Mark Finster is an avid cyclist, hobby photographer, and founder of Latigo Coffee, a subscription-based coffee roaster out of Los Angeles.
I had just finished a particularly good session with my therapist one afternoon in early February—one that probably validated my need for occasional far-flung adventure—and was settled in my car, where I predictably found myself mindlessly scrolling on my Little Screen. Some divine algorithm must have listened-in to my therapy session though, as something actually useful popped to the top of my IG feed. The “Route Beer Ramble," a two day bikepacking adventure from London to Bristol, covering 200km of English countryside that wraps up with a custom-brewed beer and brewery tour.
It was just weeks away.
I quickly glanced at my phone’s calendar—hands shaking just a bit—and did some rough “travel hacking” math to see if I could actually pull it off. It felt like I was getting away with something—sneaking off to Europe for a week of “remote work,” and then bikepacking with 20 complete strangers. But it's these kinds of last-minute trips that serve as a spring of inspiration and creative ju-ju for my soul.
I knew very little about Pannier, the adventure cycling company who organized the ride, before booking the trip. Based on my IG impression, they were constantly off exploring some exotic European mountainscape, and worked with some of my favorite US-based brands. We were also both involved with last year’s Swift Campout (a summer solstice bicycle jamboree), albeit from very different corners of the globe. They felt like “my people" so I didn’t have to think twice about making the 5,500+ mile trek out from Los Anglees.
What really made this whole thing possible, however, was how seamless Stef and Dave (head-honchos at Pannier) made the logistics. I was told to bring nothing more than a helmet and cycling shoes, and Pannier would arrange a perfectly dialed-in rig (Surly Straggler) complete with camping accommodations. That was huge. Not sure if you’ve flown with a bike box before, but let me tell ya, it sucks.
The mostly flat-ish route also sounded like a nice reprieve from my series of bikepacking misadventure in 2018. Of course, it wound up being comically brutal in the first day alone, but that’s a story for another time.
Until then, enjoy the visual overview of the multi-day experience, and dig in below for a brief rundown of the essential gear I packed for this trip, and how you may want to follow suit, should you find yourself on a similar ride someday.
6 Essentials for Bikepacking Overseas:
Patagonia Black Hole 25L Backpack ($129) - I know, I know. Bikepacking with a backpack on is pretty much a taboo these days (especially with how dialed you can typically get everything on the frame). Given the logistics of this particular trip though (I wouldn't have a bike after reaching Bristol), I needed something comfortable and weather-proof to pack extra clothes for the remainder of my journey. The pack was just the right size. Just don't leave it leaning against a heater in an old English inn (less you want that shiny exterior to melt a little bit). Whoops.
Outdoor Voices Eco-Mesh Tee ($45) - Lightweight without being too synthetic-y, this was a clutch item for the entire duration of my week in the UK. Great as a ‘base layer’ in the saddle—and worked well for some nice runs around London in the week before the ride.
SWRVE Transverse Shorts ($95) - Durable riding shorts that also look perfectly rad in the city. I’ve worn these for every bikepacking trip of the last two years through just about any landscape (and weather) out there. Plus, you’re supporting a small business from LA - everybody wins.
Voila Coffee ($16) - Traveling with whole bean coffee sucks, and my poor Aeropress (with Porlex hand-grinder wedged inside) has raised alarms at airports worldwide. Having tried out just about all high-end “instant” coffees (including the dripper-things and teabags), I can confidently give major props to Voila for crushing the competition. Plus, they work with some of my favorite roasters (like Augie’s) and just recently scored a 90 on Coffee Review, making Viola the highest scored instant coffee ever.
Earplugs ($13) - If you’re not already traveling with earplugs, then you’re an insane person. These little gems make sleeping on a plane, in tents, and just about anywhere else, infinitely easier.
Stasher ($6/day) - Turns out, there’s an app for storing your luggage places (In the UK, Germany, and France at least). I desperately needed to ditch my carry-on bag during the weekend ride, and did so painlessly at some London hotel using this service.
That's all. Go outside!