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Bikepacking Bag Test in Sicily

Bikepacking Bag Test in Sicily

When we design new bags we like to test them in the field to get some real life feedback on how they perform. Before we launched our bikepacking range we decided to give them a good test with a challenging bikepacking tour in Sicily.
We flew in from Gatwick to Catania on an early flight. This gave us time to meet up with the bike hire company and get our bikes kitted out. We all had Colorado seatpacks for our main gear (clothes, spares, sandals, toiletries) and a combination of the Pennine toptube bag and/or the Baja handlebar bag for our ride essentials (food, innertubes, pump, multitool, tyre levers, suncream). As we were well into May the weather was hot so we didn't need much in terms of clothing layers or waterproofs. we did however need at least 2 bottles of water with numerous refills to make it through the day.
Our first day saw us travel down the coast from Catania for 98km to a place on the coast called Avola. The terrain was mostly flat, on roads and the pace was fairly fast. After just over 4 hours we rolled into our accommodation for the evening, hot and tired after our early start. The only place nearby for an evening meal was about a 20 minute walk. The menu choice was meat or vegetarian - no other details were given. We needn't have worried as the food was plentiful, home cooked and delicious.
The next morning we slid our Colorado seatpacks onto their supports and set off up the hill away from the coast. The initial climb was 6km long at an average gradient of 5.5%. We toiled through the heat over the next 127km and 2384m of elevation. Luckily there were several service stations along the route where we could get drink refills and extra food. We had snacks stashed away within easy reach in our Pennine toptube bags. We rolled into Piazza Armerina just before dark and found our small hotel up a narrow-cobbled street. We just had enough time to wash our cycling gear and have a shower and then catch the local pizzeria before it shut.
We were up bright and early for breakfast and ready for another long day of bikepacking. The sun was really hot and made progress slow. We reached a town looking for some lunch but all we could find were cafes serving coffee and pastries. I kindly local offered to show us somewhere where we could get something more substantial. He drove off while we pedalled furiously behind and took us back down a big hill we had just toiled up. It was worth it when we were served with large bowls of spaghetti bolognaise followed by ice cream. We purchased some more water and strapped the extra bottles to the top of our Colorado seatpacks and then set off for the route that took us around the back of Mount Etna and the lava fields on the lower slopes. The hills were rolling and the bikepacking route we had chosen was mixed terrain, so we had tracks and bridleways to negotiate this time around. After 11 hours we finally rolled in to our last night’s accommodation in a town called Piedimont Etneo. We were given a lift to the local pizzeria by our friendly host. The pizzeria was housed in an old cinema complete with projector. They sold Etna volcano pizzas that came served with flames coming out of the top !
The final day saw us climb the formidable Mount Etna. I have done quite a few climbs in my life but none carrying bikepacking gear. This made the ascent seem particularly slow and brutal. We finally summited at the touristy area near the top at 1909m. Time was ticking by and our plane was leaving at 3.30pm. We were still at the top of Etna at 1.30pm. It was time to put the afterburners on. For the next hour and we averaged around 45km/hour as we descended to sea level. We located the hire company outside the airport, whipped our bikepacking bags off and handed the bikes back. Straight through security and onto the plane still sweating from the ride and hauling our bikepacking bags. We had made it just in time!
The trip was challenging, and the weather was hot. The locals were really friendly, the dogs not so much. The scenery was by and large beautiful with just a few unexpected incidents of mass fly tipping to blight it.

The bikepacking bags performed flawlessly with a few suggested tweaks and they were ready for launch the following month.

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