I would be interested to get tips from folks about “bikerafting”. What works, what doesn’t, and amusing stories.
I would be interested to get tips from folks about “bikerafting”. What works, what doesn’t, and amusing stories.
I’ve used my packraft in combination with a Brompton folding bicycle (http://www.bromptonbicycle.co.uk) for daytrips. When folded the bike will just fit in a big Ortlieb Xtremer drypack to keep it dry. Works quite well if you are mostly traveling on paved roads, but the Brompton’s small wheels aren’t so great for rougher conditions. I haven’t done anything over class II+ with the bike on the packraft either.
Oh, and I usually use a helmet similar in style to a Bern (http://www.bernunlimited.com, although mine is another brand I can’t remember at the moment), since it seems that would provide better protection in the water than the style of cycling helmet in the photo you attached.
I’m probably going to be getting a Surly Pugsley (http://surlybikes.com/pugsley.html) soon for some offroad adventures, and am planning to try that with the packraft at some point. Ideally, I’d like to be able to carry the bike and full touring gear (i.e. enough for a week or more of camping) on the packraft, but not quite sure exactly how I’d fit and secure everything onto the raft.
Anyone done any multiday trips with a packraft and a full sized bike plus camping gear?
The peddle and paddle dream. Bike in and float out. It would be wonderful. I have experimented with it and have done a couple small trips. The limiting factors I have found are both the size of the bike sticking out the sides of the boat, and the weight of the set-up. The weight is an issue when biking, hike-a-biking, and bike-rafting. In the couple short trips I did, I found that by taking both rims off and stacking the whole set up on the bow you can get a “functional” package. However, the boat felt heavy and tipsy. I did OK in Class II water and on one occasion ran a low volume class III rapid. A boat with a bike is to tipsy to run much white water. Even with the rims stacked on the boat I had a lot of problems with the bike getting hung up on wood on the sides of our smaller and woody Rocky Mountain Rivers. A swift water flip with a bike on board would be epic. I generally view bikerafting as a technique for flatwater or bigger rivers with limited whitewater.
Roman Dial has has the most experience with bikerafting. His “Hell Bike” trips include bike/pack rafting traverse of the Brooks Range (Kaktovik to Arctic Village), The Alaska Range, Nabesna to McCarthy, several trips in Utah and Arizona (on the Colorado River), and numerous other mad, but inspiring, adventures. The earliest of these trips were done with Sherpas. Some of the trips, like the Alaska Range, the packraft was mostly used for getting bikes across big rivers. These trips involved minimalist gear and big, mostly Class II rivers.
I still have the vision of someday being able to have an enjoyable single track ride in followed by some exiting steep creaking. Just being able to avoid a lot of driving by biking to the put-in and floating back to the car makes bikerafting very attractive. If I was to get serous about it again I would invest in a light weight folding bike. A few years ago I did purchase a Dahon Zero G (folding Mtn Bike). However, it was still too heavy to do any creeking and even with the folding frame the 26” rims stick out to far. My recommendation is getting a folding bike with 20” rims. The best bikes in this class, that can handle single track, are made by Bike Friday (http://www.bikefriday.com/), Birdy (http://www.birdybike.com/) or Dahon (http://yeah.yeahbike.com/). I have been eyeing the Bike Friday Pocket Lama, the Birdy, or Dahon Yeah for this purpose. The weight and size of these bikes might make it possible to float steeper creeks. However 20” rims will not do as well on the biking sections. You can’t have it all.
I did a short trip today with my Denali Llama plus full sized mountain bike with rear rack and camping gear on a river with a few, short class II sections. I’ve used a folding bike with the packraft before, but this was the first try with a full sized bike. Actually, the bike was a bit larger than “full sized”, since it is a Surly Pugsley with 4" wide tires.
I stowed my camping gear in two Ortlieb Back Roller panniers. These panniers are water proof and have roll down, dry bag style closures, so are also good for paddling. All my paddling gear (raft, inflation bag, paddle, PFD, drysuit, and sandals) was in an Ortlieb duffel bag, which was strapped to the top of the rear rack using two Mini Shockles (bungies with carabiners on the ends).
When I got to the river, here’s how I stowed the gear on/in the raft:
- Placed both of the panniers in the bow (they are tapered at the bottom, so they fit pretty snugly in the tapered bow, one on top of the other)
- Removed the wheels from the bike
- Strapped the downtube and fork of the bike together with a short length of double sided velcro to keep the handle bars turned
- Strapped the frame to the front of the raft using the two Mini Shockles
- Strapped the wheels (sitting on top of the frame) to the frame with the shoulder straps from the panniers
- put my shoes, and other small items in the duffel bag, which rested on the floor under my knees
I’m just under 6’ 2", so with the panniers in the bow my legs were bent with my knees up pretty high. That combined with the rear rack and handle bars sticking out to either side of the boat made my paddle stroke pretty funky. I was using a short paddle, about 180 cm, which I think made things a bit easier than trying to paddle with a longer paddle in this case. (The paddle used to be 210 cm, but I managed to break the shaft, so decided to salvage what I could and try it as a shorter paddle. It actually seems to work out OK for me, but YMMV.)
On flatwater, I found that with all the weight up front, I could sit on the rear tube of the boat for a very comfortable paddling position with my feet braced against the panniers. This had several advantages: I was further back from the bike, and my knees didn’t interfere with my paddling, so my paddle stroke was more natural. Also, I had better visibility down river, since I was higher and could see over the bike more easily. It wasn’t as stable as being down in the boat (which is where I sat for rougher water), but plenty stable for flatwater. Again, YMMV since I’m sure that how well this will work for you depends on the weight of your bike and gear, as well as your own weight.
I had to portage around a couple of logjams, which I did in two trips. One carrying the panniers and duffel, the other carrying the bike with packraft still attached. Carrying the bike + packraft combo was a bit awkward, but luckily I didn’t have too far to go, and the terrain was pretty easy.
Next time, I think I will try removing the handle bars and strap them in a more out of the way location, since they were the biggest interference problem when paddling. This is quick and easy to do with a properly sized allen wrench on most modern bikes with threadless headsets . Removing the rear rack would probably also help, but it seemed to cause much less interference than the handle bars.
I think I will also get a big mesh bag for the wet paddling gear so that it can dry out a bit on the bike after a paddle.
Never done it, but an alternative to the folding bikes and bike-friday’s are to get a bike equiped with S&S couplers
They arent known to many but its the best system hands down for getting a bike frame that splits in two.
Expensive to retro-fit, but if you’re looking for a new bike, that you can also fit in a normal checked bag, and is a “real” bike you might want to check into them, several custom framebuilders in the lower 48 build with them. My buddy James in Colorado has built a tandem before using the couplers that could also be transformed into a single bike… pretty sweet!
i’m surprised no one has mentioned montague bikes (a.k.a. ‘swissbike’ or ‘paratrooper bike’).
i’ve looked on the web for info on folding bikes, and they have a large web-presence, anyhow.
but honestly i know nothing about them–i have been tempted to buy one, but haven’t pulled the trigger.
now i see a list of other brands i was unaware of–bike friday, birdy, etc.–and it makes me think i need to know even more.
so–anyone out there have experience w/ montague folders? comparisons to other brands? i’d love to hear them.
Last time I checked the Montague Folding bikes were significantly heavier than other models. When considering a bike for your packraft be aware the weight of the bike may be more critical then its packed size. I would take a bike that weighed less then 20 lb and didn’t fold over a folder that weighs 35 lb. By taking both wheels off a non-folding bike and stacking them on top of the frame the package is not much larger then a folder. Regardless of whether or not the bike folds you will be strapping the bike on your bow. A heavy bike will create a tipsy situation.
thanks, forrest, that’s interesting.
I had not been thinking about the weight of the bike, because folks say that weight in the bows is an advantage for balancing the paddler in the back.
On the other hand, a heavy pack sits low in the bows, where a heavy bike sits high, like maybe a foot higher. So that weight is going to be a lot tippier than the weight of a pack lower down.
okay–good to think about.
I used to think having weight on the bow is a benefit. I know longer believe that. I now prefer to have as little weight on my bow as possible. I am more manuverible without anything strapped to my bow. It is also much easier to retrieve and tow boats or perform a wet re-entry with nothing or very little weight on the bow. That said, on longer trips, I do strap my pack on the bow. I just try to keep the base weight of my gear as light as possible.
New to the forum, but couldn’t resist this…follow up to CST (presumably you’re referring to Black Sheep James?)
I’ve wanted S&S on one of my frames for awhile, not specifically for packrafting, just out of general love of the idea and the overwhelmingly positive things I’ve heard as I looked into them. In my experience though it’s been hard to find anyone who would retrofit them into even a mid-level steel frame (let alone anything more esoteric). Maybe I didn’t try hard enough, but…
I was really really excited to see that Surly (who generally make solid, smart stuff including my much loved Karate Monkey and the aforementioned Pugsley) has come out with a stock factory frame w/S&S. They’re calling it the Traveler’s Check since it’s based on their great all-around CrossCheck frame (http://surlybikes.com/travelerscheck.html). I saw one in person the other day and it’s a sweet bike. The catch: about 1K for the frame, so built up (unless you can switch parts in) around 1500 give or take. Actually fairly cheap in the world bikes, but still a considerable chunk of change.
That said, having one of these set up w/35’s, a straight bar, single speed or maybe even w/a Rohloff hub (don’t know how well that would do w/immersion, but it’s sealed enough to take years of commuting) could be an amazing full-size but simple road->trail->boat bike.
Anyway I’m excited to try something foolish/fun this spring w/my new Yak and one of my bikes. I’m in Fort Collins, and it would be very manageable to bike to a lower part of the Poudre, break-down and float almost all the way home.
And if any of you are in the market for a new round-towner, check out the Kona Ute, basically an integral Xtracycle. http://www.konaworld.com/08_ute_w.htm The complete bike, spec’d pretty nicely, with panniers, is about what you’d pay for a decent commuter (and about the same as just the frame for a Big Dummy, not that I don’t want one of those too…)
FYI, if any of you find yourself coming through Fort Collins (post-bike/float brewery tour anyone?) PM me (I think you can do that on this forum, didn’t check…) and you’ve got a (small) place to stay.
We did a lot of bikerafting to Class III whitewater (Nenana River including Rooster Tail, Iceworm, and Twin Rocks), Talkeetna above canyon, Grand Canyon below Whitmore Wash, Eagle River’s Campground Rapid, and never felt like we needed to break the bike down more than taking wheels off. The key is a really tight, secure load and a long paddle – turn the bars, put cranks at bow, chainring side up, tighten the frame down snug as possible, then strap the wheels on top.
Indeed, I once ferried my Klein, Flagstaff’s Team Mutant’s frames, and Bill Hatcher’s frame (yes, four at once – top heavy!) across the Colorado in Canyonlands Park in a Sherpa Raft (whose length the Llama is modeled after).
Two frames with two wheels was done regularly in Alaska on our hell bike trips of the 80’s and 90’s where we paddled Brooks Range Chandalar, Alaska Range Stony, and Kenai Fox, and Talkeetna Rivers for up to 50 miles at a stretch using mountain bikes on Llama sized packrafts.
Not an amusing story but a warning: careful if you flip in fast water and get your paddle jammed in the fork or frame.
I devote a couple of pages to the topic of bikes on a packraft in my book…(feels silly to say that, but it’s true). The picture above is Paul Adkins and me running the Nenana on a hellbikers’ day off during our 800 mile traverse of the length of the Alaska Range with mountain bikes and packrafts (see National Geographic Magazine May 1997 for route map and another packrafting shot).
Bikes and rafts are a really cool combination, one that will make you feel clever, especially when you ride up to the river with your boat on your bike, then paddle down it with your bike on board your boat. Yes, one of the all time coolest feelings in my estimation.
Oh yes, as mentioned above take all other gear off the bike before strapping in on your boat and shove it low in the bottom.
Funny you mention James because I used to live in the fort a while back and am friends with James. He’s how I know about them.
Surly has a good thing going on with the travlers check. I love seeing them come out with products that no one else will make.
Indeed a dream combination!
The latest trip:
great picture set esben, thanks for sharing !
I just plan on using my cheapo (20$ish) singlespeed conversion bike, cheap steel frame, dont really care what happens to it, and its also pretty light like 25 lbs so yep. also I am going to be using a sevylor trail boat so wish me luck and no drowning!
really great pics, esben, and i’m psyched to see bike-rafting in europe!
it’s natural–you guys are far ahead of the states on integrating bikes into life.
i just did a bike-rafting trip in new hampshire–maybe i should write it up.
what a blast–it really is a perfect combination. like peaches and blueberries.
I missed this one.
here are some links to bikerating trips we’ve done in the last year:
Is it better to have a decked or undecked boat for bikerafting?
I am looking at a llama for slower river running and open water crossings and paddling. I will be hauling a mountain bike or Pugsley.
I realize that you can roll the spraydeck to the front of the boat, but does this ever get in the way of your bike? Also, would it be nicer to have an undecked boat for hauling gear such as Ortlieb roller panniers?
Any input would be appreciated!
Anyone with experience packing a bike on a decked/undecked boat out there?