Before our latest bicycle tour, I attended a class at a local sporting goods store. The class was all about the ultralight movement as it related to hiking and backpacking. While they didn’t address bicycle touring, the principles taught easily converted to touring. We applied some of those principles on our tour, and here’s what we found to be the best benefits of going ultralight.
Energy. As a bicycle becomes more and more loaded with gear, it becomes more and more challenging to ride. It simply takes more energy to pedal. As you reduce the weight of the bicycle and gear, you reduce the energy required for pushing the bike and increase the amount of energy you have left over at the end of the day. This means you can enjoy your time off the bike even more. For me, it meant I had the energy to explore the campground or the town after the day’s ride. I found my bicycle tour was much more enjoyable because of this.
Pace. Another advantage of ultralight touring is a faster average pace. This might seem like a small thing, but it meant less time overall riding. Which meant I had more time for other things (like sleeping or exploring). Plus, with a higher average speed, I felt like I could take more detours and pause more often without adding a lot of time to the day’s ride. This was key since we were riding while the days were at their shortest and we needed to maximize the daylight we had.
Less Stuff. When you completely convert to the ultralight mindset, this means your gear, all of your gear, becomes lighter and more compact. You reduce the number or size of your panniers. This in turn limits the amount of stuff you can bring, which brings your weight down even more. It self-perpetuates in a very cool way!
Hill climbs. My favorite thing about ultralight touring is how much easier it is to climb the tough hills with less weight. Sure, over time your legs become stronger and hills become less challenging. But starting off with less and lighter gear means those first hills of the trip aren’t your downfall.
Yes, there are some cons to going ultralight. Converting your gear can be costly, since “ultralight” is usually synonymous with “expensive.” But, changing out a few key pieces can get you going in the ultralight direction. Later, we’ll be discussing various ways to go ultralight.