Cycling

10 of the best bikepacking bikes you can buy in 2020

© Trek
Written by Katherine MoorePublished on
Looking for a rig for your overnight off-road jaunts? This collection of gravel grinders, reliable rigids and hardcore hardtails should do the trick.
Gravel bikes, mountain bikes, ‘cross bikes and hybrids – there are so many different categories these days that it can all get quite confusing. So where do bikepacking bikes fit into all of that?
The thing is, multi-day riding rigs are just as diverse as the riders that choose them, ranging from lightweight and sleek drop-bar whippets to the chunky rubber and suspension of cross-country mountain bike-style builds.
If asked to define bikepacking, you could look at it as essentially backpacking with a bike. You’ll need to take some kit with you – whether that’s full camping gear or minimal kit for overnighting in a hostel. While you can essentially use any bike for this purpose, the below are the best ones currently available for off-road-focused riding. There is a wide variety of price points, and the selection covers a range of potential scenarios – from light gravel to seriously technical terrain.

What should you look for when it comes to choosing a bikepacking bike?

Tyre clearance
Brother Kepler Disc Complete 2020
Check that the fork and frame can accommodate how much rubber you’ll need
The number one thing you’ll need to think about when choosing your bike will be determined by your desired terrain, and hence what kind of tyres you’ll want to run. A general rule of thumb is the wider the tyre, the more mud it can handle (and the more rolling resistance you'll get on the road). Clearance in the frame for your chosen tyre width is crucial, so check that the fork and rear triangle can accommodate how much rubber you’ll need.
Frame material
Generally speaking, multi-day rigs endure quite a lot compared to some other set-ups. The combination of rough terrain and fully loaded luggage mean you’ll need something that’s strong and durable. For this reason, a lot of frame builders turn to steel and titanium, although you’ll also find a lot of aluminium bikes in the budget ranges. While heavier, steel bikes can also be more easily fixed should the worst happen when on a long-haul trip, which is why they’re typically the choice of round-the-world riders.
Storage potential
Trek 1120 fully loaded
Have mounts, will travel
It’s worth thinking about how you’d like to carry your kit. The traditional approach of pannier racks requires mounting points on the frame, whereas modern cycling luggage allows you to strap them onto your bike without these. It’s also key to remember you’ll need plenty of space for water too, especially if going to remote, hot or dry areas. If you’re carrying a handlebar roll, wider bars can help these fit better.
Here are 10 of the best bikepacking bikes you can buy in 2020

1. Kona Rove

Kona Rove 2020
As far as budget models go, the Rove is hard to beat
Price: Builds from £759
Frame sizes: 48, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58
Frame material: Aluminium
Wheel size: 700c
Suspension travel: NA
The Rove from Canadian bike brand Kona is a good choice for riders that want to mix tarmac and dirt, with the momentum of narrower tyres and a more aerodynamic position on the drops to make those linking road sections just as enjoyable as the off-road.
The narrowest tyres in this line-up, the Rove is shod with 37mm WTB Riddlers, which are great in drier conditions.
As far as budget models go, the Rove is hard to beat, and the inclusion of a double chainring gives generous gearing to tackle whatever hills might challenge you.

2. Sonder Frontier Rigid

Sonder Frontier Rigid 2020
The Frontier proves that more mounts equals more fun
Price: From £849
Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL
Frame material: Aluminium
Wheel size: 650b
Suspension travel: NA
Arguably one of the best value bikes in this selection, Sonder’s Frontier Rigid is a 27.5” (or 29” compatible) mountain bike, armed with a wide-ranging SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed chainset. You’ll find plenty of mounting points for bottles, cages, racks and guards, including mounts on the rigid forks.
If you’re looking for more bounce, there are also 27.5” and 29” hardtail builds in the Frontier range with the same groupset.
Fitted with great quality intermediate WTB Ranger tyres and rounded off with Sonder’s in-house brand Love Mud wheels and finishing kit, all that’s standing between you and your first adventure is a set of pedals.

3. Brother Kepler Disc

Brother Kepler Disc complete 2020
Fancy a longer expedition? The Kepler can handle it
Price: Builds from £1,675
Frame sizes: 52, 54, 56, 58, 60
Frame material: Steel
Wheel size: 700c
Suspension travel: NA
The Brother Kepler was conceived as a bike that you could both race cyclo-cross on and go touring with. In the five years since its release, there have been some improvements to the original canti-brake model, and now the steel drop-bar frame features hydraulic disc brakes more suited to long distance exploring.
With an increased clearance for up to 45mm tyres on 700c or 48mm tyres on 650b wheels, you won’t be limited on your choice of rubber. Featuring a steel fork with multiple mounting points, you can fit panniers both on the front and rear, as well as mudguards if you wish.
This drop bar bike is a versatile and robust option, perfect for if you like to mix your off-road adventures with smoother back lanes and tarmac inbetween.

4. Bombtrack Beyond+

Bombtrack Beyond Plus 2020
Bombtrack started with track bikes but is now known for its adventure rigs
Price: Builds from £1,750
Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL
Frame material: Steel
Wheel size: 27.5" or 29"
Suspension travel: NA
German bike brand Bombtrack established itself with beautiful track bikes before becoming well regarded in the gravel scene. Now, you’ll find a series of rigid mountain bikes perfect for bikepacking in its Beyond+ range, with either a steel or carbon fork.
Unusually, both of these options feature mounts for additional storage on the fork legs, a trend growing in popularity, where other features like dropper posts restrict storage elsewhere.
Choose between the 27.5”x2.8” model with straight bars and a steel fork or the ADV model with 29”x3” wheels, Jones bars and a carbon fork. With rubber this wide paired with SRAM 12-speed NX Eagle gearing, you’ll be able to tackle almost anything.

5. Specialized Epic Hardtail

Specialized Epic Hardtail 2020
Epic by name, epic by nature
Price: Builds from £2,249
Frame sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
Frame material: Carbon fibre
Wheel size: 29"
Suspension travel: 100mm
The choice of bikepacking legend Lael Wilcox, the Specialized Epic Hardtail is a great option for routes or races that err more on the mountain biking side than gravel, with the RockShox fork’s 100mm travel taking the roughness out of the chunky rock and testing trails.
The Epic Hardtail is a bike for those wishing to go light and fast. You’ll find a lot fewer mounting points than other bikepacking-specific rigs, so you’ll definitely need to adopt modern cycling bags that are strap-on rather than bolt-on or pannier based.
While the build comes with a standard seatpost (making fitting seatpost bags a piece of cake), there’s nothing stopping you swapping out for a dropper and taking this bike to your local trails for a day out in the off-season.

6. Salsa Fargo

Salsa Fargo Apex 1 2020
This rigid drop-bar MTB will allow you to test how far you can go
Price: Builds from £2,250
Frame sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
Frame material: Steel
Wheel size: 29"
Suspension travel: NA
Looking at the Fargo on paper, it appears to be one of the most MTB drop-bar bikes going. With space for up to 2.6” tyres at 700c (29”) wheel size, there’s more than enough clearance for taking the muckier and more technical trails that demand higher tyre volumes.
Both the Shimano Tiagra and SRAM Apex models feature the Salsa Firecrest 110 carbon fork, which has multiple cage mounting options on the fork legs for extra water or Salsa’s ‘Anything cages’.
The American brand has established a solid reputation for its pioneering builds, and the Fargo is just one in a whole suite of models that could be used for this type of riding, depending on terrain and conditions targeted.

7. Trek 1120

Trek 1120 2020
This bike from American brand Trek is simply designed for bikepacking
Price: £2,400
Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL
Frame material: Aluminium
Wheel size: 29"
Suspension travel: NA
The 1120 from Trek is one of the few bikes that you could argue was designed specifically for bikepacking. The contrasting orange integrated racks located front and rear are one of the most striking features, allowing you to pack much more than on other mountain bikes without fear of tyre rub. This makes the 1120 a good choice for those looking to take more remote routes or tour for longer, where you’ll need to carry more supplies.
Besides the storage opportunities, you’ll find a wide range 1x Shimano drivetrain with a 30T chainring and 11-46T cassette. A dropper post makes it easier to get on and off your loaded bike as well as ride down more challenging descents. Teamed with three inches of rubber, there won’t be many places that you can’t explore.

8. Niner Air 9 RDO

Niner Air 9 RDO 2020
With the Atlas Mountain Race in the bag, this has some serious credentials
Price: Builds from £2,700
Frame sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
Frame material: Carbon fibre
Wheel size: 29"
Suspension travel: 100mm
Ridden to victory by Sofiane Sehili at the inaugural Atlas Mountain Race in 2020, the Niner Air 9 RDO is a serious steed for serious off-road riding. Whether you choose to run the 100mm travel fork or swap it out for a rigid alternative as Sofiane did, both are engineered to cope with the rigours of extreme off-road riding.
Just like the carbon-framed Specialized Epic, you’ll need to opt for modern velcro-on bags, like a handlebar roll, seatpost pack and framepack, as there are only mounting points for water bottles.
If you’ve got a very long distance in mind, you might want to consider clip-on aero bars or bar ends to offer more hand positions and therefore comfort over longer ride durations.

9. Mason ISO

Mason ISO 2020
The independent British brand prove that, in bikepacking, steel is real
Price: Builds from £3,140
Frame sizes: 42, 46, 50, 54, 58
Frame material: Steel
Wheel size(s): 27.5", 29"
Suspension travel: NA
The InSearchOf, or ISO for short, was British brand Mason’s response to its ambassador, Josh Ibbett, taking its well-loved Bokeh gravel bike over more and more extreme terrain. With a Tour Divide racing ambition, the brand and rider collaborated on the ISO’s design to create something specifically adapted for this technical and challenging riding.
The result is a steel frameset with mega clearance to fit up to 700 x 2.4” or 650b x 2.8” tyres. Its most noticeable feature is a short integrated front mudguard that can be loaded with up to 2kg extra luggage. Along with many mounting points on the frame, the carbon fork also has mounting options and comes with internal routing for dynamo lights.

10. Shand Bahookie

Shand Bahookie 2020
It can also use an internal Rohloff hub or run as a belt-drive single speed
Price: Builds from £3,395
Frame sizes: S, M, L, XL, Custom
Frame material: Steel
Wheel size(s): 27.5" or 29"
Suspension travel: Available with 120mm fork
Based just outside Edinburgh, Scotland, Shand Cycles is a small, independent British brand that makes steel bikes in-house, not far from the bikepacker’s playground that is the Scottish Highlands. It describes the Bahookie as the brand’s ‘do-it-all mountain bike’, designed to run either 29” or 27.5” wheels, and a rigid carbon or 120mm fork.
If the more technical routes take your fancy, the flat-bar Bahookie could be the bike for you. With three sets of bottle cage mounts, as well as rack mounts on the rear, there are plenty of options. You can even customise your build to include Jones Loop H-bars, which are a popular choice with long-distance mountain bikers for their ergonomic design as well as multiple hand positions.
For ultimate reliability and easy maintenance, you can also run the Bahookie with an internal Rohloff hub or as a belt-drive single speed build.