When I refer to bicycle touring I include day-tours, overnights, short tours, and long. They all have a place in the pursuit of bike travel. What distinguishes the tour from “just a ride?” A tour has a purpose, a goal of a route, destination, a view or discovery. This definition is fairly philosophical, but it captures the planning and preparation, what you carry, your mindset en route, as well as your activities on the trip. These definitions can be personal and I even like the idea of getting rid of all these sub-categories and just refer to bike rides, but I use these terms so we all know what topics we are talking about. So just to split things even further, the shortest overnight tour is the Sub-24 hour-Overnight (S24O). Think of it as the “backyard campout” or “slumber party” of bikepacking.
The term S24O, along with “bike camping“, was coined and popularized by Grant Peterson of Rivendell Bicycle Works. For the time crunched bicycle tourist what could be the easiest night under the stars? What could be done from getting done with work and before going to work the next day? And by bike. If you have an idea or answer then voila, you have an S24O! Grant talks about his obligations to work and family keeping him from long tours or bike expeditions, but in a year of S24O’ing he can log dozens of nights out. He can load a bike basket with sleep supplies, snacks, light source, a book and head for the hills. I am paraphrasing Grant’s writing from several sources over several years but I think I reflecting the esprit de corps he inspired.
As our lives become more tied to computers, big and small, and our populations get concentrated in urban settings overwhelmed by noise and light pollution the need for “nature therapy” becomes more popular. Getting out for a hike, a bike ride, or an overnight just might be the next prescription you get from your doctor. I’ll take that medicine!
We are spoiled in northern Nevada with the proximity of public lands to even our most urban centers. I can’t imagine a point in Reno that is more than 10-15 miles from public lands access. That number is probably exaggerated just be certain.
What makes the ideal S24O?
- Campsite close to home. Keep in mind, milage, riding surface, and elevation. All of these things effect closeness, it may only be 5 miles away but that may include a lose singletrack, with 1500′ of climbing. Keep in mind what time constraints you are squeezing between; end of work and sunset? Sunrise and beginning of the work day?
- Front door trailhead- being able to leave from the house. For many, maybe for most, driving to a trailhead is the only option, but my preference is to leave from the house. The downside is I will be sharing the roads with commuter traffic.
- Fair weather makes for lighter loads and easier planning. That’s not to say 4-seasons S24O’ing can’t be a thing. Intentional riding-into-the-storm can make a great adventure – adverse conditions training! The S24O can be an opportunity to test your kit in a particular set of conditions. But fair weather keeps it simple.
- A campsite with a view. On my local rides I ride with the ideal S24O campsite in mind – the clearing by a creek, an open meadow, a lone tree on a hillside, the dead-end fire road. When picking a campsite I keep in mind Leave No Trace’s principle number two: Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, good campsites are found not made.
In support of the S24O I have started a weekly outing. I don’t imagine I’ll get every Tuesday night under the stars but maybe 3 a month is good goal. An extra 36 nights under the stars a year. I like the sound of it!
Here is my typical S24O gear list:
- Bike- any bike will do, whatever can carry you and your gear away
- Sleeping kit- for fair weather; a ground sheet, sleeping pad, quilt, puffy jacket, soft socks
- Ready to eat meals- burritos, tacos, sandwiches for dinner, a thermos of hot drink, a beer, whiskey, ready to drink coffee, pastry for breakfast, often breakfast is stopping at a café on the return
- Hat and gloves for cool morning temperatures
- Bike and personal first aid kits
Do you go solo or invite friends? As with any ride the S24O has its qualities as a solo adventure or a group outing. The S24O is a great place to test gear, routes, planning, packing as well as your comfort as a solo adventurer. How do you react as the sole decision maker and chore doer, how do you react to the sun going down and weather changes? The S24O is a great time to test your mettle with low consequence. On the other hand, the S24O with friends is a fun slumber party! It is a great time to chat about anything and everything but of course the conversation is easy to steer to bikes and bikepacking. How many trips can be inspired on a single S24O?
Is there anything more microadventure than the S24O? What about coffee-outside or at the other end of the day; dinner-outside? Coffee outside is well explained by Rob Perks in this Path Less Pedaled interview. Russ and Rob also get into the need for microadventure, Rob describes #CoffeeOutside as that snack-sized portion of adventure that can be squeezed into the ride to work. Our local ride club Reno del Fuegos will occasionally have a dinner ride where you take your dinner out to have it trailside. Hot tip: pack your burrito next to a hot water bottle. The hot stays hot!
I credit Alastair Humphreys with microadventuring. I have made a deep dive into his two podcasts The Door Step Mile and Living Adventurously. DSM is a reading of his self-help book on finding more adventure in our daily lives. LA is a series of interviews asking a wide variety of folks some stock questions about living adventurously. He also reads his book There are Other Rivers, explaining his search for adventure in India over a day’s journey in podcast form.
Have fun out there!
- The Power of the Overnighter – BIKEPACKING.com
- Bike Camping and S24O’s – Rivendell Bicycle Works
- Coffee Outside – Path Less Pedaled