If you’re going on a big bikepacking ride with a fully laden bike, there are a few things you should keep in mind while riding. Tobias Woggon explains which riding technique will help you reach your destination safely and comfortably.

Text: Martin Donat

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Maybe you are asking yourself this very question. Because basically it’s just a normal bike, no matter if you go on a bikepacking tour with a mountain bike or a gravel bike. The only difference is that you attach a few bags to the bike. But that is exactly the crucial point! Because with these bags your bike is not only heavier, they also change its center of gravity. On top of that, some bags tend to swing a bit, or move around as you ride. All of this adds up to a few things you should keep in mind when bikepacking, so you’re always safe on the road. Find out what those things are below.


What could be better than the wind hitting your face as you bomb it downhill? To make sure you enjoy the downhill fun, however, you should be aware of two quirks of a fully laden bike.

First, it reacts more sluggishly. This means: It not only takes longer until you get going properly, but more importantly, your braking distance is also longer. You must take this into account and start braking sooner so you don’t fly off the trail on corners. If you’re unsure, it’s better to ride a little slower from the start.

Secondly, vibrations can build up at high speed, for example, due to a saddlebag that isn’t sitting quite snuggly enough. If your whole bike starts to lurch at high speed, it doesn’t feel good at all and can even be dangerous. It also helps in this case to just enjoy the descent a little more slowly than usual. You can also read here how to pack your bags safely.


“It is important to know that the heavy weight on the bike shifts the braking point to an extreme. When you’re riding downhill at high speed, you have to remember that you have to brake much earlier and do it in a much more measured way.” — Tobias Woggon

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The more uneven the surface, the greater the risk of breakdowns, especially flat tires. This applies to all types of bikes, whether they are laden or not. The same goes for gravel bikes with bikepacking gear. The only difference is that the effect that gravity has on you and your bike is amplified by the extra weight. For you this means you basically ride as always under such conditions, just more intensely and cautiously.


So ride extra attentively and with foresight. This way you can better avoid large bumps or roots. Make yourself especially “light” when you ride through a rough pothole or over a root, for example. If you press your weight “into” the bike just before you hit them, you can use the rebound effect so that you selectively relieve the pressure on the front or rear wheel and hardly notice any of the impact. If you are unsure, ride a little slower or push your bike for a while. That’s always better than having to change a tube on the road...


“Riding with a lot of weight makes it easier to get a flat. That’s why you should ride with much more foresight and shift your weight so that you relieve the pressure on the wheels as much as possible when going over obstacles.” — Tobias Woggon



The reason for the significantly more tippy handling is and remains the same: even when going uphill, the high center of gravity and the weight of the bags can be felt. The saddlebag in particular tends to swing noticeably when riding out of the saddle. This can be really uncomfortable. The effect is amplified if you have not packed your bag “stably” or have not attached it properly to your bike. But even if you have done that meticulously, the rear of the bike can still swing around.

You can remedy this by pedaling particularly gently. Instead of pushing the bike from one side to the other, imagine that you always have to keep it upright. While you’re pedaling, the bike is stationary, so to speak, beneath you. It takes a bit of getting used to, but at least you’re making sure your bike reaches the top in a controlled and safe manner.

Even when pushing, a fully laden bike behaves very differently than when unladen. If you want to push your bike up a steep slope by the handlebars, your heavily laden rear end may yank the whole bike around and you’ll have trouble keeping it upright. You can remedy this by pushing your bike in a particularly straight fashion. In addition, you can try to put a little more pressure on the rear wheel by holding the bike with one hand on the saddle, for example.


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What? Why do I need to be told to take a break? Simple: Because this is where annoying problems always crop up. It happened to us again on our trip to Scotland, during a break at a cozy bistro: we were enjoying our sandwiches when suddenly Tobi’s bike crashed onto its side, slamming into the ground right on the end of his wickedly expensive carbon handlebars. Tobi immediately turned pale—but fortunately, he could breathe a sigh of relief as no damage was done.

Exactly this happens again and again when bikepacking: the bike topples over. The reason for this is quite simple: due to all the bags and the high center of gravity, the bike not only rides more unsteadily, it also tips over more easily when standing. So there’s no getting around it: even before you take a break, you just have to pay good attention. Lean the bike against something very sturdy, for example, against a wall and not against a lamppost. If you want to be on the safe side, you can also make sure that the bike is on soft ground, such as a stretch of grass. That way, if it falls over anyway, at least it won’t land on something too hard.

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