Disclaimer: I don’t tour enough [pesky job and GF that wants to spend holidays trail riding not touring] to deserve an upgraded touring bike, but I’m not letting that tidbit of logic stop me. I’m sort of half-baked justifying it by thinking with a modern geo setup I’ll ride my bikepacking bike in the winter and take some gnarly conditions abuse away from my full-suspension bikes. 😉
My current bikepacking bike is a Surly Krampus. It’s been setup with IGHs and now SS. I’ve had a couple suspension forks on it as well as running it rigid at the start and currently. It’s a medium and about 2″ shorter in Reach than what I would like to ride at the moment. 2″ is a huge difference in how a bike feels from both bike fit and bike handling perspectives. Rather than try and make it something it’s not I’m going to enjoy it in its current rigid/SS/short Reach adult BMX mode.
So if I was starting from scratch what would I want my next bikepacking bike to be? Good question. Here is what I am thinking.
- Frame material: Steel ~6.5lbs or less with axle/hardware
- Stiffness: lively for my ~195lbs riding weight and minimal cargo
- Reach: ~18.5″
- Chainstays: ~16.5″
- Headtube Angle: ~65.5 deg with a 140mm fork
- BB Height: 12.1″-12.4″
- Wheel Size: 29 x 2.4″ minimum
- Fork: 140mm [MRP Ribbon or RS Pike]
- BB Type: 73mm threaded
- Hubs: 110mm front and 148mm rear
- Drivetrain: XT + 49T/50T GC cog
- Cranks: 28T splined chainring & 175mm length
- Pedals: flat pedals w/ lots of metal pins
- Brakes: XT
- Wheels: 29ers with AL rims ~30-35mm internal width Hope or DT Swiss hubs
- Tires: 29 x 2.4″ – 2.6″ [true width]
- Dropper: 150-175mm with setback head if seattube angle is steep
- Dropper Remote: Under the bar/left hand faux shifter style
- Stem: ~50mm
- Bars: ~780mm AL
- Frame Bag: 11″ ST, 18″ TT & 22″ DT [Krampus bag] or larger
- Optional/Bonus Items:
- Water bottle mounts under DT
- Wheels swappable with other bike[s] in fleet
- Dropper swappable with other bike[s] in fleet
- Sliding dropouts
- 27+ or 29+ compatible
27+ or 29+ or 29er?
I definitely dig the tall 29+ wheels for bikepacking and if there were no constraints I’d get a custom Daambuilt/Naked Bikes/Sklar 29+ and get a pretty sweet rig that checks all my boxes. The obvious downsides are higher cost and need to keep the bike a long time. The nice thing about production bikes is that they are cheaper and the resale allows you to swap a frame out if you don’t love it or something changes in MTB tech you want to use. I’ve thought about custom a few times, but never pulled the trigger.
I am a lot less excited about 27+ due to the smaller overall size of the wheel. If there was a ton of sandy desert riding or a snowy winter to deal with maybe I’d develop some stoke for a 27.5 x 3″ wheel, but that’s not part of my normal menu of riding conditions. On the other hand a lot of frames are 29er & 27+ compatible so I can get the 27+ potential for free. In that case why not? Maybe I’ll use it. Maybe I won’t. No need to decide now.
These days straight up 29er wheels/tires are not fashionable, but that’s what I am feeling stoked about. Thew new breed of ~2.6″ 29er tires offer a nice blend of roll over, speed, traction and float without needing any special frame design elements so it’s pretty easy to find them on a lot of production bikes.
This may be just me, but I get very excited when more than one of my bikes can use a set of parts. So having wheels that can drop into a couple frames, brake pads that work across the fleet, fork length/spares that fit several bikes, etc… Ya I find that rad. Slightly less important to me, but still on my radar is using parts I can find easily in a LBS on a road trip/tour. That’s why I mostly stick to Shimano XT brakes for example. I hear Hope brakes are very nice, but finding pads or spare parts in a store is never gonna happen and they are not so amazing I need them over a set of XTs.
It would make my day to be able to use the same 29er wheel set on my bikepacking rig and my day-to-day trail bike. Not only would I be able to have a spare wheel set, but I could invest in a very sweet bling bling wheel set and know I’d get tons of use out of it. The way wheel/hub standards are changing that sort of requires me to buy a hardtail frame around the same time as I buy a trail bike.
So don’t be surprised to see me use an existing crank/BB, fork, brake and/or dropper. I’d rather use something tried and true than experiment with the latest bling and have to stock new spares for every bike.
The proposed geometry above isn’t too radical. That gives me a few options for production bikes without having to go custom. It also means that my bikepacking bike geo looks a lot like my trail bike just without the rear suspension travel. A few of my friends are using hardtails in the winter to reduce the abuse on their full-suspension bikes. I’m not sure if I’ll really do that as the traction of a FS bike in the wet is pretty amazing, but having similar geo at least makes that a real possibility and even if I don’t campaign my bikepacking bike all winter with this geo it’s an easy transition to a solid backup bike.
One issue with production bikes is they prioritize standover clearance vs. framebag space. That’s not how I would look at things if I was going custom, but I get why they do that. My medium Krampus doesn’t have a huge framebag anyways so I’m gunning for at least the same amount of room in the new ride. That way I can reuse the existing bag and carry a decent amount of stuff in the frame.
Frame stiffness doesn’t get enough airtime in my opinion seeing how key it is for a fun and efficient riding bike. Make a bike too stiff and it feels dead, which is not fun to ride and doesn’t encourage you to hammer resulting in a slower ride. A slow bike means a low daily range and reduced touring potential. Obviously it’s not good to have a frame so flexible it can’t track straight, but these days an overbuilt frame is far more likely than getting a noodle. I like how lively the legacy green Krampus rides and reports from people who have ridden that bike and the new MK3 Krampus suggest the newer bike is far stiffer and less fun to ride on long range sufferfests.
To be honest this is one of the most interesting reasons for me to get a custom bike so I can discuss with the builder what I am after in terms of stiffness and select tubes appropriately. The other two reasons and getting 29+ capability and a big ass frame bag. But, if I had to prioritize frame stiffness is more important than those other two items.
Assuming I don’t taste the forbidden $$$ fruit of a custom frame the two production bikes that are turning me on at the moment are:
- Guerrilla Gravity Pedalhead: the GG PH checks a lot of my boxes and would have plug and play wheels and other parts [fork, cranks, dropper, etc….] with my GG Smash trail bike. Meaning I could always keep either bike rolling in the event of an equipment failure. Especially on a long roadtrip that’s pretty rad. The PH is customizable [under the DT water bottle mounts, pick seattube length and top tube length] and fits bigger tires.
- Pipedream Moxie: the Moxie is not quite as plug and play as the PH, but it’s cheaper and lighter plus it features sliding dropouts. This frame fits slightly smaller rubber and has no customization options, but the sliding dropouts are neat allowing for different ride feel for day rides vs. tours and I could go SS for winter riding.
At the moment there is no firm plan to get a new bikepacking rig, but I’m at least thinking about it. If you have any thoughts on the matter leave a comment. Things are still in the spitballing stage.