The Quick Start Bike Camping guide
8 simple Tips for getting out on your first bike camping adventure
1. Bike camping adventures: they're easier than you think.
We're not triathletes or racers. We ride bikes for fun and utility. All that you need to embark on a bicycle getaway is a sense of adventure and desire to connect with nature. Our goal with the Pedal Inn is to share everything we've learned so you have the best possible getaway.
Our first time out we didn't know too much, just asked friends, and we did just fine. Of course, our excitement carried us a long way and we learned a lot. But we were really surprised how easy it was to actually pedal with the bike loaded down towards camp. It takes a little practice to get the balance down, but it'll become second nature a few minutes into the first go.
It's a learning and growing experience: Do it for yourself and keep an open mind. You can do anything if you know you can do it, have the right equipment, and know where to go. This isn't to say that going bike camping is easy-- staying home is easy. But, the satisfaction of the ride, of slowing down, conquering some hills, and being out in nature makes you feel alive. The rewards are boundless and everyone we've shared the experience with can't wait to go on their next bike getaway.
2. Keep it simple: Gear up + go
You don't need extra-special gear, just the essentials and whatever extras you need to be comfy. Check your bike to make sure it is safe, reliable, and comfortable. Will your bike stop and shift responsively? Will your saddle keep your hu-man parts happy on a longish ride? Load up your gear in your panniers or a trailer. Make sure they fit, are secure, and that your bike isn't too heavy to be maneuverable or climb hills in your easiest gears. See our gear page for a downloadable checklist of the essentials plus some handy extras. We also offer fully guided tours that include bike, camping gear, food, and everything else so you can experience bike camping for the first time without the planning challenges.
3. Go Big by Starting with a Small Tour
The best bike camping adventures aren't necessarily the longest. Some of the best, most beautiful bicycle camping we've experienced are within 20-30 miles of the city. Make sure you have a good idea on how to get there (see our direction in our bike camping guide) and start small on a trek that isn't overly hilly or isolated from civilization. An overnight or weekend trip within 15-30 miles from home is the best way to get started. You'll learn what works and what doesn't for you. See our Bay Area Bike Camping Guide for a wealth of information on destinations, how to get there, and even where to shop along the way. You'll be surprised how many beautiful places there are to explore in your backyard.
4. Don't prove anything except that you're out for a good time.
Any bike camping trip is going to have you riding for at least a few hours and handfuls of miles. Remember, the adventure is as much about the journey as the destination. Don't worry about how fast you go. But keep pedaling so you can get to camp with some daylight left to enjoy (which for us is easier said then done!). Save your energy by not over exerting yourself. You want to be in a gear that allows for easy pedaling and a reasonably fast cadence (how fast you spin the pedals) so your muscles don't melt. Purchasing a wide range set of rear gears for your bike is one of the cheapest and most worthwhile investments you can make.
5. Eat well, drink well. A lot.
One of the joys of a bike getaway is that it is great exercise. You'll work up quite an appetite and it's important for your happiness to eat and drink plenty. Take in lots of calories from hearty, quality foods to unleash your own super hero, get-there-by-bike powers. Snack often and drink plenty of water (more than you think you'll need - a bottle an hour of riding is about right ). You'll be surprised how far you can go and how well you feel.
6. Go with friends, meet new friends.
Bike getaways bring everyone together. Spend some quality time outdoors with friends and learn things you never knew before. Times around the camp fire, eating a memorable meal, drinking whiskey, telling stories, singing it out... that's what it's about. We've met so many friends on bike getaways, it's really magical. Which is why we like to say, bike camping friends are best friends, or something like that.
7. Be prepared for most things.
There was a bike getaway we went to not long ago when we didn't pack a rain jacket and it poured. Granted packing and getting out the door in half an hour is sweet, but you might forget one of the essentials. Consequently, we got soaked but learned a lot and in the end it didn't matter too much. Lesson is: spend the time to pack well and double check that you have all the essential for a safe, comfortable, and satisfied bike camping adventure. We now keep all of our gear in one bin, so it's organized and ready to fit into the panniers. Just don't forget the essentials: warm layers, lights, a map (preferably printed) of the ride, a full patch kit, and first-aid supplies. If you get lost and you will a little bit, don't panic. Study the map, ask for directions, and you'll soon get back on the path.
8. Enjoy! Repeat. Take a look around.
A bike getaway is a mini vacation. You're on a bike. You're destination is inspiring. You're getting there all on your own power. Don't take things too seriously, keep an open mind, treat everything as part of the adventure. Things won't go perfectly as planned. You've escaped the ordinary and are having the time of your life-- no basic bitches here!
P.S. Don't keep bicycle camping a secret-- tell everyone and get excited about going on your own bike adventure! And of course, just get in touch with any bike camping questions.