Bikepacking.com: Assessing the Authority in the Bikepacking Community

Bikepacking.com: Assessing the Authority in the Bikepacking Community
Screen shot of Bikepacking.com's website.

In the world of bikepacking, one resource has become the authority: Bikepacking.com. Their website is loaded with useful information that both educates and inspires readers. The target audience ranges from novice to expert, and the content keeps this mind.

But does an authority actually create quality content for the web? To find out if this was true, I chose to assess both its web design and article design. The results were kind of shocking.

Web Design Assessment

Layout

Bikepacking.com balances photos, articles, videos, etc., to keep the audience engaged. On the home page, a revolving slideshow allows readers to easily navigate to articles while also offering a visual glance into the article’s topic.

Inside each article, the layout is consistent. This includes the use of high-quality photos or videos that break up text and allow the user to digest the information.

Color Scheme

The colors are warm and inviting. They consist of muted shades of green, tan, red, and black. None overpower one another, and all fit with the website’s goal of exploring nature.

Typography

Bikepacking.com uses several different fonts and sizes throughout the site. This allows the reader to easily identify headings and paragraphs. While the fonts are consistent and readable, the individual articles would benefit from the use of fonts similar to Calibri or Arial. According to Elegant Themes, these styles are easier to read on the screen.

Visual Appeal

The website’s visual appeal is spot on for the discourse community. The pictures are sharp and of high quality. There is an even balance between information and the visuals.

Article Assessment

For this assessment, I examined two articles to assess for tone, language, clarity, and outside sources or external links.

Tone

The articles range between semiformal and informal tones depending on their topic. This style fits with the target audience and helps establish a level of authority with the authors.

Language

There were two aspects I focused on with this part of the assessment: how understandable is the language in the article and sentence length. Bikepacking.com uses easily understood words and phrases with simple and concise word choices. Although, there were areas where a link or definition was needed. For example, the highlighted portion is from Klunk ‘N’ Float 2023: Lords of Klunk Town:

“But, deep down, I think we all wanted to stick to our backyard in the qathet Regional District, even if we didn’t voice it.”

Unless the reader is familiar with this area, they wouldn’t know if this was a misspelled word or just a mistake. After a quick Google search, I found that “qathet Regional District” is a municipality of British Columbia, Canada.

With regard to sentence length, I found that there was an imbalance of short and long sentences in paragraphs. Each paragraph averaged about five sentences with each sentence averaging 18+ words. While the information was pertinent to the topic, the sentence length itself could have problems keeping readers engaged.

In the example below, taken from Guide to Ultralight Water Filters and Purification, there are four sentences in the paragraph with an average of 23.7 words per sentence.

“We have routes on this site where water is plentiful, such as the Appalachian Gravel Growler, which is chock full of clear springs and mountain streams. When bikepacking in this type of environment, there’s no significant reason to carry more than a liter bottle and a reliable filter. On the flip side, routes such as the Camino del Diablo in southern Arizona require a disproportionate volume of water to be carried over several days. Then, there are routes through developing nations with tap water provided by questionable infrastructure, where drinking water can be risky business.”

The information is all useful, but the paragraph could be rewritten to avoid overstuffed sentences.

Clarity

Due to the website being a creative and informative blog, the clarity of the information varied. When articles had an informal tone, such as the Klunk ‘N’ Float article, there was an increase in ambiguity of meaning.

Here is one example of the ambiguity problem.

 “Our first hurdle was that the trail that was supposed to connect the gravel to our first lake was non-existent beyond a few barely visible marking ribbons scattered in the trees.”

The use of “gravel” is supposed to mean gravel road or trail. However, to someone outside of this discourse community, it could mean something completely different. It would have been better to rewrite this sentence for better clarification.

However, several of the authors also wrote more informative and semiformal articles where clarity wasn’t an issue.

Most of the articles had minimal external links for users. This forced users to leave the site in search of context as to why certain locations or sources were included. The lack of links gave it a more traditional-style feel to the writing despite it being digital.

Conclusion

Overall, Bikepacking.com does a thorough job in maintaining their consistency both in web design and article layout. The use of colors and themes fit well within the image bikepacking conjures. But despite my criticism, the use of high-quality images and media along with a wide variety of topics ensures readership. More importantly, it means they will continue to be the authority in the bikepacking community.

Nate Cole

Nate Cole

I work for an airline as the Publications and Records Manager. When I'm not working, I can be found either hanging out with my family or on a bike tooling around...preferably both!
Fairbanks, Alaska