We sat down with Let’s Go Cariño, a duo who is bicycling through Latin America, to get some real time bikepacking tips.
It’s hard not to get jealous when you first hear about Erin and Mehedi’s Let’s Go Carino trip: a 10,000 mile bike ride from Mexico to Argentina, totally crowdfunded (they’re trying to live on a dollar-per-mile), and a blog to document it all.
In 2015, the duo began planning the adventure of a lifetime; they quit their jobs, sold their stuff, and began training. They drew up an itinerary and route that would allow them to trek to volcanoes, volunteer with local communities, and set up a traveling chai shop. We thought the PowerLight Mini would make the perfect companion for their 10,000 mile ride. Erin and Mehedi quickly accepted our challenge and became two of the PowerLight Mini's first beta testers.
At the beginning of February they packed their bags and left for Colima, Mexico. Just a few weeks into their trip, we caught up with them to get feedback on the PowerLight Mini and some real-time tips from these bikepacking beginners.
For all of you aspiring bikepackers out there, here’s 7 tips to nail your trip:
- Know your style. Consider what type of trip makes the most sense for you before heading out. Is a short and sweet trip better than a year long adventure? Do you feel comfortable setting aggressive timelines or allowing yourself time to explore? Do you prefer international or domestic travel? Know your abilities, boundaries and what priorities you have. Erin and Mehedi were both excited by the opportunity to explore Latin America and wanted to connect with local communities they traveled through so they opted for a lengthy bikepacking trip. “Bicycle touring is travel in its slowest and most intimate form. You can start and stop when you want and take in every moment because you really experience every mile, every smell, every sound along the way. This is our favorite way to travel and not as hard as you might think.”
- Train, train, train. You don’t need to be an expert to bikepack but, nothing will prepare you like practice. The best thing you can do to prepare is get in the seat and ride. Push yourself to cross a variety of terrains and confront different elevations to get your stamina up. Don’t fret if you’re a beginner. Erin had never biked long distance before training for this trip. “We trained around our home in Abiquiu, NM (elevation 6,000ft). Training is key and high-altitude training is even better. We started by doing 15-20 mile rides on and off-road, and worked our way up to 40-50 miles. Doing a multi-day ride before a long bicycle tour is very helpful in assessing your gear and its weight.”
- Prep Your Bike. Mehedi is riding a Surly Troll and Erin is riding a Specialized Rockhopper. They worked closely with their local bike shop, The Broken Spoke, to get their bikes into shape. “We tuned up our bikes and modified them for ultimate comfort, knowing we would be thanking ourselves when we’re thousands of miles in. If you don’t have lots of money to drop on a new bike, we recommend at least investing in a comfortable saddle and splayed/drop handle-bars with added grip tape.” If you’re planning an international trip, Erin and Mehedi recommend going with a bike with 26” rims with good touring tires. "26” wheel setups are ubiquitous across the globe, even in the most rural areas."
- Pack smart but pack light.When you’re traveling 10,000 miles with all of your belongings on your bike, everything you pack adds up. This is truly a case where less is more. “We packed light and when we got here, we realized we still over-packed. Pack everything you need and then cut it in half. Really! You will be surprised by how little you actually need to live, plus, having a little extra room in your panniers to pick up things along the way isn’t so bad.” Erin and Mehedi’s necessities include Nashbar waterproof panniers, comfortable cycling and lightweight hiking shoes, a medical kit, a bicycle repair kit including patch kits, allen set, multi-tool, zip ties, lighter, extra nuts & bolts, gorilla tape, seam seal, high-pressure frame pump, extra foldable tires, spokes, para-cord & a few sewing supplies. “We are also using the PowerLight Mini on our bikes for added visibility and at night it becomes our camp lantern, and it charges up on our CampStove. It is also a battery pack, so we can charge up our phones for GPS navigation.”
- Hydrate. When you’re on the road, staying hydrated is your number one priority. We’ve been watching Erin & Mehedi on Instagram and they’ve been supplementing their water intake with coconuts they find along the road. “Even on your days off, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Take frequent breaks for water while you ride, and drink tons of water even when you’re not cycling. Keeping the body hydrated is like keeping your car full of fuel. It just won’t go if there’s nothing in the tank.”
- Your rest is just as important as your ride. On long bikepacking trips, your days will be grueling. Erin and Mehedi recommend creating a ‘home’ wherever you land, “After a long day of riding, a good night’s sleep is very important. Invest in a good sleeping set-up. Having an adequate home to protect yourself from the elements is key.” For Erin and Mehedi that consists of a lightweight, four-season Alps Mountaineering tent, Compact Therma-rest sleeping pad (3”+), hyper-light Cocoon pillow & Outdoor Vitals 500-down sleeping bag and silk sleeping sheet. They also invested in a travelling kitchen that allows them to cook delicious and well-earned meals. “We are using the BioLite CampStove & Kettle Pot. We cook all of our meals on the CampStove, which fits neatly into the KettlePot when we’re riding. We absolutely love it – its compact, lightweight and super efficient. And, it charges up our devices via USB!
- Know your path, but be open to change. Make room in your itinerary for the unexpected. “Flexibility and patience have been the two biggest lessons in the last two weeks on the road. You will meet people who will change your route, offer you suggestions or a place to stay, or hear about something you just can’t miss that’s off the beaten path. It’s good to have a plan but avoid a fixed itinerary. It will be more fun and exciting!”
We hope you find these tips and tricks helpful in preparing for your own epic bicycle adventure. You can follow Erin & Mehedi’s adventures on their blog.