The Origins of BikePacking

One of the best experiences has to be to pack everything you need onto your bicycle and set off self-supported point to point or on a round trip. If you haven’t tried bikepacking yet, you should, these things are fun and fun is good, to quote the great Dr Seuss. But how long has the noble art of bikepacking been around? If you asked me, I would have thought it was a recent idea for the adventure seekers of today trying to find something to keep their wanderlust in check since setting sail in search of the edge of the Earth is no longer an option. However, since the early days of the bicycle, this has been a pursuit of the adventurous, and sometimes foolhardy, of spirit, with Thomas Stevens completing the first circumnavigation of the globe by bike starting in 1884 and completing his mammoth journey in 1886. Stevens was a trend setter riding his Highwheeler (Ordinary or Penny Farthing) through North America, Europe, Afghanistan (until he was arrested and deported) and Asia, riding a total of about 13 500 miles (21 700 km). A few years after Stevens completed his journey, William L. Sachtleben and Thomas G. Allen Jr. completed a round the world trip on the newly developed safety bike, covering 15 000 miles (24 100 km) of Europe, Asia and North America, from 1890-1893. Soon to follow in 1894–95, was the first female to ride around the world, Annie (Londonderry) Kopchovsky, who, inspired by a bet that no woman could ride around the world in 15 months, rode across America, Europe and Asia in 14 days shy of the 15 month period. (We will delve into her incredible journey in the next issue).

Thomas Stevens on his High Wheeler packed with his provisions to cycle around the globe, handlebar bag with socks, spare shirt, raincoat and a bedroll and a pocket revolver.

Since then the bicycle has given many the freedom to explore, whether it be their neighborhood, their country or the globe. One such adventurer, Riaan Manser, the first man to ride around Africa on his bike, has kindly chosen to display the bike he rode in our very own Trail’s End Bicycle Museum. Be sure to come and check it out after the extension of the museum is opened in June.