Touring with Apidura
Interview by Anna Maria Diaz-Balart, Photography Courtesy of Tori Fahey
At the most fundamental level, bikes are about freedom. In countless stories we’ve featured on PDF, freedom is a common thread. Many of us experience that freedom for the first time as bike commuters, so bike packing, might be at the far end of that very same spectrum. Total complete liberty to go wherever you like, for as long as you like. Having done a small amount of touring with racked systems, I have admired ultralight bike packing systems from afar.
I was instantly drawn to the look of the Apidura System. It looked incredibly versatile and durable, while being streamlined and simple to install and use. While the looks are what drew me to the brand, it was being introduced to Apidura co-founder Tori Fahey that cemented my support. A woman who’s bike touring accomplishments read like a shelf of National Geographic titles, she’s circled the globe by bike, and in starting Apidura she’s allowed so many others to do the same. The days when bike touring required a separate bike are over.
Apidura is the option to tour on any bike you like. Mountain bikes, road bikes, ‘cross, track, fat bikes, you name it. Apidura can make your favorite bike into your favorite touring bike.
Tori sat down with us and shared some of her favorite tour memories as well as some of the thoughts that went into making the Apidura company. What makes this story unique is that Apidura is partnering with PDF to offer a rider product sponsorship to do their first ultralight tour! Read along, and at the end of the piece there are full guidelines to apply for the sponsorship with will include a bike packing system and the chance to have your first tour showcased here on PDF.
Did you start out with racks and a touring specific build?
Absolutely! I researched my first set up for ages, picking just the right rack, just the right bags, just the right camping gear, a good solar panel and so on. I was a tank on two wheels, but I loved it.
Can you tell us a little about those first few adventures by bike?
My first trip was a solo tour from the bottom to the top of Vancouver Island and back again. I was intimidated by the ride from the start. Could I ride 1000 km in 7 days, fully loaded? Not having ridden a single day with gear before, I had no idea how fast or slow I would be. Could I fit everything that I would need to survive between amenities? What if I didn’t make it to my target destination for the day? Where would I sleep? I quickly found that there was plenty of time in the day to comfortably get the mileage done (and also do some exploring). There were also plenty of well-placed towns and campgrounds along the way, which substantially eliminated my worries about eating and sleeping. It was a perfect intro to cycle touring and, before the tour was finished, I was already imagining where else I might go with my new exploration machine.
My next ride took me from the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific; Inuvik, NWT to Skagway, Alaska. In retrospect, this was a massive and crazy leap, given my limited knowledge regarding wilderness survival and bike repair. Panic only set in when I arrived in Inuvik and was preparing to set out. Town locals told me stories of seeing grizzlies fighting in the middle of the road and that there were wolves that had footprints the size of bear prints. They said that the road was treacherous, with gravel that shredded the tires of motorcycles and cars. And, if it rained, the road would become impassable for vehicles of any sort. Indeed, the first 750km was rough, remote and not well travelled; if something happened to me, it could be a long time before anyone would be around to help. In a panic, I ditched half of my supplies on the basis that I needed to clear the first 750km as quickly as possible and that meant l needed to be lighter; taking only what I absolutely needed. I even abandoned my cooking equipment (I imagined that cooking would make me more vulnerable to unfavourable wildlife encounters) and I stocked up on processed food to last me through the first 4 days (until I could reach Dawson City). Can you imagine eating only Cliff Bars for 4 days? It was July, so I benefited from 24 hours of daylight for the first days. I slept with the fly off my tent so that I could see if there was wildlife outside.
In the end, the weather was perfect and I had no wildlife encounters (except for spotting a porcupine that I mistook for a bear cub). It was one of the most magnificent stretches of road that I’ve ever seen; the sort of breathtaking natural beauty that could move you to tears. After this, I always travelled lighter and searched for the less travelled roads.
Your personal list of completed bike tours is awe inspiring. At what point on your journey did Apidura come in to play?
I was first introduced to rackless packing when I was preparing for the Tour Divide in 2011 (4,400km self supported mountain bike race from Banff, Alberta to Antelope Wells, New Mexico). Given the terrain, elevation profile and need for speed, a traditional rack and pannier set up was not going to work. A good friend of mine showed me his set up and introduced me to a local producer of bikepacks. It blew my mind. It was lighter, had better weight distribution and was more versatile (it could be fitted on my mountain bike!). There would be no going back to a rack and panniers. I was fully converted to bikepacking.
Are Apidura and ultra-light bike packing freeing all types of bikes to be multi day adventure bikes?
I certainly hope so! One of the most obvious advantages of this sort of set up is that you don’t need a bike that has rack mounts. That means no need for a specialized bike; Anyone with two wheels can set out on a multi-day tour. And the fact that it is lighter and offers better bike handling makes it far less daunting for the uninitiated.
What challenges have you faced as a woman cycling through areas where women don't ride bikes and have significant restrictions on their freedom and mobility?
To be honest, I haven’t encountered any gender-related issues while cycling. Not in Sudan. Not in Pakistan. Not in Iran. I would argue that a bicycle is actually a helpful tool to breakdown potential barriers in areas where views about gender differ from those we have at home.
Who do you love touring with?
Although most of my initial tours were blissfully solo, I very strongly prefer the company of a riding companion now. My husband is a fantastic partner.
Is Apidura designed with the adventure racer in mind, or a just someone who wants to travel farther on their bike?
Bikepacking is about simplifying; doing away with unnecessary weight and complexity (both figuratively and literally). We try to apply this philosophy of simplification into our design process; relentlessly refining the details to optimize functionality and do away with unnecessary weight. The result is a product that is particularly attractive to adventure racers because of it’s weight and ease of use. However, the benefits of this streamlined design are well suited for cyclists of all types; first time tourists, commuters, randonneurs.
Guidelines for Apidura x Pretty Damned Fast Sponsorship
Send an email to email@example.com before 01/30/16 detailing where you want to go and why, as well as when you’re planning on doing this adventure. Include a photo of the bike you want to tour on, and information on who else might be joining you. Make sure to include your social media links. No touring experience is required, just a genuine passion for adventure by bike. We hope you like taking pictures, because your Apidura supported tour will be featured on Pretty Damned Fast later on this spring. We will announce the winner on 01/31/2016.