Author Topic: Tme to revive the term SPORT TOURING for bikes plus gear less than 20 kg?  (Read 753 times)

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Online ray b

The term bikepacking seems too loose, and refers to soft packs preferred by light-weight multi-day racers, that are often overloaded by more leisurely tourers, who often end up frustrated by the floppiness and lack of stability.

Let's clean up the terms - we're all bikepackers.

It's all semantics and the arguments sound familiar to those of us who backpacked heavy loads on stable frame packs (think racks on the bike) or climbed with softer and usually lighter packs for climbing (think soft packs mounted directly to the frame). Comments elsewhere in the forum reflect the fact that bikepacking with soft packs, in-line with the bike, and relatively aerodynamic, fit more with multi-day self-supported racing and less with long comfortable touring. Soft, light packs used for touring limit the weight one can carry.

I suggest, to borrow a motorcycling term, we refer to lighter, faster tourers as "sport tourers" - no matter how they carry the load. Any bike plus gear under 45 pounds (20 kg) would likley fit this definition, and would be ridden by those who prefer performance and speed to creature comforts. (My first cross-country tour in 1979 had me on a Jackson criterium racing frame with rear rack, small pannierts, a handlebar bag, and generally under 35 pounds for bike, bags, tools, parts, sleeping bag and bivy.)

Although the term bikepacking will continue to be with us for a while for marketing purposes, it will likely become more generalized, while classes of packs will resemble backpacking terms - soft packs, internal frame packs, or rack-mounted packs.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2022, 05:24:56 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Tme to revive the term SPORT TOURING for bikes plus gear less than 20 kg?
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2022, 01:07:49 pm »
This is one of those topics that there will never be a consensus in my opinion.

During my 45+ years of biking, I have heard the following definitions to indicate someone who is bicycle touring.  Bike tourist, cyclotourist, bike touring, fully supported touring, supported touring, self-supported touring, self-contained touring, fully loaded touring, light touring, sport touring, bike packer, bikepacking, sojourner, biker, crazy guy on a bike, MTB packing, credit card touring, expedition touring, off-road touring, e-touring (pretty new to term to me), etc.  This is probably not the entire list and a lot of the terms are misleading as they, to me, describe the style and/or bike setup.

To me, "bike packing" is a relatively new term.  Again, I have been touring for 45+ years and that term is maybe 10 years old as a mainstream term. 

The problem is as you say semantics.  I personally would not qualify "sport touring" as someone with 45# of gear.  Maybe 25# (max) or less.  More along the lines of "credit card touring".  For instance, I go on a multi-month tours with no more than 35# (without water and "average" food).  Only time I get over 45# is if I have to carry a ton of food and/or water. 

However, others would love it if their gear weight was only 45#. 

Then there are the sub-categories.  What is the difference between motorcycle sport touring and adventure touring?  I thought motorcycle adventure touring as more off-road touring regardless of weight.  What would a off-road bicyclist be who has 50# of gear be doing?  Say his riding buddy had only 40# of gear.  Are they doing different kinds of touring even though they are on the same route?

I am not trying to argue per se but just show the discussion of trying to define what  defines a "touring bicyclist" is pretty fluid.

I personally prefer the term "cyclotourist" to indicate a touring bicyclist regardless of the type of bike or road condition of touring he or she is doing.  I prefer the terms "paved" or "off pavement" touring to describe the road surface touring of a particular route as I have seen traditional touring setups on the great divide and have seen bikepacking setups on the TransAm but to described the TransAm as off pavement would be misleading. From there we can get more specialized but then that is where the waters get muddy.

Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.  I wish we could come to a consensus but I will not hold my breath.

Tailwinds, John

Online ray b

Re: Tme to revive the term SPORT TOURING for bikes plus gear less than 20 kg?
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2022, 03:50:51 pm »
As always - I enjoy your prose and thoughts. And I liked the old term light touring, but preferred the term sport tourer as it implies a state of mind or philosophy missing in the word light.

The 45 pounds (20 kg) is gear PLUS bike. So, right, credit card tourists would be sport tourers.  With such a large range in the mass (weight) of bicycles used for touring, I thought it reasonable to include the bicycle in total mass. And of course - use of mass as a cutoff between sport touring and general touring is strictly arbitrary. It's a mindset. There are some ex-racers out there (not me) who are sport touring no matter how much weight they carry as they charge up the hills.

The inclusion of bicycle mass is important to the definition, as the bicycle often dictates the style of touring. I noted previously that my bicycle with racks comes in at about 37 poiunds. I can easily add another 40-45 pounds of gear to that and am pretty comfortable and not wanting for anything.  Unlike my early days, I am not usually a sport tourer.

Contrast that with Andrew Kulmatisiki's Tour Divide set-up - bike PLUS gear = ~34 pounds. In his 40s, he still solos the Great Divide route in about 2 weeks and change.

The idea here was perhaps to help folks better match choices in bikes, luggage (soft/internal frame/rack mounted) and quantity of gear to a style of touring - i.e., multiday unsupported race touring, sport touring, or general touring. If someone asks for  advice for their 100 pound (bike plus gear) general touring set-up, it will be a lot easier to let them know that their 50 inch low gear probably isn't going to cut it and that soft, insufiicently supported luggage will likely be too bulky and floppy.

Riding on.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2022, 04:26:52 pm by ray b »
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Offline John Nettles

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Re: Tme to revive the term SPORT TOURING for bikes plus gear less than 20 kg?
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2022, 04:02:15 pm »
The 45 pounds is gear PLUS bike. .....

Contrast that with Andrew Kulmatisiki's Tour Divide set-up - bike PLUS gear = ~34 pounds.

I guess we could include a new name; "Insane" or "Nuts"  ;)

Like you, my touring bikes are not lightweight.  But 34# for bike, gear, food, & beverage is pretty impressive, even 45#.  Of course, I would bet he gives up a lot of comfort I would not be willing to give up. 

But my points about the various valid categories and the names given them remain, at least to me.

Tailwinds, John

Offline staehpj1

Re: Tme to revive the term SPORT TOURING for bikes plus gear less than 20 kg?
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2022, 05:05:05 pm »
The 45 pounds is gear PLUS bike. .....

Contrast that with Andrew Kulmatisiki's Tour Divide set-up - bike PLUS gear = ~34 pounds.

I guess we could include a new name; "Insane" or "Nuts"  ;)

Like you, my touring bikes are not lightweight.  But 34# for bike, gear, food, & beverage is pretty impressive, even 45#.  Of course, I would bet he gives up a lot of comfort I would not be willing to give up. 

But my points about the various valid categories and the names given them remain, at least to me.

Tailwinds, John
Yeah 34 pounds is pretty light to include bike and gear, but possible. As far as comfort... Comfort when riding can't be much better than on an unladen bike.  Comfort when sleeping doesn't require a lot of stuff, just a good sleeping bag, pad, and maybe, pillow.  Oh and bug protection.

I never include food or water.  I don't see how I could find a useful number since it is so variable not only day to day but hour to hour.

That said even though I don't own superlight bikes I managed 38 pounds on the Southern Tier even when carrying 2.5 pounds of camera gear.  The bike was 24# including blinkie light, tool kit, spare tube, pump, rack, handlebar bag bracket, and bottles and cages.  I count that stuff as part of the bike because it just always is on the bike even when not on tour.

The rest of the gear was 14# so the total was 38#.   THe thing that was a comfort compromise was that I used a little mini tarp and a heavier bivy.  I have sonce found it is more comfortable to go with a much lighter bivy (6 oz vs 16 oz) and a bigger heavier tarp (12 oz vs 8 oz).  I streamlined some of my other gear as well.  The bottom line is that I added some comfort and can actually go a bit lighter.

The half tarp was a bit annoying, but manageable.  My legs hung out so the lower part of the bivy got wet  A regular sized tarp was fine.  An oversized one is nice because it can be pitched higher and still provide protection.

Online ray b

Re: Tme to revive the term SPORT TOURING for bikes plus gear less than 20 kg?
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2022, 05:46:41 pm »
The 45 pounds is gear PLUS bike. .....

Contrast that with Andrew Kulmatisiki's Tour Divide set-up - bike PLUS gear = ~34 pounds.

I guess we could include a new name; "Insane" or "Nuts"  ;)

Like you, my touring bikes are not lightweight.  But 34# for bike, gear, food, & beverage is pretty impressive, even 45#.  Of course, I would bet he gives up a lot of comfort I would not be willing to give up. 

But my points about the various valid categories and the names given them remain, at least to me.

Tailwinds, John

Agreed.

My goal here is to encourage folks to self-describe not on the basis of self-perception or fashion, but on the basis of how much they will carry.

As an ex-racer and ex-crazy-light tourist, I might still want to think of myself as a sport tourer, but when I weigh out what I want to take for tools, parts, and equipment, I have to move on and match bike, gears, wheels, tires, and luggage to meet the mass (weight) of my planned load.

The problem with self-description has been especially tough for "bikepackers." Everyone wants to be a bikepacker, but as defined by the great folks at bikepacking.com (check out their beautiful printed journal) and REI, the bikepacker is a racer or sport tourer and limited by luggage to an unsupported handlebar pack, unsupported seat pack, and a frame pack. Once the average "bikepacker" realizes he is neither a racer nor sport tourer, he thinks those who are, are..., well, nuts. 

The fact that the average self-described bikepacker can't live comfortably with so little luggage has led to a continuum with tradiitional racks and panniers, with addition of bikepacking racks, small panniers, supported seat and handlebar bags, and fork mounted carriers for larger bags.

If riders define their touring on the weight of their luggage, then they will not make mistakes that frustrate them down the road.

I'll note that Andrew K is thoughtful and occasionally thought provoking (think heat-shrink-wrapped rear aero wheel), but not nuts. He's a professor of soil science at Utah State. @John Nettles - you should look him up for coffee or the equivalent sometime. Maybe you guys could collaborate on a book about modern bicycle touring.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2022, 05:52:41 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline canalligators

Re: Tme to revive the term SPORT TOURING for bikes plus gear less than 20 kg?
« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2022, 11:45:03 pm »
I like Adventure Cycling's categories: Self-Contained, Inn-Inn, Van Supported, Fully Supported.  Their definitions cover almost all the spectrum of tour types.  There can be sub-types or variants, but they fall under the main categories pretty well.  Definitions at https://www.adventurecycling.org/guided-tours/.

Offline HobbesOnTour

Re: Tme to revive the term SPORT TOURING for bikes plus gear less than 20 kg?
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2022, 05:17:30 am »
I understand that this is a US site but the European perspective seems to differentiate between the types of bags and how they are carried to separate "touring" from "bikepacking".

In the Latin world I encountered people on bikes with a variety of homemade panniers (often repurposed liquid containers) and a mishmash of bags held on with string.

Frankly, I don't understand the need to categorise the subject. Travelling on a bike is already rare enough without making the different segments smaller.

Adventure Cycling is more than enough description for me. Whether loaded with a full camping setup, tent and gear for all weathers or a credit card in an ass pocket the motivation is the most important thing.

Offline FlaSpin

Re: Tme to revive the term SPORT TOURING for bikes plus gear less than 20 kg?
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2022, 06:04:31 pm »
...the European perspective seems to differentiate between the types of bags and how they are carried to separate "touring" from "bikepacking".

I live in the States, and that's how I view the two approaches. If I spot a cyclist - or even just a photo - using compression bags and frame bags and such, I instantly think "bikepacker". If I come across a cyclist adorned with panniers, I immediately think "bicycle tourist".

It's all good though. My misgivings about bikepacking are strictly about the packing method. If given the chance, I'll do my best to stop and say hello.

I'm not sure I would classify based on weight. More on intent or behavior. One certainly can tour with a lightweight kit. My perception of the "bikepacker" is one that is performance based - not really touring minded. It doesn't have to be that way, though. Over the years, I have also come across fully loaded cyclists who no longer seem to be bicycle tourists. At one time, they might have had touring in mind, but seemed to have changed into vagabonds - using a bicycle. That has always struck me as somewhat sad. Have they no home? No family? No future? Who knows, they may be happy out there.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Tme to revive the term SPORT TOURING for bikes plus gear less than 20 kg?
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2022, 09:21:32 am »
I think this is one of the classic "lumpers vs. splitters" arguments.  If the goal is to split touring cyclists into multiple descriptors, do we want to differentiate based on total vehicle plus load weight, type of vehicle (touring bike vs. gravel bike vs. road bike), how the load gets carried?

Alternatively, do we throw everyone who's riding a bike for at least two days and spending the night away from home into the cycle tourist bucket?

On the one end, how do we separate ourselves from the homeless populations with a bike who ride around town every day before heading back to the local homeless camp for the night?  On the other extreme, if I see a picture of someone carrying too much of a load on a "loaded touring" bike with faded red front panniers and large yellow rear panniers with a faded yellow handlebar bag, I think "That's Pat!"

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Tme to revive the term SPORT TOURING for bikes plus gear less than 20 kg?
« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2022, 10:48:48 am »
Pat, I think you summed up the problem of trying to define "what is a touring bicyclist" pretty well.  Except I know a lot of "Pat's" when it comes to packing.  ;D

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Tme to revive the term SPORT TOURING for bikes plus gear less than 20 kg?
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2022, 09:31:31 pm »
With so many different terms for bicycle touring over the years, I would think introducing a new one would be a temporary thing. People would use it and then start using something else other words. I hardly ever gave it any thought. For me it was just a matter of fixing the racks to the bike and the painters to the racks and loading and going. Whatever people called it formally was unknown for me. I just wanted to get going. Bicycle touring, sport touring, bike packing. It's all good with me.