The Shakedown Ride

A Shakedown Ride is probably the most important thing one can do before a race or big ride. Lately you see the word “Shakedown Ride” used a lot. I’m not talking about the first ride on a new bike or trying a new wheel set for the first time.

A true Shakedown Ride should put you and your bicycle to its limits. You want any hidden issues with your bike, load, gear or yourself to become evident quickly. You want to stress your bike and your body to find these issues. Find a rough and challenging route and give it hell!

The goal is to find any and all issues during your Shakedown Ride and not during your actual race or ride. There’s a good possibility that fixing issues during your race or ride is impossible due to limited available resources. It’s much easier and less costly to fix any issues that might arise when at home, rather in the middle of nowhere.

The Shakedown Ride isn’t just about finding out what issues you and your set up might have, but it’s about gaining valuable experience and building your confidence too. Many people in forums ask all sorts of questions that can be simply answered by doing a Shakedown Ride. It can answer so many of your questions, while at the same make you a more knowledgeable rider.

Reasons to do a Shakedown Ride:

  • Test gear
  • Figure out what works and doesn’t
  • Adjust load distribution
  • Figure out what you need and don’t
  • Build confidence
  • Gain experience
  • Add to your fitness
  • Learn how your bike handles with a load
  • Practice navigation
  • Test your body and mind
  • Learn what you can and can’t handle

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As you can see there are many reasons to do a Shakedown Ride. Because it’s important I’m going to say it again:  it gives you a chance to really learn and gain confidence. Not just about your gear but about yourself. Going online and reading what others do is good for two things, either confirming or conflicting what you hopefully already figured out for yourself.

If going online and confirming what you learned helps to give you confidence then do it. Whatever you do, don’t simple rely on what others tell you. As stated it’s about gaining knowledge and building your own confidence. Nothing can replace these once on the trail.

It would be great if we all could skip the learning part and go straight to the actual doing, but it doesn’t work that way. Doing so leads to being unprepared, dangerous situations, and quite possibly you quitting your race/ride. Don’t put time, effort, and money into an adventure to throw it all away because you skipped a Shakedown Ride.

I’ve accumulated well over 15,000 miles of hiking and bikepacking experience and I still do Shakedown Rides/hikes today. Learning should never stop, and bikepacking is no different.

Things to Look for on Your Shakedown Ride

  • Are your straps staying tight?
  • Is any of your bags rubbing the tires?
    • Harnesses or the additional handle bar bags that attach to harnesses can rub the front tire when running front suspension.
  • Are bottles or their attachment points secure?
    • Bottle cage mounts that attach with velcro need to be more than just velcro. The velcro strap should have some sort of secondary material on the backside (Wolf Tooth Straps fit the bill). If not the velcro will tear. Trust me I know by experience.
  • Is your tire pressure firm enough with the extra weight?
  • How is the weight distributed on your bike? Is it too top heavy or lopsided?
  • Was there gear you didn’t use that you could leave at home?
  • Did you forget any piece of gear you wish you had brought?
  • Was you lighting system bright enough for you to comfortable ride during the night time hours?
  • Did your power supply sufficiently meet your needs?
  • How did your food choices agree with you?
  • Was the amount of food you brought enough or too much?
  • Did you have enough water carrying capacity?
Scott Richardson - Alaska - Bikepacking Trip


The bottom line is everyone from the newbie to the crusty veteran should do a Shakedown Ride before a trip. How can more time spent on your bike be a bad thing. There are probably other reasons to do your own Shakedown Ride or things to look for but hopefully this article got creative juices following.

Get out there, test your bike, gear, mind, and body and don’t let your big race or ride become a failure because you didn’t do a Shakedown Ride.


Read these next or checkout the main resource page.

Gear lists from the AZT, TD and CTR; Pros & Cons; Things I’d do different; and Tips.

Stony Pass - Colorado Trail - Bikepacking - Hiking - Colorado Trail Dispatches
Cold-Weather-Bikepacking-Craig Fowler-Colorado Trail-How to

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