Bikepacker Update

Here’s an update to my bikepacker project. I used to do a lot of bike traveling, 30 or 35 years ago, but from hotel to hotel. If I camped outside, overnight, the ride was usually supported (a vehicle showed up with my food, kitchen, and sleeping accoutrement). With the advent of the gravel bike I (and a lot of others) have graveltated to bikepacking or, at least, the idea of bikepacking. And one thing… for you who write in to say you don’t know what you’re talking about you’ll get no pushback from me. I don’t. A lot of the cycling media – I’m not exception – are learning as we’re writing.

First you need bike; then you need the luggage. Then you need the stuff that goes into the luggage. Then you just need to do it, and hope things don’t get too “basic” when you’re out there. I’m just about to the point where step-2 above is complete, that is, I think (maybe) I have my luggage sorted.

To recap, the bike is an OBED Boundary and this is becoming kind of a bikepacking fave. I have one as does my buddy Ian who I intend to do much of my bikepacking with. This bike is handy because it’s a good gravel bike; it’s got bosses all over for racks and things; and it’s got tire clearance. I have HED Emporia wheels on this bike (in 650b wheelsize) with (tubeless) Schwalbe G-One Bikes in 53mm; and it’s running Shimano mechanical/hydraulic GRX. I’m all about electronic shifting, but I’m fine with cabled shifting for this application.

The bike has a Profile Design DRV/GMR handlebar which, among the various gravel bars I’ve used, comes closest to the ideal bar for bikepacking. The aerobars are a kind of full/shorty tweener. These are a flip-up-armrest copy of the (now deceased) HED Cobra clip-on, which allows me to keep my (non-negotiable) tops position.

The extensions I’m now using came off an old set of 3T aerobars and are cut down a bit (in length). It’s longer than a shorty bar (used for ITU draft legal racing, and for gravel racing), because the seat post is a 2-position Redshift. Below is the seat post in the forward position. But it's shorter than a full-length aerobar because i don't want that much weight over the front wheel of a bike not designed for the aero position.

The saddle remains the BiSaddle Stealth and I just continue to be impressed by this saddle. I’m riding a lot of bikes and saddles these days and while I chose this saddle because it works in both the standard and the forward (tri) position, it’s a better road saddle than most road saddle's I'm riding, and a better tri saddle than most saddles dedicated to tri. It's the first saddle since before the snub-split-nose saddles that are good for everything. You have to back to the Fizik Arione Tri 2, or the Profile Design (Tri Stryke or Vertex) to find a saddle that has that kind of range.

Now to the luggage, which is the difference (mostly) between the first time I showed this project and now. This has taken several months because all these bags and racks and kind of pricy and I’m on a budget for this. There’s also been some surprises as I’ve ridden the bike which have caused me to reconsider some of what I’d originally intended.

The packs I have come from two brands: Apidura (on the front) and Aeroe (on the back). Apidura is the more well-known brand I think, and a darling of bikepackers. The packs are just great. This is what I have for the fork packs and the frame pack. Many of these bags use roll top closures (like the Aero 12-liter bag below).

Above is what the bag looks like when you’re loading and unloading your stuff and I anticipate putting a sleeping bag in here. Below is what the bag looks like when you’re ready to ride. The Aeroe 12-liter bag on the back of this bike, and the Apidura handlebar, saddle and fork mount bags all use this roll top system (which was foreign to me before I jumped into the bikepacking world).

When I was at Sea Otter a couple of months ago a brand from New Zealand had an expo booth there, Aeroe. I sent away for these racks and packs and it’s what you see here on the back.

What have I discarded? First to go were all the packs that mount in front of the handlebars, and these included packs from Apidura and Aeroe. I chose to preserve my aerobars. I may rethink this, but this is my current thinking. I’ll have to see how well I do at working with the space I have.

I also eighty-sixed the Apidura seat pack in favor of the Aero, because the Aero packs a lot more stuff, there’s no tail wag, but mostly because the seat post style I'm using (the Redshift 2-position) is not that compatible with a seat pack. I also discarded the Apidura bento because my knees hit it when I pedaled. I may replace this with a smaller bento (say, from XLAB).

That frame pack from Apidura is handy but it got in the way of water bottles. Water is a major part of the strategy in bikepacking I think, because it’s the heaviest thing you need a lot of. I haven’t decided what my water purification strategy is yet, whether I’ll use a halogen-type system (pills, iodine), or a water filter. I have to see what the bikepacking experts say about this. However, if I do continue to use typical water bottles, I found I needed to reorient the bottles to accommodate the frame pack.

The down tube cage needed to get a lot lower, and that forced the seat tube cage higher. If you Google "bicycle water bottle cage adapter" a bunch will come up including a nifty one from Shimano. I had a couple laying around that were made for tri bike BTA systems, one worked perfectly, the other I needed to modify. As you see (above), the bottles now fit.

About that Aeroe system. Those side panniers are pretty cool. The bags are waterproof, and interface with the rack system. They come off the rack quickly with a pull and a twist. Above is a pic of how that works, and what you see here is that pack turned around so you can see how the rack and the bag mate to each other.

It’s been cool discovering products that work, but it’s been kind of an ouchy process as I have discarded about a half-dozen packs or racks that just didn’t work, and that trial-and-error probably cost me $500. But I found good homes for what I did not use, so that’s something.

I’m edging closer to the moment when I have to hike my leg over the top tube and go, and that means that stuff we take for granted like food, water, shelter and security are all possible casualties of the process. It was different when I was younger. Comfort and safety seem more important as one ages. Whatever is foreign, discomfiting, harsh seem more to be avoided than embraced. I therefore welcome this as a youth initiative. If one behaves as if one is young, is that the same as being young?

In the next update I expect to have my lighting figured out, and some decisions made on what goes in these packs (kitchen, food, shelter, first aid, bike repair). More to come, and in the meantime there's a thread on our Reader Forum where I've solicited advice on the next steps.