Needless to say a bike is probably the most important element of bikepacking. You can bikepack on just about any bike, so my advice is to just get out there and ride with what you’ve already got. But depending on the bike, you may be limited in the terrain you can cover or how remote you can go. A bikepacking rig doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to be comfortable, reliable and in good working order. The last thing you want is to get stranded due to a mechanical.
I wanted to document my bike, the components I’m using, how its set up and why.
Frame: Moth Attack Rigid 29er
Rear Wheel: DT 350 to Stans Flow EX
Front Wheel: Shutter Precision PD8X dynamo hub to Stans Flow EX
Tyres: Maxxis Ardent Race 2.2″ (front) and Ikon 2.2″ (rear) – set up tubeless
Drivetrain: Shimano XT 11spd w/38-28 double crankset
Brakes: Shimano SLX
Pedals: Shimano XT
Stem and post: Thomson Elite
Saddle: Fizik Arione
Bars: Salsa Bend 2 w/17° sweep
Aero bars: Profile Design T2+
Grips: Ergon GS3
Bidon Cages: Specialised side entry cages and Arundel Looney Bin
Extras: Sinewave Revolution USB charger
Saddle Bag: Revelate Viscacha
Frame Bag: Apidura MTN Large half frame bag
Gas Tank: Alpkit XL
Feed bag: 2x Revelate feed bag
I was fortunate enough to be able to have a frame custom built to my measurements and specifications by the ever talented Megan Dean of Moth Attack. Before getting the Moth Attack I had done a lot of bikepacking on both my cyclocross bike and my hardtail MTB. Both were good and did the job of getting me out there but also had their limitations. My cross bike, even with 40mm tyres lacked a bit in control in some looser and gnarlier sections of trail or in the wet. It was fast on smooth gravel or road sections but I certainly had to take it a bit easier on rough descents. Gearing was also limiting and I found myself having to get off and push a lot sooner on the steeper stuff. Conversely (and probably obviously) the mountain bike handled the rough stuff with ease, the gearing gave me great range, but the suspension fork was heavy and sucked a lot of energy while climbing and the geometry was a lot slacker than I’d like for long days in the saddle.
Enter the Moth Attack: steeper cross-like geometry, clearance for 29×2.4″ tyres, all the mounts you can shake a stick at and a big open main triangle for frame bag and water bottle space. Oh, and it fits me like a glove.
The wheels were built by the skilled and infinitely knowledgable folks over at Commuter Cycles in Brunswick and have been totally bomb-proof. The nice wide Stans rims make tubeless set up a breeze and coupled with a pair of 2.2″ tyres make for very predictable handling. The highlight here is the thru-axle SP Dynamo hub, allowing me to run lights and charge my electrical devices when coupled with the Sinewave charger. The tyres were chosen for the balance they strike for speed on the smooth stuff and their ability to hook up when you need them to. I went with a 2.2″ width for similar reasons and find they’re fast enough to tick along at 30+kph on flat sealed roads and have been able to tackle everything I’ve thrown at them with the exception of a couple of extremely sandy tracks. Granted I haven’t ridden a plus bike, I’m sure there is a time and a place for them, but I’m yet to take on a ride where I’ve come away wishing for wider tyres.
Drive train and brakes are Shimano because it just works. Its hard to argue with reliability and ability to readily source spare parts. The 38-28 double crankset coupled with an 11-42 cassette gives me a massive gear range and I use it all regularly.
The cockpit looks a bit goofy, but comfort is the name of the game with bikepacking, so aesthetics here aren’t the priority. The Salsa bars have a 17° sweep, which I find is just enough to relax the position of my wrists, without kicking in my elbows too much and sacrificing leverage as I find can happen with more heavily swept back bars. The ergonomic grips and built in bar ends give me a good comfortable main position for my hands, as well as an alternative for climbing or just shifting my weight around. Likewise, the aero bars are there more for resting on than for trying to get aerodynamic. On flat, smooth stretches of road its a good way to take some weight off your hands, wrists and arms. The position change also shifts the muscles you are using in your legs to drive the bike, which I find is also handy for resting fatigued legs.
I choose to use 2 side entry cages in the main triangle as I find it makes life a lot easier to access and stow bottles when you’ve got a frame bag sitting directly above them. The “Looney Bin” is an adjustable cage that I have mounted under my downtube that usually houses a 1L water bottle, but can be adjusted to carry a whole host of items.