Author Topic: Which bike for the GDMBR?  (Read 2408 times)

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Offline thehuntison2

Which bike for the GDMBR?
« on: March 20, 2021, 01:09:57 am »
I plan on riding from Rawlins to Abiquiu solo over about 3 weeks, starting the last week of June. This will be my first bikepacking adventure, but not my first solo tour or first time mountain biking. I need to decide on which bike I want to take in order to get it geared up for the trip.

I know I probably have 2 good options, and there is someone who has ridden the GDMBR on a lost Divvy (I'm from Chicago) using cat litter panniers. However, I am wondering which bike you would take if you were me. I'm looking for any recommendations based on what the route looks like in that area. I've read the McCoy book, and a few other accounts of that section, but still can't decide which set up would work best.

Bike 1: 1994 Specialized Rockhopper frame - with new everything except for seat post and front derailleur. Brooks B17, Drop bars, V-brakes, 3x9 drivetrain with bar-ends, Bicycle wheel warehouse wheels, front and rear racks. Currently have 26x2.0 marathons, but can change them out to something else. I built this bike about 7 years ago for a multi-month Latin America tour, which turned into a dream when a job, then kids, happened. I've probably ridden this bike 5,000 pavement miles commuting to work as a replacement for that 10,000 mile tour.

Bike 2: 2015 GT Backwoods Expert hardtail 29er - performance wheels, rockshox XC32 coil shock with lockout, 2x10 drivetrain with trigger shifters, alivio hydro disc brakes, flat bars. I bought this bike because it was cheap when performance was going out of business. Probably have 200-300 singletrack miles on it.

For either bike, I plan on getting Jones H bars (which would mean getting new stem, shifters and brake levers for the rockhopper) -- I have never felt confident in the hoods while doing anything technical, and I don't like the limited hand and body positions on flat bars. If I used my GT I would put the brooks on it and get a handlebar and a frame bag to replace the front panniers (although I did see a front rack by axiom that looked like it would hold my front panniers if anyone has experience with that set-up).

I haven't encountered anything I can't fix on a bike (or spend an hour on the internet, then fix), so swapping parts out to get either bike tuned up would be measured in beers and not dollars. That being said, I do not want to turn 2 functioning bikes into 1 bike + lots of spare parts. I was also hoping to spend no more than $400-500 on bike gear for this trip.

Basically, I'm open to advice. I am more concerned with having a good time, taking in the scenery, and getting back into touring than going fast.

If you have any advice on which bike, how to set it up, or anything else about the Rawlins-Abiquiu section I'd love to hear it.

I've included pictures of the bikes in this post.

Offline ray b

Re: Which bike for the GDMBR?
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2021, 01:57:57 am »
Either bike can do the job.

Your memories of the trip will be nostly about climbing ( though the most vivid memories etched into your soul will be the descents you got away with).

I've ridden with and without shocks. They're not mandatory, and I used to lock mine out on every major uphill and often forget to unlock running down.

Other factors - weight of gear and rider.

In the end, all will recommend you go with what's most dependable and most comfortable for you. You will want the bike you are most comfortable fixing on the trail and the bike you are least likely to have fix.....

And if you get a Jones bar or Surly Mokolo, run some off-road hills before you marry it fo a long trip.

« Last Edit: May 05, 2021, 04:11:31 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline thehuntison2

Re: Which bike for the GDMBR?
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2021, 09:02:43 am »
Thanks for the input. It sounds like suspension isn't something that makes or breaks a bike, and that I should focus on which bike will be easier to climb with. Is there any advantage you've found to the suspension.

Is wheel size as important as everyone says? I've heard 29ers being talked about like they are far superior to 26" for people my height (5'11"). While I will definitely be doing an off pavement test of my rig, it will probably be after a lot of on-pavement shake-downs. There aren't many trails within 45min-1hr of my house other than of smooth crushed limestone paths.

Do you have any input on handlebar roll and frame bags are vs 4 panniers (especially with my front panniers completely above the front skewer?). I've heard having most of the weight in the frame bag to be best for the bike, but if this is going to be almost entirely smooth-ish dirt roads, I would think it wouldn't matter so much. I know the pannier set up has a slightly larger base weight with the racks and possibly pannier bag weight, but I already own them and they are super easy to load and unload.

Looks like I have some riding to do on both bikes. I am certainly feel that both bikes will be reasonably dependable, and I could definitely repair both bikes. on the trail. And if I switch out the drops on my rockhopper I think it will be way more fun on any downhill, especially if its technical.

Thanks again! Definitely helps with figuring out trail conditions and looking at my bikes here.


Offline ides1056

Re: Which bike for the GDMBR?
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2021, 10:55:58 am »
Friends did the route last August on MTB's they bought used beforehand and sold after. From what I understand much of the route is a gravel ride. I only ride MTB on single track- a SC Highball- because I don't like the position it puts me in- short top tube, wide bars, pelvis forward, etc- anywhere else. I think your tire choice will matter more. You have two good options, anyway.
I am planning to ride part of it this summer, and will likely use my everyday ride anywhere bike- a Nobilette with cantilever brakes- in part because I plan to ride East to West coast with a detour from Whitefish on the Divide. I ride gravel locally with 30 mm tires on this bike. Loaded I will opt for something heavier.

Offline thehuntison2

Re: Which bike for the GDMBR?
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2021, 07:49:17 am »
Thanks, for the feedback. After about 7 or 8 years being away from a loaded trip, its nice to be reminded of the range of gear that can lead to a successful trip.

After a bit of thought, I decided on my vintage specialized -- mainly because I think it will be overall more comfortable, the suspension on my GT to be unnecessary, and I can fit a bunch of stuff in that large frame space and ditch front panniers to save weight.

I think I'm also planning on switching the bars to woodchippers or cowchippers, and then getting some 2.0 or 2.1 tires (I don't think the frame will take any larger size). The mountain bike already has 2.3s that I actually measure around 2.5".

I also just saw a Salsa Fargo for sale on craigslist with brifters and a 1x10 drivetrain. Based on 99.9% of my riding, I'd be happy to buy this bike and sell my mountain bike to subsidize the cost. However, I'd need to turn this bike into a 2x10 to get lower gearing for the elevation with the weight.

I'll definitely update on what I end up doing once I actually do it. Right now I'm trying to focus on riding as much as possible so that no matter what bike I take, it will go up the hills.

Offline ray b

Re: Which bike for the GDMBR?
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2021, 04:58:04 pm »
Thanks for the input. It sounds like suspension isn't something that makes or breaks a bike, and that I should focus on which bike will be easier to climb with. Is there any advantage you've found to the suspension.

Do you have any input on handlebar roll and frame bags are vs 4 panniers (especially with my front panniers completely above the front skewer?). I've heard having most of the weight in the frame bag to be best for the bike, but if this is going to be almost entirely smooth-ish dirt roads, I would think it wouldn't matter so much. I know the pannier set up has a slightly larger base weight with the racks and possibly pannier bag weight, but I already own them and they are super easy to load and unload.
Many ride the GDMBR with panniers, but the biggest trick with packing is to make sure that everything will stay in place at 25 mph downhill over washboard....  Though you might want to beef up how your panniers connect to the rack, and make sure they are not full, you should be fine. Spend the money you save on having a good time.

Make sure the racks are well mounted and secure. (Some say threadlock, which seems like a good idea, though I haven't yet found the need.) I add zip-ties to secure my small rear panniers to the rack.

Personally, I think the emphasis on "bikepacking" bags is marketing and stylishness. Everyone tells you to pack your weight as low as possible..., and then they proceed to stick the kitchen sink in their seat and handlebar bags. As with a lot of cycling, we look to the racers for an example of how we should look. As you know, there is a lot of difference between the 10-20-pound packs (minus food and water) used by the racers and the 45 pound packs used by tourers. My lightest set-up was 8 pounds - more than half of which was tools and parts. I now feel uncomfortable with anything less than 30.

The bikepacking set-ups are great for racing light, but not if you want to bring an extra tire, computer, camera, nice tent, and other things that keep you comfortable and relaxed.

Not happy with things hanging from my handlebars or seat, my current off-road "bikepacking" long-tour set-up includes a Surly porteur rack up front with a small Lone Peak Shorty bag, frame bags for water, food, and tools, and a rear Tubus rack with an Arkel rack bag and small, old Arkel or Jandd panniers. In addition to my MSR bladder in the frame bag, I also have a couple of water bottles low on the front fork.

If it were me, I'd say water will represent most of the high density luggage. I'd throw a couple of oversized water bottles in the frame and give myself permission to use the panniers to keep the rest of the weight as low as possible.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2021, 05:02:32 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”