09 October, 2013

Back From Bikepacking

A Guest Post by Casey

I was fortunate to spend the last weekend in the wonderful and wild that is West Virginia. I was out there to test the Camargue, and I decided to test it full bikepacking style. I've been backpacking, cyclo-touring, and mountain biking for years, but this was my first foray into combining all three of those things. The following are a few notes and pictures from my trip.

First Impressions of Bikepacking:

I've spent a considerable amount of time backpacking in the Monongahela and Dolly Sods, so it was very interesting to see these forests from the different perspective provided by bikepacking. It was amazing to be able to see so much within a day. I wasn't prepared for how much work pushing the bike up steep trails was - it was downright brutal at some points - but the payout at the end made it worth it.


The bike handled amazingly; I honestly could not be happier with the how the Camargue handled.  I was able to very confidently navigate rough singletrack. I realize that my setup from the previous post was pretty contentious (the gods of cycling gave us panniers and racks for a reason, right?). I honestly was somewhat skeptical about having the weight up so high on the frame, but it didn't end up affecting the ride negatively at all. The bikepacking setup also allowed me to easily navigate through narrow singletrack without worrying about my gear snagging on anything. The setup also felt very solid; panniers tend to swing around if you throw the bike around too much, and I'm sure they would have bounced around a lot on the rougher terrain.

Notes on Gear:
  • Alfine 8: Using a IGH has ruined me. It was great to be able to shift without pedaling. If I got off the bike to walk over some rough terrain and then found myself on an uphill, I could just shift down and then hop on the bike and go. No mashing heavy gears, and no need to pick up the rear wheel to shift. All that being said, I geared the Alfine lower than suggested and still didn't find it to be quite as low as I would have liked it. So a different IGH would probably be more advisable for this type of riding.
  • Tarptent Squall 2: As a keen eyed reader noticed, I did indeed bring a tarptent with me. This was my first trip with it and I was really impressed; it's exceptionally spacious and light for a two man tent. 
  • Like I said, the Revelate bags were great; I just wish I had a full frame bag. Maybe next time.


A said...

Love it. I'm looking forward to putting the camargue to the test all around the pacific northwest this spring. Thanks for the preview, looks like it was a nice trip.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff Casey! I look forward to seeing Igor, Scott and Chris out in the wilds. A few questions:

Despite the apparent bulk of your front load, did you find that it played nicely with the steering geometry of the Camargue? Also, did the handlebar work well with the TT length? The frame appears to be well suited to either a drop bar or an upright bar without too much rearward sweep. What were your thoughts on the 2.1" tires for this kind of riding?

VeloOrange said...


Thanks. The front load actually wasn't very bulky, all I have was tarptent(a/b 2 lbs) and a sleeping bag and mat. It didn't noticeably affect the handling.

The handlebar worked great, although anymore rearward sweep would probably put you in a very upright position.

I used the Clement XC LXV 2.1" tires. I actually forgot to mention this in my original post, but I was exceptionally impressed with them. They felt very smooth on the road, while still giving great traction on the trail and gravel. I think they are a great tire for multi-surface riding. Their size was fine with me, but I usually ride 2.25" or 2.3" tires for mountain biking, and I'm not sure that those tenths of an inch provide much of a reference frame.

Wes Ewell said...

Thanks for the great photos. I am delighted to hear your take on the Alfine hub, as it confirms my experience using these hubs on two of my bikes. I will never go back to derailleurs, although I do have a double chainwheel setup on one, giving me 16 usable gears in perfect half-step, with all the advantages of the IGH.

semi serious cyclist said...

Great photos!

Going bikepacking light makes the traveling much easier once you hit singletrack. Riding a trad loaded bike touring setup on a gnarl rock garden is no fun. A bikepacking setup allows for much more nimble handling setup for when the going truly gets rough.

You do have to watch how much you pack, although the bikerafters and alaska mountaineering bikepackers stand that axiom on its head.

Looking forward to building up a Carmague when they become available.

Two Wheel Travel said...

Nice post. I grew up around that prt of the world, although it's been quite sometime since I've visited. Were you bikepacking thru Dolly Sods proper or just around the vicinity?

Unknown said...

I'll bet that if VO debuted some bikepacking bags in oiled canvas with leather trim and a couple pieces of brass that some folks might reconsider the aesthetics of bikepacking.

Just sayin.

Dave said...

Great post! I spend a lot of time in that area and was wondering what route you took? Thanks!

dexey said...

Really enjoyed the pictures.
I use Shimano Alfine but have switched to the 11. I set my chainwheel and rear sprocket for a 23" bottom gear and find the range upwards fine. The 8 is a nice solid hub but I find the big jump from 6th to 5th a bit weird. That doesn't happen on the 11.
Thanks for sharing.

VeloOrange said...

@Dave & Two Wheel Travel

I followed a route that was posted by user jhl99 on the bikepacking.net forum.


Near the end of the thread is my post regarding my experiences with the the route and my .gpx track.

It's a gorgeous area!


Wes Ewell said...

If you want to enjoy the Alfine hub even more, get a Jtek bar-end shifter. It allows you to shift much faster and change multiple gears with one move. You can also tell without looking what gear you are in.