Recap: Learning Bikepacking & Bike Maintenance with Mappy Hour DC

As the rain soaked DC’s streets on Monday night, many ran straight home from work from the elements. Yet the DC Mappy Hour crew along with the amazing staff I’d REI were busy being outdoors in the Wunter Garten in NoMa. It was our monthly Mappy Hour, where outdoor enthusiasts can come together and plan trips, learn new skills and relax. The nights topic was biking with a focus on bike maintenance and “bikepacking” taught by REI Outdoor Schools Staff.

For those who missed out, here are a few nuggets we took away from the night:


When you’re out on the road you may not need to know how to adjust every small component of your bike but you do need to have two basic skills in case you get stuck away from a bike shop.

#1 Putting a chain back on the bike

You might have been using the wrong gear to go up a hill or switched your gears at the wrong moment – whatever the reason, if you’re out on the open road and your chain falls off you have to know how to fix it to get back home. Here’s a great 5-step guide to easily (and relatively cleanly) putting your chain back on the bike.

#2 How to fix a flat tire

Arguably the most important piece of bike maintenance knowledge – changing a flat can be a frustrating skill to learn at the beginning. The truth is – if you ride your bike enough, it will happen so practicing before you’re in a high stress situation will make the process easier until you’re changing your flat as fast as the professionals do. While there’s nothing like in person knowledge, REI’s 4 Step Guide to Changing a Flat is a great place to familiarize yourself with the basics.


#1 How to pack

Usually people are more familiar with purely backpacking – hiking with a pack of your belongings on your back. Bikepacking, also known as “touring,” means instead of hiking, your biking, and instead of carrying your things on your back, you carry them attached to your bike. Like with any outdoor sports, there are pros and cons to various pieces of gear but REI broke down the general basics of packing gear you’ll need (adapted from this awesome article on bikepacking).

  • Large seat bag: Good for light, bulky items.
  • Handlebar bag: For light to moderate items (e.g., tent, pad, clothing) or gear needed quickly (e.g., map, camera, GPS).
  • Water bottle cages: Some riders attach an extra cage under the downtube or to the fork.
  • Frame bags: Popular for heavy items such as a hydration bladder, food or tools.
  • Top-tube/gas tank/bento box bag: For snacks or camera.
  • Daypack: Optional for light, bulky items or items vulnerable to vibration.

#2 Staying Warm

Another important topic covered was appropriately layering during bikepacking (important advice for any outdoor adventure really!) The general rules for layering (as outlined here from last year’s NYC Mappy Hour on layering) include consideration of three main types of layers: the base layer, mid-layer and outer layer:

Base Layer

What goes next to your skin is an essential part of the layering process because it will help you manage moisture. Wool is the original base layer – warm when wet and light weight. Now there are also synthetic base layers that also wick away moisture. Try out different weights to figure out which one makes the most sense to you.

Mid-weight layer

The mid layer is there to help keep your body warm. At this layer it’s a good idea to have a water resistant piece. Some good choices here include high fiber fleece and down. Vests are also recommended as a mid-layer because they help keep the core warm.

Outer layers

Waterproof, breathable shells are a great outer layer. You don’t need to get Goretex neccesarily (this is just a brand) as there are many breathable laminates. Most important is the fit. Make sure when you’re choosing your shell you move around in it – raise your hands like you’re climbing, bend like you’re skiing etc. Choose something you’ll be comfortable in all day. And of course, don’t forget to try on your jacket with the hood over a helmet to make sure that fits too.

Thank you to everyone who braved the elements (and 10 intrepid souls who actually biked to Mappy Hour in the rain). We hope you learned something new, met new outdoor enthusiast friends, and are excited to keep adventure around the DC area!

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