Putting the bike in bikerafting

The bicycle and the packraft: both marvelous human-powered vehicles that allow unique explorations of the extraordinary hidden in backyards near you.  Example above, the lovely miles of braids of islands downstream from the Old Steel Bridge over the Flathead (before it sloughs out and losses all current).  Exploring it any other way would require contrivance (car shuttles, etc) that would dwarf the subtle wonder.  Instead, I rode to the fishing access, put in, paddled until I was sick of flat, still water, paddled some more until I found a good exit, and rode home.  Once I was 100 meters from the fishing access I saw two other people (fishing from a powerboat), and while I saw evidence of people aplenty, nonetheless felt impressively far removed from normal society.

Carrying packrafting gear on a bike is not hard, provided that you have a fat backpack that rides a bit low.  It’s more than most like to have on their back while riding, but that can be trained.  Attaching the bike to the raft is a bit more complex.

You need a reasonably compact load that doesn’t drag in the water, doesn’t constrict your paddle stroke, and is reasonably balanced side to side.  Taking both wheels off seems to be a necessity.  That done, I’ve used both bottom bracket towards paddler and bb away rigs.  Both are ok, though both constricted by stroke a little bit, and I’ve never gotten things perfectly balanced.  Next time I’ll try a bb sideways rig and see how that goes.

I’d add that had Llama rather than a Yak I’d have a few more inches of room to play with, at the expense of not fitting quite as tightly and thus having less precision when maneuvering in whitewater.  I should also add that I’ve yet to trial flip a raft with a bike strapped on.  Given the weight imbalance, I’m not even sure how possible it would be to right in deep water, but I have to find out.

Most bikerafting trips involve mellow water for exactly that reason, the weight and size on your bow impede speed and (perhaps) safety.  A bike on the bow has to make a flip more likely.  But limiting the terrain limits your routes and speed on them.  A case in point would be what I still consider as the obvious winning route for Le Parcour de Wild through the Bob: ride the highway, ride up Monture Creek, carry the bike down to Youngs, and float Youngs and the South Fork down to the road, then pedal and hike and pedal to Marias.  A few of the larger riffles around Black Bear are very much like rapids, even at low flows, and Youngs would push maneuvering under load even more.  All of which begs the question: what is the ideal bike for bikerafting?

As little bike as you can get away with, to a large extent.  Light, obviously, and as compact as possible.  I’m not sure that the breakdown frame of the Ibis Tranny would be all that much of an advantage, but a sick-light 26″ rigid bike is probably ideal.  Packing wheels with disks is tough, so maybe rim brakes are worth the performance compromise.  For the route enumerated above a cross bike would probably get the job done.  Not that I’m about to get a bike specifically for bikerafting, but it does get one thinking.

Your perfect bikerafting bike?


5 thoughts on “Putting the bike in bikerafting

  1. OK, now you have gone to far 😉

  2. I clicked over from my RSS reader because I was going to comment on bikerafting. Upon arriving I am affronted with an advertisement. This, mere hours after reading your mission statement or some such page on which you stated you would never add advertising your site.

  3. the other Eric March.15.2011 — 11:18

    perfect packrafting bike – one that you don’t care too much about.
    you can do class 3, it’s just rather exciting.

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