My 29er MTB Bikepacking Setup…

17 02 2012

My 29er On One Scandal mountain bike setup with Porcelain Rocket bags...

Okay first off I beter say that the frame bag you see here is from my Surly Pugsley and doesn’t really fit the Scandal properly. So don’t think if you get a framebag from Scott at Porcelain Rocket that it will fit so poorly. I just jammed the bag into this bike while I wait for Scott to build me a custom bag that will fit this frame perfectly.

The key to a great bikepacking setup is the ability to carry the gear you need on your bike with as little impediment to how it rides off pavement. You can fit panniers and racks to most mountain bikes, but they end up being the weak spot in the bike so you have to slow way down and ride cautiously lest you break something. Your handling is also compromised so that technical riding becomes hard to impossible. When Kurt and I rode our Pugsleys on the CDN GDR with racks and panniers we had fun, but I vowed never to bike tour on dirt with that setup again – unless there was some overwhelming reason to carry that much gear.

Same Porcelain Rocket bags on my Surly Pugsley...

You can see the same bags on my Surly Pugsley above and appreciate how well the frame bag fits the bike it was custom built for. This is a typical bikepacking setup and is designed to keep the weight securely attached to the bike as close to the center of mass as possible. The bags have a limited carrying capacity which forces you to load them with only what you need and the bike remains “thin” which aids in sneaking between obstacles and facilities the seemly inevitable pushing you have to do. If you are fast enough it also keeps wind resistance to a minimum.

So a word about why soft bags are such a great idea for a dirt road or mountain bike trail tour. Standard panniers and racks are stiff and heavy. They hard mount to your bike which means every bump gets transmitted very efficiently from your bike to the racks and then to the panniers. Eventually that will break something. Even if you are lucky and don’t break your gear you will spend your whole trip babying it always taking the easiest/smoothest path to reduce the beating your bike takes. With soft bags the attachment points to your bike are secure, but they can give a little which absorbs the shocks they see without stressing out and breaking them. The upside is that you can ride your mountain bike like a mountain bike while carrying food, water and shelter.

Seat bag...

Seat Bag:

  • thermarest sleeping pad
  •  bivy sack/tent [no poles]/hammock
  • jacket when not being worn
  • this bag acts like a fender when riding in wet conditions

Frame bag...

Frame Bag:

  • bike tools
  • pump
  • spare tube
  • food
  • stove/pot/fuel/lighter
  • mini first aid kit

Top tube bag...

Top Tube Bag:

  • bike light battery
  • camera
  • snacks

Front roll bag...

Front Roll Bag:

  • sleeping bag & spare camp clothes inside 10L OR dry bag
  • tent poles outside bag if you got ‘em

Front bag pocket...

Front Bag Pocket:

  • snacks
  • cellphone
  • wallet
  • headlamp
  • maps

Dinotte XML-3 bike light...

Front End Bike Stuff:

  • Dinotte XML-3 900 lumen light [waterproof enough power for full night at low/high power for fast downhill runs]
  • Ergon grips for hand comfort
  • bar ends for extra hand positions
  • 180mm disc brake to slow down on steep hills with a load
  • 100mm suspension fork to allow for faster speeds on rough surfaces
  • BMX platform pedals for lots of grip in whatever shoes I want to wear

The back end...

Rear End Bike Stuff:

  • red blinky for nighttime visibility on the trail and road
  • Alfine 11 IGH for wide range weatherproof drivetrain and strong undished rear wheel
  • wide supple 29er tires with enough tread for loose conditions climbing
  • wide strong rims
  • 160mm disc brake [more than enough braking at this end]
  • comfortable leather saddle

On the trail...

Stuff I need to add:

  • water bottle cages on fork [w/ hose clamps]
  • fuel bottle cage under downtube [w/ hose clamps] for longer trips only
  • GPS [w/bar mount] when needed

Backpack or no backpack?

Backpack?

I ride my mountain bike with a hydration pack when on the trails. I used a slightly larger daypack for the ride out to the Sooke Potholes to carry water and some spare clothes. In general I think it’s better to keep the gear off your back and on the bike. Firstly it forces you to be ruthless with what you are carrying and secondly it’s much more comfortable. Plus it means that for specific trips where you need to carry a lot of food, water or clothing you have an option that isn’t already full of stuff.

I’ll be adding water bottle cages to my fork legs so I don’t need a hydration pack for fluids. I’ll be a bit more efficient about the clothes I bring and carry any spare clothes I am not wearing on my bike – either in the front roll bag or the seat bag. That will mean I can skip a backpack for most trips and if I really do need some extra cargo capacity I can add in a pack at that point.

Stylish and comfortable...

Clothing

It’s hard to be too specific about clothing since so much depends on where you ride, what time of the year it is and what the forecast is for. Here is a sample of what I might bring on a ride here on Vancouver Island:

  • toque [never leave home without it]
  • buff neck warmer
  • sunglasses
  • fleece gloves
  • rain jacket [as breathable as possible means less sweat and you can wear it most of the time]
  • wool top [maybe 2 if it's cool so I can layer]
  • synthetic capris
  • wool 3/4 tights
  • wool leg warmers
  • wool socks
  • shoes
  • rain chaps and rain glove covers

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37 responses

17 02 2012
disabledcyclist

I’ve yet to do any bike packing (between a former career that kept me gone too long/often,and now kid raising and other such excuses,LOL),but each year I get closer to having pulled off the time and gear to do it. Now that Nick (my son-daughter really has little interest so…) is just starting to ride with gears and what he calls “those funky hand brakes”,REALLY hopeful that he and I can share an overnighter this year-even if on a rail-trail. I enjoyed (and gained some real insite) this one,Brother,thanks :)

The DC

17 02 2012
mike

hot hot hot. very nice vik.

17 02 2012
gowlin

vik, have you ever down bike packing like this on a 26″ bike? Have you noticed much difference?

17 02 2012
thelazyrando

@Gowlin – I’ve done dirt road touring on 26″ wheels as well as 26″ x 4″ fat bike wheels [which are really a 29er of sorts]. The main difference is that the 29er wheel will roll a bit easier over rough surfaces assuming a similar type of tire.

The downsides to a 29er are:

– wheel isn’t a strong in theory [only matters for big guys 200lbs+ with heavy loads]
– spare parts may be less available

If you already have a 26er that’s suitable I don’t think there is any reason to get a 29er just to bikepack. OTOH if you are buying a new bike from scratch I think the 29er makes sense for a lot of bikepackers. If you are going to tour around the world for years and will have to source rims/tires as you go a 26er would probably be a good choice, but lots of people do multi-month tours in South America on 29ers and are fine. With disc brakes and a spare set of tires you would only have an issue if you got run over or had an epic crash.

17 02 2012
gowlin

Yeah, I already have a pretty well equiped 26″ bike that I could use, and I’ve just been thinknig about whether I want to invest more into that bike (ie. getting a custom frame bag) which would further my investment into a 26″ bike, or if I should switch to 29″ now.

I’m inclide to stick with what I have unless its significantly better to ride a 29er because switching is so expensive with changing wheels, frame AND fork..

I really want and intend to do some long bike-packing trips this summer.

17 02 2012
thelazyrando

@Gowlin – unless you have plans to buy a 29er anyways and if you love your 26er stick with what you have. Only the frame bag is custom so if you do get a 29er in 2 years the bar bag and seatbag will swap right over.

If you want to get the most performance from your 26er fit the widest most supple tires you frame/fork will accept and that’s appropriate for your terrain.

17 02 2012
pi11wizard

Scotts bags look amazing in white but how does that fabric handle mud? I can only imagine the state of my bags after a couple of days if they were white.

Nice article too!

17 02 2012
Vik

That fabric is actually a carbon fiber material. Cleans easily with soap and water. I have a black frame bag that always looks like crap because dirt is so visible on it. I think white is a better option even if you choose not to clean it a lot.

17 02 2012
pasopia1

Awesome setup Vik, I’m jealous. I want to put together a similar setup with a Troll this summer.

How much of your kit did you feel like you had to cut down moving from your ortlieb 4 pannier setup? Anything in particular you are going to miss?

17 02 2012
thelazyrando

@Pasopia – pretty much everything! It’s a radical transition. I would simply start from scratch and build your bikepacking list that way rather than trying to cut back from 4 panniers. It’s less painful that way…=-)

17 02 2012
Mike

Vik, what do you think of the PR website navigation? Is it me, or is really un-intuitive on a) to find out the product descriptions, and b) to click ‘add to cart’? For stuff that isn’t frame fit, like the seat bag, it should be simple…Is he deliberately trying to look more like a Flickr gallery than a business or am I missing something?

18 02 2012
Scott

Hey guys!
Thanks for all the support and kind comments! I really appreciate it.
The website is slowly being updated. And actually, I think the issues that the majority of folks have with it will be resolved in the next few days.
The Porcelain Rocket website (and gear for that matter) will always look somewhat different than what you may be accustomed to. I strive to keep things moving in a more ‘custom’ direction, and continuing to build gear that is not only insanely burly and functional, but also has a strong aesthetic appeal. It may be different, but different is good!

Scott

18 02 2012
Biking With Brad

Why wouldn’t the frame bag set up be a good road touring concept? My buddy Kent Petersen toured from Seattle to Duluth a bunch of years ago on a fixie with like 11 lbs of gear. He was able to cover ~200 miles a day repeatedly all the way there. Come to think of it, Jay Petervary did the same thing by riding RAAM unsupported in 12 days with more or less his off road set-up on his road bike. Funny thing is, he was disqualified because either they have a new time limit or that he didn’t have a support crew, I don’t remember.

Look at all the inspiration your are giving us! Nice work and happy trails!

18 02 2012
Biking With Brad

Oh yes, like the white, but why not just get a set of 29’r wheels made for the pugsley and tour with that? Saves on bags.

18 02 2012
vik

@Biking with Brad – there is no reason you can’t “bikepack”on the road. Having said that a normal touring bike with racks and panniers can be used on the road simply with less gear in the bags. The main reason to go with soft bags off road is that panniers/racks don’t work well on rough surfaces and the width is a problem on narrow trails. Those conditions don’t really apply to paved road touring.

There are some local randonneurs using a frame bag to carry their gear.

18 02 2012
vik

@Biking with Brad – the Pugsley 17.5mm offset doesn’t build up a strong 29er wheelset as the thin MTB rims can’t be drilled offset by very much. Realistically the frame is the cheapest part of the 29er build so saving a few $$ there isn’t that useful – not to mention the hassle of having to switch back and forth between wheels and suspension/rigid fork.

The only bag I would be saving by swapping wheels/fork on the Pugs is 1 frame bag which isn’t a big savings.

18 02 2012
vik

Brad – If you want a swapable 29er/fat bike it’s best to use a 170mm symmetrical rear end frame, but that doesn’t work with an IGH.

18 02 2012
vik

@Mike – PR’s website is a work in progress. Scott’s a craftsman and is uber busy at the moment building bags [I assume for the endurance racing season ie. Tour Divide, etc...]. He’s spending this weekend working on the website as far as I know.

Most of his orders are custom so it’s not that simple as adding a “click to buy” button. You really have to look at the bags he’s been making on his Flickr site, figure out what you want, talk to him about it and then place an order. Not a simple process, but custom bags are not about simple.

Looking at it another way…if a potential customer can’t figure out how to navigate the PR website they probably aren’t a good fit for a custom set of bags that will take a while to build with love and won’t be cheap.

Of course you can always check the Acorn Bag website. They have a lovely easy to use site that has all the expected menus and buttons – except you can actually buy anything….lol…that’s a whole different approach to bike bag production…;-)

That’s just my take on it.

18 02 2012
Biking With Brad

Fascinating regarding the offset required on a regular rim and good point on the cost issues. Swapping wheelsets often means swapping worn cassettes too since the chain wears in, or down, or however you view it.

It’s also a great excuse to have yet another bike. I like your style.

18 02 2012
vik

@Brad – I also wanted a larger frame. I got a 19.5″ Scandal 29er and if I was buying my Pugs again I’d get a 20″ vs. an 18″.

18 02 2012
pasopia1

Haha, good point. I think my first step is to get a smaller down bag from my big synthetic one.

20 02 2012
ssportsman

Hi

Nice set-up. My wife and I ahve done a fair amount of bikepacking, a we live on the North Shore, but some friends of ours live in Nainamo that have also done an extensive amount of bikepacking, if you’re looking for people with similar interests

scott

20 02 2012
thelazyrando

@Scott – for sure it would be great to meet up with other folks who like to mountain bike and bikepack. You can email me at “threeohm” at “gmail” dot “com”.

21 02 2012
Gijs

Hi,

Great bike, really like the setup with the white framebags. Even stylish with the Ergon’s (wonder how long they stay white) ;)
What size chainring & sprocket are you running?

Cheers, Gijs

21 02 2012
thelazyrando

@Gijs – 32T x 23T with Alfine 11 IGH on a 29″ wheel.

22 02 2012
dsemanik

Vik,

Nice job on the setup and review here. It’s great to see some bikepacking options for people to follow.

Dave
snowbikes.wordpress.com

1 03 2012
Eric

Hey Vik,
Great stuff!
I was looking to do an IGH a year ago but was told the only suitable IGH was the Rolhoff and that the other options would not stand up to the abuse of MTB. Really curious on your take on your selection/considerations.
Thanks!

1 03 2012
thelazyrando

@Eric – the Rohloff is the best option no doubt and provides a level of robustness and service life that no other IGH does. Having said that the Alfine 8 has a long track record of success in MTBing and touring. I’ve abused an Alfine 8 in my Surly Pugsley in conditions that would have wrecked a normal drivetrain and it’s doing great – with zero [internal] maintenance.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vikapproved/sets/72157610461277546/

The Alfine 11 is a new design that offers some benefits [wider gear range & easy to maintain oil bath], but it’s not proven in the same way as the Alfine 8 just because it’s too new. I’m testing out an Alfine 11 and I hope to have good things to report in a couple years.

21 03 2012
jim

after years of backcountry riding with a bob, the bike bags intrigue me…..does the added weight of bike/bag combo mean walking most uphill sections, or affect front end visibility in techy terrain….more flats? broken spokes? one of our group distains the bob and tried a light but loaded back pack last trip to the chilcotins. he said it gave him a sore butt and back after 5-6 days. the extra weight on his back meant standing up for uphills , etc got tiring and the extra impact when hitting rock, log etc rammed his seat into his butt/back. the bob is great but pushing up a pass with the weight way back there can be tough, but they come off in seconds and it can be carried with shoulder straps….i’d like to try your set-up as i see a lot of websites going this route….

22 03 2012
Eric

Well, Vic, primarily based on my desire to try the Alfine 11 and your sucess with the 8 – I ordered one up! Nervous and excited! Good chance we’ll have it on us, testing it out when we’re riding your trails, June 8-11th if you’re available to show us some of your favorite trails!
Cheers,
Eric.

22 03 2012
Vik

@Jim – bags on your bike keep the weight centered in the frame and low for minimal handling effects. How much you carry and the specifics of your trails will dictate how your cargo will affect your riding. You’ll find yourself being more mobile with bikepacking bags and riding more than with a Bob trailer – especially if you succumb to temptation and overload the trailer.

If you do have to hike a bike you can easily push a bikepacking bike up a steep trail as it’s very narrow so you can walk next to it.

Bikepacking bags are designed for minimal cargo which means there is room for all the essentials, but not much more. That’s a good thing as it forces you to be ruthless with your gear selection.

I wouldn’t recommend carry much in a packpack. Better to have the weight on your bike. You may need a backpack in some situations for hydration or for a few extra items that won’t fit into your bike bags. In that case just keep the weight minimal. And of course not all backpacks are the same so if you do use one make sure it carries the weight you need it to as comfortably as possible.

In terms of damaging wheels due to extra weight on the bike keep in mind what I said above about bikepacking bags being designed to carry minimal gear which means there isn’t a huge amount of weight being added to the bike compared to what it normally carries. The heaviest items should be added to the frame bag where the weight is evenly split between the lightly loaded front wheel and the heavily loaded rear wheel. A Bob trailer puts a significant amount of weight onto the rear wheel through the QR skewer mount. Finally you have to evaluate your situation…how much do you weigh, how much gear do you want to carry, how rough are your trails, how fast do you want to ride and how strong is your rear wheel? If you break spokes using a bikepacking setup you’ll break spokes with a Bob trailer. They both add some weight to the rear wheel. The solution is to build up a stronger rear wheel if you are close to the limits of your existing one.

You’ll notice both of us have IGHs on the rear of our bikes. That means our rear wheels are symmetrical with no dish and therefore very very strong.

22 03 2012
Vik

@Eric – congrats! What bike is it going on? So far my Alfine 11 has been great. I’m cautiously optimistic!

I’m away the weekend before in the US, but I’ll be back by the 8th of June. Drop me a line a little closer to the time and we’ll make some plans. As long as I don’t have to head out of town for work I’d be happy to show you around our trails.

What’s the reason for visiting the Victoria area?

22 03 2012
Eric

I’m adding the Alfine 11 to my old Niner One Nine Scandium. I spec’d a Velocity Dyad rim so I can also use it on my Surly Cross Check. Figure the little extra weight would be worth the flexability…

You just mentioned symetrical, no dish on your build – my LBS mentioned there would be a little – that surprised me… why would there be any dish?

Yes, thanks! I’ll drop you a line sometime late May to check-in!

We cycle toured from Victoria to Coos Bay, OR in 2008. Loved Victoria, only stayed a day. Coming back with parents in tow (they’ve always wanted to come and we’ve always wanted to come back). While there we’d like to do some single track riding while the rents tool around the Victoria area… (R&R & MTB!)

22 03 2012
Vik

@Eric – the Alfine IGHs build up with a bit of dish, but it’s minimal compared to a derailleur rear wheel so I just say it’s symmetrical to simplify the discussion. The end result is practically the same = a super strong rear wheel.

Have a look at the two links below for a rear wheel built using an Alfine 11 and an XT rear hub:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vikapproved/7005989723/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vikapproved/7005989645/in/photostream/

A Rohloff rear wheel builds up perfectly symmetrical:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vikapproved/6859879602/in/set-72157629321511881

Victoria is a great place for a family holiday. Your plan sounds ideal.

15 06 2012
On One Scandal 29er Bikepacking Mk2… « The Lazy Rando Blog…

[...] If you are wondering what I have packed in each bag click here. Share this:FacebookEmailTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

22 02 2013
Cory K

Nice Blog Vik!
I didn’t know you moved to BC. I will be doing some bike packing this summer. I will keep an eye on here for your new adventures.

1 04 2014
Eric

Hi Vik – Marginal success with the Alfine 11. Pulled it from my single speed frame shortly after our trip to Victoria as I could not keep it adjusted (kept dropping from a high gear to a low gear – horrible when trying to climb!) I figured I was abusing the hub using it strictly for MTB and steep climbing… Shelved it for a few months if not a year and have been running it lately on a CETMA margo. Running great – with the exception of it doing the same gear dropping in 6th gear. Can’t seem to adjust it to keep it in the 6th gear. It’s my personal Alfine 10. :( Shop can’t seem to figure it either – I may have damaged part of the hub from MTB use – not sure – may have to take it apart to inspect.
Best – Eric.

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