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Outfitting the Bikepacking Bicycle for Adventure! Necessary "Options"!

NO bicycle is ready for bikepacking adventures without MANY modifications and added components!


Bikepacking is completing multi-day rides on your bicycle. Bikepacking is a niche of bicycle touring that typically covers mainly unpaved roads and trails. While bicycle touring often includes lighter bikes designed for faster travel, bikepacking requires sturdier bicycles designed to carry the rider and gear over rougher routes.


There are many opinions as to what combination of frame and components combine to make the ideal bikepacking machine. Some bikes are specific to a certain route - the demanding Arizona Trail or Colorado Trail, for example, where full-suspension is a necessity for traction and comfort.


In contrast, "round-the-world" travelers often select a longer wheelbase, "hard tail" bike for the most versatile ride on thousands of miles on and off the pavement. This includes the 2,745-mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Route that follows trails, forest roads, and miles of highway from Banff, Alberta to Antelope Wells, New Mexico at the Mexican border. This is the route that Ryan Duzer and Priority Bicycles had in mind when they designed the Priority 600X Adventure bike. (Please see the related article which details the stock design elements and components of the 600X, along with Ryan's in depth review.)


But make no mistake. You can't take the Priority 600X out of the box and set off on the GDMBR - or even an overnight campout close to home. MANY modifications are REQUIRED to outfit any bicycle for bikepacking!


This article will cover a few of the basic modifications. The next article will cover more of my personal choices to complete the transformation of the Priority 600X into the ultimate bikepacking rig. Let's start with the Priority 600X in the box, just after it's delivered by Fed Ex:


Number 1 - Bicycle Assembly:


Are you confident in your ability to install components, apply the correct torque, and test the operation of the gearing and brakes on your new bike? If not - take your new Priority 600X directly to the nearest bike shop and pay them to assemble and test the bike. Expect to pay about $50.00.


Better yet - ask if they will teach you how to set-up and adjust your new bike. If new bike assembly costs $50.00, offer them $75.00 if you can watch and ask questions and understand what they are doing. DON'T expect them to agree to this in the middle of the Spring rush! The dead of Winter is best. Second best is offering to come in after hours and promise to bring a six-pack of the mechanic's favorite craft brew!


Number 2 - Bicycle Fitting for Bikepacking:


Are you confident in adjusting the seat height and tilt of the handlebars to properly fit you? If not, stop by your local bike shop. You can ask if they would mind checking your fit for free. But if you make a few purchases first, you can ask at the checkout and get a better response. Note that some high-end bike shops offer an expensive, paid fitting process (geared more for racers and triathletes) and might not agree to look over your rig for free.


Number 3 - Making the First Component Changes on Your Bikepacking Bicycle:


Your new bike is going to include a cheap set of pedals. These platform pedals are adequate for the initial fitting. If you are not into demanding trail riding or long-distance touring, you may be happy with these pedals for a while. But if you want to maximize the performance of your new bike, the first thing to change is the pedals. Mountain bikers prefer pedals with serrated flats. Touring riders prefer pedals with spring-loaded clips that attach to shoe cleats - known as "clipless" pedals as opposed to the old-fashioned toe clips of my youth.


The choice between flats and clipless pedals isn't necessarily either/or. In my case, I prefer double-sided pedals that allow me to clip-in on most roads, then ride without clips on dangerous hills and in the mud.


Either way, your choice of pedals determines your choice of shoes. For fast "gravel grinders", I wear a pair of leather Shimano SPD shoes. For extended bikepacking and cross-country events, I wear cycling flats that have recessed cleats plus a sole with tread. These are the better choice for touring where I need to walk around a grocery store, push the bike up a rocky hill, or when setting up camp.


Bike shoes are a personal preference. The other component that is 100% personal is the saddle. Most stock bike seats are low-priced junk. Be prepared to swap the seat to fit your anatomy and your riding style. Many stock seats are rock hard. If you are a racer and always ride with padded chamois shorts, you might get by. When bikepacking, I do NOT ride with padded bike shorts. I tour with basic MTB shorts and underwear (Merino wool) for comfort on the bike, hiking up the hills, and walking around town or attractions along the route.


Wearing unpadded shorts requires a padded saddle! (Some long-distance riders swear by Brooks leather saddles. If you choose this option, be prepared to spend the first 1,000-miles in agony while breaking it in, and then the rest of your time protecting it from moisture.) There are plenty of padded saddles to choose from. Your local bike shop might have a few on hand, or you can make your selection online. These saddles are reasonably priced, at one-half or less a painful Brooks saddle.


In the case of the Priority 600X, the other component change that I make is to REMOVE the kick stand. Many bike tourists love kick stands. personally, I can't stand anything that rattles and ALL kickstands rattle! I sacrifice the convenience of standing the bike for the necessity to lean it against something or lay it down. You may choose otherwise. At the same time, I also remove and discard the required reflectors included with all bikes today. (On the photo below, you can see reflective tape on my rear rack.)


Number 4 - Adding Parts to Your Bikepacking Bicycle:


Now we fall deeper down the "rabbit hole". There is NO END to the number, size, and shape of parts that you can add to your new bike. In particular, the Priority 600X is supplied with dozens of braze-on bolts. This is the time to carefully think through how and where you plan to ride.


The first accessory most riders add is a water bottle cage. On most of my bikes, I add two water bottle cages on the seat and down tubes. With the Priority 600X, you also have the option to add another water bottle UNDER the down tube, and two more on the rear seat stays if you ride in the desert. Just remember that water is heavy! On the other hand, most hardcore mountain bikers prefer a hydration pack and avoid water bottles that will bounce out on rough trails.


Another personal preference is choosing between a rear rack or a bikepacking saddle bag to carry your gear. Decades ago, I started out touring with a rear rack and panniers. I tried a saddle bag when they became the new norm, but I found that I could never eliminate the annoying swaying load. Now I have reverted to a rear rack that holds a dry bag with my sleeping gear (air mattress, hammock or tent, rain fly, and sleeping quilt.) There are many rear racks to choose from, if you select this option. I recommend a strong but simple aluminum rack and the Priority 600X has mounting points on the rear dropouts and braze-ons on the upper seats stays. Like installing water bottle cages, be very careful when installing a load-bearing rack to use semi-permanent Lock-Tite on all accessory bolts.


With all my light but bulky sleeping kit in the rear dry bag, I can fit my food and cooking gear in the Green Guru frame bag. (See Part Two of this series for more information on this frame bag and my other packs for camping gear.)


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