…continued from page 1

My next task was to look amongst my bike collection to see if I had anything suitable for the task. The answer was no, so I set out to research a new hardtail at a decent price which would be tough enough to tackle some trails with a full load, but not too heavy to strap to a raft.

After much deliberation and hundreds of reviews I decided on a Whyte 905 2019 model – again a good compromise of balancing all the features on my tick list;

  • Less than £2000
  • Less than 15kg
  • Rugged
  • Looks great
  • Tubeless rims
  • 1x drive
  • Suitable for loaded and unloaded riding so I could take it on some trails and downhills when not touring.

When I went to my local bike shop just for a test ride and a nosey it turned out they had a 2018 model in my size at a significant discount, so I picked it up for £1000 and chucked it in the boot of the car.

A slightly spontaneous purchase but as soon as I sat on it the geometry just felt right. Riding it feels like I’m 10 years old again and can throw it around without fear. Precisely what a hardtail should feel like in my book.

Having only done pannier based cycle touring before I then needed to do some further research and shopping…once again my bank manager was sweating as I opened up a browser.

There are a whole range of bikepacking bags, packs, pouches, seat post racks, fork bags and many other terms used to make you feel cool and a bit special about the process of basically strapping luggage to your steed.

I will detail some of the gear I purchased and used in other posts. My initial setup was an Ortleib Handlebar Pack combined with Apidura Expedition Full Framebag and Backcounty Saddle Pack. A quick email exchange with the guys at Apidura confirmed that I could fit the 7.5Litre Framebag on my new bike and true to their word it fits with no problems – other than my desire to stuff 8.5 litres of gear into it.

My experience of cycle touring has taught me not to mess around with saving a few pennies here and there when it comes to luggage – especially when it comes to waterproofing. It’s a false economy. Buy well and buy once.

I was way too impatient to get going so I tested the setup out in my living room. My original idea was that the frame bag would contain cooking gear and about 3 days worth of food. The seatpost pack was dedicated to my sleeping kit (tent, inflatable mat and sleeping bag). This left the Ortleib handlebar pack free for stuffing the raft into and it’s accompanying accessory pouch for just that – accessories.

With the framebag taking up the space I would normally reserve for water bottles I needed another solution, so I added a couple of Apidura’s Backcountry Food Pouches which hang off the handlebars and wrap around the stem of the bike – just the right size to slip a couple of bottles into for easy access on the move.

Here’s some badly edited footage of me setting up for a test in the living room.

What I learned from this test was 3 things.

1. The fit of the rolled up raft into the Ortleib was too tight and it took me a good few minutes to prize it out of there – not something I wanted to be messing around with on the river bank.

2. Inflating the raft with the included inflation bag was pretty effective once you got the hang of it, but it does take some practise. You can clearly see me struggling a few times with the bag twisted and back to front.

3. With the bike loaded like this I had nowhere for clothes and washing gear to live. I was going to have to ride with a backpack – something I prefer not to do if possible.

continue reading on page 3

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