09 May

Ultralight backpack cycling adventure in France – Part 2 – What I carried

Greetings from Geneva!
I just got back from five days of ultralight backpack cycling in Southeast France.
You might wonder where Part 1 of this trip is? It is coming (I only have 18 hours before my next flight to Nice for the same adventure in a different region). But on request and with only limited time, I want to share what I carried on this trip and what it requires so it works.
I am sure that style of cycling has a name but I havent come across it yet. What I mean with ultra light backpack cycling is a combination of road cycling and bikepacking. You can go as fast as you would do on a normal road ride (and not dragged down by weight, panniers, etc) but have all the essentials that you are never bound to a place and dont have to do loops.
You just go wherever you feel like. As I do like the comfort of a real bed, I stayed in hotels, with a kitchen if possible. I ate out only once, when everything was closed – it was Sunday AND public holiday, so absolutely zero chances that something would be open in France. But I will get to this in a later part of this story. Below is the list of what I carried in my bag:
– One light shirt
– One light leggins
– One tiny sleeping pants
– Toothbrush
– Travel-size tooth paste
– Travel-size laundry soap
– Maps (as needed)
– Wind jacket
– Phone/Garmin/Light charger (had all the same plug-in, dont forget to bring the right adapter)
– Passport
– Debit Card
– Cell phone
– 1-2 bananas
Always/mostly worn during the ride:
– Bandini
– Arm-/Legwarmers
– One jersey and one bibs
– Wind jacket
– Winter gloves
– Glasses with photo-chromatic lenses
– Toe covers
– Helmet
– Cycling shoes
– Socks
On my bike: 
– Two front lights (I never rode in the dark but essential for tunnels, fog, etc)
– Rechargeable rear light
– Bike computer Garmin 520
– Saddle bag (one tube, lever)
– Frame pump
– Two water bottles (there are plenty of fountains around to refill)
No shoes besides my cycling shoes and nothing spare or extra.
If I lose it, it becomes more adventurous. I forgot my phone/Garmin/light charger in one hotel. Luckily, the following hotel let me borrow a charger. (It was Sunday, so nothing was open to buy something).
When I look at the list, it seems like an awful lot and thus heavy. But since it was mostly light clothes, the weight tended to evenly distribute itself on my back so I never felt it on my back. I carried it up a lot of cols and never experienced any back pain.
I didnt bring any food besides 1-2 pieces of fruit. With one exception, it works for me and I love stopping at supermarkets (Intermarche, Casino, Carrefour, Lidl, Netto, Aldi) and pick up a fresh piece of fruit or whatever I fancy at that time.
Of course, with so little stuff to carry around, there is a bit of post-ride routine involved. Where ever I felt like, I want to stay, I went either into a Office du Tourisme or straight into a hotel and asked for a room (usually between 50-70 Euro. It always had to be near a supermarket). Then, I go into the supermarket and buy food (I left my bike inside the supermarket and had an eye on it). If I didnt get a hotel with kitchen, it had to be salad or I got a roast turkey. If I got a kitchen, options were limitless. (3 our of 5 times I got a kitchen)
After the supermarket run, I got into the hotel and washed my clothes while trying to figure out how to get them dry until the next day. Creativity was in high demand. Easy ways were there was a heater or a hair dryer or balcony. But I also pinned my clothes with knife and fork into the air conditioner to have them hung right in front of them.
After the laundry routine, I finally could prepare food. By then, 1-2 hours have passed since I decided to be done riding. While eating, I studied the map and had some rough plans where my next destination is. Except the last day (where I had to get to Geneva), I never got where I intended to get. Sometimes, I found a better route, sometimes, I didnt like the chosen route and usually I got lost anyway.
After all this post-ride activities, it was time to relax.
Of course, this is not the golden formula for such kind of cycling. It worked for me well and I will do exactly the same during the Nice trip. Feel free to ask, suggest or tell from your experiences.
In the next parts of this adventure I will cover what makes this type of riding so awesome and what my routes were. I also will write about all the lessons learned from this trip.
Bye for now, I am off to Nice!

  1. I don't get lost, I just change the route. I always carry a lock. Haven't bothered with front lights on some trips – back light more important. If you are going to do something similar out of Nice then the Gorges du Verdon are hard to beat (I did a 120km loop. Actually there was also a loop within the loop). Cheers John M

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