Over the last few years, there has been a revolution among bikes. Tired of dealing with traffic, both on the road and at the trailhead, more and more riders have begun taking on bigger adventures away from the beaten track. It's only natural that as riders started to extend their rides that they started turning into multiple-day adventures, further extending the possible range of a ride. Sleeping under the stars and using your bike to haul your gear has a name, bikepacking.
If you are buying your first bike or your tenth, you might be thinking about choosing a bike that will help you enjoy multi-day adventures. Whether it's endurance racing or simply heading out your front door with a packed bike and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, choosing the best bike for bikepacking will be the foundation of your bikepacking experience. Choosing the right bike to accommodate luggage means you can go farther, and carry more, when the weight is on your bike and not your body. Here are a few of our favorite bikes to help you bikepack successfully.
Keep scrolling to see Bike Perfect's pick of the best bikepacking bikes, from drop bar gravel bikes to singletrack shredders.
Best bikepacking bikes
Evil Bikes is a company known for mountain bikes. When they decided to enter the drop bar market, they took what they knew about mountain bikes and applied it to a gravel bike. Modern mountain bikes are long and low to add stability no matter how rough the terrain is. All that stability is going to be a welcome feature when you start loading down the bike for bikepacking. Add a bunch of weight to a bike and any feeling of instability only gets worse, however, Evil's long, low design will have you carrying all your gear with confidence.
Evil hasn't skimmed on luggage carrying capacity either. While the frame may be compact, limiting the space for a frame bag, there are seven different bolt-on mounts including on the fork and top-tube for attaching extra water and all manner of luggage. There are other practicalities too including fender mounts and a bolt-on mount to add a front mech, but either of those will drop tire clearance down to 40mm.
In reality, all of the bikes in Surly's catalog are bikepacking bikes in one way or another, and they have been producing adventure-friendly bikes long before the word bikepacking was coined. Our favorite is the extremely versatile Karate Monkey, a steel hardtail that is about as versatile as a bike can be. It can be run as a 29er or 27.5+, with a rigid fork or sporting up to 140mm of front bounce. Despite having through-axles, the bike can even be run as a singlespeed thanks to Surly's neat 145mm Gnot Boost dropouts (which can be run 12 x 142mm or 12 x 148mm and even 10 x 135 with an adapter).
While there aren't as many mounts as some of Surly's other bikes, the Karate Monkey still has all the basics covered for most adventures, whether that's blasting your local singletrack or heading out deep into the hills.
The All-City Gorilla Monsoon is a steel bike but it's far from traditional. The durability and fixability of steel is a plus, and the geometry is racier than an old-school touring setup. The mix of old and new continues with the tire and mounting setup. You can get positively massive 2.4in tires if running a 650b wheel or run a faster 700c setup up to 42mm. Then in a more traditional nod, instead of tons of braze-on mounting, grab front and rear racks and mount everything that way.
If you are traveling long distances over rough terrain you might want to consider suspension designs. A full-suspension drop bar bike gives you all the hand positions you might want but also keeps you feeling fresher. The suspension isn't about being faster, it's about getting up day after day and spending long hours on the bike. When you aren't feeling beat up it's less painful the next morning. The only downside is that suspension can make it harder to fit gear on a bike. Niner has come to the rescue with a good number of braze-on points and custom frame bags for the MCR.
For some people, bikepacking is just part of the race. Moving fast, and sleeping as little as possible might be your take on bikepacking. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then the folks at Salsa are your people. They know that gravel racing is as much about finishing the race as it is about being fast. The Salsa Warbird is long, low, and comfortable with mounts everywhere. When the race goes on for days, the ability to keep putting down steady power is what wins. Even if you aren't racing for days, those same characteristics make for a great all-around bikepacking bike.
If you look at the bikes lined up to race on epic bikepacking routes like the Tour Divide, Atlas Mountain Race or Silk Road, there is one bike that dominates. The Salsa Cutthroat is a drop bar mountain bike that has established itself as the ultimate bikepacking race bike that is capable of long, fast days covering everything from road to mountain singletrack.
The carbon frameset was actually inspired by the Tour Divide and offers huge amounts of vibration dampening to reduce fatigue, massive tire clearance and has a very large front triangle to accommodate a huge frame bag. The Cutthroat is also capable of carrying four (52cm frame) or five (54cm-60cm frame) bottles on top of the three fork mounts, top tube bag mounts and two accessory mounts under the downtube.
The Cannondale Topstone Lefty 3 is a gravel race bike that has suspension. In a lot of ways, it's another take on the same formula as the Niner MCR RDO. The Topstone Lefty allows riders to put down consistent power over long distances while staying fresher. The unique single-sided Lefty fork Cannondale uses does reduce mounting options. Fortunately, the Topstone also has a reasonable amount of braze-ons. Not only that but the single-sided fork makes front tire changes super easy. Add some pressure to the tires and the Topstone is a very capable road bike too. You get enough versatility that bikepacking, racing, and even road cycling are all within reach without needing extra bikes.
There are good reasons to have suspension for bikepacking. There are also options available for drop-bar suspension bikes, as we've seen in this guide. The problem might be that those options are expensive. The Cannondale Topstone is cheaper than the Niner MCR but it's still an expensive bike. If those bikes are out of reach, take a look at the Norco Search XR A Suspension. It's a much more affordable drop-bar suspension bike that pairs an aluminum hardtail frame with a Suntour front suspension fork. You get 50mm of travel, an 11 speed 1x drivetrain, and there is even an included dropper post.
Long before bikepacking was a term that people used, there was bike touring. The differences between the two are subtle. Bikepacking tends to mean off-road while touring means on-road. Touring is often a heavier load with more creature comforts. Bikepacking follows the minimalist backpacking movement and stays pretty light. If you mixed the two you might end up with something like the Co-op Cycles ADV 4.2 Bike. Think of it as an off-road touring bike. Racks come with the bike, the tires are massive, and there is a flat bar for control through bumpy sections.
Titanium has a near-mythical status as a frame material. It has a smooth ride quality but it's also got the spring commonly associated with steel. Unlike steel, though, it's light and won't rust. Alchemy offers the Ronin gravel bike in Titanium and there are options for custom paint and custom geometry. There aren't a ton of mounting points, but the straightforward angles leave plenty of space for generous frame bag options.
It's not cheap, but if you have the money, the Ronin Ti is a beautiful gravel bike that will be a joy to ride day in and day out on bikepacking adventures.
Best bikepacking bikes: everything you need to know
Everyone loves a new bike. New bike day is one of the greatest things about being a cyclist. If you are reading this, you might be dreaming about big adventures and new hardware. Remember though, you don't need a new bike to make adventures happen. Whatever bike you have now can be a bikepacking bike.
If the bike you have is less than an ideal bikepacking bike you may need to tailor the adventure to the bike. It's not a bad thing, it just requires some planning. If you have a skinny tire road bike you aren't going to be able to pedal singletrack into the backcountry. Consider what terrain your bike is capable of and plan a route that plays to the strengths. For example, with a road bike look for places to stay that are accessible from a paved road.
Likewise, it's nice to have mounts for bags and supplies everywhere. The ability to attach bags and bottles to every available area of a bike makes things a little easier but they aren't necessary. Those who make bags and racks are exceptionally creative. Not only that, you aren't the only one who's trying to use a less than optimal bike for bikepacking. Whatever your situation is it's likely someone else has the same issue and there is a bag designed to make it work. Don't let your bike hold you back.
Do You Need Braze-On Mounts?
There is some overlap here with the question of needing a new bike or not. Even if you are considering a new bike, you might not find exactly the bike you want with all the mounts you want. The question is does it really matter?
Braze-on mounts are nice. It's an easy, convenient, way to attach things to a bike. They are not necessary though. There are tons of bags that mount without the need for braze-on mounts. In some situations, it's actually preferable to not have to deal with mounts. In other situations, it's nice to have them.
A commonplace for mounts on newer bikepacking friendly bikes is on the top tube behind the stem. This is a perfect example of a place where it's not necessary. The number of bags that attach to those points is surprisingly small and it's an easy spot to attach a bag without using mounts. On the other, a couple of places that benefit more from braze-on mounting points include under the downtube and on the fork. Those locations are challenging, though not impossible, without the mounts.
The idea is not to get too caught up in feeling like you must have tons of braze-on mounts. If you like a bike for some reason, but don't see the mount you want, look for a creative solution. Instead of mounting bottles to your fork maybe you mount them off the bars on either side of the stem? Think creatively. See if there is a way you can carry what you need in a different way and get the bike you want.