't plan on riding at night, you can't predict the future. If there's the slightest chance that you could end up reaching your destination after dark, don't take any chances. If you don't have a bike-specific light and don't want to buy one just for one trip, some regular head torches are powerful enough to allow you to ride a little bit at night. A rear light is also super important and fairly inexpensive. If you don't have one yet, I can only recommend that you get one.
👎 Don't bring your whiny friend. Good company is as important – if not more – than a good route. We all know someone who tends to complain too much about the weather, the surface, the length of the ride, or the steepness of the climbs. And while they have other qualities that make them a good friend, it is still preferable to go on a multi-day ride with someone else. Bring your funny, cheerful friend who smiles even when it's raining, doesn't get annoyed by mechanicals, and knows how to cheer you up.
👎 Don't use a backpack. On my first weekender, 15 years ago, I carried all my stuff on my back, which was not fun. At the end of the day, my shoulders and my neck hurt. Bikepacking bags aren't cheap, but they last a while once you have made the investment and will open up a whole new world of adventure – minus the aches and pains. Put tape on your frame to protect the paint if the bags rub.
👎 Don't pack like you're going to ride around the world. 90% of people who travel by bike carry too much stuff. My advice is to begin by creating one pile of things you think you will need. Then, item by item, dismantle the pile and think hard: Do you really need exhibit A? What would happen if you didn't have exhibit B? You can get away with not bringing a torch, but forgetting to carry a puncture repair kit could get you in trouble.
Get more tips from Sofiane here
Florian Nowak, ex-professional road rider turned gravel addict
✔️ Bring enough food: When planning your first weekender, be aware that it is very important to have enough fuel even if you are just riding your average mileage per day and especially when you are planning to go a little bit more independent with sleeping outdoors or into the woods or the wilderness. I recommend observing this point, as it was no fun for me when I was so hungry on the Saturday morning of my first weekender that I almost ate all my provisions for Sunday.
👎 Don't ride too much in the days leading up to your first weekender. You want to start feeling fresh because you never know what might happen on your ride that will require a little extra power. Plus, your recovery on full-outdoor days – especially if you're sleeping in a tent – will not be as effective as when you come back home after your ride and start fresh the next day.
Get more tips from Florian here