As part of our mega guide to the best bikes on the market, we take a look at a quartet of options that will make any bikecamping trip a blast.
You can go bikepacking on everything from dropbar road bikes to mountain bikes to fat bikes (I’ve done it). Here are four top choices and the conditions they’re best equipped to handle.
BEST ON ROUGH DIRT ROADS WITH SOME SOFT SECTIONS (SAND, SNOW, OR MUD)
SALSA FARGO RIVAL 27.5+, $3,990
Although the Fargo's steel frame and carbon Salsa Firestarter fork are rigid, the high-volume, 27.5+ (three-inch wide) Schwalbe Rocket Ron tyres offer a fairly plush ride and superb traction. Loaded down with three days’ worth of camping gear and supplies, the Fargo excelled over rough, rocky dirt roads and floated over sandy sections that would cause a skinnier tyre to knife.
The bike takes singletrack in stride as long as it’s not too steep or technical - then a regular flat-bar mountain bike with a suspension fork becomes a better choice. And on smoother dirt roads, the Fargo’s plus tyres aren’t as efficient or fast feeling as standard 29er mountain tyres. (Fortunately, the frame can take other configurations - see above).
The frame has a shorter top tube to match the longer reach (compared to that of a flat bar) of the Salsa Woodchipper 2 drop bar. The 26-degree flare of the drops gives them a feel somewhere in between that of a regular drop bar and a mountain bike bar with a lot of sweep - it feels nothing like a traditional drop bar unless you’re on the hoods or the flat portion, and offers more control and leverage.
There are also multiple hand positions, which I really appreciated on long days in the saddle.
The Fargo is also compatible with:
* 27.5+ mountain bike tyres and wheels
* Normal-width 29er mountain bike tyres and wheels
* 29+ mountain bike tyres
* 100mm-travel suspension fork