Life Behind Bars; Bikepacking Cockpits

Efficient packing and having essential items close to hand is core to successful bikepacking. The cockpit is one place where this ethos really matters and everyone has their own view on what’s most useful to have close to hand and balancing practical items with motivational mementos. Here we take a closer look at your bikepacking cockpits.

Reading time: 3 min

Given how long we spend looking down at our handlebars for navigation, it’s a natural place for little reminders of home and motivational messages. For some, like Edwin, this means a small mascot on the aerobars. For others, it’s a motivational sticker, a picture of loved ones or a small note taped to the stem. Organisation is key – finding space for a bike computer and your phone often means using a serious amount of cockpit real estate, meaning you really have to prioritise what gets pride of place in the remaining space available.

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Mar 5, 2019 at 6:22am PST

For most experienced bikepackers, that organisational process is almost second nature. Our bikes are our homes away from home and we have a set place for everything – we know what lives in our top tube pack, our handlebar back and our food pouches and can find everything we need blindfolded. No one’s cockpit essentials are the same, but everyone has their own go-to method for packing. For Kat and Lewis, there are a number of essentials that always get stored close-to-hand, regardless of what else ends up in the bags alongside them:

Waterproof jacket

Dog Whistle

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A post shared by Bikepacking Sierra de Segura (@bikepackingsierradesegura) on Mar 30, 2020 at 6:38am PDT

In fact, by the time you’ve attached the essentials to your bars and filled your bags with supplies, it can be challenging to find a usable space for essentials like lights and navigation. There are a lot of products on the market that create ‘extra’ handlebar space for bikepackers and we’ve seen a lot of creative solutions with cut up pipes, zip ties and old containers. Extensions like these mean not having to choose between water and food or navigation and lighting and can be indispensable on longer or more remote trips where you need to prioritise carrying supplies.

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A post shared by Apidura (@apidura) on Mar 25, 2020 at 8:31am PDT

Jenny Tough is a rider who excels at adapting her gear to the environment. Here she shows us her setup for both ends of the spectrum – gravel biking in the hot, arid desert landscape of Morocco and mountain biking in the freezing mountains of Nepal. Notably, despite the handlebars being different shapes, the bags and kit she uses are almost identical, but reworked to make best use of the space she has available. By using a versatile bag setup, Jenny knows she has the space for the kit she needs for any environment and can focus on the ride and the gear she needs.

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A post shared by Paul Spencer (@pedalroundtheworld) on Apr 5, 2020 at 2:14pm PDT

Paul Spencer is another rider that is skilled at making minor tweaks to his setup to suit different events and styles of riding. Here we can see his cockpits for the Arizona Trail Race, Tour Divide and Colorado Trail. The selection of bags stays constant, but the contents differ, depending on his priorities and he’s a big fan of using zip ties and ingenuity to get the most out of his packs on different bar styles – the handlebar pack makes a great ‘base’ for the centre of the Jones Bar, allowing for quick stashing of clothing, and the bungee straps mean nothing gets lost.

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A post shared by Nik ? (@where.the.asphalt.ends) on Mar 29, 2020 at 9:53am PDT

While longer rides generally mean busier cockpits, for the minimalist, the simple combination of a handlebar bag and top tube bag can help keep the bars clear of distractions. With both packs accessible while riding, Nik can carry all the spares and supplies he needs close to hand without cluttering his view. His chosen packs provide versatile storage for everything from a quick commute to an overnighter, all without having to change anything about his set up or break the clean aesthetic he has created. Both the Racing Top Tube Pack and Racing Handlebar Mini Pack can be accessed one-handed while riding and provide three and a half litres of versatile space for food, spares and clothing.


We’ve loved analysing your cockpit shots. Keep tagging your #bikepackingcockpits on Instagram and we’ll share our favourite setups around future races and events.