Table of Contents
- Selection Criteria
- Best Bikepacking Bikes: Gravel & All-Road 700C
- Best Bikepacking Bikes: Gravel & All-Road 27.5″
- Best Bikepacking Bikes: Off-Road Adventure 29″
- Best Bikepacking Bikes: Plus Bikes 2.6″ to 3.0″
- Best Bikepacking Bikes: Full Suspension
- Best Bikepacking Bikes: Fat Bikes 3.8″ to 5.0″
There are more than 190 bikes across six different categories in my Bikepacking Bike Buyer’s Guide – and in this article, I’m going to choose the top 2 or 3 best bikepacking bikes, for each genre.
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 2.6-3.0″ Tyres
Full Suspension Bikes – with 2.2-3.0″ Tyres
Fat Bikes – with 4.0-5.0″ Tyres
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. You can find out more information about it HERE.
The bikepacking bikes I’ve picked have been narrowed down based on price, which means everything I talk about here, represents great value for the performance it offers.
I’ve also carefully considered whether the components, frame geometry and features match to the intended use of the bike. This includes details like the maximum tyre widths, the climbing gear ratios, the mounting points on the frame and, of course, the bike’s weight.
And lastly, most of the bikes listed here are available in multiple regions of the world – as what’s the good in a bike which you cannot buy?
Here are the best bikepacking bikes for 2020.
Best Bikepacking Bikes: Gravel & All-Road 700C
Cannondale Topstone Sora
~10.5kg and US $1299
Even with the price jump this year, the Cannondale Topstone Sora undoubtedly comes out on top in the gravel category. For a bit over a thousand dollars, you get a lightweight aluminium frame with multiple bottle cage mounts, a cargo cage mount and a top tube bag direct mount. The fork is full carbon, including the steerer tube, which is unheard of at this price. And thanks to the sub-compact crankset and wide range cassette, the 24” climbing gear is as low as it gets in this bike category. 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.
Fuji Jari 1.1
9.5kg and US $2149
Stepping up to $2149 gets you a lot of bike! The Fuji Jari 1.1 is well under 10kg and is equipped with Shimano’s second-tier road groupset, Ultegra, along with an FSA 46-30t sub-compact crankset. This also provides the same low climbing gear of 24 gear inches as the Cannondale. The frameset will clear 45mm tyres but that number can stretch to 47mm if you throw in a 650B wheelset. On the frame, you’ll find 3 bottle cage mounts, there are top tube direct mounts, and on the carbon fork, there are cage mounts on either side. The Jari also has a particularly broad size range with frames in seven sizes from XXS to XXL.
Marin Headlands 1
~9.6kg and US $2399
My final pick in the 700C gravel category is the Marin Headlands 1. This full-carbon bike has more mounts than most, including a few under the top tube so that you can fit a direct mount frame pack. While most carbon bikes use press-fit bottom brackets, the Headlands has kept servicing simple with a threaded bottom bracket shell. The Headlands long frame geometry has been designed to suit short stems – if you’d like to find out more I’d suggest checking out my bikepacking trends article. Being carbon, this bike tips the scales at just 9.7kg and offers a relatively low 26 inch climbing gear out of its 1X drivetrain. Other notable frame features are the provision for full fenders and internal cable routing for dropper seatposts.
Best Bikepacking Bikes: Gravel & All-Road 27.5″
11.3kg and US $999
My budget bike of choice is the flat bar Salsa Journeyman Sora. This bike has a frame geometry ripe for an alt handlebar conversion such as my KOGA Denham Bars or the Surly Molokos, which will provide both an aerodynamic hand positioning along with the stability of a wide flat bar. The Journeyman uses an aluminium frame and carbon fork to keep the weight down to 11.3kg, which is really decent for a bike under a thousand dollars.
All City Gorilla Monsoon
13.2kg and US $2099
The most capable 27.5 gravel bike is the Gorilla Monsoon. This is one of the only drop-bar bikes that can squeeze in 2.4″ off-road tyres, and it’s designed to also happily accommodate some 47mm slicks with full fenders. Yep, with just a simple tyre change, the Gorilla Monsoon can be both incredibly capable on the dirt, but also fast on the pavement. The 1X drivetrain is perhaps a little limiting for both on-road and off-road, but you can play with the front chainring to get the ratios right. I really like the fade paint job on this bike, along with the twin-plate fork crown and the fact it has mounts for Surly-8 and 24-Pack rando racks.
Diamondback Haanjo EXP
9.7kg and US $1999
This is the 27.5 gravel bike with the lowest climbing gear! At just 21 gear inches, you should be able to comfortably ride up the steepest road gradients, and given the bike weighs just 9.7kg, it certainly won’t hold you back either. While the frameset uses a modern lightweight carbon construction, Diamondback has kept the parts simple, fitting bar-end shifters, TRP cable disc brakes and a threaded bottom bracket to the bike. This bike will clear 27.5 x 2.0″ tyres, it has 3x bidon mounts on the frame and provision for front and rear racks. The Haanjo’s $1999 sticker price is particularly low when you consider the weight and specification.
Best Bikepacking Bikes: Off-Road Adventure 29″
Breezer Radar Expert
12.9kg and $969
The Breezer Radar Expert is perhaps the most underrated bikepacking bike available! For under a thousand dollars, you get a steel drop-bar bike that will clear 2.2″ mountain bike tyres. It has five bottle mounts on the frame and fork, along with a sub-compact road crankset to achieve a climbing gear of 24 gear inches. If that’s not low enough for you, I suspect the rear derailleur will be able to squeeze in a cassette, with a 40 tooth bailout gear. The only downside is that the Radar Expert is a bit on the porky side – it’s 12.9kg – but that was always going to be the case for a bike at this price.
Ghost Fire Road Rage
9.6kg and €2599
Here is a bike you may not have seen before… and it is wild! The Ghost Fire Road Rage is a full carbon rig that weighs just 9.4kg with mountain bike tyres. It has more mounts than a Surly, including a very neat cargo cage mount under the top tube. The bike comes stock with moderately low 25″ climbing gear, but the nice thing with SRAM components is that you can easily fit a larger cassette and mountain bike derailleur if steep off-road riding is your jam. For such a light and capable bike in this category, the €2599 price tag is high, but not totally unreasonable.
Salsa Fargo Apex
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, compatibility with 3.0” tyres on 27.5+ wheelsets, and the ability to fit a Rohloff 14-speed gearbox hub and belt drivetrain – in fact, you can even build the Fargo up from a frameset if you like. The Fargo frame geometry is super upright and stable with its long wheelbase and slow steering. The SRAM Apex model is actually $400 cheaper than last year, and that’s even with the awesome Salsa Firestarter carbon fork running 2 cargo cage mounts on either side. Like many Salsa bikes, perfectly-fitting frame packs are available for the Fargo in all sizes.
Best Bikepacking Bikes: Plus Bikes 2.6″ to 3.0″
13.8kg and €1899
Your classic 27.5+ bikepacking bike is the Bombtrack Beyond+. This steel bike has top tube bag direct mounts, as well as triple cage mounts on both seat stays, on both sides of the down tube, and on both sides of the fork. It’s running a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain that provides a 17” climbing gear to take you right up into the mountains, and a stable frame geometry to get you back down.
Surly Bridge Club
14kg and US $1200
The Surly Bridge Club is one of my favourite flat bar bikes. This simple steel rig is $1200, it has an 18 gear inch climbing gear from the new SRAM SX 1X drivetrain and it will clear 27.5 x 2.8″ tyres (26 x 3.0″ or 700C x 47mm too). It’s also got all the braze-ons you need for bikepacking, including mounts for the Surly-8 and 24-Pack rando racks. And should you fit some fat 2.4” Schwalbe Super Moto-X slicks and fenders, this bike will be great on a dirt road tour too.
Kona Unit X
~14.1kg and US $1399
While 29 x 2.6 inch is technically not a plus bike size, it’s close enough, and the Kona Unit X is such a great value adventure bike. It offers the same SRAM 1X drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes as many of its rivals, but it often undercuts them on price. Given the long frame reach, short stem and slack head angle, the bike will handle technical terrain particularly well. 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. Actually, scrap that, the single-speed version would be the best bike to start with.
Best Bikepacking Bikes: Full Suspension
Scott Spark 950
13.9kg and US $2899
The Scott Spark 950 has everything you want out of a full suspension trail bike: a slack head tube angle, a long top tube, a short stem, wide handlebars, a dropper seatpost and clearance for 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 of the Spark provides ample space for a frame pack, and the bike’s weight of 13.9kg is quite decent considering it’s running 120mm front and rear travel, a dropper post and a sticker price under three thousand dollars.
Giant Anthem 29 2
12.7kg and US $2940
If you’d prefer something lighter and faster, check out the Giant Anthem 29 2. I’ve spent a fair bit of time riding Anthems over the years, they’re definitely fast and capable, and this model, in particular, has decent mid-tier Fox suspension, and the new Shimano SLX 12-speed drivetrain. The sub-$3K Anthem offers a large frame triangle for a frame pack, and it tips the scales at about 12.7kg.
Best Bikepacking Bikes: Fat Bikes 3.8″ to 5.0″
~13.4kg and US $2099
The new Kona Woo is your classic fat bike. It’s running 4.8” wide tyres, a 1X drivetrain and a lightweight frameset. The aluminium frame and full carbon fork help to keep the weight of the bike down at around 13.4kg. The Woo is running particularly short chainstays for a fat bike which should make it especially playful on the trails.
11.5kg and US $3400
If you’d like something lighter and more versatile, you can’t go past the Otso Voytek. This carbon bike may be the most expensive in this list, but at 11.5kg, it’s light, and it comes with some great features. While most fat bikes have a very wide crank distance between the pedals, the Otso is a just 10mm wider than normal. This reduces knee strain by bringing the pedals closer together, and it provides extra cornering clearance too. The Voytek is also able to adapt to different wheel sizes using special sliding dropouts which change both the chainstay length and the bottom bracket height. This means you compromise much less than normal when choosing between regular mountain bike tyres, 3.0” plus tyres, 4” mid-fat tyres or a full-fat set up like you see pictured.
WANT TO COMPARE THE BEST BIKEPACKING BIKES?
Check out my new book, the 2020 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!
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 190+ 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
20+ Fat Bikes – with 4.0-5.0″ Tyres