I’ve spent the last few months writing a new book on bikepacking bikes! The Bikepacking Bike Buyer’s Guide takes a close look at the best bikepacking bikes, including their frame features, steering speeds, tyre widths, gear ratios, weights and more. It’s designed so that the front section of the book informs you about the key bike characteristics, then I teach you how to size up a bike, compare the different bike models using a few tools, and at the end, you’ll find the bike listings section.
I thought I’d share my personal bike picks based on the extensive research and time I’ve put into mulling over the data. There are more than 180+ bikes across six categories to compare in the Bikepacking Bike Buyer’s Guide; I’ve broken this article into the same six categories.
The categories include:
Gravel & All Road Bikes – with 700C Wheels
Gravel & All Road Bikes – with 27.5″ Wheels
Off-Road Adventure Bikes – with 29″ Wheels
Off-Road Plus Bikes – with 3.0″ Tyres
Full Suspension Bikes – with 2.2-3.0″ Tyres
Fat Bikes – with 4.0-5.0″ Tyres
Without further ado, here are my picks for the best bikepacking bikes of 2019.
Factors in the frameset features including the geometry and mounts available. Also accounts for the maximum tyre width, the gear ratios and the weight of the bike.
All the bikepacking bikes that I have listed represent very good value for the performance and features that they offer.
What’s the good in a great bike that’s impossible to buy? The bikes I’ve selected here are often available in multiple regions of the world.
Best Bikepacking Bikes: Gravel & All-Road 700C
Cannondale Topstone Sora // ~10.5kg and US $1050
When you factor in price, the 2019 Cannondale Topstone undoubtedly comes out on top in the gravel and all-road category. The aluminium frame features a threaded bottom bracket shell (big tick), rear rack mounts, internal cable routing in the downtube, routing for a dropper seatpost, 3x bidon cage mounts, a cargo cage mount and top tube bag mount. The frame is able to accommodate 700 x 42c tyres and probably 650B x 47c too. The fork is full carbon (unheard of at this price) and thanks to the sub-compact crankset and wide range cassette, the climbing gear ratio is 24 gear inches. If you need lower gears, the 9-speed Shimano gearing makes it very easy to retrofit a mountain bike derailleur and cassette for tackling even steeper climbs. The only downside is the lack of fork mounts, but there are many cargo cage options these days which will fit a regular carbon fork. Oh, did I mention a Topstone Sora is just a thousand bucks??
Fuji Jari 1.1 // 9.5kg and US $2149
Stepping up to $2149 gets you a lot of bike! The aluminium Jari 1.1 is equipped with Shimano’s second-tier road groupset, Ultegra, along with an FSA 46-30t adventure crankset to achieve a 24″ low gear. The frameset will clear 700 x 45c tyres but that number can stretch to 47c if you throw in a 650B wheelset. There are 3x bidon mounts on the frame, 2x on the carbon fork and there’s also space on the top tube for a direct mount bag. The Jari also has a particularly broad size range with frames in seven sizes from XXS to XXL.
Best Bikepacking Bikes: Gravel & All-Road 27.5″
All-City Gorilla Monsoon // 13.2kg and US $2099
I really like what All City have done with the Gorilla Monsoon. This is a bike that can accommodate 27.5 x 2.4″ rubber, or alternatively 650B x 47c slicks with full fenders. That makes this steel bike incredibly capable on the dirt, and with a quick tyre change, you could also be motoring along the road with a wide set of slicks. It has a super cool twin-plate fork crown and the mounts for Surly-8 and 24-Pack rando-ish racks. The All City is fitted with a 1x drivetrain with a 24-94″ gear range which is a little overgeared for steep off-road terrain, but will be good for most occasions. Should you want lower gears, the wider-than-usual 73mm threaded bottom bracket shell makes fitting MTB front derailleurs and MTB cranksets very easy (eg. 48/36/26t or 42/28t). The cherry on top is the dropper seatpost which allows you to reduce your centre of mass for steep descents.
Bombtrack EXT-C // 9.6kg and €2999
The lightweight alternative to the Gorilla Monsoon is the EXT-C. This carbon bike tips the scales at just 9.6kg, yet will still squeeze in 27.5 x 2.1″ mountain bike tyres (or 700 x 45c slicks). The frame features a relatively upright geometry, space for 3x bidon cages and has front and rear rack provision. The fork will mount 2x cargo cages while the Hunt Adventure Sport wheelset tips the scales at just 1549 grams, giving the bike a light feel thanks to its low rotating mass. The gear range is a touch high with a 26″ low gear, but that’s easily changed either with a smaller chainring or a larger cassette.
Diamondback Haanjo EXP // 9.7kg and US $1999
This carbon bike is a unique fusion between proven touring components and modern materials. You’ll find a 27-speed touring groupset with a super low gear of 21 gear inches, barend shifters, TRP cable disc brakes and a threaded bottom bracket shell. These well-proven touring parts are blended with an ultralight carbon frameset that clears 27.5 x 2.0″ tyres, resulting in a sub-10kg build. This bike has 3x bidon mounts on the frame and provision for front and rear racks. It also has a particularly low sticker price when you consider the weight and specification.
Masi Giramondo // ~12.5kg and US $1349
The Giramondo is another really overlooked bike. It’s not the lightest, but it’s a super sturdy steel build with provision for lots of bidon cages, as well as rack and fender mounts. I particularly like the 3x touring groupset which achieves a very wide gear range of 19-111 gear inches, which is perfect for all riding conditions. It’s also running reliable and field-servicable parts including TRP cable disc brakes and barend shifters. This bike should be capable enough on rougher trails given the 27.5 x 2.1″ tyres that come fitted.
Best Bikepacking Bikes: Off-Road Adventure 29″
Breezer Radar Expert // 12.9kg and $1069
This is perhaps the most underrated bikepacking bike available! For a touch over a thousand dollars, you get a steel dropbar bike that will clear 29 x 2.2″ mountain bike tyres. It has 5x bidon mounts on the frame and fork, along with a 46-30t adventure crankset to achieve a climbing gear of 24 gear inches. If that’s not low enough, I suspect the long-cage Deore rear derailleur should be able to squeeze in a SunRace 11-40t cassette with a few adjustments. The only downside is that the Radar Expert is a bit on the porky side, but that was always going to be the case for a bike at this price.
Ghost Fire Road Rage // 9.6kg and €2599
Here’s another bike you may not have seen before, but it’s wild! This full carbon bike is under 10kg with 29 x 2.0″ mountain bike tyres. It has more mounts than a Surly, including a neat cargo cage mount under the top tube. It comes stock with moderately low gearing (25″ climbing gear), but the nice thing with SRAM components is that you can easily fit a wider range cassette and mountain bike derailleur if steep off-road riding is your jam.
Salsa Fargo Tiagra // 12.7kg and US $1999
In 2009, Salsa released the first drop bar 29er to the market, and it took years for other manufacturers to catch up. These days the Fargo is still one of the most capable drop bar bikes, offering 29 x 2.6″ tyre clearance, 27.5+ wheel compatibility and the ability to fit a Rohloff 14-speed hub and belt drivetrain. The Fargo geometry is super upright and stable with its long wheelbase and slow steering, so this bike will undoubtedly offer a super comfy ride. I particularly like the Tiagra model which is under $2K with the Firestarter carbon fork (4x cargo cage mounts!), TRP cable disc brakes and a 2x setup. Lastly, Salsa EXP framebags are available for the Fargo in all sizes!
Best Bikepacking Bikes: Plus Bikes 2.8″ to 3.0″
Kona Unit X // ~14.1kg and US $1299
When it comes to 27.5+ hardtails with a trail geometry, the Unit takes the cake. It offers the same SRAM NX drivetrain (19″ low gear) and hydraulic disc brakes as many of its rivals, but easily undercuts them on price. The Unit X is also a pretty economical way to complete a Rohloff build, as it’s fitted with sliding dropouts to get the job done. If you’re attempting steep technical descents or just want to squeeze more capability out of the bike, I recommend fitting a suspension fork to make it slay even harder. Given its long reach, short stem and slack head angle, it will handle technical terrain particularly well.
Surly Bridge Club // 14kg and US $1200
The Surly Bridge Club is one of my favourite flat bar bikes. It’s just US $1200, it has a 17 gear inch climbing gear and it can fit 27.5 x 2.8″, 26 x 3.0″ or 700 x 47c tyres. It has also got all the braze-ons you need for touring, including mounts for the Surly-8 and 24-Pack rando-ish racks. Fit some fat slicks (Schwalbe Super Moto X) and fenders and you can take this bike on a long road tour too.
Tumbleweed Prospector // ~15kg and US $4300
Here’s another bike you might not have heard about. The Tumbleweed Prospector is designed around a 14-speed Rohloff hub but can fit derailleurs too. There’s room for 26 × 4.0″ fat bike tyres, 27.5 × 3.25″ plus tyres or even 29 × 2.6″ rubber. The front and rear axle spacing is the same width, allowing you to fit a rear wheel on the front at a pinch. The frame will also allow you to fit a suspension fork, front and rear racks, cargo cages and full fenders – all of these details make it incredibly versatile. It’s not cheap at US $4300 for a complete Rohloff build, but the frame has some really nice finishing touches and the internally geared hub elevates the price by at least a thousand dollars too.
Best Bikepacking Bikes: Full Suspension
Scott Spark 950 // 13.9kg and US $2899
This rig has everything you want out of a full suspension trail bike. A slack 67-degree head angle, long top tube, short stem, wide handlebars, dropper post and clearance for 29 x 2.6″ tyres. It’s running a Fox fork and shock and Scott’s suspension lockout system which stiffens everything up using a single lever on the bars. The vertical shock arrangement provides ample space for a custom framebag which will lower the bike’s centre-of-mass on the trail. The bike’s weight is also quite decent considering it’s running 120mm front and rear travel, a dropper post and a sub-3K sticker price.
Canyon Lux CF SL 6 // 11.8kg and US $2999
If weight and speed is your priority, it’s hard to go past this carbon race bike. For US $2999 you get a bike that tips the scales at just 11.8kg/26.0lb, is fitted with mid-range RockShox suspension and uses a wide 1x gear range with 50t bailout gear. The horizontal shock arrangement leaves a very generous space for a large framebag too. To travel faster, you can switch the Maxxis tyres out to some Vittoria Mezcal or Continental Race Kings which have a reduced rolling resistance.
Best Bikepacking Bikes: Fat Bikes 3.8″ to 5.0″
Salsa Mukluk Deore // 14.7kg and US $1899
The Mukluk offers everything you want out of an ultra-capable fat bike. It’ll squeeze in 4.8″ rubber on 26-inch rims, and the cool thing is that these tyres are a similar overall diameter to 29 x 3.0″, giving you the option to run a faster wheelset if you like. The frame has full-length internal cable routing which keeps the cables hidden from the elements, and the Alternator dropouts allow you to fit a Rohloff 14-speed hub. The aluminium Mukluk comes with a carbon fork, 1x drivetrain (20″ low gear), hydraulic brakes and ample provision for bidon and cargo cages. The Mukluk is also available with a carbon frame which sheds 900 grams off the bike’s weight, EXP framebags are available for all sizes too.
Rocky Mountain Suzi Q 70 // 11.5kg and US $3199
With a bit of extra cash, you can get a carbon bike that sheds 3kg from the typical weight of a fat bike. The Rocky Mountain is running 27.5 x 3.8″ tyres which have the same diameter as a 29 x 3.0″ wheelset, giving you the option for a faster ride. The crank q-factor (distance between pedals) on the SuziQ is just 10mm wider than a regular mountain bike, which is considered to offer a more optimal biomechanical fit (most fat bikes have cranks that are 30mm+ wider). The SuziQ comes with a carbon fork, a 1x drivetrain, Shimano hydraulic brakes and multiple cargo cages on the frame and fork.
Want To Compare The Best Bikepacking Bikes?
Check out my new book, the 2019 Bikepacking Bike Buyer’s Guide which compares steering speed, sizing, gear ratios, weight, pricing and more. This guide is updated annually with the latest models at no extra cost! It’s currently on pre-sale for 25% off and will be launched on June 25 this year.
THE CHAPTERS INCLUDE:
What is a Bikepacking Bike?
Frame Material and Construction
Optimizing Overall Weight
Comfort – Handlebars
Comfort – Saddles
Comfort – Components
Gear Shifting and Parts
Pedals and Clipping In
Wheels – Size Options
Wheels – Components
Price and Value
Different Types of Bikepacking Bike
Narrowing Your Options
YOU THEN HAVE THE TOOLS TO COMPARE BIKEPACKING BIKES:
How to Best Use This Guide
How to Size Up and Compare Bike Sizes
Advanced Sizing Factors
Comparing Steering Feel
Comparing Gear Inches
THERE ARE 180+ BIKE LISTINGS:
50+ Gravel & All Road Bikes – with 700C Wheels
40+ Gravel & All Road Bikes – with 27.5″ Wheels
20+ Off-Road Adventure Bikes – with 29″ Wheels
30+ Off-Road Plus Bikes – with 3.0″ Tyres
20+ Full Suspension Bikes – with 2.2-3.0″ Tyres
15+ Fat Bikes – with 4.0-5.0″ Tyres