Nomad Bikepacking Adventure: Ideal Bike Setup

The Nomad Three-Day Bikepacking Adventure Ride demands a thoughtful bikepacking setup.  The event contains a bit of everything that the best rides always seem to offer:  Trails, distance, loaded bike with camping gear, backwoods that require some level of self-sufficiency, and more.  

Getting your bike setup right will make the weekend a lot more fun.  Proper preparation means more pedaling and no mechanicals.

Of course, there are lots of approaches to the ideal bike, with no single right answer for everyone.  The most fundamental focus of the bike is to ensure that it's safe to ride, it gets you safely where you want to go, and that you’ve set it up for optimized durability and comfort.

The route is about 150 miles over three days, so expect to see some of everything.  Overall, the terrain types are:

  • Good pavement:  45%
  • Terrible pavement -- read 'fun':  10%
  • Dirt roads -- mostly fire roads and access roads:  7%
  • Doubletrack and abandoned dirt trails:  10%
  • Singletrack flowy: 25%
  • Singletrack technical -- rocky and rooty: 3%
  • Hike-a-bike sections and dangerous technical descents:  0.1%

Setting up your bike so it handles all this terrain and 30+ lbs of gear is not simple.  Here are some steps toward optimizing your bike for the weekend ahead.

The most balanced and durable bike setup for the Nomad rid is likely to include the following:

Tire Choice 

Weather and trail conditions will affect the ideal choice for the Ride.  Route diversity shows that you'll want to have 25c slicks on some paved sections and 2.5" mountain tires on some of the rooty singletrack sections.  However, since you'll be riding only one set of tires, we expect the following type of tire will be the most versatile and durable:

  • Tire Size:  30c minimum.  40c will be popular.  Bigger than about 43c will make the paved sections seem longer.  It really depends a lot on your riding skill set; as an example, a skilled mountain biker can get away with narrow tires, maybe a 28c to 33c semi knobby, on this route.  For those that spend more time on the road, and are not as technically comfortable, a wider tire 33c to 40c knobby – that provides control, flat protection, and grip – will be well worth the trade-off relative to a narrower tire’s road speed.
  • Tire Tread:  Definitely something.  Knobbies or filetread at least.  A tire that has a bit of a center ridge – for road speed – and knobs on the sides – for offroad control – is the tire that we’ll be riding.  The Clement MSO 40c is a good example of this style of tire.  As stated above, there are some mountain bike trails and some great paved sections on the route.  In the end, you want a tire that works in both extremes – tailored toward being more beneficial to your weakness as a rider.
  • Tire Pressure:  Of course, as with everything, personal preference is the rule.  We recommend riding within about 10-20% of maximum air pressure recommended by the tire manufacturer.  This is primarily because you're carrying bikepacking gear so your bike will be heavier than typcial.  This higher pressure will also help you avoid flats, and you’ll roll faster on the road.  Getting a flat when you’re 50-miles into the ride can be a really frustrating thing.  While your bike will ride a bit stiffer, most people with which we ride tend to trade that for reducing the chance of a flat.

Gearing Setup

A lot of riders are likely to use compact chainrings in the front:  50-34t.  For the rear cassette, we like low gears for grinding up the steep singletrack so we're riding 12-32t cassettes.  There are a few moments on the route that reach a 10+ percent grade, or more, on dirt; these sections are very short, but a 1:1 gear ratio might be appreciated.

One-by systems are becoming more and more popular on OBC rides.  For this ride, a 1x setup will work well because it's bikepacking for having higher gears for fast road sections is less important.

Handlebar Type

Drop bars will be more comfortable on the road sections.  Also, the additional hand positions afforded by drops will be welcome in the fifth hour of the ride.  

If you like to use a 'sweetroll' style bag for bikepacking, some of them work well with drop bars but, in general, we find that rolls work better with flat bars rather than drop bars.

Pedal System

Clipless pedals are required, not just recommended.  If you don't ride clipless you're going to have a very difficult time on this ride.

Sometimes people ask about using road pedals and shoe versus mountain bike shoes and pedals.  We strongly recommend offroad shoes; the trails are tough on road cleats.  Also, since this is a multiday -- and all day -- ride, road shoes are not much fun to walk around in.

Durability

If you don't do long mixed-terrain rides very often, you may be surprised at how tough the trails can be on your bike.  Make sure of the following:

  • Tires are in excellent condition with no cuts or chunks missing -- and with plenty of tread life
  • Brake-pad wear is minimal
  • Cables aren't frayed or binding
  • All bolts are properly tight
  • Chain is reasonable new and oiled - and then wiped dry.  
  • Basically, make sure your bike is tuned-up really well.  It's embarrassing to have something fall off your bike or end your ride early.

That covers the primary aspects of the bikes.  Regarding all the other elements – brake type, wheel choice, mudguards or no – we don’t have strong opinions.  However, please contact us with any specific component questions.

What does your bikepacking setup look like?

We look forward to seeing you on the Nomad ride!