Everyday Adventure: The S24O

Everyday Adventure is a monthly column penned by Bicycle Times web editor Helena Kotala about the amazing experiences that can be found close to home. 


Devoting several weeks, several days or even an entire weekend to a bikepacking trip can seem like a daunting endeavor at the least and many times nearly impossible, as life responsibilities like jobs, kids, pets and other commitments tend to prevent us from us taking off for days at a time on a regular basis.

But you can get a much-needed escape and have a little adventure in under 24-hours. This concept is now widely known as the Sub-24-hour-Overnight (abbreviated to S24O) thanks to Rivendell founder Grant Petersen and his book “Just Ride.”

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The idea? Ride somewhere (as far as you’d like) in the evening, camp out, ride home in the morning in time for work or school or whatever other commitments you have for the day.

The advantages are plenty. You get to pack in an adventure – camping AND two bike rides – into a short period of time. It’s a great way to introduce yourself or a friend to bikepacking and to practice dialing in your setup, packing efficiently, setting up camp and making coffee outside. If you forget a piece of gear or something goes wrong, it’s only one night and you’re a relatively short bike ride away from home or civilization. And you can do it all on a “school night” and not even use precious weekend or vacation time.

Despite all the advantages and the hypothetical ease of execution of the S24O, there are a lot of hangups and roadblocks that get in the way of many people, myself included.

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One of the most common is that not everyone lives in an area that is a short bike ride from somewhere to camp. That being said, if you think outside the box, get a little creative and do some research, it might not be as hard as you think to find a spot. Maybe it’s just a friend’s backyard across town or an unassuming county park that allows camping.

Another common hangup is a lack of gear. That was my go-to excuse for a while. Having a full set of bags and packable and lightweight camp gear goes a long way towards making the bikepacking experience easier and more enjoyable. But there are a lot of ways to head out and have fun without all those things, especially for a short trip. Ask around and borrow from a friend. Some bike shops might also offer demo bags and gear. And if all else fails, “run what you brung” and make do (also check out this DIY handlebar roll that’s pretty crafty).

I think the biggest roadblock of all is the mental one. Packing, loading up all your overnight gear on your bike, finding somewhere to camp, pedaling yourself and your gear there and then doing it again in the morning can see like a daunting task. I won’t argue with the fact that it’s easier to just go for a bike ride and then come home, make dinner in a kitchen and sleep in a comfy bed. But the extra effort to try something new and spend an evening outside is something I’ve found to never, ever regret, as has been reinforced by some of my recent experiences.

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One of my best friends is fairly new to cycling and only recently started riding more than once every few weeks. She’d never been bikepacking, but was more than game to give it a try. So we turned our planned Labor Day weekend backpacking trip into an overnight adventure on two wheels.

We picked a night that looked rain-free and fairly warm based on the weather forecast, and I went and scouted potential campsites ahead of time. The last thing I wanted to do to a first-timer was make her wander around in the dark trying to find a decent place to sleep. I lent her some bags – she didn’t have enough tire clearance for my extra saddle bag so we went with a rack and panniers instead since we’d be sticking to gravel and dirt roads – and gave her some packing tips. And then we were off.

We rode for a few hours to reach our campsite, winding from my house through farmlands and eventually into the State Forest where we set up camp, made a fire and ate dinner while enjoying the sounds of late summer insects and the occasional owl.

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Morning brought an eerie but beautiful mist hanging in the forest as I made camp coffee before packing up and rolling out. The sun was shining, the temperature rose quickly and we enjoyed another few hours of riding, taking a meandering route home. We arrived back at my house 21 hours after we’d left, an entire adventure packed into that time.

My first bikepacking trip of the year was in early spring and on a weeknight, an evening a little colder than I would have liked for sleeping outside. But I have a winter bag so I figured I might as well put it to use. My husband and I pedaled 30 miles or so in a horseshoe shape to our campsite, arriving after dark and after witnessing a breathtaking sunset. We spent the night, woke up early, decided to forego coffee and hustled the 10 miles home in less than an hour, arriving in time to start work at 9. That trip is burned into my brain as one of my favorite memories of the past year, and it took place in about 16 hours.

So give it a try. Identify the problems that are keeping you from going on an overnighter and think of creative ways to address them. Chances are, your excuses will begin to dwindle and you’ll soon be headed out for an S24O of your own.

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Want to tell us about your experiences with bikepacking, micro-adventures and sub-24-hour overnights? We’d love to hear from you! Post in the comments or share your story at [email protected]

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