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I spent some time adjusting the load on the bike, switching things around and re-packing things but I wasn’t happy with it so I removed the Ortleib handlebar pack and replaced it with a Specialized Handlebar Stabilizer Harness. With that on the front the load seemed much more practical – easy to get the raft on and off the bike without swearing at it.

I also forked out (excuse the pun) for a pair of Gorilla Cages to affix to the front forks of the bike – these were paired up with couple of DOM Dry bags to stash my clothes and wash kit in.

Re-configuring the load on the bike this way allowed me to reduce the backpack requirement to almost nothing – just a dryback backpack which contained those important items I wanted with me at all times – phone, passport etc…

My next consideration was weight. not mine = I like pies and beer too much to compromise much there, but I did strip all luxuries from my load. The only exceptions to this were a flask of Jameson’s whiskey and my Kindle. To me those fit the “essentials” bracket, not luxuries at all.

Now happy with my loadout, I was ready to head to France to put it all to the test in my first bikepacking adventure.

As I said at the start of this article – I don’t think there is a “right” or “wrong” in this – unless you load up so much that your raft sinks. It has been a bit of trial and error for me. Lots of reading of other peoples ideas and just figuring out what works for me, what I am comfortable riding and paddling.

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