Bikepacking Solo Part Four: Benefits of Going Solo

In Part Four of the Bikepacking Solo series, we asked bikepackers about the benefits of going solo and some final thoughts. The consensus from the group is that it’s worth it! Many thanks to the women who contributed their experiences, knowledge, and insights to this series. 

Missed the previous Bikepacking Solo Articles? Here are the links:

Part One: First Solo Overnighter
Part Two: Camping Logistics
Part Three: Facing Fears 

Photo courtesy of Mary Elhers

What are the benefits of bikepacking solo? Can you think of something you experienced or gained from bikepacking solo that you wouldn’t have had you been with another person or a group? 

Annie Le: People are way friendlier when you tour alone. I get a lot more good conversations and invites to stay or eat with other people. It’s a great way to hear about local ways of life. The emotions also have bigger highs and lows. Although it can be tough riding out the lows, I think it’s worth it. The confidence you gain by looking after yourself and problem solving alone is incredible.

Eliza Sampey: I love bikepacking solo. I’m an introvert and I draw lots of energy from spending time alone in nature, in big landscapes under huge skies, during the day and night whether I’m camping or riding through the dark. When I’m out there without other humans I don’t actually feel alone, I feel more connected to the natural world, communicating with it instead of with my bikepacking buddies, and that’s an amazing feeling. I like being on my own schedule, I can sleep or laze around at camp drinking coffee as much or as little as I want, I can ride as slow or as fast as I want, or as many hours as I want. I can stop in the middle of the day and go skinny dipping or spend hours watching bugs crawl around. Bikepacking solo is a very peaceful, connected experience for me. 

When I’m on solo international trips I also enjoy connecting with other people I meet as a solo traveler, especially other women from cultures around the world. It’s been a pretty special experience to be greeted, taken in and made to feel welcome by women even if we don’t speak the same language. It’s also nice to know that I don’t need other people to go on the adventures I want to go on, I can just go regardless of if I have a companion or not. I love bikepacking with other people too, it’s just a very different experience, both are fun! 

Irena Netik: Bikepacking solo gives you the freedom to go ride a route when your schedule and weather allow and there is no need to coordinate and make things work with another person. My preference for a tour is to go with another person because that’s just more fun, however, it feels good to know that I am not limited by another person’s schedule or ability.

It’s empowering going out bikepacking solo and learning what you can do on your own. We are stronger and more resourceful than we think we are. The self-confidence that comes from bikepacking solo is irreplaceable.

Isabelle Fisk: It’s so rare to find yourself operating by yourself, for yourself. Between friends, family, work, and romantic partners, it’s not often you get to make choices that only affect yourself. I think it’s a deeper practice of self knowledge that makes you grow as a person, both on the bike and in your everyday life. I’ve gained so much confidence in my abilities, and I feel more self assured. Plus, when else can you belt The Little Mermaid songs at the top of your lungs while you’re whizzing down single track???

Janie Hayes: I think bikepacking solo, like adventuring solo in nature in any way, has enormous benefits in giving you the chance to observe, and spend time with, your inner life. While this isn’t always comfortable, it is always instructive. Being alone also sometimes provides a deeper opportunity to experience connectedness with nature. Moving through nature helps me see that I am an animal experiencing the world, nothing special or so unique, but one of all the living creatures in the world. Getting that perspective helps me let go of a lot of my fears and insecurities, and allows me to walk back into my “everyday” life with more equanimity and compassion for myself. I think that helps me show up better for others.      

Katie Scott: I do think it can be really empowering- showing myself that I can do it, that I can be self-sufficient! I also end up doing stuff alone because there’s not a lot of people who want to do the sorts of things I want to do, so sometimes if I want to do the thing, I just have to do it alone. Being alone with myself without any distractions and nowhere to hide has taught me a lot about myself.

Kristen Tonsagger: I didn’t realize how much I would love to be out there with just my own thoughts (or no thoughts at all.) I really enjoy pushing myself and riding further or later than I would with my husband or other friends. I love being able to choose when to stop and take a break, how long to stop and take a break, and when to camp. I feel like I prefer the quick stops, the late nights and a shorter time off the bike when I am solo. It’s not because of fear, but because I want to see how far I can go and not spend time sitting and relaxing – I prefer to sit and relax with my husband and friends and enjoy the company of others on group trips, so it’s fun to take a completely different approach when solo. I think I gained just a lot of confidence that I was capable, strong, smart and adventurous on my own – I didn’t need someone else to bring that with me – I could create it myself and actually enjoy it. 

Laura Heiner: Oh wow. Yes! I didn’t have any idea I was brave enough to do it. I gained a belief in myself. I now know what I’m capable of doing and, even though it’s still scary sometimes, I can do it if I want. When you go solo, it’s great because you live by your own rules and timeline.

Leigh Bowe: A sense of autonomy, inner peace and strength may sound cliche, and while it’s hard to describe it with words, it’s very real. It’s something that you have to experience by getting out there on your own and having that first, golden light of dawn all to yourself. Another benefit is that you are completely in control of your own agenda. No waiting around or hustling to cater to anyone else’s priorities. It’s a little ironic that I have met people and made friendships that wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t out there by myself. 

Mary Elhers: Solo bikepacking allows me time just for myself. No other responsibilities and I can get lost in the moments. It’s really about me and what I want to take away from a race/overnight/tour and how it will impact my life when it’s over. It could be one night or twenty, but I always learn something! 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Isabelle Fisk: I PROMISE you’re more than capable. Whatever milestone you want to hit next: your first solo ride ever, your first solo overnight, your first time biking a new trail by yourself – trust that you are capable!

Katie Scott: Something I’m working on is being more encouraging to my friends (and myself!) instead of expressing doubt or concern. I think that people in general, but especially women, trans, non-binary, BIPOC-  folks who experience marginalization in the outdoors/outdoor industries, often have their skill or capabilities called into question or get excluded. I’ve experienced that myself and it has definitely impacted me- making me doubt myself more or keeping me from believing I could do something. So, I try to be mindful of the way I respond to friends’ ideas/goals/accomplishments. 

Kristen Tonsagger: For your first bikepacking trip, I would recommend somewhere familiar – somewhere you have gone with friends so you can feel like they are there with you and it’s not somewhere foreign or new that you feel like you have to make several decisions on your own.  State Parks or areas where you can make a reservation for the night, but ride your bike there and home are also great options if that feels more comfortable than setting up in the middle of the woods. Go for one night and pack your fears if you need to (extra food, your favorite sweater, extra socks), but the next time, leave at least one of your fears behind until you eventually don’t pack any of those fears at all.

Laura Heiner: Just start small. It’s ok to start overnighting super simple rides and with others. Then give yourself small goals to branch out. It might take years. It did for me, but you will get there. Just keep at it. 

Thanks again to the amazing women who shared their experiences, wisdom, and tips about bikepacking solo! We hope you were as inspired as we were!

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