Easing into bikepacking

Here’s a confession. I’ve never gone camping without a car. Hiking to a campsite with only what I can carry on my back? Not me! Yet somehow I have been getting influenced by the growing subculture of bikepackers here in Seattle. Maybe it’s all the photos I see of Bikeworks youth rides to the San Juan Islands…or the slick Instagram feeds of Swift Industries and Compass Tires. But one thing is clear: I am getting the urge to at least try an overnight trip on my bike within 15 miles of home. Little by little I am chipping away at the problem. First, how much stuff will I need? Second, how much am I able to carry on my bike? Third, how can I convince my amorous associate to try this? Her bike isn’t able to carry very much, so can I make this possible by carrying almost everything for two people? After a bit of online research, we had a plan. We could take a 45 minute ferry from Fauntleroy (just a ten minute ride from home) and ride a short way to Manchester State Park on the Kitsap Peninsula. The park offers 35 campsites, with water, showers and beach access. We could take a nice 7 mile ride here, scout it out for camping, and have a little snack break. Then, we could ride another 6 miles into Port Orchard for a lunch break. Here’s the route on Ride with GPS. I bought a front rack for my bike. I needed to get this special one from Minoura which attaches to the front axle and cantilever brake bolts, since my bike doesn’t have mid-fork eyelets.
Stuffing my four Ortlieb panniers full of hypothetical camping stuff was pretty fun. Even though we didn’t have a tent or sleeping bag in there, I managed to throw a sufficient amount of clothes in there to simulate the weight and volume of what we’d eventually bring.
How did this extra weight affect the handling of the bike? Not much! Since it’s almost all downhill to the Fauntleroy ferry dock, my biggest concern was the effectiveness of my brakes to stop me, since I had so much more momentum than usual. Still, all things considered, my entire setup was probably no heavier than the average man riding a bike. Score!
After a nice ferry ride to Southworth, we were ready to hit the Kitsap! The crew and I had a simple cue sheet to follow, but it was pretty obvious where to go, since we’d be riding along the coast the most of the way. The roads consisted of rollers mostly, and because of the extra weight, I was in the small chainring (26 teeth) for most of the uphill portions. Having a sub 1:1 gear ratio paid dividends here!
It only took an hour to get to Manchester. Upon entry, we scouted out some of the campsites, and then headed toward the water where we would have our snack and figure out Brian’s portable espresso maker. As far as beaches go, this one was not very appealing. It had big rocks covered by seaweed and didn’t smell too great. So we opted to spend our break under the fir trees by the big official looking building and picnic tables.
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