The best bikepacking bike is?

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ScotRoutes
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The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by ScotRoutes » Sat Aug 24, 2019 11:56 pm

The one you already own...

It's a bit of a meme, I know. Oft asserted by the old hands who have carefully built up their bike collections and have a bike for every possible niche. 

For a bit of a change, I thought I'd go against the grain a bit and do away with that, choosing to take out my "Less than appropriate" Orbea Occam on a trip I've been thinking about since I moved to Aviemore 6 years ago. Simply enough, it's 50km to the trail centre at Glenlivet, so ride there, bivvy, do the red descent, then ride home. 

To help with the load bearing, I fitted a Gorilla Cage to the one set of bottle mounts on the frame. That gave me some storage space low down. My insulated jacket squeezed into a small drybag there. I also fitted an old Ortlieb 3L saddle bag that I bought years ago for commuting. That held a couple of inner tubes, tool, levers, some snacks and a few items of clothing I might want through the day. Having packed those, the rest of my overnight kit went in a 25L rucksack. It was by no means full and the weight wasn't so great as to feel uncomfortable.

ImageDSC_0613 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

It's a fairly well-kent route, heading up past Ryvoan Bothy, past Dorback Lodge and on to the Burn of Brown. 

ImageP1050973 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

There are various bits of singletrack to be enjoyed on the way.

ImageP1050975 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

ImageP1050977 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

ImageP1050980 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

ImageP1050981 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

The trails were all very dry and I managed to make all the river crossings dryshod. However, at this point, disaster struck. A bottle of Smidge I'd been carrying in the side pocket of my rucksack had bounced out. This was potentially the end of my ride. Bivvying with just a tarp and no midge protection at this time of year was likely to be fatal. A quick check of the time and I reckoned I might just make it to the one shop in Tomintoul before it closed - though I had no idea what time that was. What had been a leisurely ride became a sweaty race and I pulled up to the Tomintoul Post Office at 18:05. Thankfully, they were still open and I managed to come away with a bottle of Jungle Formula.

I was now desperate for food and drink so popped into one of the hotels for a cold beer and some hot food. I made the mistake of taking my GPS with me and, when browsing through the maps, came up with another option for the night - to head to Faindouran with a view to the Fords of Avon and Loch Avon in the morning and a climb up Coire Raibert to get back home. This was only really an option due to my choice of bike and carrying most kit in my rucksack. The thought of lugging a laden bike up Coire Raibert would never have occurred to me. 

In the end, I opted to stick with Plan A. There is something particularly refreshing about camping high. As I left Tomintoul, dusk was settling in and I took the Speyside Way to the top of Carn Daimh. Given previous experience with other sections of the Speyside Way, I should have known better...

I was suckered in at the beginning as there has obviously been some recent pathworks on this section. This flock of sheep were certainly making good use of it. 

ImageP1050983 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr


After that, it did the SSW trick of running around field margins over tussocks, before making a beeline up a hill. I was just able to keep enough momentum going, particularly thankful for the rear suspension. As I climbed, the sun was just beginning to dip below the nearby hills. 

ImageP1050985 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

By the time I made it to the summit, the sky had become a deep red.

ImageP1050988 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr



Despite the quite fierce wind, I hung around sheltered by the viewpoint as the world around me went dark. It didn't look like the wind was about to drop any time so I headed downhill into the lee and came across a great little spot for my tarp. As I was setting it up, the wind DID drop and I was suddenly engulfed by the flying hordes. I scrambled to put on a midge hood and leg warmers and considered decamping to the top of the hill. However, the lull was only brief and the wind picked up again, just as strong. Decision made, I was here for the night.

ImageP1050994 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr


I had a pretty good nights sleep. One pee break at 2am, then an alarm call at 5:45 for the dawn. It was overcast and dull so nothing to write home about. Another nap ensued before I packed up and headed to the top of the red trail.

ImageP1050996 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

ImageP1050997 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr



Not my fastest descent and the amout of seat drop I could manage was limited by the bag I'd fitted, but great fun and even better knowing I'd not have to take that dumb-assed route back to the trail head. Instead, I headed back to Tomintoul for breakfast.

ImageP1050998 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr


After breakfast, the route back also gave me the opportunity to stop at the viewpoint I'd had to speed past the night before, en route to the shop and midge salvation.

ImageP1050999 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr


ImageP1060003 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

ImageP1060008 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

I wasn't the only busy soul around, especially now that the heather is in full bloom.

ImageP1060013 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

ImageP1060015 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr


ImageP1060020 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr




So, a great trip. Proof enough for me that you don't need to spend a couple of thousand on Ti-framed, B-Plus bikes with expensive, niche bags. If I lost out on some road/gravel sections, I certainly made up for it on the fun singletrack and descents. There are also other routes (like my Loch Avon idea) that suddenly become a lot more do-able. My one piece of advice though would be to, instead, spend some of that money on lightweight overnight kit. Once you can cut the weight and bulk, opting for a rucksack is nowhere near as bad as it might be (and I've made that mistake in the past). 

Of course, I'm probably now blacklisted by the Guild of Bikepackers for my heresy, but at least my Orbea is in British Bikepacking Orange :-)

ImageP1060024 by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

redefined_cycles
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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by redefined_cycles » Sun Aug 25, 2019 12:12 am

Nice... thanks Colin. Enjoyed that and it makes my choice of swapping to front suspension and selling the Prongs (until Tuesday when they can go on mancave wall)... Its added some weight have the Xfusions but they do feel rather solid and hopefully has made my bike into a Fun-bike... :-bd anyway... thanks

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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by RIP » Sun Aug 25, 2019 1:03 am

Liked that. Good pics too - tarp looked cosy despite the teeth. Very Tate Modern that sculpture pose. Done a few f/s bivvy outings meself and it's fine, but point blank refuse a rucsac :wink: One has some standards after all :grin: . Just keep it superlight as you say.
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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by thenorthwind » Sun Aug 25, 2019 10:19 am

Nice one Colin, thanks for the write-up and pics.

I've used my "enduro" bike for a couple of trips - in the summer when you can go lightweight, it's the bike I want to ride on technical so that's the bike I want to take bikepacking.

I like the idea of using a Gorilla Cage in the main triangle to get a bit of extra gear storage - hadn't thought of that. Works OK on just two mounts?

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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by ScotRoutes » Sun Aug 25, 2019 3:20 pm

I like the idea of using a Gorilla Cage in the main triangle to get a bit of extra gear storage - hadn't thought of that. Works OK on just two mounts?
Aye. I guess mine was only partly loaded. I put some heli tape on the frame where the top mount would have been as there's enough flex in the cage to have it bouncing against the frame when it's rough going.

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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by Tonto » Sun Aug 25, 2019 9:16 pm

Lovely write up Colin, reassures me about my choice of the Capra for the week-long alpine trip.

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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by MuddyPete » Tue Aug 27, 2019 9:20 pm

Excellent stuff :-bd
Perfectly simple....simply perfect :cool:
May you always have tail wind.

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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by Rasta » Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:54 am

What is the Loch Avon idea? (Below Cairngorm?)
I usually hike there for a night and fly fish. Thought it would be too boggy for a bike. Will be going in a week or two.

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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by ScotRoutes » Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:57 am

Rasta wrote:
Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:54 am
What is the Loch Avon idea? (Below Cairngorm?)
I usually hike there for a night and fly fish. Thought it would be too boggy for a bike. Will be going in a week or two.
I was thinking of cycling from Aviemore, Tomintoul, Faindouran, Fords of Avon, Loch Avon. That would give me a carry up Coire Raibert and a downhill finish. It was only because of the way I was carrying my kit that this occurred to me. I'd normally baulk at the Coire Raibert bit.

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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by whitestone » Wed Aug 28, 2019 10:18 am

Any way out (or in) to the head of Loch Avon is not going to be easy, I think I've done them all on foot. What are the tracks like along the loch edge? I've been to the Fords and have been climbing on Carn Etchachan, Shelter Stone and Hell's Lum but not traversed between the two ends of the loch.
Image

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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by ScotRoutes » Wed Aug 28, 2019 10:43 am

Yeah, I'd not want a bike on the lochside.

One alternative is Strath Nethy... Sanny reckoned that was Gaelic for Glen of Despair

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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by Rasta » Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:03 pm

Thanks. I will check on the map.
I've spent a few nights there. The north side would be a hard on a bike. Muddy trail between tight boulders. South side would be better.

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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by darbeze » Thu Aug 29, 2019 11:20 am

I always use a small backpack. Despite what most people say, I like the feel of a bag on my back. I do have a rigid framed 20ltr bag which spaces the bag off the back, so you don't get too sweaty...

Si

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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by Cheeky Monkey » Mon Sep 02, 2019 5:01 pm

Was there a reason you didn't use a bar bag / roll? Curious, not critical :cool:

I prefer as little as possible on my back being a sweaty beast, creature of habit and bit asthmatic (find the "weight" on shoulders and diaphragm a bit uncomfortable at times).

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Re: The best bikepacking bike is?

Post by ScotRoutes » Mon Sep 02, 2019 5:11 pm

Cheeky Monkey wrote:
Mon Sep 02, 2019 5:01 pm
Was there a reason you didn't use a bar bag / roll? Curious, not critical :cool:

It was a deliberate choice to keep the bike as light as possible (especially the front end). Like you, I normally shun any sort of backpack given the choice. I wanted to find out just how bad it would be ( it was actually OK). I think my main point stands - spending money on lightweight overnight kit offers a better "return" than buying a whole new bike for bikepacking if you already have another bike.

After the CL 300 river fun, I'm also thinking that a lighter bike is easier to ford with. It can be lifted higher and kept aloft longer. Mind you, no one wants to be trapped under a heavy rucksack if going for an unintended swim :lol:

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