Rapha’s Pennine Rally is set to kick off from Edinburgh and will see riders tackle a mixed surface route covering 500km which finishes up in Manchester. For most, that will mean five days of bikepacking through some beautiful and remote areas in the Scottish borders and north of England.
In the lead-up to any big ride, its easy to get hung up on the kit. What bike? What bags? What gearing? What tire size or tread? These questions fill up forums and chat groups. While the bikepacking advice offered can be sage it's not always comforting and nothing unpacks your riding insecurities like trying to pack up your best bikepacking bike ready for a trip.
And as your insecurities build, it's easy to lose sight of the reasons you're going on an adventure, which is usually to have fun. It's not about the bike, it's about the experience on the bike. The Rally isn't about having the optimal bike, following a rigid plan, and there is no winning. It's a rally, not a race, so it's about meeting people, challenging yourself, raising awareness, and, most importantly, just getting out on your bike and having a great time riding.
We met some of the riders at registration for a chat and to check out their bikepacking setup for Rapha’s Pennine Rally.
Leonor, Brother Mehteh
I had a bikepacking trip in the Cairngorms earlier in may, one in Dartmoor, and then an over-nighter a couple of weekends ago, so a few bikepacking trips but nothing this length. I'm excited for the challenge and see what I'm made of.
I love my Hope wheels. There is not an intentional color coordination but a happy coincidence that Ortlieb and Restrap like black and orange and then the Wizard Works hi-viz also seems to match but it wasn't by design.
I'm bivying with a tarp, hoping that the midgies don't get me or else I will be in someone else's tent.
Matt, Moots Baxter
This thing is pretty purpose-built for this sort of riding. It's a Moots Baxter, basically a drop-bar, ti, hardtail 29er. It's got Fox fork upfront with 100mm of travel and a dropper post, I don't know if I'm going to need it here but when things get really steep and hairy, its pretty helpful. I've got a framebag from Rockgeist, an American manufacturer out of Asheville, North Carolina, that does really good custom stuff. Greg the owner is amazing.
It's missing a couple of pieces of kit, it will have a Salsa Anything Cradle off the handlebars with the sleeping setup, planning on camping every night. Then a seatpost bag from Revelate designs off the back with clothes and a bit of food.
Its B+ at everything. Its a pretty good road bike, a pretty good gravel bike, a pretty good mountain bike, a pretty good bikepacking bike. It does a good job at everything but its not exceptional at any one thing and for me, that's the type of bike I have been trying to build for a long time.
Mark, Orbea Terra H30
I did half of Lands End to John o'Groats and a couple of days cycling to Pembrokeshire but not off-road, that's the acid test.
The saddle is my favorite part of the bike, a comfy saddle makes all the difference and I love the color. Its quite new, I only got it in March so haven't really put it through its paces yet so I'm keen to see how she copes.
Dave, Sonder Camino
I have done a little bikepacking before but nothing on anything rough, like no rougher than a bridleway. We went from Geneva to Spain, I have toured the north of France, and I have done Lands End to John o' Groats which had a little off-road too.
This bike comes stoke with these flared handlebars and do you know what, there really good for descending. The grip is a little more hands up like a mountain bike which stops your wrists going numb and you don't get that pressure on your ulnar nerve like you do on normal race bars.
Sheona, Pinnacle Cobalt
This bike has taken me a lot of places when I started cycling as an adult. I have done a bit of bikepacking before, but only have done a bit on this bike, actually. I did go out during covid and I rode the Rob Roy Way on it. I have done some other stuff with it, but this [the Pennine Rally] is the the longest that I will have done on this bike.
Camille, Cannondale Topstone 3
I do a lot of road riding and I bought this bike in October to commute to work at Rapha. I signed up for the Pennine Rally then I did one night of bikepacking a few weeks ago and I was like, we are ready, let's go! I'll be bivying for five nights.
The bike holds all my kit really well, I'm really happy with it and I can barely feel it when I'm cycling. It looks quite professional, it handles really well, and in general, I'm quite impressed with it. Apart from the slight mechanical issues, it responds well to all the different types of terrain.
I've strapped my UE Boom speaker, that's a necessity. I'm riding with [my friend] Dodo and she immediately was like; "Abba, we have to have Abba". It's going to take a little persuading, but I'm quite happy to have anything that makes us dance and sing and just have a good time.
Zara, Stayer Groadinger
This will be the longest off-road trip that I've done. I rode the South Downs Way but over two and a half days the other month and that was my first off-road trip. I know that on the road I can ride for a long time . . . so then this will be fine because its long days of riding too.
My favorite thing about the bike is the orange Hope calipers, the little bits of orange on the seat collar and even the tags on the bags. The theme that I am going for is mermaid unicorn.
Paul, Titus Goldrush
Titanium bike, lovely frame and rides well. I've done a few training rides, saw this Rally and it really appealed to me, so I'm dipping my toe in. This will be my longest bikepacking trip. I have done a race over in Norway, but that was a one hit wonder so you did the 300km in one go, but I have done a bit of wild camping since.
With these tires on now the bike just glides, so I'm hoping its a smooth ride. I have a saddle bag, a rucksack with a bladder in for water and a small bar bag. Bit nervous but overall looking forward to it, we couldn't ask for better weather.
Ruby, Broc Trufflehunter Custom
I've done some bikepacking before, just enough to not feel nervous about what's ahead, but this will definitely be a bit of a jump in terms of how challenging it will be compared to things I have done in the past.
My favorite part of the bike setup is a very close tie between my borrowed StraightCut saddle bag or my food pouches and water bottles on the front. Having a small framed bike makes it quite hard to get a saddlebag to fit between the seat and the back tire and this one works an absolute treat. The pouches and water bottles are revolutionary as being able to eat and drink while cycling at the same time is really good.
I love the color and when the sun comes out I can't help but swoon over how good it looks.
Davide, SuperNova Rocket Custom
Just a month ago I did the Italy Divide, it was a lot of fun. It was the first time doing a long event and I got lucky with the weather and everything so it was good. Seeing Italy in that way was pretty special.
I cannot pick a single favorite thing about my bike, everything works perfectly together.
The bike is a Sonic from 1992 and this was my cross-country race bike when I was 17, I'm now 47. The aim of this is to be self-sufficient, I have all my food and everything I need for the trip.
My favorite thing about my bike is its age, that it's mine and it's been with me for this long. That something that meant a particular thing then is meaning something different, but just as exciting, today.
Robyn, Specialized Diverge
I have just done an eight-day route in Spain and lots of other two or three day rides. I ridden long bike tours before but less off-road stuff, it's only in the last year that I've started doing some.
I like that my bike carries me to places that I wouldn't otherwise go to and it takes me to interesting places. I really riding like Tarmac. I like to ride off-road so when I get back to the Tarmac I'm reminded how much more I like it.
Emma, Salsa Marrakesh
I have done quite a bit of bikepacking – riding across Cuba and I more recently ridden to Denmark, so I do quite a lot of riding. I like to just go, I'm not a professional or a regular cyclist, I just go and have fun and ride.
My favorite thing about my bike is the gears, I feel like I can go up any hill on them. It's just a ten-speed but it does really well. And with the bigger tires, you can go over lots of rocks and down them.
Taylor, Stayer Groadinger OG Plus
In the last two years I have been getting into ultra-racing on and off-road and I did a lot of bikepacking this winter. Specifically, a lot of winter riding doing Badger Divide and Second City Divide in the dead of winter for training. I love camping out and riding my bike.
This is going to be nerdy but the curve of the seat tube on this specific model just makes this bike crazy maneuverable in like a really fun way. It was designed as a fun day trail bike and I like to load it up and still ride it in that way. I never really noticed much difference when people talk about geometry until I got on this bike. As soon as I tried a small jump to get a little bit of air I just glided like a perfect unicorn in the perfect rainbow arc and I was like 'woah'. I was sold when I rode it for the first time.
Graham, Surly Steamroller
Lastly, my bike, I have decided to ride the Pennine Rally on my Surly Steamroller fixed gear. It's not about the gear and riding fixed gear embodies that. The thought of riding 500km over mixed terrain on without gears or a freewheel would rightfully fill most with dread [you can say that again – Ed], but I love the challenge of riding this bike on the same terrain as everyone else on regular bikes and I have a bond with this machine after adventures in the past. It's been a while since the Steamroller's last big outing and I honestly can’t wait to spend five days bouncing about on this silly, oh-so impractical but wonderful, constantly pedaling bike.
Getting into the setup it's obviously a little about the gear, and I have to choose very carefully as I won't have many options once the rally is underway. For the majority of the ride, I will run 48x21, with the option of a 19t sprocket if I flip the wheel. It's not a particularly small gear and I will quite literally grind to a halt on some of the climbs, but for the 50/50 road gravel mix on the Rally’s route, it should be just right for keeping a good pace on flatter sections.
The wheels are 650b WTB rims built to Halo hubs and are the first wheelset I ever built by myself. Running 650b means I can just (and I mean JUST) squeeze a set of 47mm tires into the frame, set up tubeless of course. The rest of the spec consists of a SRAM Omnium track crankset and a mixture of old MTB parts including a 780mm riser bar and a SRAM Guide four-pot brake on the front for maximum stopping control. Bags are a mix of Straight Cut Design (custom framebag and stem bag) and Apidura (bar and saddle bags), I’m packing light with the plan to bivvy every night to keep the bike riding its best and give me a chance to get up some of the hills.