Summer is right around the corner, let’s go bikepacking!
Here in Southern California it definitely gets hot during the Summer season, so we tend to hit the coast or try to get up into some elevation to do our bikepacking around this time of year. The best time to do any camping or bikepacking in many areas though is the shoulder seasons like Spring and Fall.
In reality, though, we have it really good here, as outdoor adventures can be had all year-round in my neck of the woods. Lucky.
Anywho, I thought it would be a fun idea to share some cool bikepacking bikes with you guys. Keep in mind, that this list is, in no way, a comprehensive list. It’s not “techy” or in any particular order… it’s just a few bikes that I thought were unique, cool, and worth a closer look. And maybe, just maybe, a good value. That’s it, I promise. You know, just something you guys could read while you’re enjoying your coffee and hopefully planning your next adventure.
Let’s get started. Firstly, the now discontinued Surly ECR and more accurately my ECR.
The Surly ECR may have been the first of its kind, being released for the 2014 model year. I don’t have any actual proof, but I think that statement is fairly accurate. It was the second 29er Plus bike that Surly released following the Krampus. The ECR was built and spec’d to be an uber-specific off-road tourer.
It had bikepacking/touring, specific geo like a non-suspension corrected front fork, and lower bottom bracket height. It even had the super versatile Surly rear dropout which featured a Rohloff torque arm slot and threaded eyelets for fenders, racks, and threaded trailer mounts that, if you look closely at the above photo (above and behind the rear QR), I used for BOB Trailer nuts to pull my trailer.
Retail: If you want one you will have to go “used”.
The Surly Ogre is what Surly Bikes call an all-season commuter. Surly says it’s a “steel utility vehicle designed for fully-loaded exploration, whether across town or across the country”. They also state that “it relishes in those “take-the-long-way-home-and-find-some-beverages-along-the-way” sort of commutes. Snow, sleet, or sweltering humidity, this is an ideal year-round commuter bike. You can also haul enough crap on it that you don’t even have to go home if you don’t want to.”
Retial: $1699 (complete bike), $899 (frameset)
Check out more info on the Surly Orge, like specs, geometry, and frame highlights here.
Surly Ghost Grappler
The Surly Ghost Grappler is new this year for Surly Bikes. When I saw this bike, I really wanted to (and may yet) review this bike. It looks like a fun bicycle. Surly says it’s a “drop-bar trail bike built for singletrack sessions, all-day dirt rides, and bikepacking excursions. Surly goes on to say “Off-road enthusiasts have been Frankensteining drop bars onto trail bikes for decades, so we designed the Ghost Grappler to scratch that itch with a little more precision. Engineered first and foremost around a stable and comfortable drop-bar hand position, its trail-ready geo provides a spirited ride on mixed terrain. Cleared for girthy tires and decorated with an array of mounts for hauling your daily provisions and overnight gear, the Ghost Grappler is ready to take you and your paraphernalia down that overgrown fire road for an extrasensory experience. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Probably.”
Retial: $1899 (complete bike), $799 (frameset)
Check out more info on the Surly Ghost Grappler, like specs, geometry, and frame highlights here.
According to Tumbleweed Bikes, the Stargazer is, “a nimble and balanced drop bar mountain touring bike designed for loaded trail riding”. The Stargazer is a direct descendant of Tumbleweed’s first bike model, the Prospector, and shares much of the same tubing and mountain-bike geometry, with a shorter reach to accommodate drop handlebars and a lighter weight overall package. The Stargazer is built to be a fun, confidence-inspiring bike that covers a wide range of terrain and is optimized for bikepacking and off-road touring.
Their standard build combines a mix of 12-speed SRAM Eagle wide range 10-52 tooth cassette and derailleur with SRAM Rival road shifters via a Ratio Technology 1×12 Wide Upgrade Kit. The left shifter is modified to control the actuation of the dropper seat post.
The Stargazer frame material is heat-treated, multi-butted Chromoly steel tubeset. The CNC machined chainstay yoke is claimed to clear 29 x 2.5” or 27.5 x 3.0” tires.
Retial: $3875 (complete bike), $1350 (frameset)
Check out more info on the Tumbleweed Bikes Stargazer, like specs, geometry, and frame highlights here.
The next bicycle on the list is by a small manufacturer located “off-the-grid” in the woods of Vermont, Tanglefoot Cycles. This is the Tanglefoot Hardtack. On the Tanglefoot Cycles website, under the description for the Hardtack, it says “For more than 1600 years, long-distance travelers have relied on hardtack for sustenance. The Hardtack frameset is inspired by this tough, durable food. Simple, durable, no-frills. Just what you need.”
For those that don’t know (like me, I had to look it up), hardtack is simple food, like a biscuit, consisting of water, flour, and sometimes salt. It is used for sustenance in the absence of perishable foods, it was used on long sea voyages, land migrations, and military campaigns throughout history.
The Hardtack is available as a frameset or they can build it up into a complete bike to your specifications, when ready they send you a very complete questionnaire that will pinpoint every detail that you can imagine for your personal bike build. You can reach out to Tanglefoot here for pricing and availability. I will have more on this when I finish the long-term review. Stay tuned!
Also, check out more info on the Tanglefoot Hardtack, like specs, geometry, and frame highlights here.
The Salsa Fargo is next. This is another bikpacking-specific bike that has been around for quite some time. The Fargo is available with both steel and titanium frames. This bike is Salsa’s drop-bar off-road touring bike that Salsa says “is built to shatter limits and that you can ride it on singletrack, gravel, or other places you wouldn’t take your standard touring bike.”
The steel frame is triple-butted. Salsa’s Alternator dropouts allow you to run whatever drivetrain you can think of. It has a lot of cargo mounts for racks and fenders if that’s your jam.
The Fargo is available as a complete (the Apex 1), or steel and titanium framesets.
Retail: $2599 (Apex 1), steel frameset: $1199, titanium frameset: $3299
You can geek out on more Salsa Fargo info, like specs, geometry, and frame highlights here.
The Curve GMX is the most expensive on the list and available only as a frameset.
Curve Cycling says “the GMX+ is inspired by the intrepid Overlanders of the 1890s, who covered incredible distances without support across the harsh Australian outback. We have designed a bike that can do the same, but with much more ease by using today’s modern technology. The GMX+ is an adventure bike designed with wider tire clearance thanks to our innovative carbon fork, ultra-wide drop bars for stability, and numerous mounting points for storage or water.”
It’s pretty cool that the GMX+ has been used on some big endurance races like the Tour Divide, Silk Road Mountain Race, and Race to the Rock.
The Curve GMX+ frameset is designed around a 29″ wheel and has tire clearance to fit a 3.0 tire and is made of 3Al – 2.5V Aerospace Grade 9 titanium.
Retail: $4949 AUD ($3568-ish USD) Frameset only
Rodeo Adventure Labs Flaanimal 5.0
The Flaanimal 5.0 is one of my favorites on this list. It can be ordered as either a frameset or a complete bike. The frame material used on the 2021 framesets is custom-drawn Japanese steel tubing, using size-specific butting with woven carbon seat tube and headtube inserts. It has a dropped drive-side chainstay. and sliding rear dropouts.
This frame is the winner of the 2021 Tour Divide.
The finishes that come on the Flaanimal 5.0 are Naked and gold, or red, or pink, or orange, or turquoise, or blue. For an additional $504 you can get two-color Cerakote treatment in Super Seven, Sunflower Sky (pictured), Northern Lights, Concrete Orange, or Blue Iceberg
The max tire width for the Flaanimal 5.0 frameset is 2.4 (650b) and 50c (700c).
Retail: $1549 (frameset)
Complete bike builds range from $2601 (SRAM Apex) to $6175 (SRAM Force AXS 2×12) depending on the build kit you pick. The available build kits are: SRAM Apex, Shimano GRX 810 and 812, Campy Ekar, and SRAM Force AXS
Otso Fenrir Stainless
Next up… the Otso Cycles Fenrir Stainless. Otso says that “while all Otso bikes are known for their versatility, the Fenrir might be the most versatile yet. It was designed to accommodate drop bars with a 50mm stem or MTB bars with an 80mm stem. It can be built with gears or single speed, with a suspension fork or rigid, with a mechanical or electronic drivetrain, or with a dropper or rigid seat post. The ability to fully customize the build of the bike makes the Fenrir as versatile as its rider.”
With drop[ bars, Otsos says that the Fenrir will ride like an ultra-capable gravel bike while flat bars will offer up a ’90s XC bike feel. For a bicycle that is “optimized for bikepacking,” the Fenrir’s ability to swap bars allows the user to mount whatever size handlebar roll suits them. The Fenrir is also dropper friendly.
The frame and fork can clear 29″ x 2.6″ or 27.5″ x 2.8″ tires.
Retail: $4120 (complete), $2050 (frameset)
Salsa Timberjack SLX 29
The Salsa Timberjack SLX 29 is the budget offering on the list…but the Timberjack is available in several complete bike options, depending on wheel size and component builds.
Salsa says that “The all-new Timberjack SLX 29 delivers a carefully-calculated blend of fun and versatility that embraces our Adventure by Bike mantra. Updated geometry offers more stability in technical terrain without losing hardtails’ treasured pedaling and climbing capabilities.
The Timberjack SLX 29 also has the adjustable Alternator 2.0 dropouts just like the Fargo mentioned earlier. So again, these dropouts will let you tune ride characteristics and change up your drivetrain if you so desire.
The frame has a boatload o’ mounts to make gearing up for bikepacking overnighters to your favorite spots much easier.
The complete bike comes with a 29 x 2.6” wheel and tire combo.
Retail: $1799 (complete), $799 (aluminum frame), $3199 (Ti frame)
I hope you enjoyed this list, it was fun making it.
Now, grab some friends and go out and ride your bike and make your next great adventure!
The Curve frame is Ti? Yeah, No? 3/2.5?
Yes, sorry. I will update the post. Curve says the frame is 3AL – 2.5V Aerospace Grade 9 titanium
Hi, Thanks for the research and this list. They are all very similar with the majority of differences based on quality of parts. Did you consicer the Priority 600X? They are so simple and dependable. Room for racks. Gates Carbon Belt drive solves many problems. Disc brakes are good but not unique. The Pinion gearing system is so easy to use and very smooth and dependable. There are so many fewer ways to have problems on a tour. I have ridden my Priority 3,000 miles so far and have had no problems. These bikes at around $3,500 need to be considered. Same bike touring, new ideas.
How do you not have a Jeff Jones in there?
You forget the Priority 600x
Also the kona unit, one of the best value for money frames or bikes you can get.
Soma makes a bunch of bikes
I’ve really gone down the rabbit hole in the last year and have noticed a lot of people are preferring normal wider bars. (For example many of the technical riding requirement in some bickepacking routes.) Overall awesome article. It accomplished exactly what you mentioned. Cheers!