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Semantics: Bike touring vs bike packing

Old 02-24-19, 01:13 AM
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MarcusT
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Semantics: Bike touring vs bike packing

During the winter months I watch mainly bike tourers' videos. Usually on Youtube. I like to see where they go, what obstacles they face, the gear they use, and of course the scenery. After several hundred videos, the well starts to run dry from 'Bike tour'. Then I start to search 'bike packing', even though it is not my preferred.
Watching minimalist touring seems like an added hardship, but I still respect it. It can be compared to the 80's, when there was backpacking, which I was heavily into, and there was fast packing. Same concept. Backpacking was carrying all your gear, clothing, food on your back and could weigh anywhere from 40-70 lbs (weight was higher due to less tech), Fast packing was a super light weight sleeping bag (maybe only an emergency blanket), snacks and a water bottle. I'm sure it still exists today, but maybe under a different moniker.

So back to bikes and Youtube. I started to search for videos under bike packing and was curious to see many posters had titled their clips as "bike packing", yet they still had racks, panniers and full sized tents (comparably speaking).
So is this mislabeling due to the trend and people are trying to get more hits? Or, is it that people interchange packing and touring innocently?
When I hear bike packing, I visualize, a saddle bag, a frame bag, handle bar bag and a small back pack. Am I wrong?

What's your take?
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Old 02-24-19, 02:26 AM
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Do definitions really matter?
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Old 02-24-19, 03:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Do definitions really matter?
When I am searching videos? Yes, but more for discussion's sake, and if someone does not care one way or the other, there is no need to enter the discussion.

I mean to say, if someone says they went mountain biking, you would believe that they did not ride a paved road to the grocery store.
If someone says they did a century ride, you know this to be a 100 mile ride, or even a 100 km, not a 100 yard ride to the end of the street
If, someone asks me if I want to go bike packing, I would have to say, I do not have the bags for bike packing, but I have touring gear.

Last edited by MarcusT; 02-24-19 at 03:45 AM.
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Old 02-24-19, 05:40 AM
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i think us millenials just like to pretend that we've invented something new. So the term bikepacking. I even sometimes like to pretend i'm the first person to ever think of loading a bike and travelling on it, that it's some totally insane idea. Half the people i meet on the road treat me like that anyway. Which I kinda like. On the road, riding away from everything, sometimes it does feel like being totally alone. But I also have a lot of respect for the century plus of bicycle touring history and all the people who've been doing it for decades and have way more experience and knowledge than I do. And when i roll into camp and there are other bike tourists there and we can share stories and maybe a fire or some drinks, i like that too.

On youtube maybe you just get way more views if you label your videos bikepacking.
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Old 02-24-19, 07:26 AM
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I am sure some of it is marketing. The companies that were quite small that made the bike packing equipment needed a phrase to distinguish their product line from panniers. And to someone that was using that type of equipment, it sounded impressive to be doing the latest thing with a new name.

I consider bike packing to be using bags and harnesses to store stuff on the bike without the use of racks. I do not consider the large cages made by Salsa or Blackburn to be racks.

And some bike packers think that if you put bike packing bags and harnesses on a road bike and stay on pavement, that is not "real" bike packing because they think bike packing is only off road kinds of riding. But I consider that to be bike packing too.

And some people mix bike packing bags and harnesses with panniers because it meets their needs better.

And some people call it a bike tour if they are only carrying their water and lunch on the bike while a van hauls their luggage.

When posting subject lines on a forum like this, it is beneficial to all to be clear and unambiguous, but other than that I pretty much concur with Machka, what the specific name is does not matter that much.
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Old 02-24-19, 07:55 AM
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Bike packing is for younger people, and is trendy right now.
Bike touring is for older, stodgier people and is kind of passe.
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Old 02-24-19, 08:20 AM
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You want the even newer and more improved version!!!
Variables:
1) Some amount of weight and supplies
2) How is it mounted and where?
3) How long are you going for?
4) What is the primary terrain or path goal?

They (mythical third party that is everyone else) wants there to be a distinction between touring and bike packing. The lines are blurred on what exactly "they" define all of the possible permutations of those variables. Soody above nailed it. If I was going to define it... I would use only 4 above, 1-3 are the result of your planning and experience. Could you do the same route in a car? If so, maybe you are bike touring. If not, maybe you claim bike packing.

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Old 02-24-19, 09:03 AM
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I went to a bicycle travel seminar in 1980 and the presenter used the term 'bike packing' to universally describe all types of non-competitive bike rides where a night was spent away from home. Go figure.

I like to put my kit in a saddlebag and seek out country lanes. Clearly, I need to:
1) Coin a specialized term for this specific activity: 'Bike Bummeling'.
2) Create a website espousing and promoting bike bummeling.
3) Create buyer's guides for 'stuff' for bike bummeling (I'm not saying you have to buy sidebar advertising to get your stuff featured in the buyer's guide, but it wouldn't hurt.)
4) Publish lavishly photographed articles of riders' bike bummels.
5) Offer maps of great bike bummeling routes and guides to the best bike bummeling areas with 'meccas' and 'hidden gems'.
6) Write authoritative guides to the optimum wheel size for bike bummeling - almost certainly something cyclists don't already have in their arsenal (I envision a big EA3 vs. 28 x 1 1/2 debate.)
7) Compend industry offerings optimised for bike bummeling: bikes, frames, bars, tires, saddlebags, saddles, GPS devices, sun glasses, socks, dab rings, etc.

Last edited by tcs; 02-24-19 at 08:30 PM.
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Old 02-24-19, 09:26 AM
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Bikepacking is primarily riding offroad, eating cold food and sleeping under a tarp. Bike touring is primarily riding on roads, eating at restaurants and sleeping at a hotel.
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Old 02-24-19, 09:43 AM
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Bike-packing started as a term to denote off-road, backcountry, bicycle touring. Frame-and-seat-bag systems were fashioned since many participants had or used mountain bikes, which didn't accommodate the traditional-rack-pannier systems. The term started to devolve as others started integrating these new frame-bags (et. al) into their road touring systems. On-road or off-road, newcomers started call the activity bike-packing (vs. bike touring) when using these new non-rack-systems.

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Old 02-24-19, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT View Post
So back to bikes and Youtube. I started to search for videos under bike packing and was curious to see many posters had titled their clips as "bike packing", yet they still had racks, panniers and full sized tents (comparably speaking).
So is this mislabeling due to the trend and people are trying to get more hits? Or, is it that people interchange packing and touring innocently?
I think part of it is mislabeling, part misunderstanding, part using terms interchangeably, and maybe just a touch of misdirection. I’ve seen a number of pictures (and a few actual) “bikepacking” bikes that carry more stuff...and do it more poorly...than my fully loaded touring bike.

When I hear bike packing, I visualize, a saddle bag, a frame bag, handle bar bag and a small back pack. Am I wrong?
When I hear “bikepacking”, I see the product line for Revelate Design or Oveja Negra (my local pack maker). Revelate Design “invented” modern bikepacking bags as we know them. All the designs that you see now are copies (ripoffs?) of Revelate’s products.

One quibble: The “handlebar bag” is much more than that. It is an equipment roll that is usually used to carry tent, sleeping bag, pad and perhaps some food.

What's your take?
If you put bikepacking bags on a road bike and go touring, it’s still “touring”. “Bikepacking” should be doing what Revelate initially designed their bags for...off-road riding. It doesn’t have to single track but it should be rougher than just gravel road riding. Basically if you can benefit from suspension, it’s “bikepacking”. In other words, if your bike looks like this

DSCN1197 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

it’s bikepacking. If your bike looks like this

IMGP1691 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

it’s touring.
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Old 02-24-19, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Bikepacking is primarily riding offroad, eating cold food and sleeping under a tarp. Bike touring is primarily riding on roads, eating at restaurants and sleeping at a hotel.
Riding off-road? Yes, that’s bikepacking. Eating cold food? That’s poor planning. My food may be freeze-dried since it’s a whole lot easier to carry but I still carry a stove. And I have a good tent that I use for both road and off-road touring. We don’t have to be uncivilized.
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Old 02-24-19, 10:04 AM
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Also recently reinvented: “Workpacking”
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Old 02-24-19, 10:09 AM
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How about just do what you like? Ride, rest, repeat. Repeatedly. Touring tends to be be more road, bikepacking tends to see more dirt. Don't overthink it. I seek out dirt trails, paths and roads. But in New England, i almost always have pave to connect my bikepacking routes. Just go with the tires/bike that is the best fit for your trip. Most of the time for me that's a rigid, steel 29er with plus tires.
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Old 02-24-19, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
I went to a bicycle travel seminar in 1980 and the presenter used the term 'bike packing' to universally describe all types non-competitive bike rides where a night was spent away from home. Go figure.

I like to put my kit in a saddle bag a seek out country lanes. Clearly, I need to:
1) Coin a specialized term for this specific activity: 'Bike Bummeling'.
2) Create a website espousing and promoting bike bummeling.
3) Create buyer's guides for 'stuff' for bike bummeling (I'm not saying you have to buy sidebar advertising to get your stuff featured in the buyer's guide, but it wouldn't hurt.)
4) Publish lavishly photographed articles of riders' bike bummels.
5) Offer maps of great bike bummeling routes and guides to the best bike bummeling areas with 'meccas' and 'hidden gems'.
6) Write authoritative guides to the optimum wheel size for bike bummeling - almost certainly something cyclists don't already have in their arsenal (I envision a big EA3 vs. 28 x 1 1/2 debate.)
7) Compend industry offerings optimised for bike bummeling: bikes, frames, bars, tires, saddlebags, saddles, GPS devices, sun glasses, socks, dab rings, etc.
tcs
just wanted to say that this made me smile and chuckle.
funny for diff reasons but mostly because how the humour and specific numbered items very much touch on the reality of all this.
well thought up.
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Old 02-24-19, 10:35 AM
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'It's the surface you're on.'
'It's the bags you use.'
'It's the bike you're riding.'
'It's how old you are.'

Reading over @ bikepacking.com I got the impression 'it's the width of the tire you ride.'
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Old 02-24-19, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by skookum View Post
Bike packing is for younger people, and is trendy right now.
Bike touring is for older, stodgier people and is kind of passe.
this made me smile also.
clearly this term and activity is the new thing and attracts a younger crowd, which is fine, as people getting out and doing stuff on bikes is cool, no matter what.

that said, last year I gave a talk about my last trips, and the crowd was pretty young--well thats easy given I'm in my 50s, and I could tell that the "stodgy and passé" thing was certainly held by some looking at all the crap I had on my bike and talking about using a paper map along with a tablet.
Given that most hadn't done any bike touring of any manner, I'm also sure that until you do it, its hard to imagine that you really should carry X or Y, plus there's always the factor of a 20 something not being bothered with a certain amount of discomfort, or aware of a given discomfort, but then we get back to the "stodgy" thing of being older and having a certain amount of experience.

again though, I want to emphasize that even though I bring up a view of someone older, with "bikepacking" being popular, I still always think its neat that folks are out doing some exploring on bikes and having any kind of adventure--because this attitude of adventure and love of this activity is what we all share.
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Old 02-24-19, 10:39 AM
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Most of my tours are on paved roads. Occasionally the pavement runs out but it's still a road which is maintained at some minimum level of standard. I do not consider myself bikepacking at all. I think of bikepacking as the wheeled version of backpacking, typically on rougher terrain and/or single track with greater infrequency of flush toilets, coffeehouses, ice cream shops and other critical services. I love my backpacking almost as much as my bicycle touring. I just don't like mixing the two.
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Old 02-24-19, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by skookum View Post
Bike packing is for younger people, and is trendy right now.
Bike touring is for older, stodgier people and is kind of passe.
Bunk! I’m no spring chicken and I did this last August and this about 4 years ago. I’ve got more ambitious stupidity planned for this summer. I’ve also done this about 3 years ago. I really don’t know anyone (personally) that does either bikepacking or bike touring. I sure don’t see anyone out there doing either...not in 3 days or 5 weeks.
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Old 02-24-19, 11:15 AM
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speed vs a bit of camp comfort

June's Racers competing to ride solo across the continent in least time, have adopted the bikebacking bags on their Carbon race bikes
enforcing a minimalist touring kit, on themselves ..








....
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Old 02-24-19, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT View Post
If, someone asks me if I want to go bike packing, I would have to say, I do not have the bags for bike packing, but I have touring gear.
I think that's very valid. When someone says "bikepacking gear" I know what they're talking about.
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Old 02-24-19, 12:21 PM
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I think the fast packing comparison may have been a sort of original impetus just as alpine style became an option for siege tactics in high altitude climbing. Try the new definition of free diving vs good old skin diving as well. It's just evolution and innovation.

Innovator's are able to look past label constraints and see what applications from one genre might enhance their own efforts. I (and others) call this lateral thinking. So, putting a negative spin on one or the other genre seems counter productive to anyone really interested in growing and expanding their knowledge base.

  • Originally you had utility bikes. Some people traveled on them using suitcases and bed rolls.
  • The utility bike branched into a road or sport bike. People also traveled with those and made specific luggage for the bike.
  • In the late 70's mtb's were invented and people began going off road in earnest rather than just taking a road bike as far as it would go.
  • At some point those people decided to stay overnight or even tour off road but found some of the gear used on road didn't work so well so they adapted.
  • Some of those ideas actually work well on road too so there is a co-mingling of ideas.
  • Evolution.
We see this as well in bike classification. Road bike, mountain bike, hybrid bike, gravel bike... a part of it is marketing of course but it is also an attempt to take parts of one genre and work them into another and then rework them so they meet somewhere in the middle again. I like it as it is the exploration of materials.

In this pic I could be bikepacking (but I'm in pavement) or touring (but I have bikepacking gear) yet not quite bikepacking (but bikepackers don't use saddle bags)... or just riding around (JRA).


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Old 02-24-19, 12:39 PM
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The bike in the photo is on grass because it was in a campground but his trip was all on paved roads. I call that bike packing even though it was not off road. But life is too short to argue about such things, if you do not agree, I am not going to waste time arguing about it.




It was a nice bike, it was a Break Away frame, he did not pay oversize fee to the airline for this trip. And he was packed so light, he might have gotten the rest of his stuff into a carryon instead of a second checked bag.

I am always amazed when people pack that light for a trip longer than a few days. If I recall correctly, he and his girlfriend were doing a two week trip and were packed that light. But, they were on roads so they they did not have to carry a week of food on the bike or anything like that.

No he was not doing his whole trip with one water bottle, he lost one.
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Old 02-24-19, 01:21 PM
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Words matter.

In some ways.

"Bikepacking" obviously partakes of the connotations and images of "backpacking."

"Bicycle touring" partakes, in many minds, of other connotations and images.

Slightly or more than slightly Freddish nerds, for example.

"Bikepacking" and bearded hipsters with bike sprocket tattoos, with a focus on mapping out microbrewery stops, for example.

In their minds, they are cool, rebel-oriented revolutionaries.

In actuality, they are a new generation of Freds.

Bruce Gordon's take, however much you may be anti-Gordon, on the community had a certain honesty and accuracy of observation about it.

A lot of it is image- and connotation-related.

There is a certain style element that has its own connotations as well.

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Old 02-24-19, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Bikepacking is primarily riding offroad, eating cold food and sleeping under a tarp. Bike touring is primarily riding on roads, eating at restaurants and sleeping at a hotel.
So what am I am doing if I have a mix of off road and on road, primarily cook my own meals and nearly always camp? Biketouracking?

But in the end, I don't care what anyone labels it. I do what I want and don't care what box other people fit it into.

Last edited by indyfabz; 02-24-19 at 01:26 PM.
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