Are you looking for an exciting way to explore Europe while getting some exercise? Why not try bikepacking? It’s a unique way of traveling that combines cycling with camping, allowing you to immerse yourself in nature and discover new places at your own pace. In this guide, we’ll explore some of the best bikepacking routes in Europe, from the rugged mountain trails to the scenic coastal paths.
Bikepacking routes in Europe are becoming increasingly popular among adventure-loving cyclists. Bikepacking is a combination of bike touring and camping, and it allows cyclists to explore some of the most beautiful and remote parts of Europe. With a growing number of dedicated bikepacking routes across the continent, cyclists can discover a variety of terrains, from mountain ranges and coastlines to forests and meadows. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the top bikepacking routes in Europe and explore what makes them so appealing to adventurous cyclists.
What is Bikepacking?
Bikepacking is a form of bicycle touring that involves carrying your gear on your bike, allowing you to travel long distances while enjoying the freedom of the open road. Unlike traditional bike touring, which typically involves staying in hotels or hostels, bikepacking involves camping along the way or staying in remote cabins, allowing you to get closer to nature and experience the great outdoors in a more intimate way.
Gear You’ll Need
Before you embark on your bikepacking adventure, you’ll need to invest in some gear. Here are some of the essentials:
- Bikepacking bags: These are specially designed bags that attach to your bike frame and handlebars, allowing you to carry your gear without affecting your bike’s balance.
- Tent or bivy sack: You’ll need a lightweight tent or bivy sack to sleep in.
- Sleeping bag: Choose a lightweight sleeping bag that can withstand the temperatures you’ll encounter on your trip.
- Cooking gear: A small camp stove, cookware, and utensils will allow you to cook meals along the way.
- Clothing: Choose lightweight, breathable clothing that can be layered for warmth.
- First aid kit: Always carry a basic first aid kit that includes bandages, pain relievers, and any medications you need.
Best Bikepacking Routes in Europe
Now that you have the gear you need, let’s explore some of the best bikepacking routes in Europe.
1. The Trans-Europe Trail
The Trans-Europe Trail is a network of cycling routes that spans the continent, from the Atlantic coast of Portugal to the Black Sea. The trail covers over 70,000 km and passes through some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes, including the Swiss Alps, the French countryside, and the rolling hills of Tuscany. While the entire trail is a bit too ambitious for most people, you can easily pick and choose sections that suit your interests.
2. The Iron Curtain Trail
The Iron Curtain Trail follows the former border between East and West Europe, from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea. This 10,000 km trail passes through 20 countries and is a fascinating way to explore the history and culture of Europe. Along the way, you’ll pass through scenic countryside, charming villages, and bustling cities.
3. The North Sea Cycle Route
The North Sea Cycle Route is a 6,000 km trail that circles the North Sea, passing through the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Scotland, and England. The trail takes you along some of Europe’s most scenic coastal paths, past rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and charming fishing villages. With plenty of campsites and hostels along the way, it’s the perfect route for a summer bikepacking adventure.
4. The Alps 2 Ocean Trail
The Alps 2 Ocean Trail is a 301 km trail that takes you from the Southern Alps of New Zealand to the Pacific Ocean. While it’s not technically in Europe, it’s a must-ride for any serious bikepacker. The trail takes you through stunning alpine scenery, past turquoise lakes, and over rugged mountain passes. With plenty of campsites and huts along the way, it’s the perfect way to experience the beauty of New Zealand’s South Island.
5. The Via Francigena
The Via Francigena is a 1,800 km trail that follows the route taken by pilgrims in medieval times from Canterbury, England, to Rome, Italy. Along the way, you’ll pass through charming villages, historic cities, and beautiful countryside. While the entire trail is a bit too long for most people, you can easily break it up into smaller sections that suit your interests.
FAQs for Bikepacking Routes Europe
What is bikepacking?
Bikepacking is a combination of cycling and backpacking wherein travelers carry their gear and belongings on their bicycles while exploring remote and rugged areas, often camping or staying in other accommodations along the way. Unlike traditional touring, which usually involves paved roads, bikepacking can involve rough terrain, single-track trails and gravel paths.
What are some popular bikepacking routes in Europe?
Europe offers a variety of bikepacking routes that cater to different levels of cycling ability and interests. Some of the most popular routes include the Trans Europe Trail (TET) which is a network of trails connecting all the way from Portugal to Turkey, La Route des Grandes Alpes which runs through the French Alps, and Majorca’s Tramuntana Traverse which is a grueling 180km mountain route in Spain.
What are some essential bikepacking gear to bring?
Bikepacking requires travelers to pack smart and pack light. Essential items include a high-quality bike, a sturdy and reliable tent, sleeping bag, a water filtration system, bike tool kit, first aid kit, energy bars and food supplies, navigation tools, appropriate clothing and bike lights for night riding. Weight is a crucial factor when packing; riders should aim to carry only the essentials.
Can beginners try bikepacking?
Yes, beginners can try bikepacking. However, it’s important to start with shorter routes and gradually build up to longer, more challenging ones. Riders should also make sure to have proper training and experience cycling on rough terrain. It’s also advisable to travel with a group or with an experienced guide.
How long does a bikepacking trip usually last?
Bikepacking trips can last anywhere from a few days to several months, depending on the route, destination, and the traveler’s schedule. It’s important to plan accordingly and carry enough supplies to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip.
Are bikepacking routes only for experienced cyclists?
No, bikepacking routes are not only for experienced cyclists. While some routes may be more challenging than others, there are many beginner-friendly routes available too. It’s important to research the route beforehand, and make sure to start with routes that align with your cycling ability and comfortability.
What’s the best time to go bikepacking in Europe?
The best time to go bikepacking in Europe depends on the region and the route. Some routes are best explored during the summer months, while others are better during spring and autumn seasons. It’s important to research specific routes, weather patterns and destination before planning your bikepacking trip.