These are all of my touring bikes from 2008 to the present, in which time I have enjoyed well over 50,000 miles and over four full years on the road. I have made short tours on several other bikes, and have previous experience with many bikes suitable for touring. With the bikes described below, I draw from deep experience.
Meriwether 29/27.5+ Custom Bikepacker
This custom Meriwether Cycles hardtail is designed and built by Whit Johnson of Foresthill, California. The concept is the culmination of many years of travel by bike and borrows from my Surly Krampus, Raleigh XXIX, and Salsa Mukluk. The basic design goals were to produce a bicycle which felt capable and stable on technical trails, especially with a load; provides clearance for large-volume tires and mud, including 29×2.4″ Maxxis Ardent tires on 35-40mm rims; and uses easily serviceable parts when possible, such as a threaded BSA bottom bracket and replaceable sliding Paragon dropouts for standard 9mm QR or 15mm TA.
This bike was conceived while touring across Europe on footpaths, on the rocky desert trails of the HLC route in Israel, on innumerable sandy tracks in South Africa, Jordan, and Arizona. This bike is designed to excel on the Arizona Trail in one season, and tour across part of Africa the next.
The first iteration of my pink Meriwether Bikepacker borrows all the parts from the Surly Krampus below, except for a new 120mm RockShox Pike fork and Chris King headset and BB, as well as a NOS Shimano XTR 9sp RapidFire shifter.
The bike currently wears 29×2.4″ Maxxis Ardent EXO TR tires on 35mm (30mm inner) Derby and Light Bicycle carbon rims. I hope to use 27.5×3.0″ tires in the future, and may also build a new 29″ wheelset with 42mm (36mm inner) Nextie Crocodile rims.
The Revelate Designs luggage from the Krampus fits the new frame perfectly, including the custom zipperless framebag which has already survived a year and a half of use and abuse. No zippper would have lasted this long.
The extra frame tube connecting the seat tube to the seatstay is a portage handle, designed to give another hand position while hiking alongside the bike. This provides three useful places to handle the bike when the trail gets too rough. The idea is borrowed from a vintage Sam Braxton frame which was on display at ACA in Missoula, MT.
Surly Krampus with Fox Talas 120/90mm fork, Light Bicycle and Derby 35mm carbon rims, tubeless Schwalbe Hans Dampf 29×2.35″ tires, 780mm Race Face carbon Sixc handlebars, SP dynamo hub to Supernova E3 Triple headlight and E3 Pro taillight and B&M USB-Werk, titanium Salsa Regulator seatpost, trusty Brooks B17 saddle, 2×9 drivetrain with Shimano bar-end shifters to Paul Thumbies mounts, and most of all, a mix of stock and custom prototype bags from Revelate Designs. The framebag closes without a zipper (which always fails, eventually) and the waterproof seatpack contains an 11″ MacBook Air.
Salsa Mukluk 3
This bike has been though a winter in and around Anchorage, AK, including daily commutes, late night singletrack sessions, and several overnight tours. As the snow melts, the Salsa Mukluk takes shape as a 29+ adventure rig, complete with 29×3.0″ Surly Knard tires and a suspension fork. While the Mukluk may not be destined for a full season of touring, the behavior of the bike and the concept is enlightening.
In November 2013, I swapped parts from the Raleigh XXIX that I had been riding all summer (below) to a Surly ECR frame, which is designed around Surly’s new 29×3.0″ Knard tires and 50mm Rabbit Hole rims (rims not pictured). The frame blends the hyper-functionality of the Surly Ogre and Troll touring frames, with some of the omniterra grit of the Pugsley. As such, it blends many of my past touring bikes, featuring a low bottom bracket, copious attachment points, and large tire clearances. For a more detailed discussion of the ECR, check out my review “Dissecting the Surly ECR”.
As I move to Alaska for the winter, the ECR will do service alongside real fatbikes and studded tire townies in a winter full of snowy commutes and adventures. More info on the Winter Bikes page.
This bike was purchased secondhand while living in New Mexico. It replaces the Surly Pugsley as a go-anywhere touring bike. The Raleigh XXIX+G is more precise and agile than the Pugsley, while a little less capable in soft conditions. With voluminous 29×2.3-2.4″ tires and a Rock Shox Reba suspension fork, this bike is optimized for touring on paths and trails, including the kinds of rooty and rocky surfaces I expect to find in a summer of off-pavement touring in Europe. Notable details include a capacious Porcelain Rocket framebag and a Carradice Camper saddlebag; a wide handlebar with a comfortable sweep and Ergon grips; a friction 3×8/9sp drivetrain, and room for several bottles to carry both fuel and water. Lael is also riding a used XXIX.
Wheels are built with Stan’s Flow EX rims (29.1mm wide), while 2.3-24″ tires are mounted tubeless. The rear hub is SRAM X7, an inexpensive sealed cartridge bearing unit. Front hub is Shimano 3D72 dynamo hub to Supernova E3 Pro lights front and rear.
Additional details and customizations will be posted in the future.
From town to country, the new Velo Orange Campeur was my main bike while living in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the winter. With 45mm Schwalbe tires, the bike is capable of mild dirt road exploration, light trail riding in the Sandia foothills, and daily commutes. A Carradice Camper saddlebag and an Ostrich handlebar bag carried most of my stuff in town, and on several short tours. I look forward to the older brother of the Campeur, called the Camargue, designed for a full 29″ tire with a higher bottom bracket for rough roads.
A full review of this bike can be found in my post “Second Impressions of the Campeur”.
I sold this bike to a friend before flying to Europe for the summer. I hope to replace it with a new Velo Orange frame in the future, yet to be released.
I spent a year and a half riding a first generation Surly Pugsley, purchased secondhand in Seattle before moving to Anchorage, Alaska for the winter. The purple Pugsley was the first mass-market fatbike available, while other builders and smaller manufacturers pioneered the design. It was a great bike and allowed me to ride every day of the winter in a season of record snowfall.
I have reimagined this versatile bike in many ways. I rode Schwalbe Big Apple 26 x 2.35″ tires on 65mm rims leaving Anchorage on a mix of dirt and paved roads– as such, a hybrid bike to satisfy my hybrid needs. To read about the evolution of the Pugsley from a conventional fat-tire snow bike to the all-season tourer shown below, read this post about one bike for all seasons.
In Montana, I refit fat tires for the Great Divide Route and the coming months of dirt roads and trails, including the Colorado Trail, and assorted routes through CO and NM.
Assembled from a stock 1985 Schwinn High Sierra, this bike was ridden in various forms in France, Mexico, Canada and the US from 2010 to 2011. This bike was ridden on the Great Divide Route, leaving from my front door in Maryland. This has been my favorite bike to date.
A bike as many years in life as I, of perfectly matched proportions.
My 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, figuratively.
Once a typical mid-80’s ATB, this bicycle is chameleonic, molding it’s aptitudes to the nature of its surroundings.
1995 Trek 520
I left on my first bike trip in the fall of 2008 on a 1995 Trek 520. The bike featured a mix of favorite parts from several bikes, including those from a broken Miyata frame that had been destined for travel. In its place, the Trek was a great bikes for several years of touring. I eventually realized the benefit of bigger tires.
Riding south from Ferndale, CA into the Lost Coast region, through Petrolia and Honeydew and along ridgelines past Shelter Cove toward Usal Beach and Highway 101. Below, Usal Road. Photos: Matt Blake