Best Bikes for Bikepacking 2020

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Are you aware of the fact that the English language has added the word “bikepacking” to many vocabularies? It’s true. Bicycling.com says so, and if they insist, we agree.

Call it by any name and you’ll find this to be a cycling activity that doesn’t get any better—just as long as you don’t stuff your backpack with so much weight, you look more like a Sherpa on a bike than a fun-seeker! Need the right bike?

Who doesn’t?

This sport calls for a different bicycle. If you’re in the market for one, we’ve got you covered.


Trek Crockett 5 Disc – OUR TOP PICK!


PROS:

  • Excellent reviews from brand fans
  • 300 Series Alpha Aluminum frame is light and tight
  • Stranglehold Dropout for dial-in geometry single-speed conversion
  • Internal Control Freak Cable Management system
  • Enjoy a smooth, quiet, clean ride.

CONS:

  • Wheels may need constant alignment
  • Not everyone loves the brakes
  • FSA cranks may get loose repeatedly.

We’re not sure if the sale is still on, but if it is, you could pick up this Crockett 5 Disc bike, once retailing for around $2,000 for $1,600. Even if you can’t find the deal, you’ll still want to consider this product.

Called the “perfect introduction to the world of cyclocross,” this ultra-sleek matt Dnister black bicycle is engineered for the discriminating rider, offering a 1×11 drivetrain and sporting frame that is so easy to lift and carry, your mates won’t have to listen to you whine continually.

Whether you’re shopping for your work commute or intend to frequent the most challenging gravel trail on the planet, this bike could be your game changer!


Cannondale Topstone Sora 2020 – ALSO GREAT!


PROS:

  • Robust Shimano Sora 2 x 9 mechanical drivetrain
  • Mechanical disc brakes for all-weather, reliable stopping power
  • Full carbon fork for high-performance look and feel
  • Balanced upright riding position offers comfort and control
  • StraightShot internal cable routing; flat-mount disc.

CONS:

  • Riding position may not be low enough
  • Pedals not included
  • Manufacturer says, “specs and images are subject to change”!

If the aforementioned Crockett, even on sale, doesn’t quite make it on your personal bike buying budget scale, this $1,250 Cannondale could make the cut. Available in small, medium, large and extra-large, we’re not exactly sure about the name of the color (Mantis) but it sure is pretty.

Engineered to accelerate your work commute or navigate roads less traveled, the Sora 2020, says manufacturer Cannondale, “was born to roll and roam.” The aluminum frame is both strong and lightweight, but if you require more than 18 gears, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. Wheel size is 700c and this bike can accommodate tires up to 42mm wide. If you’re into extras, you get mounts for 3 water bottles with this model.


Diamondback HAANJO 5C EXP CARBON


PROS:

  • Easy to put together in 4 steps
  • Extremely lightweight and strong
  • Triple crank for climbing passes
  • Full-monologue carbon fork
  • Limited lifetime warranty on frame for original buyer

CONS:

  • Shifters could take some getting used to
  • Could be hard to find the size you want
  • Negative reviews have impacted sales of this bike

If getting the right fit has been a problem for you in the past, you’ll be delighted to know that this $2,000 Haanjo carbon bike comes in three sizes: 50cm, 53cm and 56cm, so your height issues could be history. This 21-pound Diamondback cycle is specifically designed to get riders “off the beaten track”—especially if the track in question is so rugged and challenging, it invites abuse.

This matte brown bicycle offers a light, tough carbon fiber frame and fork with thru axles front and rear. According to this bike’s product description, shoppers can look forward to “stout 27.5 inch HED Tomcat wheels shod with forgiving 650×47c tires.” Have previous rides left you in a lurch when you could least afford to get your hands on replacement parts? This cycle’s bar-end shifters could deliver the reliability you’ve been craving.


Diamondback HAANJENN 2


PROS:

  • Designed with a slightly slack geometry
  • Upright positioning and wide bars
  • Longer wheelbase for stability
  • Crafted for women ranging in height from 5-feet; 1-inch to 5-feet; 11-inches
  • The smallest model has a women’s saddle.

CONS:

  • May be sold out when you’re ready to buy
  • Brake engagement while mounting and riding could be difficult
  • Disc brakes could arrive in warped condition.

You’ll have to choose between “black” and “matte black,” but otherwise, deciding to acquire this Diamondback model could save you money—MRP is just $800–and you can expect it to deliver on style, plus four size options (S, M, L, XL).

Advertised as a popular women’s alternative road bike, you get all of the extras, even if you’re shopping on a budget. They include: disc brakes, endurance geometry and fully butted 6061-T6 alloy construction. An ideal selection for folks who “just want one bike they can ride everywhere,” the Haanjenn 2 is a fun gravel bike, agile road bike or your one-bike solution for commuting during the week and playing on the weekend.


Salsa Journeyman Claris


PROS:

  • Journeyman specific geometry
  • Full-length internal routing protects shifting cables
  • Delivers a smooth, solid ride in all weather conditions
  • Color choices are lively and fun
  • Few competitor bikes offer this many size choices.

CONS:

  • Reports of multiple broken spokes
  • Not compatible with a suspension fork
  • Multiple critics wanted a bigger chainring up front.

You don’t have to like burritos and tacos to fall for the spicy Journeyman Claris, available in two wildly offbeat colors: copper and orange. If sizing has been an issue in the past, you’ll have 6 choices that range from 50cm to 59.5cm, but the $949 price tag remains the same, no matter which one suits your body.

This Salsa bike has 16 gears, mountable frame set for rear or fender attachment, 700c wheels and 37mm tires. Aluminum tubing and fork deliver generous tire clearance, so even if you decide to replace those tires with ones measuring 50mm wide, your ride won’t be impaired.


What to consider when choosing a backpacking bike

Tires

Sales of fat tire bikes have been trending since 2005 and there is no sign that this is diminishing. Fat tire bikes are inflated to pressure under 10psi, so you roll over rugged trails while avoiding sinking into mud, snow or sand.

Drop bars

They offer more hand positions, an aerodynamic advantage, get you up hills more expeditiously and they can get riders through narrower spots in traffic. Cover more ground faster and look cool while you do it!

Frame Material

Experts recommend Chromoly steel, carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium. The objective is the lightest bike on the planet that’s crafted of the sturdiest materials.

Style

Select from these 4 types of bikes if your goal is bikepacking: Cross-country, Trail, Enduro/All Mountain and Downhill. If you already own one, you’re good to go.

Fit

You won’t ride it if it doesn’t feel good! Go for a brand with the greatest number of sizing options.

Wheel size

The larger the better to enable riders to roll over obstacles more adroitly and comfortably.

Clearance

Clearance for bigger tires is critical. The folks at Surly recommend clearance that’s roomy enough to fit “humungous tires” unless you like a ride that leaves your body feeling sore all over.

Accessories

Mounts for water bottles, baskets, and bags are essential, as well as at least one pair of heavily-padded bike shorts for reasons we don’t have to explain.

Budget

It goes without saying that price can mean the difference between purchasing a bike and staring through the window of a bike store drooling over what you can’t afford.


Benefits of riding a super gravel bike for backpacking

Biker pushes his bicycle up in high Caucasus mountains

Confused by terminology that includes gravel riding and gravel grinding because the terms “cover so much territory that it’s almost meaningless?” Don’t be.

There are myriad ways to describe a gravel bike and they’re probably all correct. But it’s the performance you enjoy on a bike designed for gravel that explains the reason these bikes are so unique.

Super gravel bikes come with different tire and wheel sizes. They handle differently and come in varying gear ratios and braking types. These bikes are not just durable but engineered to carry equipment-—like a fully-stuffed backpack for example.

Gravel bikes are made to distribute weight more evenly and the more tricked out a gravel bike is, the more ways you’ll be able to tote the stuff you need for your adventure, in addition to that fact that you will enjoy these important personal benefits:

  • You’re out of traffic so you are more likely to avoid close vehicle calls
  • If you do encounter motorists, they tend to drive slower on gravel
  • Gravel bikes are getting safer by the day thanks to upgraded parts and innovations
  • You can frequent unimproved roads on a regular basis and because cost savings are immeasurable, more local governments are paving with gravel
  • Own your speed more vigorously and joyously with every pedal depression. For control freaks, there is no better feeling than riding a gravel bike
  • Price points are growing wider; more manufacturers than ever are making gravel bikes
  • The accessory market continues to grow and expand. Who knows what the next cycling short innovation will be? Perhaps you’ll be able to pad more than just your butt!

What to keep in your backpack to keep your gravel bike going

You can also check our extensive bicycle touring checklist for more stuff you would ever need.

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