The Loire, August 2019

Well that’s the question I was asking myself when I stumbled upon the term on Facebook one lazy Sunday afternoon…Several hours later I found myself getting extremely excited at the prospect of new gear, much to my bank manager’s chagrin.

Essentially, bike rafting is simple; Strap an inflatable raft to your bike. Pedal to the water. Inflate the raft. Strap the bike to the front of the raft. Pile on your gear and get paddling. How hard can it be, right?

As with many things in life and particularly in the outdoors & cycling worlds there are a plethora of options to choose from and no single source of expertise.

Put 6 people who have tried bikerafting into a room with a case of beers and you’ll have at least 12 different opinions within half an hour.

Google “bikerafting” and you’ll come up with countless articles and blogs, manufacturers and shops but no definitive “this is how to bikeraft”.

So basically you have to do the hard work and research for yourself. This article is simply my experience and some explanation of my choices.

Seems a good place to start; Rafts. There are two main suppliers of pack rafts suitable for bikerafting. Alpacka and Kokopelli. There are others, but these seem to be the brands with the biggest marketing budgets and therefore the most highly placed Google results.

Having looked at all of the models available at the time (early 2019) I eventually plumped for the Kokopelli Nirvana Self Bailing. I felt this was the best compromise between being light enough to strap to the bike and able to carry my 100kg pie eating and beer drinking body, plus a fully loaded bike. I knew from previous cycle touring experience that my camping gear, food for a few days and other bits could easily clock up 30kg. Add another 15kg on for a bike and I needed something which would be ok with 145kg. The Nirvana is rated for slightly less than this (136kg), but a quick email exchange with one of their techs told me that it could happily deal with much more – they state weight limits overly cautiously for white water – on flat-ish water you can comfortably push this upwards substantially.

There are multiple options for each raft depending on where you are going to be paddling, how dry you like to stay and where you want to carry your gear. I went for the model with internal gear storage in the raft pontoons, accessed via the TZip and a self bailing setup.

One word of warning; These are not cheap. North of £1000 for the raft and then add on a decent paddle (£200), some additional straps and a mid range but lightweight pfd (£100).

When the raft arrived I also invested in a higher backed seat for it. Experience of paddling inflatable kayaks suggested that my lower back would suffer from prolonged paddling with the provided back band. In actual fact this turned out to be unnecessary, but you can read about that in my next article on my first bikerafting trip to France.

Again, further internet research revealed a suitable paddle. I chose a Werner Skagit. A lightweight but strong carbon shaft paddle which breaks down into 4 pieces – something which is essential for strapping to the bike in some sort of orderly fashion.

continue reading on page 2…

One Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.