Updated: Sep 8, 2018
With so many bike options out there it seems that there is a bike for every type of terrain; cross country, downhill, gravel, enduro, trail, free style and touring. Please forgive me if I missed any.
This is great as you can choose almost exactly the type of bike that you will need. The down side is that there is always a compromise when doing anything else with your bike.
My single speed is great for climbing, low in maintenance cost... but not so great on technical terrain. It is safe to say that every bike is good at some things but could be better at others.
It is no wonder that Cross country mountain bikes (XC) are seen as the do it all bike. They are not too specialized and limited to only one type of terrain and can do most things well and probably the reason why most South Africans own one as their do it all mountain bike.
With every new type of bike there is a new type of rider and this is good if you decide to only do that one thing with your bike. If you only want to do downhill then buy a downhill bike...
For most however every time we ride might be different. Today I might do hill climbs, then an urban ride, gravel or maybe a technical trail at a local bike park and sometimes all of the above.
Most weekends I join the local bike club ride where every ride is different.
My point is that if you own a mountain bike you can ride off road and on the road regardless the type.
For this reason a mountain bike makes for a good bike to do bikepacking. BUT not the best bike for bikepacking.
There is a new breed of bikes called gravel bikes, again a great option if this is all you want to do and in my opinion does not replace a mountain bike as an all rounder. I might be wrong.
As much as I would love to own each type of bike my budget will just not allow it. For this reason I am sharing some bike upgrades that can make your mountain bike a better bikepacking bike without changing it into a specialist bike.
Buy a saddle made for long distance riding. Spending 6 + hours in the seat will tenderize your behind.
Leather saddles are the best but for me they spoil the look of my bike. Luckily hybrids are now available to keep things looking good but also provide the comfort of a leather saddle. Have a look at the Brooks Cambium C17 saddle which I will review shortly.
2. Handle Bar
Most XC mountain bikes have a flat handle bar with some back sweep. Changing to a riser bar will provide you with a more upright seating position and make better use of your Brooks saddle. Note that a shorter stem goes hand in hand if you go for wider bars.
Changing your cassette to a wide ranged cassette will give you that extra gear range for a heavier loaded bike making hills easier to climb.
Wider tyres are an option especially if you ride a bike with rigid forks, but can also help with obstacles when off road. My rule is to go as wide as your frame will allow.
These upgrades can be uninstalled after a bikepacking ride or permanently change your bike into a "more" machine.
What do you think?