We had four different riders, with four different luggage set-ups, for our Munda Biddi trip. Three of us had bike-packing setups, with different specific luggage options, and one had a rear and front rack and panniers. We also had different bikes! Some had lighter bikes but heavier luggage, some had higher power output but more bodyweight. One of my mental exercises during the ride was trying to calculate who had the best power to weight ratio, based on functional threshold power (FTP) and total weight (rider bodyweight + bike weight + total luggage and water). I’m a coach after all so the numbers fascinate me!
So here is a summary of the key points of each rider’s setup, including power top weight ratio (personal details have been left out to protect the innocent).
Carbon bike with 26″ wheels.
Thule pack’n’pedal rack mounted on the rear and a front rack. The rear rack had two rear Arkel panniers with all the gear plus a blue foam mat tied sideways between the panniers.
I have been known to laugh at this mat but on a rocky camp site it has saved my knees many times and is now an appreciated item. It is used for extra insulation and cushioning under an inflatable mat.
Front rack with a square box for food, plus on Day 1 the Camelbak with water got moved from a backpack and tied on here. No backpack = reduced neck pain and hand numbness. Total water carried approx 3L (1.5L camelbak plus 2 x 650mL water bottles in cages).
The panniers are a great setup for simplicity and easy access to gear, but the racks and panniers add weight – my estimate is 4-5 kg extra weight from the luggage in this setup.
Alloy bike, 27.5″ plus size wheels (2.8 inch).
Bikepacking setup: Enormous seat bag (long legs with lots of exposed seat post required), Apidura large handlebar bag with handlebar pocket, two small to medium sized bags mounted on Salsa cages on the front forks, double-adaptor cage mount with two x 1.5L Nalgene water bottles on the down tube, plus one 750 mL water bottle in the bike cage and one in a handlebag bidon bag. Total water carried more than 4 L. No backpack. Oh and a solar panel tied on.
The large seat bag is great for fitting lots of gear in, but you have to be careful how you pack it – with too much heavy stuff towards the back it starts to droop and you get the tail wag effect. Being able to fit a lot of stuff in also means you pack a lot of stuff…. which leads to a heavier load, plus longer to pack and all the stuff up in the morning.
Carbon race mountain bike, 29″ wheels
Large seat bag, large handlebag bag with small handlebar pocket, two x handlebar bidon bags with 1L Nalgene bottle and a water bottle in the bike cage. Total water carried just under 3 L. All Revelate bags. Shoes tied onto the seat bag. No backpack.
This seemed to be the best setup of the bunch. The large but not enormous seat bag meant that eight was very well balanced between the front and rear of the bike. The limited luggage space also meant that packing was optimized, with no extra weight, but this rider somehow seemed to have everything you could possibly want, including a collapsible coffee press and binoculars. I don’t know how she did it!
Rider D (me)
Alloy bike, 27.5″ plus size wheels.
Small seat bag, medium Apidura handlebar bag with handlebar pocket, tent poles strapped into the handlebar bag, two large waterproof bags mounted on King Cage mounts on the front forks, with a double-adaptor cage mount on the downtube with two x 1L Nalgene bottles. One 650 mL watt bottle in the bike cage, total water carried almost 3L. I was only using my water for drinking during the day (ie. not dehydrating food for lunch) and I typically used less than 2L. No backpack. Oh and a bento bag on the top tube with my point and shoot camera in it for easy access.
Power:weight ratio: 2.02 W/kg
A bit more detail about my setup. I had two different kinds of mounts to attach the cages with dry bags to my forks: SKS anywhere cage adaptors, which are a rubber/plastic-backed mount attached via velcro, and King Cage USB (universal support bolt), which are essentially a steel hose clamp with a bidon mount attached. Both of them are a bit fiddly to attach, but in reality take only minutes to mount to the bike. I put non-slip matting behind the mounts, which helps hold them in place and to protect the bike. This trip was a great test as I had around 2kg in each of the bags on my forks. I can report that the King Cage USB adaptors are my choice as they didn’t move at all on the whole trip. Unfortunately they don’t come in sizes big enough to fit on my down tube, but I will certainly use them on both forks for future trips. The SKS anywhere adaptors are no slouch as well, I had to tighten them on the first day, but after that they didn’t move either.
Due to short legs and exposed seat post I’m restricted in what I can mount on my seat post – even with the smallest seat bag I could find, with only the fabric of my tent in the bag (~1kg), on bumps my seat bag would still rub on my rear wheel. I learnt to get out of the saddle and to ease my weight off the seat when going over bumps. Because of this, most of my luggage weight (probably 10-11kg) was on my handlebars and front forks. However, even with the extra weight, I found that I had no problem with my steering – in fact, the steering actually felt better with more weight forward. On steep climbs, I had to sit back a bit more to stop the rear wheel slipping, but even those with heavy rear panniers had rear wheel slippage on the steep gravel climbs.
Overall, most of us had power:weight ratio around 2W/kg, and we generally stayed within a few minutes of each other and coped quite well with the climbs.
Based on this analysis, the kind of weight you would be looking at is:
- 3 kg for 3L of water (depending on climate and how much you drink. rehydrating food at lunch requires more water as well)
- 2 kg of food for 3 days (3 dinners, 3 breakfasts, 2 lunches plus snacks)
- 10 kg of gear + bags + mounts
Total 15 kg of luggage – this means total weight of the bike plus luggage would be 30 kg max, which is not too bad to lift over logs or pedal up hills!