How Much Weight Do Bike Packers Carry (Road Trip) ?

Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Home Forums Off Piste Bikepacking & Bicycle Touring How Much Weight Do Bike Packers Carry (Road Trip) ?

  • This topic is empty.
Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • Author
  • #1319410
    Art …
    BPL Member


    while in Kings Canyon for a back country run a couple weeks back, we came across a guy who was on a 3 month bike road trip all around the West.

    He told us he had 140 lbs strapped to his bike.
    We tried not to gasp when he said this (our packs weighed 7 lbs).

    But since I am not a long distance bike packer (bike tourist), I have no idea what kind of weight is reasonable.

    So what is a typical weight for this kind of trip ? Any bike experts ?+

    James Couch


    Locale: Cascade Mountains

    It depends on season and route (just like backpacking.) We tend to bring extras and luxuries I don't bring backpacking, particularly for cooking. The eight is not on your back, so it is a bit more tolerable to me. It does effect bike handling and you do still have to haul it all uphill so it still matters.

    Backpacking we do freeze dried or dehydrated food. Unless the route is remote we buy rel food at grocery stores and cook dinner. I usually bring two pans instead of just one for cooking for example. Usually bring some kind of small lantern for in camp.

    In general, bicycle panniers are heavier than an equivalent backpack so you will add a little weight there. In addition you will need to carry some spare parts and tools, again depending on the remoteness and the length of the trip.

    I have run into all kinds on the road, a number that stick out:

    – two different world tourers and one couple. One was two German guys, loaded to the gills, I am sure they were running at about 100lbs including the bike weight. The other was a solo world tourist who had everything (tarp, quilt, extra clothes & food) stuffed into a large bag on his seat. He did not cook, just ate cold food, usually purchased that day at a grocery store. Truly UL or SUL for a cyclist, and this back in 1977 way before any talk of such things was popular.

    – A couple that packed fairly light, used walkable cycling shoes, so carried no extra shoes, no stove. Ate at restaurants and then cycled to camp for the night.

    – My friend Ken has always toured on a standard road bike, small bag with a change of clothes and a credit card, stays in hotels and eats out.

    Lots of interesting options for bike touring!

    Long winded answer, but there you have it. To put it in short, take your current base weight, figure roughly 4-12 lbs weight for panniers and a couple of lbs for tools/spare parts and you will have a good idea.

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    It's just like hikers and travelers of all kinds: some haul the kitchen sink, some have as little as possible, with the whole gamut between. Bike riders can be as gram aware as any SUL folk here.

    It's odd that more UL pack construction details haven't worked their way into bike touring. Panniers tend to be on the bombproof side.

    The principles for clothing layering don't change. For bike specific clothing, I have padded shorts and bike rain jackets are hoodless and long in the back and sleeves. The fabrics and the arguments are the same. The issues of moisture management, wind and rain protection and balancing it all under exertion don't change. You do have a steady breeze while biking :)

    UL hikers should do well. We have the shelter, cooking and essentials down pat. Add a few tools and roll. The basic UL principles work for any travel: take only what you need, seek the lightest high performance items you can afford, use your knowledge of layering clothing, and seek multiple use items. Adding toys and other non essentials have the same perils.

    Our own Max Dilthey is an UL hiker who does extensive bike touring and a good example of blending the two. Check out his blog at

    Jason Elsworth


    Locale: New Zealand

    Most of the cycle tourists I see here in New Zealand seem to carry a lot of gear. If you are on holiday I guess you need a few more clothes than if you are just on the trail, but they don't seem to be UL on the camping side. They are usually overseas visitors.

    I use a bike bag set up that doesn't add as much weight as panniers and bags. I go as light as possible when cycling as I don't go very often and do no training, so I am pretty rubbish at it. Also I am off road for at least 50 percent of each trip.

    In our NZ version of the Tour Divide most people seem to go as light as possible.

    Dave T


    In my experience, they are all over the range, just like backpackers. One end is traditional road tourers with four panniers and a bar bag, loaded to the gills. The other end is bikepackers on rough terrain or going for long, fast tours, with bikepacking framebags on 29ers. The former seem to carry lots of extra gear, and traditional sleeping bags, tents, cooksets, etc. The latter are very in-tune with UL cottage manufacturers and how to get their gear as light and small as possible. There is tons of overlap between BPL and these types of bikepackers (that's what has made it so easy for me to slide over to more bikepacking!).

    Virginia L


    When I did the TransAm a couple years back, I had 30lb of stuff (4 panniers, all the shared camping stuff, 2 dinners, a week of breakfasts & lunches, and some changes of clothes). My cycling partner had 40-50lbs including his electric razor and a quite complete pile of bike tools.
    I'm pretty sure with my recently-updated backpacking gear, I could easily get my weight down to 20lb for a week (and not be roughing it).
    We passed several roadies carrying nothing more than their wallets and snacks (vast expanses of farmland would have been tough, but they were churning out way more miles than I was) and a couple of people who were doing extra-long tours with 4 panniers, a trailer, their dog, and a hell of a lot of excess/heavy gear. The latter group seemed to be having only slightly rougher trips, but they were getting a ton more flats.

    Jordo _99
    BPL Member


    Locale: Nebraska

    For me, bike-packing would be more similar to randonneur cycling than camping. I sold my mountain bike years ago and if I go off-road it's on a cyclocross bike so I tend to not stray too far from civilization. My gear is around 6-8 pounds including luxury items, food, packs and (lack of) racks.

    This is my philosophical view of the pack weight situation:

    As you increase your pack weight, you increase your comfort when camping but decrease your enjoyment of the time cycling.

    Heavy packers — choose to enjoy the camping aspect and a bike is the tool that gets them where they want to camp
    Light packers — choose to enjoy cycling and camping is a means of allowing them to cycle where they want to go

    obviously there's a lot of grey between those and "comfort gear" plays a BIG role:
    full-sized floor pump, self healing tubes, full toolkit

    |***short rant***|
    If I take an extra 10 pounds of gear to save time fixing my bike I'm still not getting to my site any quicker. The time savings cancel out (if you have problems) and anytime you aren't fixing your bike those items are just dead weight.

    robert van putten


    Locale: Planet Bob

    Starting on my last cycle trip I had 65 pounds on the air port scales, not counting my boxed bike. That weight included maybe ten pounds of food, but no water, and of course I needed sufficient tools to re-assemble a boxed bike.

    My panniers were army surplus rucksacks and probably heavier than most, at about five pounds per. So that's 20 pounds of panniers and 45 pounds of gear and food.

    ( but they worked very well and were very waterproof. I didn't even need to take them off when fording rivers! The guy I was with ripped a pannier on a roadside guard rail at one point. Mine were bullet proof! )

    I did pack way heavy. Why not? I was on a bike….
    My stove was a heavy Optimus 8R because the only fuel I was likely to find was gasoline and this stove runs OK on that stuff. My tent was a Eureka Timberline, a bullet proof and very spacious tent for one guy!
    I also carried fishing gear, a big frypan, etc…

    I probably could have left the stainless steel insulated tea pot at home though….

    I covered between 15 and 40-odd miles a day on that trip. Fine for me, but many bikers emphasize the miles and nothing else.

    Inaki Diaz de Etura
    BPL Member


    Locale: Iberia highlands

    As stated by others, it is a case similar to backpacking but I think bicycle tourers tend to be less weight conscious on average than backpackers. The weight is on the bike so there is less incentive to question a heavy weight. Heavyweight backpackers usually see weight as a necessary burden while heavyweight cyclists don't even see a problem.

    In the case of road cycling, it usually keeps you close to civilization on a regular basis and it tends to be more difficult to live simply. Like it doesn't seem so right to keep your shirt on and unwashed for days or other usual facts of UL trail life.

    Eric Douglas


    Locale: Brooklyn

    I used to tour with about a 35-45 pound base load–panniers front and rear (9 pounds already) , tent etc etc. I had a great time on those tours and boy did I feel fast when I got home and too my unloaded road bike for a spin.

    My base load is now about 15 pounds–lighweight home brewed saddlebag (1 lb) and a handlebar bag, tarptent or bivy, etc.)

    The difference is that riding is more fun and I don't actually need touring gearing for short tours–drivetrain being 26/36/46 12-27 9 speed.

    It is my opinion that most tourists overpack, and that when one is touring around "civilization" the same level of preparedness one would have for bikpacking is not needed —


    Tjaard Breeuwer
    BPL Member


    Locale: Minnesota, USA

    First, semantics. 'Bikepacking' typically refers to off-road riding in lightweight style, similar to backpacking. Riding on the road with panniers etc has been common much longer and has usually been called bicycle touring.
    For true off road bikepacking you need to pack as lights as possible, on a mtb trail you are almost always climbing, so wright matters a lot. Furthermore on longer more remote routes you will almost certainly have to carry your bike over obstacles or up climbs that are to steep and rough(the dreaded Hike-a-bike). The difference a few pounds make there are huge.
    You might still end up with a bit more weight than when hiking, due to tools and spares.

    For bicycle touring, as mentioned above, the weight doesn't always matter that much. If your route is fairly level, you have low gears and are not in a hurry, bit of extra weight isn't nearly as uncomfortable as it would be backpacking in the same situation.
    On the other hand, if you want to ride further and faster in mountainous terrain, it would behoove you to pack light.

    See the articles here on BPL

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Get the Newsletter

Get our free Handbook and Receive our weekly newsletter to see what's new at Backpacking Light!

Gear Research & Discovery Tools