Do You Need a Stikine Bow Protector for Bikerafting? It Depends...
Photos & review by Andrew Strempke.
Stikine designed their Bow Protector to act as a barrier between a bike and packraft when bikerafting. Webbing loops at the corners fix the sheet to the raft, then additional webbing straps on the sheet provide attachment points for a bike. The substantial material provides a great deal of extra abrasion resistance for the inflatable raft tubes. I tested the Bow Protector on a bike float across a lake to see how easy it would be to install and how well it would work with my setup.
Usually I can position my bike frame to keep sharp corners off of my raft. However, there’s always the potential for a metal burr on a pedal or a loose cable end to inadvertently make contact and puncture the tubes.
At $39.99, this thick sheet with webbing reinforcements provides affordable peace of mind for your expensive raft. Considering the niche market that this is targeted towards, I think this price is very reasonable.
Alpacka Caribou Fit
When used with an Alpacka Caribou, the corners of the sheet extend well past the anchor points on the raft, making the corner webbing loops somewhat useless. The Stikine brand packrafts have a broader bow and anchor points that are positioned more outboard than the factory Caribou anchors. Thus, this Bow Protector is most useful if paired with a Stikine Packraft or other packraft with a much larger bow.
With only the Alpacka Caribou on hand, I placed the protector sheet on the raft, then set my bike frame on top. I used the protector to wrap my frame, trying to cover any potentially sharp parts of my bike. I used the corner webbing straps to tie the sheet to itself around the frame. I set my wheels on top and used a few ski straps to fix everything to the raft. Working around the protector to get to the anchor points was a little awkward, but it was possible.
Installation with the protector definitely took a few minutes longer than without. But with practice it shouldn’t slow you down much.
While on the water, I didn’t notice any difference with the Bow Protector in place. It disappears under the bike.
The protector sheet weighs: 15.8oz (447g)
This isn’t insignificant when it comes to a bikepacking trip. Although if it were much lighter, the amount of protection it offered might be diminished.
Dimensions: length 28″, width 19″ tapering to 41″.
I wrapped my rolled up raft in the Bow Protector before strapping it to my bars. I regularly experience abrasion from the stem or brake levers when trying to transport a raft on the handlebars. The Bow Protector provides good protection in this setup.
As well, depending on how one is carrying a packraft while bikepacking, the weight of the Bow Protector might be offset by leaving behind a dry bag or other storage container for the raft.
So do you want a Bow Protector? Maybe. It depends on the type of packraft you own and if you are willing to carry the extra weight. If you want the added security of protecting your packraft from sharp points on your bike, then yes. But if you want to lighten your load, maybe not. It’s an interesting concept, especially if used for boats made with lighter fabrics (which is in our future if Alpacka’s Ghost is any indication). Stikine says these Bow Protectors are made for only their boats. We think they would be more far more useful and popular if they fit on other company’s boats as well.
You can purchase the Stikine Bow Protector here.