I'm writing this with no bikepacking experience and little biking experience at all. I'm not sure what mileage is reasonable or what trips are really possible. But I would really like to find out.
My knees have been getting worse while hiking, and so I was hoping that maybe bikepacking could both help my knees get better to hike more, get me to the trail head without the use of my car, and open up new possibilities for me.
So first question: I live a bit north of Atlanta. So for me to get to the mountains and some forestry roads is about 60 miles. Is this a feasible distance to really cover in less than a full day? I used to be in very good shape, and I'm not quite at my peak currently. I can always fix that though by riding around town or working out.
Secondly, about bike features.
I currently own a Sekai 400. I used it for commuting to school for the last couple of years. However, the wheels are steel which makes it nearly impossible to stop in the rain, and the back wheel is now bent, causing the tire to rub against the frame. I paid $100 for the bike, and replacing the wheels will cost almost that much, so I think a new bike could be great.
I'd like to go with a mountain bike, and I was thinking a 29er. With the hope of riding this along roads to hit trails as well as on some forestry roads and maybe even some single track, which may be better: single speed or geared? If I go geared, would it just be better (read cheaper) to have only a few gears (say something like 10)? I was thinking a rigid fork for simplicity, weight and cost. For my proposed riding, is there much reason to need a suspension fork?
And here is the question to end all questions: What price do people suggest to spend on a bike for someone just getting into this game? Please note that I try to live off of as little money as possible, so my budget is pretty tight currently.
Any bike suggestions are lovely as well, but that can just turn into a whole mess of differing opinions. Really, if you can't tell, I'm trying to learn everything a beginner needs to know to pull of these trips. I appreciate any advice.