What is Bikepacking?

The Apidura guide to bikepacking, travel by bike, and adventure cycling.

Reading time: 4 min

Bikepacking is as old as the bicycle itself. Since the first turn of a crank, cyclists have gravitated toward going further and exploring the unknown. Some of the earliest long-distance cyclists used packs and bags that look unnervingly similar to today’s bikepacking kit. Photos of the Overlanders of the 19th and 20th century and even bicycle cavalries of old are at once familiar yet oddly removed from the scene we know.

Francis Birtles holding his bike

As fossil-fuelled travel grew cheaper and more accessible, it became easier to travel and explore than ever before and cyclo-touring evolved into the rack and pannier system on a specialist ‘touring’ bike that many think of even today as the default for long-distance cycling.

For decades this was the norm and, counterintuitively, adventure by bicycle became harder and more niche. Racks and panniers restricted bicycle choice, added weight and impacted handling. Despite the impracticality of taking panniers off paved routes, groups like the Rough Stuff Fellowship and Adventure Cycling Association championed going further. Taking bikes off-road, further into the backcountry and bringing back the adventurous spirit of a bygone era. In 1998, the Adventure Cycling Association inaugurated the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and 10 years later, the first ultra-racing cyclists lined up to compete in the Tour Divide – arguably the original bikepacking event.

Apidura co-founder Tori Fahey on the Tour Divide route in 2011

A rider next to her bike with a full bikepacking bags kit in the middle of the Tour Divide route

Apidura co-founder Tori Fahey on the Tour Divide route in 2011

A rider next to her bike with a full bikepacking bags kit showing a poster mentioning the boundary of the USA with Mexico

...and at the finish

...and at the finish

It was against this backdrop that Apidura was conceived. Tori Fahey, a keen cyclist with a desire to push the limits of what you can do with a bike, combined a love of travel and cycling to undertake long tours (with panniers at first) from the Arctic to the Pacific Oceans; across Patagonia, Chile and Argentina; from Alexandria to Cape Point; Istanbul to Paris; across Central Asia… and, in 2011, the Tour Divide, where it was clear that racks and panniers weren’t suitable and many competitors were making their own bikepacking gear, with nothing readily available on the market.

The DIY ethos fit the bikepacking scene well, but was limiting and created a barrier for entry that seemed to stand in stark contrast to the benefits of moving away from panniers – freedom of choice in what you ride, where you ride it, who you ride with. Not to mention that in an ultra-race, with so much care and attention put into choosing the best equipment and demanding the highest level of quality, it seemed only right that the same rigour should be applied to your packs. You rely on them for your very survival, keeping your clothes and supplies safe and secure, so they have to be good.

A path in the middle of a mountain with a person on a bicycle in the distance

Apidura’s goal was to bring rackless packing into the 21st century. To make it more accessible. To support long-distance and adventure cyclists in going further. Tori and her partner Pierre’s goal wasn’t necessarily to create a company, but to meet the need of riders and nurture the adventure cycling community. Because of this, we don’t view ourselves as pack manufacturers, but members of the community – a community that has impacted us in very profound ways. It’s a core value in terms of how we think about ourselves and what we do. We inspire. Educate. Encourage. We aim to be role models.

While Apidura was born of the needs of ultra-racers, we believe bikepacking is so much more than that. On its surface, bikepacking is simply a means to bring passions together. It’s also an ethos of simplicity and responsibility. An ethos that impacts the way we live and the way we run our company. We believe in creating tools that are right for what you’re doing, rather than cluttering your life or experiences with extra stuff that just weighs you down. It’s why we don’t release a new “season” every few months and why we believe in continuous improvement over updated product lines.

We do believe in innovation and design, ensuring we are constantly pushing the limits of pack design with new ideas, materials and construction. We make simple, functional and lasting products that help you find moments of reflection. We’re all about self-powered adventure and removing complexity – creating an environment where people can push their personal, emotional and cultural boundaries.

A person designing something in The Innovation Lab of Apidura

Supporting adventure cycling means more than just providing equipment and we’ve always worked at a grassroots level with athletes and events to foster and support the scene. It’s not just about the fastest, the biggest, or the best, however, and we focus on riders and events that share our philosophy. It’s about respecting the places we go and celebrating the challenge over the victory. It’s great to win, but that’s not what the sport is about. It’s about pushing ourselves and exploring our limits – whatever those limits may be (it’s not always about how fast or far!). We enable new cyclists to better their lives and offer knowledge and tools to help them on their way.

As a business, we’re mindful about what we do. It’s as much about what we choose to do as what we choose not to. We focus on where we can have impact. Where we can encourage, support and educate to help cyclists explore their limits and go further. In a world of tick box experiences, advertising and noise, we aim to be a refuge for considered and considerate riders. Our goal is to help you take a break from the routine. To reflect on life and live in the moment. We will always focus on exploring how we can bring value to our community above all else.