Having worked at Recycled for a few years, I've seen cycling trends come and go, some longer than others. One of the most most recent trends have been "road bikes that go offroad/bikepacking". That typically means road bike (drop bars, slick tires) with wider wheels and rack mounts.
Quite a few of the brands we carry have started to pick up on this trend and now offer bags specifically designed to use while "bikepacking", which means they have many straps and can be mounted onto many bikes without much hassle. The two main companies (that we stock) that have jumped into this trend have been Ortlieb and Blackburn. If you come into the shop sometime soon, you’ll see two of our bikes set up with both the bags!
You probably have heard of the term “bikepacking” and wondered, "would I like that?". The answer might be yes if you like being outside! In the very literal sense, it is a camping trip done by bicycle. It can combine the refreshing freedom of a bike ride with the undisturbed zen of sleeping outside. If you have never considered it, fret not! It is simpler than most companies would lead you to believe.
For the next section, I'll run through the different parts of a bicycle and how you can equip a bike to be more bikepacking friendly, Recycled Cycles style!
Generally with a frame, the more braze-on's (threaded holes in the frame that allow you to mount water bottle cages or cargo cages) the more options you'll have with mounting place to store your stuff. The more the merrier!
If you don’t have many (or any at all), you may want to invest in some of some adapters that simply strap to your frame. They are the most secure way to attach things to your bike. I also like to suggest loop-through Velcro. We don’t stock Velcro but you can get it at any hardware shop or drugstore.
We also commonly have a selection of used frames that would be great for bike packing with an abundance of braze-on’s and wider tire clearances for fenders. They are typically marked as “old mountain bikes”, but old MTN bikes are the best to travel roads less traveled.
Brakes: Disc brakes are the best choice that give you the most clearance for bigger tires. Bigger tires are always a great idea when bike packing, allowing you more comfort, traction and the ability to roll over those big tree roots you might encounter. Brakes that use cantilever posts are second best when giving you the most clearance. Road styled, dual-caliper brakes being the most limiting in terms of tire size. Not typically recommended if you will be biking anywhere unpaved however. I find that the Cantilever posts that some bikes come with tend to be the cheapest ways to allow yourself bigger tires and rack options.
Tires: Again, bigger tires are better and when it come to off road, knobby tires are going to get you the most traction in loose dirt. Also, when loading up a bike with a ton of weight, larger tires will be more effective at distributing the weight along your bicycle. The Marathon tires by Schwalbe are just about bulletproof.
Handlebars: Flat bars are the easiest to install components on but in general, the more hand positions the better, like that wacky Jones Bar. The curly, drop bars are the most common type at our shop and it's what we tend to carry the most varieties of. Drop bars are excellent in offering you multiple hand positions to keep hand fatigue at bay.
Shifters: Shifters that are easy to adjust and fix are the strongest recommendation and you can't get more simple then friction down tube shifters. They are attached to the bike and not the bars so you don’t have to disturb your handlebar set up with more cables or levers. If your frame doesn't have the down tube posts to mount them, you can still mount them at the stem with an adapter.
The other very common style for bike tours is the bar end shifter. Essentially the same and sometimes interchangeable, the bar end shifter can also be toggled friction shift or indexed depending on what you need.
Front Racks: Front low-rider racks are the best way to carry your heaviest stuff. It changes the turning feel the least and allows you to stack upward if you leave your bags opened. The most common front rack we sell is the Origin 8 platform rack, mainly due to the fact it can mount on most bikes. If you have the mounting points, the Surly "Front Rack" and the Blackburn "Outpost front rack" is a great choice. It gives you a platform on top of your wheel for ease of use and lower positions to hang weight on the sides of the wheel.
Rear Racks: Rear racks are the most common because they are simple to install to most bikes and add a large amount of cargo area. The Planet Bike Eco Rear Rack is the most popular rack we sell. Made out of lightweight aluminum and compatible with most the pannier bags on the market, it does what you need it to do with no crazy extra features.
Fork Racks: Some forks will have attachment points that can accept bottle cages or other extra large cages, like the Looney Bin from Arundel that we stock. The Marin Nicasio and Four Corners both have a fork attachment points.
Seat post: Racks that affix to the seat post directly have the least amount of weight capacity. Also, not very interchangeable since they rely on the specific diameter of the seat post in order to attach to the bike. Great for lightweight stuff like a change of clothes.
Frame bags are also a great way to add storage to your bike without changing the balance of your bike. The best way to add weight to your bike without effecting your balance is to put weight as low to the ground as possible. Open front rack bags are also a good choice as the weight won't change your turning (too much) and it allows vertical space use for anything oddly shaped or tall, like tent poles.
Saddle bags are another great choice for bulky cargo and most will just strap to the saddle rails and seat post. The main downside with these bags is that they are prone to swaying when pedaling out of the saddle when filled with weight. I would recommend keeping your large, yet light stuff in there, like a inflatable bed or clothing. A lot of the designs are very expandable and can cinch down to prevent from getting caught in you wheel.
Now get down here and build up your next bicycle!
As always, you can always ask us in the shop what we would recommend for your own bicycle!