When you are on your program, getting to ride every day and loving every second of it, your body and mind scream for more. That’s when the time is right to load up, hit the road, and take your bike on a vacation to spots far off your beaten singletrack.
Ah, the freedom of the highway; there’s nothing like following a schedule you created which serves solely to maximize your own fun time, with the only hard deadlines being departure times of shuttle vehicles. You may even have the luxury of foregoing a schedule altogether, following a loose plan to hit trails you’ve always wanted to ride or revisit old favorites; you’ll get there when you get there…
Besides your bike, your best friend on this journey will be your four-wheeled vehicle. Like a close friend back home, your transporter should be nurturing, accommodating, friendly, and give you space when you need it. With those criteria, a van is the only choice. Whether it’s a blinged-out Lopes 55 Sportsmobile, a ’65 Ford Econoline, or an air-cooled bay window bus, your home on wheels will provide shelter in between sessions of singletrack discovery.
Before you toss your bike in the van and step on the gas, however, realize that you’ll be living in a box with an unwieldy partner—your bike—and that a little bit of planning will go a long way. Whether you are going racing for the weekend or hitting all the epic trails of the West, following the artistic guidelines of decluttering (read the book by Marie Kondo) will help keep your mind clear to enjoy the fun of movement and the journey itself.
If your cabin on wheels is a Sprinter or other tall, extra roomy vehicle, you’ll have an embarrassment of storage space. Regular cargo-sized vans, mid-size Volkswagen Vanagons, or minivans will all benefit from having a rack and cargo box installed on the roof. A full-size cargo box can hold a bike, a surfboard, and a gear bag safely. If your trip doesn’t include time for waves, an extra wheelset and repair stand can take the place of the board and wetsuits. Having these large items in the roof box keeps them out of harm’s way and opens up space inside the vehicle. Chances of your prized ride getting stolen are also greatly reduced with your bike locked in a box on the roof.
Even though you’re on the road to ride, make sure to include the essentials of life when packing, and try to include as many comforts of home as you can. Bring your camp kitchen and an extra camp chair, ‘cause you never know who you’ll meet on the trail and invite over for dinner. A favorite pillow, a good book or two instead of magazines (space saver), and extra batteries for your headlamp are all critical for life in a van as well. Stock up on your favorite healthy energy bars and gels, and don’t bring any untested flavors with you. A good protein recovery drink is crucial for optimized recovery when epic rides are coming at you day after day.
Don’t forget to bring everything your bike needs, because if it’s not happy, you won’t be happy. The convenience a repair stand provides is worth its weight in gold, especially for everyday tasks like airing up your tires and lubing your chain. Be sure to bring as many extra parts and tools as you can, including tires, wheels, derailleurs, and fasteners. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Keep your bike gear separate from your other gear, not only spare parts and tools, but your on-the-bike kit as well. You don’t want your going-out-to-dinner shorts to be anywhere near your kneepads if you can help it.
How should you plan your riding itinerary? Around amazing rides of course! Do your research to find out how much effort it takes to get to the trails. Some places require a bit of travelling to get to the good stuff, while other places enable you to ride or catch a shuttle right from the camp ground. Whether or not you have to pack and unpack the van every day to ride is important to know when you are planning your days.
Every mountain biker’s journey should take him or her over trails and to vistas far away from their usual field of view. Riding trails that are longer, or steeper, or in a different type of terrain than your home trails is imperative to expanding your skills and appreciation of the sport. Having a comfortable place to call home while on your journey will enhance the entire experience, so get the van packed up right and step on the gas!