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Proof of Concept

Popping my bikerafting cherry

Story by Joe Newton June 1st, 2014
I’d seen it enough times, intrepid dudes strapping stripped-down fatbikes to their packrafts and navigating across inlets or around glaciers. Bikerafting they call it. The concept appeared sound, until I strapped my Salsa fatbike to the front of my packraft, inflated in my living room and thought ‘Hmmm, that doesn’t look as stable as I thought it was gonna’.

So I threw a bunch of stuff onto my bike and into a backpack, hoping I had everything I needed to try this safely for myself and set out for my regular ‘proof of concept’ training ground, an hour and half outside of Bergen. I took way too much stuff. My backpack bumped my helmet, I wasn’t sure if I really needed my fishing gear and my bike fell over while taking the first photo, snapping the rear brake lever in half. Good start.

It got better. The lake was fairly quiet. I got my camping spot and inflated Gwendolyn, my packraft, for a hoon about. After some ‘warm-up exercises’, one lap of the lake, I set about drifting around the lake at the wind’s discretion, supping a remarkably still-cold beer. Later I fished in the gin-clear water. Concept proofing could wait until morning.

In the morning the sunshine had departed and left lots of grey cloud as a parting gift. After some coffee and hooking and losing a good fish I set about simultaneously breaking camp and strapping my gear to the bow of Gwendolyn. At first she exhibited the same precarious characteristics as she had in my living room, bow heavy and an unnerving squeak as the load shifted slightly when I pulled the straps tight. But in the water; in the water she steadied herself nicely and glided neatly alongside the bank as if to say ‘It’s ok, Joe. I can do this’. I stepped in and sat on my pack, adjusting to the higher centre of gravity and the slightly different stroke required to clear the handlebars and seatpack. I stuck close to the bank at first but once confident that we weren’t going straight to Davey Jone’s Locker I struck out across the lake for the far shore.

More testing will be required, under different circumstances, but I think I got the basics right. I need to refine my gear a little, be more organised and remember to strap my handlebars to 90˙. Time to plan out a route to test this concept further still.

Footnote: Shot on a Panasonic FT3 waterproof point-and-shoot