Best Bikepacking Bikes: Tackle Rugged Terrain and Steep Climbs
Top picks for the best off-road and long-distance bikepacking adventures
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Bikepacking combines the thrill of camping or hiking with the rush of riding a mountain bike. You get to explore more places than you would when you are hiking on foot, while also keeping you fit. If you are looking for a great bike to explore the backcountry or a mountain range, consider any of the bikepacking bikes in our buying guide.
An offroad mountain bike with a seven-speed index, a steel frame, and wide 26-inch wheels.
An affordable full-suspension mountain bike with a 21-speed index and 24-inch wheels.
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Benefits of Bikepacking Bikes
- Tackle multiple terrains. Bikepacking can see riders transition between smooth pavement to mountainous or gravel trails. A quality bikepacking bike is designed to effectively navigate mountain biking through a range of ground conditions without compromising on control or speed. Look for road bikes designed for more than one terrain condition.
- Support additional weight. By definition, bikepacking usually means that you are traveling a long distance and will need to carry supplies with you. Whether that’s a day trip where you’re bringing food or a multi-day trip where you need to bring camping gear, a good bikepacking bike is designed to support additional weight without impacting the ride by requiring accessories like rear racks.
- Durability. Because you’re most likely going to be exposed to a variety of conditions, whether that’s the weather or the terrain, you need a bike that’s going to be able to stand the test of time. A good bikepacking bike is meant to be used in rough conditions and shouldn’t fall apart after one trip.
Types of Bikepacking Bikes
Bikepacking can be adventurous, but it could also see you traveling over a wide range of terrains that range from smooth pavement to narrow and rocky paths. A mountain bike can work across a range of terrains, but it’s ideal for hilly and rocky ground. Mountain bikes come in a wide range of styles that include rigid, hardtail, and full suspension. Rigid mountain bikes tend to be best suited to bikepacking because they’re lighter and don’t feature rear suspension, which can slow you down.
If you’re planning on hitting the trails, gravel bikes are an excellent option. In addition to creating a smoother ride, this type of bike is ideal for long trips, whether on flat or mountainous terrain. Best of all, they’re designed with camping in mind and can easily accommodate saddlebag attachments without compromising on stability and function.
Experienced bikepackers who plan on traveling across challenging terrains, like snow or sand, should opt for a fat bike. Those unpredictable conditions that could hamper lesser bikes is exactly why the fat bike was designed. As the name implies, they have huge wheels with a strong grip, making them perfect for the surfaces we mentioned earlier. However, fat bikes are not recommended for long trips, as they require that the rider is physically strong enough to power them.
Mongoose is a brand that’s all about performance. The brand is well known within the biking world as a go-to source for rugged bicycles, and the bikes are designed to work on a variety of rough terrains, especially within BMX circuits. While we’ve listed Mongoose’s fat tire bikepacking bike as the Best Overall Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike, they have a wide range of mountain bikes, scooters, and BMX racing bikes, like the Legion Street Freestyle BMX Bike, for the thrillseeker in all of us.
Diamondback is another brand that specializes in bicycles and bikepacking bicycles. The brand further breaks its product catalog by terrain, giving you the ability to choose between mountain, road, city, and gravel bikes for the perfect ride, no matter what you encounter, like the Century 2 Endurance Road Bike. Diamondback made it onto our list with the Diamondback Bicycles Overdrive for our Honorable Mention pick.
Dynacraft is a brand made the list because we selected it as our Best Value choice with the Dynacraft Slick Rock Trails 26" Bike and because this is a solid, price-conscious brand that specializes in creating a host of bikes for everyone in the family. Whether you’re teaching your little one how to ride with training wheels with the Magna Major Damage Boys BMX Street/Dirt Bike or are ready to upgrade your existing bike to something with more power, Dynacraft has a wide range of options to suit your needs, budget, and skill level.
Bikepacking Bike Pricing
- $0 - $150: Occasional riders or someone who’s just getting started in the world of bikepacking can find a quality yet basic mountain bike within this price range from established outdoor gear brands like Mongoose, Huffy, and Diamondback.
- $150 - $600: Within this range, you can start to find more specialized bikes, like fat tires, that are designed for more challenging terrains and have more gears and enhanced suspensions.
- $600 and up: At this price range, you should be a serious rider. These bikes not only feature the best in gears and suspension but will also come standard with frame bags designed with extra wiring to support bike packs and gear.
If you’re planning to ride your bike on rough trails, you need to focus on suspension. A full-suspension bike can add weight, but some suspension can give you a smoother experience. And that means that you can ride longer without feeling fatigued. When shopping for a bikepacking bike, make sure that you pick the right suspension for the type of terrain that you think you’ll most frequently encounter.
This is one of the most important features you need to consider when selecting a bikepacking bike. The wheel and tire size that’s right for you is going to be directly dependant upon the type of terrain you frequent. While you’re most likely to find bikes with the standard 700c wheel size, it’s not uncommon to see a 650b wheel either. 700c wheels are ideal for a combination of pavement and trail rides, while 650b is best suited for trail riding.
Just like with wheel size, tire sizes can vary as well. Your tire width has more to do with your comfort than anything else. Wider tires can help to ensure a smoother ride, but they do add more weight and can slow down your speed. It’s important to measure your bike before upgrading to wider tires, as you may find that there isn’t enough clearance between the bike’s frame and your tires’ walls.
This references the materials used to create your frame. This is an important feature because the right frame can make your bike lighter and easier to navigate through difficult terrains. The materials you’re most likely to find include chromoly steel, carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium. If lightweight construction is your most important aspect, focus on bikepacking bikes made from titanium or carbon fiber. Note that titanium is the most expensive option, whereas carbon fiber can be a more budget-friendly option. For riders seeking a sturdy bike, chromoly steel is the best option. And budget shoppers should focus on aluminum frames—but beware that these can produce the least comfortable ride. Higher-end bikes may feature additional storage features, like bottle cages.
- Gearing: Bikepacking bikes come standard with a selection of gears that should be sufficient for the average rider. But you can always opt to customize your bike by swapping out the gears and specializing them if you know the type of terrain you’ll encounter.
- Terrain: Terrain is going to be one of the biggest influences when you shop for a bikepacking bike. These bikes can usually be divided into the following terrain categories: mixed surfaces, gravel roads/forest roads/doubletrack, and singletrack. Knowing the type of terrain you’ll regularly cover can help you find the right bikepacking bike for your needs.
- Budget: While it’s not necessary to spend huge sums of money to get a quality bikepacking bike, you may find that to get a bike with all the upgraded features you prefer, you will need to spend more money.
Best Bikepacking Bike Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- It’s possible to change the saddle on your bike to one that can accommodate your luggage. You can also include aftermarket back and front luggage racks for your backpacking gear.
- You should always carry lubricating oil for your gears and chain system. If the chain is not well-lubricated, it’s more likely to slip off when going uphill or riding on wet surfaces.
- Confirm that your gear is strapped securely to the bike before you ride off. You don’t want to stop to pick up your items up off the road or, even worse, discover that you lost them somewhere along the ride.
- For your off-road rides, get a high-quality backpacking bag that can hold most of your gear and last for long periods without tearing.
- Do not leave home without basic first aid supplies. You are bound to get cuts, scratches, and other injuries on your trip.
Q: Can I carry a tent on a bike?
A: You certainly can if you have a small tent that can fold into a small profile in its carry bag. However, carrying a tent may mean that you have to sacrifice carrying other gear like survival tools, clothes, drinks, or food items.
Q: Can I store some luggage on the frames?
A: It’s quite common to hook a water bottle on each side of the frame. You can also strap a compact cylindrical bag on a triangular frame. Just make sure not to attach so much luggage that you can’t pedal or maintain stability.
Q: Can a sleeping bag fit on a bikepacking bike?
A: You should skip out on foam sleeping bags and switch to an inflatable air mattress if you will be sleeping outdoors. Fold it into a small profile, and throw it in the luggage rack. Also, carry a hand pump to service both the mattress and your bike tires.
Our top pick is the Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Mountain Bike. The bike has a set of comfortable tires that cushion you from a bumpy ride, and it’s suitable for all terrains.
Consider the Dynacraft Women’s Mountain Bike for a more budget-friendly option.