2017 Bikepacking Awards: Gear of The Year

Share This

others did. Support us and pass it along...
Facebook 0 Twitter Pinterest Google+

In part two of our 2017 Bikepacking Awards triptych, we recognize gear that’s made a lasting impression in categories, including ‘Best New Component’, ‘Best Tools’, and ‘Top 5 Bikepacking Bikes’, plus thoughts on the bikes that capture our interest most for 2018..

Following part one of this year’s Bikepacking Awards – our collection of Best Bikepacking Videos, Photography and Art of 2017 – part two splits a hotly contested collection of gear into nine categories. Read on to find out what we consider to be the best products relevant to bikepacking… from great outdoor apparel and interesting innovations, to the bikes that have impressed us the most (and a few we’d love to try). In the interests of looking forwards, we’ve also included our top 5 bikes that we either haven’t had a chance to ride thoroughly this year, or have been announced but aren’t yet available.

Although some of the gear that’s made the cut has yet to earn an in-depth review on the site, it’s all equipment we’ve had first-hand experience using and feel confident in recommending. And note that although the emphasis is on 2017 products, these awards are drawn from all the gear we’ve tried and tested this year, irrespective of when a particular item came out. After all, the ‘latest and greatest’ isn’t always the best, irrespective of what the marketing hype may tell us. In our minds, bikepacking is as much about gear that stands the test of time as out-of-the-box performance, so we’ve tried to strike a useful balance.

Bikepacking Gear of The Year

Porcelain Rocket 52hz

Back in May, Porcelain Rocket introduced the first waterproof, seam-welded, roll-top frame pack. Since our initial review, we’ve gotten plenty of use with it, including time in the Republic of Georgia and a mixed weather, multi-month trip in Peru and Ecuador. Suffice to say, it is just as impressive after months of use as it was when we first got ahold of it. With a unique closure, excellent build quality, and attention to fit and sizing, the 52hz gets the top spot in our bikepacking gear of the year. Read our review.

Porcelain Rocket 52hz waterproof frame pack

Honorable Mentions

Revelate Designs Egress Pocket Review, waterproof pouch

Revelate Egress

As mentioned in our big ‘Gear That Lasts’ roundup, the Revelate Egress is one our all time favorite handlebar accessories amongst. With a completely waterproof build, easy access closure, and a padded insert, it’s the perfect vessel for a phone, maps, snacks, or anything that requires protection yet also needs to remain very accessible, like a mirrorless camera and a spare lens. Read the full review.

Revelate Mag-Tank Review, top-tube bag, gas tank

Revelate Designs MagTank

Inspired by Vikings — or so says one source — the Revelate Mag-Tank forgoes a zipper and provides bag access via a smartly contoured top flap held in place by a brilliant magnetic buckle. We tested a prototype over 1000+ miles of rough and tumble terrain in Kyrgyzstan, and have put even more miles on the final version released early this year… nothing but accolades. Read the full review.

Roadrunner bags jumbo jammer

RoadRunner Bags Jumbo Jammer

The Jumbo Jammer is unconventional in the world of bikepacking bags in that it’s top loading, which serves to make access especially easy. Although heavier than many modern bags, it’s extremely well made, nigh on 100 per cent waterproof (we’d trust it with our cameras), and mounts to the handlebars very securely thanks to a nifty strap system. Full expanded, capacity is enormous at 29L. Learn more here.

Top 5 Bikepacking Bikes

Salsa Timberjack Ti, Best Bikepacking  Bikes 2017

Salsa Timberjack Ti

This is the bike a lot of folks have been waiting for — a modern replacement to the beloved Ti El Mariachi. The Timberjack Ti features a well-designed trail geometry in a nicely constructed titanium package. Frame highlights include internal cable routing and alternator dropouts that can accomodate 27.5+ on up to 29+. Stay tuned for an upcoming Rider and Rig featuring Logan’s build.

Surly Karate Monkey, Best Bikepacking  Bikes 2017

Surly Karate Monkey

As one of the first 29ers on the market, the Karate Monkey has built quite the following over the years. For 2017 they revamped it to include a new frameset with a reworked trail geometry, Gnot-Boost spacing, and thru-axles. It also has room for 27.5+ tires, and all the brazeons you can shake a stick at… making it a bikepacking bike that is equally at home on the trails. Check out Michael Dammers’s Rider and Rig.

Kona Sutra LTD

Kona Sutra LTD

While the Kona Sutra LTD we are testing is in fact the 2018 model, it’s been available for a few months now, and it’s impressed us enough to make a top five spot. The Sutra LTD is without a doubt a drop-bar bike built for off-road adventure. In addition to its ability to clear 29×2.1” tires, and a smorgasbord of bottle and rack mounts, its almost unmatched in the mainstream bike market for its mountain-bike like character. Read the press release here and stay tuned for a detailed review.

Pivot mach 429 Trail, Best Bikepacking Bikes

Pivot Mach 429 Trail

The perfect full-suspension bikepacking bike? Perhaps. After demoing 8 or 9 other options, we found that the Pivot Mach 429 Trail has all the features one might look for in a trail bike that doubles as a bikepacking rig — a bomber DW-Link suspension design, bottle mounts on the undercarriage, 27.5+ tires, and adequate frame bag space. Stay tuned for the full review.

Tumbleweed prospector, Best Bikepacking Bikes

Tumbleweed Prospector

We’ve ridden the Prospector throughout its evolution, from prototype to pre-production to production… and it’s just got more and more refined, with an attention to detail that borders on the obsessive. If you’re after a versatile, suspension-corrected and build-for-purpose expedition bike – designed around a Rohloff Speedhub but equally home without – it’s hard to think of anything as capable as the Prospector. Read the initial launch article.

Best New Component

SRAM Eagle GX Drivetrain

We have been using the Eagle X01 drivetrain for well over a year now, with hardly a con other than its price tag. SRAM put an end to that gripe back in June with Eagle GX… the trickle down gruppo attainable for less than $500. Although we don’t have a long-term review as our trip was cut short. With a full-pinned steel cassette and 500% gear range, it impressed us enough to make it component of the year. Read the press release here and stay tuned for a long-term review down the road.

SRAM Eagle GX, bikepacking awards

Honorable Mentions

Niner BOOST RDO MTB Fork Review

Niner BOOST RDO Fork

There aren’t too many carbon forks available that fit 29+ tires and have bottle mounts. And even fewer that are interchangeable with BOOST 110mm thru-axle suspension forks — being able to swap the two might be an enticing prospect for some bikepackers whose trail hardtail doubles as their bikepacking race rig, or dirt-touring bike. The Niner RDO fork has been around for some time, but the 2017 builds on the platform with modern specs in an equally as solid and lightweight package. Stay tuned for a detailed review…

Jones h-Bar Loop SG

Jones H-Bar Loop SG

Jones Loop H-bars have become something of a staple in the bikepacking world, thanks to their comfort and general utility. But the $120 pricetag always kept some folks away. This year, Jeff introduced the SG model; the same great design for $40 less, thanks to the use of straight-gauge aluminum instead of custom-butted tubing. For bikes with low stacks/short headtubes – or just anyone who prefering a more upright riding position – the brand new SG 2.5 version, with 2.5in of rise compared to the standard half an inch, is just the ticket.

WTB Ranger Plus Tough

WTB Ranger Plus Tough

Given the steep pricing that beleaguers the Plus tire world… it’s great to see such a high quality, great riding tire come in at such a competitive price point. The Ranger Toughs roll well, corner nicely and the side walls are just as it says on the can… a big improvement for bikepacking over their lighter weight predecessors. Rangers are also available in a wide variety of sizes; 26+, 27.5, and 29+, with 3in and 2.8in widths on offer too. Whilst we’ve found they wear faster than some more expensive tires, we can’t fault them for their price.

Game Changer of 2017

Trek 1120

Adding to their adventure travel bike lineup, Trek unveiled a bikepacking-specific model earlier this year that brought a few new tricks to the table. The 2018 Trek 1120 has two proprietary aluminum rack systems that are completely different from anything else out there. The 1120’s geometrically designed rear rack has an included harness system that holds two large dry bags; offering a way of carrying extra cargo that’s less bulky and more flush-fitting than panniers, independent of its dropper post. Even more interesting, the front rack can cradle a large drybag or multiple cylindrical items, keeping cargo away from brake levers and cables, often the bane of softbag bikepacking setups. Check out the press release and stay tuned for a detailed review.

trek 1120

Honorable Mentions

29x2.6" tires, bikepacking awards

Wide Trail Tires (29 x 2.6)

Designed to maximize cornering stability on a wide rim, wide trail tires have just enough volume to enjoy a some of that extra floatation, traction, and lower tire pressures favored by plus-tire connoisseurs, without all the associated weight. Since touring and trail riding on a couple of wide trail tires this year — more specifically, 29×2.6” in width — we can see why it’s a tire size that’s quickly gaining popularity. We still like the all terrain prowess of fully fledged mid fat bikes… but there’s a strong argument for less weight and better sidewall performance for many styles of riding, bikepacking included. Is it the hallowed sweet spot? It could well be… if only there were more bikes built around them.

Bedrock Black Dragon Dropper Seat Bag Review, bikepacking dropper seat post

Dropper-specific Seat Packs

For those who’ve tried it, bikepacking with a dropper post is completely revolutionary, especially when the ride involves short weekend trips, singletrack trails, and steep, technical descents. Since the advent of the Rockgeist Gondola, Porcelain Rocket’s Albert, and the Black Dragon by Bedrock (shown above) — among a few others — more and more riders are figuring it out. Stay tuned for our guide to posts and bags, over a year in the works.

WTB Koda Saddle, women saddle for bikepacking

WTB Koda Saddle

The ‘women’s specific’ label can seem a little arbitrary sometimes… especially if it’s just in reference to a pink colorway on an otherwise genderless product. There are plenty of reasons why a saddle may or may not fit an individual, but these aren’t just dictated by gender. If you’re a guy who’s sought comfort in a women’s-specific saddle, you’ll understand what’s behind the new WTB Koda, a saddle that’s ‘female-focused without being women’s-specific’. As with all saddles, whether you like it or not is down to personal choice. But we hope products like it usher in more inclusive mindsets in the bike industry. Read the press release.

Best in Tools

Dynaplug Micro Pro Tool

While the Dynaplug might not be new for 2017, it was new to us, and extremely impressive. From our review, “The size of a Mini-Bic lighter, the Dynaplug Micro Pro is the best tire repair accessory we’ve had the misfortune to try.” Read the full review.

Dynaplug Tubeless Tire Repair tool, Micro Pro

Honorable Mentions

Mineral Mini-Bar

Mineral Designs Mini Bar

The Mini Bar, one of three tools offered by the two-man shop, Mineral Designs, is a compact, welded steel mini tool with removable bits. It’s simple, feels good in hand, and is easy to use. It’s a favorite mini tool and went along on our trip to Georgia this past summer. Stay tuned for a review.

Crankbrothers Klic HV Pump Review, mini pump bikepacking

Crankbrothers Klic HV Pump

Crankbrothers reinvented the mini pump with the Klic HV. In doing so they created a nearly flawless pump with a stowable magnetic hose and comfortable folding handle in a lightweight, small, and usable package. After a year of use it seems to be quite durable as well. Read the full review

All In Multitool, Crankset hollow tube multi-tool

All In Multitool

Inspired by tricks and hacks from old bike touring veterans, the All In Multitool stashes in the crankset tube and stays in place with a powerful magnet. While it’s not cheap, and its lacking a few of necessary functions found in a folding multi, it’s a beautifully designed, handy bit driver that is super easy to access and use. Read the full review.

Accessory of the Year

wolf Tooth B-RAD System

Convert a pair of bottle bosses into a three-pack for an Anything Cage, move a cage up or down, add an accessory strap, etc. Wolf Tooth opened up the options with their new B-RAD (Bottle Relocation and Accessory Device). Great for people who like partial frame bags and want to run two water bottles. Read our first impressions here and see a news release of the newest attachments here.

Wolf Tooth B-RAD attachments

Honorable Mentions

Ratking T-Rack, minimal rear rack, triple bottle mounts

Rat King T-Rack

The T-Rack is a minimal, lightweight rear rack that can clear large tires (up to 29×3.5″) while also adding two sets of ‘3-pack’ triple bottle mounts to the lower rear of a dirt-touring rig, offering a great way of carrying an extra 4 liters of water for desert bikepacking on long distance journeys. There are two versions on offer… a more minimal saddlebag support and a version designed for micro-panniers. At 350-380g, they’re light enough to warrant the extra weight they can support, and as we’ve experienced, hardy enough to survive multi-month, dirt road touring. Learn more on the press release here.

Sinewave Beacon dynamo light

Sinewave Beacon

If you’re never been convinced by dynamo lighting – especially for technical, nightime bikepacking, the Sinewave Beacon might just be the unit to change your mind. It pumps out a healthy 750 lumens of light, which can be bolstered with a cache battery (charged during the day via the USB outlet), thus avoiding any disconverting flickering. What’s more, it also be flipped to a high and low mode to illuminate your campsite. Burn time is great too; a 3000mAh battery lasts about 2.5 hours on high and 12 hours on low. And that’s just while stopped – even at low speed the dynamo is contributing power, which will quickly cut down how much you’re using the battery and extend the total burn time. Made in the US, build quality has been excellent too. Stay tuned for a review.

xtracycle leap

Xtracycle Leap

Okay, so this is a larger ‘accessory’ than most… The new Xtracycle Leap is effectively a bolt-on frame extension, transforming your rigid or hardtail Plus bike into a fully fledged, all terrain pickup truck… aka family bikepacking rig. Aside from car-free living, ours has seen use on local desert dirt road trips, hauling a tent, gear, water, food, not to mention human cargo… as well as the little one’s bike for those times he wants to ride. If you’ve been eyeing up a Surly Big Fat Dummy and already have a donor bike to hand, this is a fantastic family investment.

Camping Gear of the Year

Vargo BOT 700

We all love gear that serves multiple purposes. The Vargo BOT does just that, doubling as a bottle or storage capsule, and an ultralight camp cookpot. The new Vargo BOT 700 serves the same purposes and with a built-in handle, it also works perfectly as a camp mug as well. The original BOT we tested has seen a lot of fires and stoves, yet it’s still as good as new. We expect the same from this one as its built from the same material and to the same spec.

Vargo BOT 700 titanium Pit

Honorable Mentions

Vargo DIG DIG Tool

vargo Dig Dig Tool

A twofer for Vargo! Weighing in at 36 grams, the 8” Dig Dig tool is a nicely designed latrine shovel that doubles as a tent stake or digging out a fire pit. Vargo nailed the design with folded edges on the handle side for comfort, and a seemingly invincible titanium construction. What more can we say.

Good To-Go Granola

Good To-Go Breakfasts

Just as you thought oatmeal was boring, Good To-go breathed new life into two breakfast staples this year. The Oatmeal is some of the best we’ve tried, adding creative ingredients such as gluten-free rolled oats, quinoa flakes, and dried currants make up the meat of the dish, while hemp hearts, raw sunflower seeds, pumkin seeds, banana flakes, coconut, and chia seeds, which all add to its performance value. The Granola is excellent as well. Read the full review.

MSR Trailshot Review, ultralight water filter

MSR Trailshot

The Trailshot pocket-sized water filter was designed for quick and active adventures. So it was no surprise that the MSR TrailShot is also ideal for weekend and overnight backcountry bikepacking trips. Given its size, weight, and price, the TrailShot works well on jaunts where there are plenty of water sources to dip into. Read the full review.

Outdoor Apparel of The Year

Patagonia Micro Puff Jacket

Patagonia claims that the Micro Puff Hoody is the best warmth to weight ratio jacket they’ve ever constructed. The proprietary PlumaFill insulation may not loft quite as well as down, but, unlike its animal derived competition, this synthetic material stays lofted and warm when wet… plus it breathes well. And to top it off, the Micro Puff compresses almost as well as many down jacket we’ve tested, weighs next to nothing, and does it all without stressing or harming any animals. Stay tuned for our review.

Patagonia Micro Puff Review, Synthetic Down Jacket

Honorable Mentions

Five Ten Winter Freerider Primaloft

Five Ten Freerider EPS High

With winter setting in, it seems only fitting to recognize the toastiness of these Primaloft insulated, high top Freeriders; a cold weather take on Five Ten’s classic shoe. Ours have travelled across Peru and Ecuador, shrugging off snow and rainfall in their way. Note that the compound used is the softer, tackier Stealth S1 variety, so they’re not as hardwearing as the Guide Tennies, which we featured in our Gear That Lasts roundup.

Search and State Field Shorts

Search and State Field Shorts

With a substantial waxed canvas fabric that gets better as it gets dirty and worn, Search and State’s Field Shorts are classic, rugged, and refined. They are sewn in New York City, with nice details like pocket and interior trim made from upcycled scraps and cobra fasteners on the front pockets so that there’s no chance of losing a phone while pedaling. They shrug off moisture and are breathable. SAS gets the fit just right: close without feeling restrictive. Right now sold out in most sizes but coming back next Spring.

Specialized Cliplite 2FO

Specialized Cliplite 2FO

While the pair shown may not be the 2017 model, they were picked up somewhere in the middle of 2016. Since, Gin has put a ton of miles on them and will attest to their comfort, both for long rides and off the bike, as well as durability. Stay tuned for an upcoming review.

Most Interesting Bikes for 2018

ChUMBA Terlingua Gravel Bike, Steel

Chumba Terlingua

The new CHUMBA Terlingua, a steel-frame, drop-bar gravel bike with either 700c or 650b ‘road plus’ tires looks promising, especially given its $1450 pricetag for a made in the USA tubeset. Check out the press release and watch for a review down the road. Learn more here.

Why Cycles Wayward 29+ Titanium Hardtail

Why Cycles Wayward 29+

With an elegantly formed, grade 9 titanium frame, plenty of mounts, 29×2.8” tires, and on paper, a solid seeming trail geometry, the Wayward 29” looks like our kind of bikepacking hardtail. We hope to review one later this spring. For now, learn more here.

2018 Salsa Blackborow Midtail

Salsa Blackborow

The Blackborrow isn’t a conventional bikepacking bike… at least in the way that we generally aspire to carry less rather than more… But it’s certainly a bike that encourages us to dream of going big! If ultra remote backcountry expeditions, multi-sport adventures, and trail maintenance pique your interests, then this reinvented midtail, complete with a Sram GX drivetrain and 27.5x4in tires, opens up some intriguing possibilities. First ride impressions here.

Bombtrack HOOK EXT-C 2018 gravel bike

Bombtrack Hook EXT-C

As a brand-new model for 2018 the Hook EXT-C builds on the success of the original HOOK, but in a full carbon fiber format. The bike was designed to allow for larger tires and a shorter rear end for more agile handling. For carrying duties, the EXT-C includes bottle mounts under the downtube as well as a set of triple-mounts on each fork blade. Learn more here.

3rd Generation Ibis Ripley

Ibis Ripley LS

There are many full-squish bikes that can be taken bikepacking, but only a handful that seem really good for the job. With two bottle mounts, decent space for a frame bag, and 29×2.6” tires (one of the few bikes that fits them), the new Ibis Ripley LS definitely looks like a great choice. Read the press release here.

In case you missed it see Part One, Video, Photography and Art. Or, continue to Part Three, People and Routes of 2017.

35 Comments
  • It’s been a really good year, y’all.

  • Black Rainbow Project

    I wouldn’t say the front rack of the Trek is ‘completely different from anything else out there’ though…I designed an integrated, drybag specific front rack, with a matching harness for my English five years ago. :)
    http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a92dab479e7938b1ff24ba83b256d4454b28f3304552646163c2085de54f3f2e.jpg

  • Nice. looks great. Hadn’t seen it…

  • who’s making 29×2.6in tires?

  • The ones shown are Schwalbe Nobby Nics. Maxxis also released the Rekon in that size and there are a couple others: http://www.bikepacking.com/gear/teravail-cumberland-review/

  • Bas

    I’ve always loved this bike. Go back to the English page to check it out every now and then. So many clever solutions in one bike.

  • Black Rainbow Project

    There might be some new pictures on there soon. The rack is back with Rob at the moment having a few cunning modifications done that I’ve been meaning to implement for a while, and it’s also having a new fork built to allow the use of 29×3.25 tyres… Which was actually the original plan, which got changed at the last minute due to not knowing if 29 plus would stick around. :)

  • Plusbike Nerd

    You might want to add the full-suspension 2018 Scott Genius bike which comes with either 27×2.8 tires/i30 rims or 29×2.6 tires/i30 rims to your list of interesting bikes. The $3300 base model comes with 1×12 Eagle GX.

  • Scott

    I’m confused by the Trek. Its a bike with front and rear racks. People have been trying to remove racks from bikes and call it “bikepacking”. Trek puts them back on on people go crazy over it??? What is the difference in weight between the Trek racks and a mini front and an average rear rack or even better… the Rat King rack?

  • Keep in mind the category in which it’s listed. And just because it’s listed there doesn’t mean that we are saying racks are for everyone, or that this execution is the answer to all forms of bikepacking. I personally prefer no racks, but there may be a specific trip where extra cargo might might be in order. Plus, as mentioned, we like that their front rack design keeps a roll style bag away from the cables and levers. So to clarify, we thought Trek’s unique implementation of a front rack and rear rack/drybag-harness were quite clever and deserved a mention in the innovation category…

  • It has good triangle space for a frame bag too.

  • Jamie

    Hi guys,

    Thank you for providing us with non stop informative and insightful stories of people doing great things with that great two wheel invention we call a bicycle. I love your site and I am sure many look forward to the new posts every week. In line with this recent post, I was wondering : Is it coincidental that 4 out of 5 best bikes of 2017 are made of steel and Ti? For the veterans, would you consider going full carbon for a rig that you hope to hold onto for 10 years and do epic trips? I suppose my question lies in the fact if you have the same bike in both carbon or steel and your premise is to be a bike packer (off the beaten path, long trips abroad, short trips) and you can’t have 4-5 different bikes in your garage which one would you lean towards and why?

    Cheers.

  • Hi Jamie. Thanks for the encouraging words. Always good to hear. First off, many of our lists such as this one are made with balance in mind. Two of my favorite bikes that I rode in 2017 — and that didn’t make the list — were both carbon, the Deadwood SUS and the Cutthroat. We didn’t include the Cutthroat as it has been around for a while. And the Deadwood SUS got edged out by the Pivot, not necessarily because the Pivot is a better bike; they are completely different. Again, balance. I think there is a place for all three materials and there are arguments for and against carbon, ti and steel. The biggest factor that makes it tricky to say which one’s best is the fact that they each have different ride characteristics. While carbon is a super lightweight, vibration dampening, tough material, it requires a bit of protection against bag straps and other aggregates when doing a long ride. And titanium is incredible for the weight and durability, but it’s also stiffer. All In all, it’s hard to argue against a good steel bike. if weight is not a priority, they are generally far less expensive, tough, and possess really good ride qualities. Perhaps all this deserves a post of its own :)

  • Brian Crosby

    Interested to read the Pivot write up. I just got a 429t as my one do it all Bike. And that is to include bikepacking. Working on putting a new bag set together for it now. Next up new saddle bag to fit with limited space between seat and tire.

  • Jamie

    Hi Logan,

    Thank you for your responses, they are always clear and precise. You are right, I may have opened a “can of worms” about the merits of each material used in bike construction and how each of those translate to a different “ride” as a result. We both know it would be an endless debate nonetheless :)

    In the meantime, I will continue to use your site for what it was intended: to educate, inspire and encourage those to get out there regardless of what they ride and simply “explore”.

    On that note, you guys did a fabulous job with your recent posts capturing the best of 2017, I enjoyed the way we celebrated the people, the bikes, and the gear.

    Happy Holidays ladies and gents.

  • Love the Mineral Designs Mini Bar. So much less frustrating to use than a folding multi tool…

  • Agreed.

  • Such a good bike. Check out the Bedrock Black Dragon and Rockgeist Gondola. Both are made for dropper posts, but are also very small and minimal. Also, Porcelain Rocket has a new ‘Mr Fusion Mini’

  • Smithhammer

    “For the veterans, would you consider going full carbon for a rig that you hope to hold onto for 10 years and do epic trips?”

    Honestly, no I wouldn’t. If it’s a bike you plan to only keep for a few years, then I don’t think it matters as much. But if it’s a bike that you plan to use/abuse frequently for extended loaded trips, AND you’re wanting it to last a decade, the benefits of a more durable material like steel or ti are going to outweigh any possible advantages of carbon, imo. Last year I built my F-150 bikepacking equivalent – with as much simplicity and durability in mind as possible, and deliberately chose a steel frame for this reason. Is it a little heavier? Sure, but I could care less – I’m not racing with it.

  • Brian Crosby

    Thanks Logan. I will take a closer look at those options.

  • Jamie

    Thank you for sharing your point of view @Smithhammer:disqus . My LBS seems to really be pushing the carbon frame in this instance and my gut keeps telling me steel is the way to go but again my only experience riding carbon was on a Salsa Warbird and simply for a 1-2 km test ride. It doesn’t do it justice… In my case, it’s a gravel, dirt road, drop bar bikepacking rig that I’m considering and I’m wondering which way to go as I already own a gorgeous Surly ECR that answers my heavy duty go anywhere bike. What did you end up choosing as your F-150ish bicycle ?

  • Smithhammer

    Ha – well, like you, I chose an ECR. For lighter touring, gravel/dirt, etc. I have a Straggler custom build. Love it.

  • fauxpho

    Rekon 29×2.6 are now in stock at QBP.

  • Chad Ament

    I think about this question by looking backwards. Would I be stoked to be riding a bike from 2007 right now?

    This doesn’t effect what material I want my bike to be made from really, but it does effect what I make my priority when choosing a bike.

  • Rob Grey

    wanted a ti mariachi ever since i bought my steel mariachi four years ago. the TImberjack seems like the perfect reincarnation. lottery goals…

    ps – the vargo bot 700 is perfection.

  • Tim Clarke

    Hey this Is for Cass,
    I just recently sold a Salsa deadwood. I have a 1.5 year daughter who loves riding with me and will be bikepacking with me this coming summer.
    I also have another daughter on the way this spring.
    The reason I sold my deadwood Is Im looking for something with more mounts to have a front rack or panniers where Ill have my daughter on the back.
    I have looked at the ECR i have many parts that could go towards the build. With the ECR I could later on add a leap kit.
    What are your thoughts on the ecr/leap kit vs the new salsa Black borrow?
    The bike will be used for dirt road touring and riding around town on paths.
    Thanks In advance

  • Cass Gilbert

    Officially, Salsa doesn’t endorse the Blackborow for child transportation, but that could be a company policy to differentiate it from the Big Fat Dummy. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t rig up child seat in some way; after all, people have been putting bike seats on less overbuild bikes for years. It would take some figuring out to make it child-safe – I’m not too familiar with the rack and what mounting points there are – but I reckon it would be a lot of fun.
    The advantage of the ECR though is that 1/it’s a great all round solo bike and 2/with a Leap kit, it has the potential to carry two kids – either with Monkey Bars and/or with a Yepp child seat bolted into the board. And all its accessories are readily available and easy to fit.
    It’s certainly not as stiff as the shorter Deadwood (or a Big Fat Dummy) but I’ve taken ours on all kinds of dirt roads and it’s been great. Right now, it’s probably the bike I ride most as it’s so useful to have around town.
    Given your second impending child… I’d actually be tempted to look into building up a Big Fat Dummy with 29+ wheels. Unfortunately though, it will likely be pretty costly, given the fat bike parts (BB/cranks/hub spacing) that you probably don’t already have…
    One last point that may or may not be relevant, depending on what other means you have to transport yourself around. The Big Fat Dummy and ECR/Leap are big bikes. Mine just fits in our local train. A Blackborow is that much more compact.
    All the best for your future family adventures!

  • Joel

    Enjoyed this article and have come back and re-read portions of it since it was published. I actually got the Dynaplug Micro Pro Tool for Christmas. Thankfully, I have not had to use it. :)

    Now, I have a question… Where is the best place to ask questions about specific gear and A vs. B “stuff?”

  • Thanks Joel!

    Re questions: if you dig into our gear reviews and find a relevant topic, comment there, usually we will answer, or someone else will chime in…

  • Hen Tejada

    Got a Surly Karate Monkey frame, a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, and a Jones loop bar off the strength of this list. :D

  • I’m confident you won’t be disappointed!

  • Joel

    I read a lot of articles and reviews on bikepacking.com. Right now, I’m looking for a good place to (1) buy used bikepacking gear or (2) rent bikepacking gear. Any suggestions?

    I also wonder about the top 5 bikes. I read a lot about the benefits of steel-frame bikes and recently read @loganwatts:disqus’ article, “VA’s Salsa Deadwood (Take 2), Built for Comfort.” Very good article, btw. If I am to assume (we all know what that does) that the bikes in the gear of the year article are in rank order the Ti Timberjack is in the number 1 spot. I read a lot about the repairability of steel in some of the places where these bikes would be ridden. Is that an issue with Ti? Does it need to be considered especially by someone (me) who will likely never ride outside my home country of the USA?

    In addition to the above questions, I currently have an alloy Specialized Stumpjumper 6fattie that I absolutely love. It’s my favorite bike but I’ve only owned two MTBs and the first was an entry-level HT. I’ll be 50 this year, have a C5-6 fusion and a bulging disk in my lower back. I’m not complaining, just justifying why I have a full-sus bike. Problem is, even with the fork and shock locked out, I still have > 1″ of travel. I don’t know what that will mean for bikepacking and not sure I care until I actually try it. I am more of a trail-rider (with an occasional race thrown in – yes, on the Stumpy) but am really intrigued by the laid-back nature of bikepacking and had even considered going on one of the New Belgium Ramble Rides (as a 50th b’day present) but I cannot do it this year. Has anyone of this august group ridden the Stumpy on a bikepacking expedition? What are your thoughts (other than “run what you brung” – I get it ;) )?

  • Mark
  • Hi Joel,

    Sorry, I missed this and happened to be looking at this post for other info. Here are some short answers to a couple of your questions:

    1. Steel vs Ti. I have never broken a frame (knock on wood), so this old hat of a worry is not really on my radar. If I were riding from London, through the Stans down to India, I might consider it. Otherwise, it’s a non-issue for me. Plus, Ti is very strong and the chances of having a problem with it are very unlikely.

    2. having 1″ travel while locked out shouldn’t;’t be any issue, unless you have very tight space constraints between the saddle and tire.

    3. Training: I would try and replicate the mileage estimates. Go out and ride!

    Hope that helps. Again, sorry for the long delay.

  • John H.T. Strong

    Sinewave beacon: review forthcoming? Thanks,