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How much can you carry on your bike

Cyclecamp resource page 004

Most people are amazed that cyclists can take everything they need on their bike to camp out in all weathers and cook a meal too. But that weight still has to be considered carefully.

What counts is the balance between weight and comfort

How much weight to carry when you go cycle camping is a tricky question. And you might find it useful to buy a luggage weighing device.

Weight isn’t everything though: what counts is the balance between weight and comfort - it’s no good being cold and miserable at night just as much as it is no fun struggling up hills with too much gear.

The main thing is that you can, at the last resort, get off and push your bike up a hill.

But what is true is that there is a very clear relationship between how much you carry and how far you can go in a day - hit that first hill and you will realise that weight is one of the main deciding factors in distance. So, when you are still honing your gear down and getting better at taking less and less, stick to about 30 miles a day at first or even less. For your first cycle camping trip (maybe a “shakedown” trip to a local campsite), you could just do a few miles to check that everything is secure and well packed as well as getting an idea as to what a big weight on the bike feels like.

This will allow you to take what you need and experiment. Later on you can increase your mileage substantially with a lighter bike, better and less equipment and greater fitness.

Here’s a rough guide as to how much weight to carry based on your daily mileage (and vice versa of course!):

25 - 30 miles a day: this mileage should allow you to carry about 18 - 22 kg. It is about the maximum reasonable weight for non-expedition cycle camping and will allow you take enough stuff to sleep comfortably, cook a meal in the evening, take a book and a camera and a change of clothes.

50 miles a day: keep your luggage weight down to about 12 - 15 kg. This will require care when packing and you might have to leave a couple of comfort items at home.

80 miles a day: if you want to travel very light and fast and camp, you will still need to carry about 10 kg and even that might be too much. Anything less and you may have to compromise on comfort and cooking gear. As you go down to about 5 kg of luggage weight you are on the borderline between camping and roughing it. Many cyclists manage on this and have found ways to stay dry and comfortable but it does take some skill.

Over 100 miles a day: you may want someone else to carry your gear! It wouldn’t be cycle camping as we know it if you want to do that sort of daily mileage but that doesn’t mean to say it’s impossible!

Think too about the sort of places you’ll be cycling through. If it’s very hilly, then keep the weight down; if it’s flat, you can be more generous. But whatever the terrain, the bike still has to be able to take the strain and you have to be able to control the bike safely.

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