When exploring the backcountry on a bicycle, it’s only prudent to carry as little gear as you can, since you’re the one who’s going to be shouldering the load while you pedal your way through uphill trails. Instead of a full-fledged tent, for instance, some people just opt for a tarp and some poles for shelter. The Ultimate Direction Bike Tarp Conversion Kit goes one step further by eliminating the need for poles when setting up your tarp shelter.
Designed to let you use your bicycle as a substitute for poles, the accessory turns your bike’s handlebar into functional trekking poles, so you can pitch your shelter on the same vehicle you use to get around in the wild. Is it a good idea? We don’t know. On one hand, you can leave the poles at home. On the other, it leaves your bicycle unusable the whole time your shelter stays up. If you’re willing to do what it takes to travel as light as possible, though, it may be a worthy trade.
The Ultimate Direction Bike Tarp Conversion Kit is a foam accessory that mounts onto a bicycle’s handlebars, where it serves as a convenient place to secure the outfit’s FK Tarp in place of traditional poles. It’s designed to fit all types and sizes of bicycle handlebars, regardless of width, while an included Velcro accessory with two guy lines can be attached to the seat to further stabilize the bicycle. Once set up, the tarp can be used as a functional shelter, whether you’re looking for shade from the sun, cover from the rain, or just a comfy space to take a short nap.
According to Ultimate Direction, the combination of the conversion kit and the FK Tarp makes for the “lightest bikepacking shelter system on the market.” While we can’t guarantee that, swapping in metal poles for a foam accessory does take a decent amount of heft from your gear bag.
To set up the Ultimate Direction Bike Tarp Conversion Kit, start by using the Velcro accessory to stabilize the bicycle using the seat and seat post. Once it’s standing steadily all on its own, attach the foam to the handlebars and pitch your shelter, inserting the foam into the trekking pole pockets inside the FK Tarp to create a convenient opening out in front. From what we can tell, this actually makes setting up the shelter easier than using those trekking poles, as the foam should go in pretty easily since the bike is already stabilized, making it a really good alternative, provided you don’t mind not being able to ride your bike while you’re resting.
Can this be used with shelters other than the FK Tarp? We’re not sure, since the foam allows you to secure the handlebar to the built-in pockets on the tarp that usually accommodate trekking poles, so the design of your third-party tarp should be similar to make it work in the same effective manner. To put it simply, it probably won’t, but you’re welcome to try.
The Ultimate Direction Bike Tarp Conversion Kit is available now, priced at $39.95.