Page 1 of 1


Posted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 8:17 am
by bradmeiklejohn
I would be interested to get tips from folks about "bikerafting". What works, what doesn't, and amusing stories.
BikersFerryWeb.jpg (44.42 KiB) Viewed 26232 times

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:14 pm
by wanderlyte
I've used my packraft in combination with a Brompton folding bicycle ( for daytrips. When folded the bike will just fit in a big Ortlieb Xtremer drypack to keep it dry. Works quite well if you are mostly traveling on paved roads, but the Brompton's small wheels aren't so great for rougher conditions. I haven't done anything over class II+ with the bike on the packraft either.

Oh, and I usually use a helmet similar in style to a Bern (, although mine is another brand I can't remember at the moment), since it seems that would provide better protection in the water than the style of cycling helmet in the photo you attached.

I'm probably going to be getting a Surly Pugsley ( soon for some offroad adventures, and am planning to try that with the packraft at some point. Ideally, I'd like to be able to carry the bike and full touring gear (i.e. enough for a week or more of camping) on the packraft, but not quite sure exactly how I'd fit and secure everything onto the raft.

Anyone done any multiday trips with a packraft and a full sized bike plus camping gear?


Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Fri Oct 12, 2007 5:37 am
by forrestmccarthy
The peddle and paddle dream. Bike in and float out. It would be wonderful. I have experimented with it and have done a couple small trips. The limiting factors I have found are both the size of the bike sticking out the sides of the boat, and the weight of the set-up. The weight is an issue when biking, hike-a-biking, and bike-rafting. In the couple short trips I did, I found that by taking both rims off and stacking the whole set up on the bow you can get a “functional” package. However, the boat felt heavy and tipsy. I did OK in Class II water and on one occasion ran a low volume class III rapid. A boat with a bike is to tipsy to run much white water. Even with the rims stacked on the boat I had a lot of problems with the bike getting hung up on wood on the sides of our smaller and woody Rocky Mountain Rivers. A swift water flip with a bike on board would be epic. I generally view bikerafting as a technique for flatwater or bigger rivers with limited whitewater.

Roman Dial has has the most experience with bikerafting. His “Hell Bike” trips include bike/pack rafting traverse of the Brooks Range (Kaktovik to Arctic Village), The Alaska Range, Nabesna to McCarthy, several trips in Utah and Arizona (on the Colorado River), and numerous other mad, but inspiring, adventures. The earliest of these trips were done with Sherpas. Some of the trips, like the Alaska Range, the packraft was mostly used for getting bikes across big rivers. These trips involved minimalist gear and big, mostly Class II rivers.

I still have the vision of someday being able to have an enjoyable single track ride in followed by some exiting steep creaking. Just being able to avoid a lot of driving by biking to the put-in and floating back to the car makes bikerafting very attractive. If I was to get serous about it again I would invest in a light weight folding bike. A few years ago I did purchase a Dahon Zero G (folding Mtn Bike). However, it was still too heavy to do any creeking and even with the folding frame the 26” rims stick out to far. My recommendation is getting a folding bike with 20” rims. The best bikes in this class, that can handle single track, are made by Bike Friday (, Birdy ( or Dahon ( I have been eyeing the Bike Friday Pocket Lama, the Birdy, or Dahon Yeah for this purpose. The weight and size of these bikes might make it possible to float steeper creeks. However 20” rims will not do as well on the biking sections. You can’t have it all.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Sun Oct 28, 2007 9:35 pm
by wanderlyte
I did a short trip today with my Denali Llama plus full sized mountain bike with rear rack and camping gear on a river with a few, short class II sections. I've used a folding bike with the packraft before, but this was the first try with a full sized bike. Actually, the bike was a bit larger than "full sized", since it is a Surly Pugsley with 4" wide tires.

I stowed my camping gear in two Ortlieb Back Roller panniers. These panniers are water proof and have roll down, dry bag style closures, so are also good for paddling. All my paddling gear (raft, inflation bag, paddle, PFD, drysuit, and sandals) was in an Ortlieb duffel bag, which was strapped to the top of the rear rack using two Mini Shockles (bungies with carabiners on the ends).

When I got to the river, here's how I stowed the gear on/in the raft:
- Placed both of the panniers in the bow (they are tapered at the bottom, so they fit pretty snugly in the tapered bow, one on top of the other)
- Removed the wheels from the bike
- Strapped the downtube and fork of the bike together with a short length of double sided velcro to keep the handle bars turned
- Strapped the frame to the front of the raft using the two Mini Shockles
- Strapped the wheels (sitting on top of the frame) to the frame with the shoulder straps from the panniers
- put my shoes, and other small items in the duffel bag, which rested on the floor under my knees

I'm just under 6' 2", so with the panniers in the bow my legs were bent with my knees up pretty high. That combined with the rear rack and handle bars sticking out to either side of the boat made my paddle stroke pretty funky. I was using a short paddle, about 180 cm, which I think made things a bit easier than trying to paddle with a longer paddle in this case. (The paddle used to be 210 cm, but I managed to break the shaft, so decided to salvage what I could and try it as a shorter paddle. It actually seems to work out OK for me, but YMMV.)

On flatwater, I found that with all the weight up front, I could sit on the rear tube of the boat for a very comfortable paddling position with my feet braced against the panniers. This had several advantages: I was further back from the bike, and my knees didn't interfere with my paddling, so my paddle stroke was more natural. Also, I had better visibility down river, since I was higher and could see over the bike more easily. It wasn't as stable as being down in the boat (which is where I sat for rougher water), but plenty stable for flatwater. Again, YMMV since I'm sure that how well this will work for you depends on the weight of your bike and gear, as well as your own weight.

I had to portage around a couple of logjams, which I did in two trips. One carrying the panniers and duffel, the other carrying the bike with packraft still attached. Carrying the bike + packraft combo was a bit awkward, but luckily I didn't have too far to go, and the terrain was pretty easy.

Next time, I think I will try removing the handle bars and strap them in a more out of the way location, since they were the biggest interference problem when paddling. This is quick and easy to do with a properly sized allen wrench on most modern bikes with threadless headsets . Removing the rear rack would probably also help, but it seemed to cause much less interference than the handle bars.

I think I will also get a big mesh bag for the wet paddling gear so that it can dry out a bit on the bike after a paddle.


Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:55 am
by CST
Never done it, but an alternative to the folding bikes and bike-friday's are to get a bike equiped with S&S couplers

They arent known to many but its the best system hands down for getting a bike frame that splits in two.

Expensive to retro-fit, but if you're looking for a new bike, that you can also fit in a normal checked bag, and is a "real" bike you might want to check into them, several custom framebuilders in the lower 48 build with them. My buddy James in Colorado has built a tandem before using the couplers that could also be transformed into a single bike.. pretty sweet!

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:51 am
by fredthedog
i'm surprised no one has mentioned montague bikes (a.k.a. 'swissbike' or 'paratrooper bike').
i've looked on the web for info on folding bikes, and they have a large web-presence, anyhow.
but honestly i know nothing about them--i have been tempted to buy one, but haven't pulled the trigger.
now i see a list of other brands i was unaware of--bike friday, birdy, etc.--and it makes me think i need to know even more.

so--anyone out there have experience w/ montague folders? comparisons to other brands? i'd love to hear them.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Tue Mar 25, 2008 12:58 pm
by forrestmccarthy
Last time I checked the Montague Folding bikes were significantly heavier than other models. When considering a bike for your packraft be aware the weight of the bike may be more critical then its packed size. I would take a bike that weighed less then 20 lb and didn’t fold over a folder that weighs 35 lb. By taking both wheels off a non-folding bike and stacking them on top of the frame the package is not much larger then a folder. Regardless of whether or not the bike folds you will be strapping the bike on your bow. A heavy bike will create a tipsy situation.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Wed Mar 26, 2008 4:50 am
by fredthedog
thanks, forrest, that's interesting.
I had not been thinking about the weight of the bike, because folks say that weight in the bows is an advantage for balancing the paddler in the back.
On the other hand, a heavy pack sits low in the bows, where a heavy bike sits high, like maybe a foot higher. So that weight is going to be a lot tippier than the weight of a pack lower down.
okay--good to think about.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Wed Mar 26, 2008 12:22 pm
by forrestmccarthy
I used to think having weight on the bow is a benefit. I know longer believe that. I now prefer to have as little weight on my bow as possible. I am more manuverible without anything strapped to my bow. It is also much easier to retrieve and tow boats or perform a wet re-entry with nothing or very little weight on the bow. That said, on longer trips, I do strap my pack on the bow. I just try to keep the base weight of my gear as light as possible.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 5:55 pm
by daa
New to the forum, but couldn't resist this...follow up to CST (presumably you're referring to Black Sheep James?)

I've wanted S&S on one of my frames for awhile, not specifically for packrafting, just out of general love of the idea and the overwhelmingly positive things I've heard as I looked into them. In my experience though it's been hard to find anyone who would retrofit them into even a mid-level steel frame (let alone anything more esoteric). Maybe I didn't try hard enough, but..

I was really really excited to see that Surly (who generally make solid, smart stuff including my much loved Karate Monkey and the aforementioned Pugsley) has come out with a stock factory frame w/S&S. They're calling it the Traveler's Check since it's based on their great all-around CrossCheck frame ( I saw one in person the other day and it's a sweet bike. The catch: about 1K for the frame, so built up (unless you can switch parts in) around 1500 give or take. Actually fairly cheap in the world bikes, but still a considerable chunk of change.

That said, having one of these set up w/35's, a straight bar, single speed or maybe even w/a Rohloff hub (don't know how well that would do w/immersion, but it's sealed enough to take years of commuting) could be an amazing full-size but simple road->trail->boat bike.

Anyway I'm excited to try something foolish/fun this spring w/my new Yak and one of my bikes. I'm in Fort Collins, and it would be very manageable to bike to a lower part of the Poudre, break-down and float almost all the way home.

And if any of you are in the market for a new round-towner, check out the Kona Ute, basically an integral Xtracycle. The complete bike, spec'd pretty nicely, with panniers, is about what you'd pay for a decent commuter (and about the same as just the frame for a Big Dummy, not that I don't want one of those too...)

FYI, if any of you find yourself coming through Fort Collins (post-bike/float brewery tour anyone?) PM me (I think you can do that on this forum, didn't check..) and you've got a (small) place to stay.


Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:51 pm
by RomanDial
We did a lot of bikerafting to Class III whitewater (Nenana River including Rooster Tail, Iceworm, and Twin Rocks), Talkeetna above canyon, Grand Canyon below Whitmore Wash, Eagle River's Campground Rapid, and never felt like we needed to break the bike down more than taking wheels off. The key is a really tight, secure load and a long paddle -- turn the bars, put cranks at bow, chainring side up, tighten the frame down snug as possible, then strap the wheels on top.

Indeed, I once ferried my Klein, Flagstaff's Team Mutant's frames, and Bill Hatcher's frame (yes, four at once -- top heavy!) across the Colorado in Canyonlands Park in a Sherpa Raft (whose length the Llama is modeled after).

Two frames with two wheels was done regularly in Alaska on our hell bike trips of the 80's and 90's where we paddled Brooks Range Chandalar, Alaska Range Stony, and Kenai Fox, and Talkeetna Rivers for up to 50 miles at a stretch using mountain bikes on Llama sized packrafts.

Not an amusing story but a warning: careful if you flip in fast water and get your paddle jammed in the fork or frame.

I devote a couple of pages to the topic of bikes on a packraft in my book....(feels silly to say that, but it's true). The picture above is Paul Adkins and me running the Nenana on a hellbikers' day off during our 800 mile traverse of the length of the Alaska Range with mountain bikes and packrafts (see National Geographic Magazine May 1997 for route map and another packrafting shot).

Bikes and rafts are a really cool combination, one that will make you feel clever, especially when you ride up to the river with your boat on your bike, then paddle down it with your bike on board your boat. Yes, one of the all time coolest feelings in my estimation.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:52 pm
by RomanDial
Oh yes, as mentioned above take all other gear off the bike before strapping in on your boat and shove it low in the bottom.


Posted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:12 pm
by CST
Hey Daa,
Funny you mention James because I used to live in the fort a while back and am friends with James. He's how I know about them.
Surly has a good thing going on with the travlers check. I love seeing them come out with products that no one else will make.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 5:06 am
by Esben
Indeed a dream combination!
The latest trip:

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 8:28 pm
by Jules Watson
great picture set esben, thanks for sharing !

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 8:07 am
by tazeus
I just plan on using my cheapo (20$ish) singlespeed conversion bike, cheap steel frame, dont really care what happens to it, and its also pretty light like 25 lbs so yep. also I am going to be using a sevylor trail boat so wish me luck and no drowning!

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Mon Aug 17, 2009 4:46 pm
by fredthedog
really great pics, esben, and i'm psyched to see bike-rafting in europe!

it's natural--you guys are far ahead of the states on integrating bikes into life.

i just did a bike-rafting trip in new hampshire--maybe i should write it up.

what a blast--it really is a perfect combination. like peaches and blueberries.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Mon Sep 14, 2009 9:36 am
by CST

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:34 am
by Akjohn
Is it better to have a decked or undecked boat for bikerafting?

I am looking at a llama for slower river running and open water crossings and paddling. I will be hauling a mountain bike or Pugsley.

I realize that you can roll the spraydeck to the front of the boat, but does this ever get in the way of your bike? Also, would it be nicer to have an undecked boat for hauling gear such as Ortlieb roller panniers?

Any input would be appreciated!

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Tue Jan 26, 2010 9:31 am
by Akjohn

Anyone with experience packing a bike on a decked/undecked boat out there?

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:42 am
by CST
in the trips we did, I had a older deck on a llama and Dylan had an open boat. We carried our bikes and gear the same way so it did not really matter.
Humm.. panniers put them between your legs?

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 1:06 pm
by clint
Akjohn wrote:Bump.

Anyone with experience packing a bike on a decked/undecked boat out there?
I've got a decked 09' llama, bikes fit fine. Rolled up spraydeck does not get in the way of bikes or gear. I would say go for the deck, absolutely.


Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 6:37 pm
by floater
this one looks right, inexpensive folding mountain bike, I can't see spending a lot of money on a bike that I might put at the bottom of the river...

a little heavy but has 26" tires instead of little clown tires most folding bikes have

I've seen some folding bikes that have a suitcase trailer you can carry gear in or put the bike in it, that would protect the raft and bike, also thought of getting some sort of bag to put the bike in

is anyone else concerned about sinking the bike if things go wrong? I thought about getting some sort of floatation device, or an extra throw rope so if it went under I could at least pull it out or float it to the bank?

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:58 am
by alastairhumphreys
clint wrote:
You look very relaxed here!

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Fri Sep 24, 2010 11:43 pm
by Hig
You might be able to just make a buoy (maybe using a dry bag?) that would float the bike if you had to ditch it for a bit. For a sense of size... 3 gallons is about 24 lbs flotation (ie exactly equal to displacement... the weight of 3 gallons of water.) Given the bike has some displacement, then you might float a 30 lb bike with three empty gallon jugs. To make it something that's more packable, it might be a dry bag with a couple tie points stitched on.

I was thinking about a marker buoy instead, but that seems like a bad idea. If you had a small buoy on 20' of string... you've got to deal with entanglement, failure to deploy, recovering the raft from a dangerous rapid, strong currents that sink the marker buoy...

I wonder what the floatation of a full-length foam pad is? It may be enough for a bike heavy bike, though marginal.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Mon Oct 04, 2010 6:59 pm
by floater
that's good to know, the more I do this the less concerned I get, I'm starting to doubt that I'll ever pop this boat

I carry a 2 gallon water bladder it sounds like that would float the bike.

I wonder if alpacka would make a little custom bicycle buoy and how much that would cost, just a small tube with the oral inflation and some grab loops

found this pic, you guys with fat tires don't need to wory about your bike sinking...


Re: Bikerafting/flotation

Posted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:49 pm
by arisjunior
The best and least obtrusive solution for flotation on a bike ive seen is to wrap the frame tubes in the thickest foam pipe wrap you can buy. It takes surprisingly little of this to float a bike, and weighs just a few ounces. Go to an actual plumbing supply shop for this the stuff at lowes/HD is too thin. I used to use this for lake jumping on a BMX bike. One other solution is to use a spare innertube affixed to your frame and inflate it until you have the necessary flotation.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:23 pm
by RomanDial
We have flipped and it is ugly.

On the upper Talkeetna I fell in a hole and got flipped.

Tried hanging on for a minute to get my breath and found that the paddle was stuck through the fork so could not right the boat.

Pulled paddle out (challenge). Still couldn't right the boat. Heavy current, cold water.

Climbed on upside-down boat and paddled for shore (worth practicing in general -- have done this more than once), bike hitting rocks on bottom and being fairly jarring, but made it to wadeable water and got to shore.

Difficult to hoist to shore in cold and exhausted state.

No fun. Also expensive if load gets away, but should wash up on gravel bar (fingers crossed) or log jam (ugly).

Potential of losing boat and bike keeps me in easier water with bike. Plus bikes make rapids tough for me.

Please share your experience from lake trials.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2011 12:13 am
by Hig
I've never tried this with a bike, but it's for this purpose that we first experimented with something like Alpacka's packtach. For open water (where re-entry is sort of required) we'd set up a cord that went from the raft, through a loop on the pack, to the paddle. Sometimes would use a wrist loop too. The boat flips, you release it using packtach or similar, right the boat and re-enter, then deal with your pack. A key danger here is the potential for the boat to blow away... hence all the attaching.

I think a bike would make this more difficult since it's got so many things to hang up on whatever attachment system you're using, plus you'd need a more solid connection which might be harder to release.

A handy knife might be a good option in addition to the packtach.

The main reason we used the lanyard wasn't to make sure we didn't lose the pack, it was to make sure that the raft was "sea anchored." If you had a firm hold on the raft, completely cutting the bike free shouldn't be a problem... you can get ahold of it after you've re-entered.

Regardless, some experimentation is a good idea. It's pretty easy to experiment on this front since you can do it in flat still water.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:34 pm
by grundyman
I do love the smug feeling of being able to have the bike and raft at the same time - but it is a bit of a pain to paddle.

I wrote a mini trip report of a trip here:

I did better after I took off a bar end which was getting in the way of paddling. I did flip in a low head dam hole but I managed to haul the bike-raft mess out easily (it was very shallow.)

I also should have wired the derailleure to the frame to keep it from bumping into things. I maybe should have take off one pedal.

Still, a fun concept, but unfortunately I don't think I'd want to push my limits in WW w/ a bike.


Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:39 pm
by JaCkSmith
It is also much easier to retrieve and tow boats or perform a wet re-entry with nothing or very little weight on the bow. That said, on longer trips, I do strap my pack on the bow. I just try to keep the base weight of my gear as light as possible.

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Sat Mar 03, 2012 1:29 pm
by Andy74
I'm getting ready to order a packraft for bikepacking with my moonlander. I'm 5'9" and weigh about 195 lbs. Do you think I should go with a Yak, or a Llama for tours of up to a week or so?

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Sat Mar 03, 2012 1:30 pm
by Andy74
Oh yeah, 32.5" inseam

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:24 pm
by AeroNautiCal
^^ Does he give you discount for your advertising?

Re: Bikerafting

Posted: Fri Aug 03, 2012 7:49 pm
by brianfencil
CST wrote:Never done it, but an alternative to the folding bikes and bike-friday's are to get a bike equiped with S&S couplers

They arent known to many but its the best system hands down for getting a bike frame that splits in two.

Expensive to retro-fit, but if you're looking for a new bike, that you can also fit in a normal checked bag, and is a "real" bike you might want to check into them, several custom framebuilders in the lower 48 build with them. My buddy James in Colorado has built a tandem before using the couplers that could also be transformed into a single bike.. pretty sweet!

I recently had this done to my Salsa Fargo.

My first idea on getting the bike on the boat was to stack it the way you do to get it in the box (the two triangles on top of each other). It's too awkward and tall

Now, I"m playing with putting the rear triangle on the stern (seat tube near my back, derailleur at the very stern), and the large triangle, fork and bars on the bow, with the wheels on top. But then the drive train is not protected as well as I"d like.

I also tried putting the bars and fork inside the rear triangle on the stern with the large triangle in side the boat pushed forward against the bow. What I don't like about this is then the large triangle is gonna get dragged over that rock i didn't see and the headset would be...ruined by all the water? I did think of getting a long bolt and nut and some plastic washers to clamp the headset together and try to keep out dirt/water.

Overall the boat is a lot more stable and paddling should be easier (wheels can be a little farther forward).

If anyone has any ideas/experiences they'd like to pass along, please do. I'm going to glue on some more grab loops and take the whole think on a couple month long tour. I'll write back with what I learn.

Happy travels.