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Bikepacking Bike Advice
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Curt Peterson
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Bikepacking Bike Advice on 08/14/2012 20:39:47 MDT Print View

I'm looking at my first bikepacking setup. I'll be pretty much exclusively on dirt and gravel. Very little vertical. Very little singletrack. Probably 60% rails-to-trails paths and 40% open backcountry or sagebrush areas. We're talking backpacking on a bike, not adrenaline seeking steep stuff with lots of air.

So, that said, I'm trying to decide between a standard 29er mountainbike and a beefy 700 "hybrid". I'm confident either will be comfortable. Components are very similar in quality. Geometry is close enough that it's not a huge factor. It's really coming down to the gearing. The 29er is a 22/32/42 8 speed. The hybrid is a 28/38/48 9 speed. Which is more tailored to trail duty? I'm assuming on the high end the 700 will be faster, I'm not sure how the low end is different in real world use.

Similar price. Similar in many ways except the drivetrain. The hybrid can even take 29er tires so if I decide to go a little more hardcore I could go a little bigger. Am I only losing the easiest gears by going this route?

Thanks for any help you can offer!

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: bike on 08/15/2012 16:26:38 MDT Print View

The gearing of the bikes will depend on the cogs as well as the chainrings. A 28 by 34 low gear is pretty low for firm surface riding. Add softer dirt or gravel, a load, and a headwind and 22 by 32 or 34 might be appreciated. Especially if you are just starting out and don't yet know your preferences.

On the other hand, the only 8 speed stuff still made tends to be pretty low end. That makes me suspect that the quality of the shifters on that bike might leave a lot to be desired. IMO cheaper derailleurs are less of a big deal, but cheaper shifters can be not so pleasent.

I also think that when it comes to tire clearance more is always better.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
More help on 08/16/2012 08:49:50 MDT Print View

I agree with David, but I will clarify, in case you are not much of a bike tech person:

Get the mountainbike. You will very likely need that low gear often. You will still have plenty high of a gear for faster road sections. In fact, it might still not be low enough, if the rear is only 32, your low gear would be 24/32(0.75 ratio). For comparison, many bikepackers run 20/34 or 22/36(0.61 ratio), or even 20/36 with a 29" wheel.

Get the mtb. You will have tire clearance for muddy conditions or the space to run bigger tires for less rolling resistance, more comfort and more control. You can always run skinnier tires in a bike with lot's of room, but not vice versa.

Can you afford a bike with 9 speeds in the rear? Not only will that give you a lower gear, it will also likely be better performing as well.

Edited by Tjaard on 08/16/2012 08:56:57 MDT.

Andy Amick

Locale: Colorado
Go for the mountain bike on 08/19/2012 10:57:24 MDT Print View

I agree with Chad and Tjaard. Get the mountain bike and you will be better off. It's more versatile with the gearing, tire options, and also with the fit.

If you are fairly new to cycling, the lower gearing on the MTB will make bikepacking much easier. When you add several pounds of gear to the bike, what once was an easy hill becomes much much harder.

Have fun and welcome to the bikepacking world.

Curt Peterson
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Bikepacking Bike Advice on 08/20/2012 08:48:51 MDT Print View

Thanks for the help! Much appreciated - I am new at this use for a bike, so it's really helpful. I certainly have a sense of the gearing from previous bikes, but not loaded up as a bikepacking bike, so that input is particularly helpful. With all the options I can see why people decide to keep it simple and go singles speed :)

Excited to add a type of packing to my world. Especially in the spring and early summer in the NW it's frustrating because most of the high country is still under snow until August. Getting into some of the lowland areas or open stuff on the other side of the Cascades on a bike while waiting for the snow to melt sounds awesome. Might even have to try some dead-of-winter trips in the Scablands.

John Canfield
(jcanfield) - F

Locale: Cascadia
Bikepacking Bike advice on 09/22/2012 11:22:53 MDT Print View

+1 on the mountain bike front. a 29er is pretty common for the cause. A good mix of rolling for the roads and acceleration for the nasty bits. I also agree that you should try and find a 9 speed, as they are getting less expensive and will give you a wider range. If you are in Seattle, I would stop by recycled cycles, as they will periodically have a 29er for sale that may fit your needs.

Mid-winter trips sound great. I have been looking for good rain shadow biking for late fall/winter as well. Let me know what you find!

I am in Seattle, so if you need some bags sewn, or have questions in general- I live in Wallingford!

John C.