Mike Clarke

What type of shelter do you use and why?

I have a few shelters which I can choose from depending on the conditions and where I’m heading to. I have recently bought a Six Moons Designs Lunar Solo, this is a great all-round lightweight shelter I find for most of my trips, especially during summer months when the midges are out as it has a built in bug screen however it doesn’t do so well in the winter months due to the wind, it’s not so good in stronger winds I will then tend to use either my TN Laser comp tent or a rig3.5 tarp. Failing both these I’ll take on a derelict building of any kind to shelter the worst the worst weather.

Is your bikepacking specific or is it just your usual bike adapted to go bikepacking. What, if any, adaptions have you done?

I’m currently riding a Stooge fully rigid 29er and I LOVE it! It’s not a bike specifically built for bikepacking but I find it a very good all rounder to be honest. This bike is great for bikepacking but it is also brilliant at eating up miles of trails be it trail centre, riding or natural trails. I’m looking to upgrade it to the Ti version soon which will be made as a bikepacking only bike running 650+ wheels. No adaptions to the bike –  it’s a pretty standard build by myself and just works.

Are you a sub 24hr, over 24hr or a multi day tour sort of person?

I’ve only ever completed one sub 24hr race – the BB200 last year. I’m not in that class of racer that enjoys beasting themselves over miles of rough terrain. I like to think I take a more relaxed pace of life on the bike. However my range of riding style is fairly wide I’d say, I enjoy multi day routes ranging from 3 to 12 days. I’ve done a lot of trips bikepacking to date and they all vary so much from off road trips to on the tarmac just depends on where I plan to go I guess and how I’m feeling at the time.

What gadgets do you take with you? Dynamo/GPS/Gaia/Phone etc

I’m not really a gadget fan when I’m away. GPS definitely as it’s so easy to navigate by when you’re off road and a mobile phone. The nice thing about the GPS is it’s there in front of you.

Map or GPS device or both?

As above definitely GPS without fail, its been along time since I’ve taken maps with me since my one time around Scotland having to take 12 maps.

Navigation: can you work a compass, get your bearings etc?

Yes but I don’t feel the need to when I’m out on my bike, I used to do it when out on the mountains walking but even now I take GPS unit.

Do you do rides like the #Jennride often?

Yes as much as I can when work permits, I work shifts so I find I’m on weekends a lot when these type of events are held.

Do you do other types of riding or just bikepacking?

Yes, I have a Yeti full suspension which I’ve taken to the United States a fair amount over the years trail riding. I also enjoy thrashing out trail centres in Wales and Scotland. I have a CX bike/road bike also which gets a lot of use.

What is the best bit of bikepacking for you?

The freedom, not knowing where you’re heading, not really having too much of a plan sometimes, the people I’ve met whilst doing it has been great. I’d say the best part though is the places it has taken me and things I’ve seen that I wouldn’t probably have experienced if it wasn’t for bikepacking.

What is the worst bit of bikepacking?

Is there any? hmmmm even in the rough weather we somehow seem to find the positives out of it and everything turns out just fine, let’s face it I wouldn’t do it if the experience was that bad.

How long have you been bikepacking for?

Since the second Welsh Ride Thing event and I think that was 2010? I’m sure the first one was in ’09? I could be a year out though.

What appeals to you about bikepacking?

See my ‘best bits’ reply – pretty much answers it for me. I could probably list loads though.

What is your ultimate trip/destination?

I’m not sure I have one as I’m happy where ever I ride generally. Obviously I’d like to ride more in the USA and do some of their routes.

What is the essential extra gadget/widget or treat that you have to take with you?

I always take my Zebra Light head torch, it’s my best bit of kit! Treats, hmmm for those that know me I eat anything so there’s no real treat in my pack. If I’m doing a trip that involves a building for the night then I like to take fresh coffee sometimes and the Aeropress.

Choice of tyres (size/width/tread) and why you choose these?

I’m currently using WTB nanos on the CX frame which I find are great off road and on the road. For most of my bikepacking trips on the stooge I’ve got 2.4 tubeless Conti X Kings and these are a grand tyre for pretty much most stuff I ride. We rode across Spain on them two months ago and they were perfect in the dry and when it was wet.

Do you change tyres to suit the destination you expect to ride on?

Nope just leave the same ones on all the time now.

Do you opt for gram counting over comfort? i.e. did you pack the sub 400g wafer light sleeping bag despite it’s gonna be freezing just to save 250g?

Not really most of my kit is high end stuff so its all pretty lightweight now, I did once take the summer bag in a cold spell but I learnt my lesson there, never again – the winter bag goes with me when its cold. My bike is fairly heavy so I’m used to the weight.

Have you got the art of minimisation down to a fine art or did you pack everything and the kitchen sink?

I think I can say I’ve now cracked the packing issues I first had when I started out. My stuff is so minimal compared to when I did my first trip, I mean I pulled a bob trailer around mid Wales on the Trans-Cambrian Way which wasn’t fun!!

Did you take some creature comforts like coffee, a stove a hip flask etc?

Coffee is always a pleasure especially in the mornings if it’s wet and dank. I sometimes take whisky in a hip flask but mostly in the colder months. One time a friend bought some Jagermeister which was a real treat right there in the snow! However we did feel slightly happy by the time we arrived at the evening pub.

What are your thoughts on the ride we took the photos at and bikepacking in general?

The Jennride is awesome, I did it the first year and had to do it again this year. Likewise I will always enter now if I can and it’s for a fantastic charity so people will hopefully benefit from our sometimes stupidness! The efforts on Rich’s behalf to organise this are also fantastic and he does a great job!

Tell us some interesting facts about you?

I love riding bikes… FACT :0)

2 Responses to Mike Clarke

  1. mike August 24, 2017 at 12:59 pm #

    whoops, did i call the BB200 a race….sorry i meant ride.

  2. stuart wright August 25, 2017 at 7:43 am #

    I’ll forgive you … just this once.

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