Bike-packing bike for the inexperienced off-roader

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  • Bike-packing bike for the inexperienced off-roader
  • Premier Icon AlexSimon

    You don’t have to spend anywhere near as much as a Jones. Although if you really want one and can afford one, then why not?

    Most bikes can take an H-bar or similar as long as you get the size correct.

    I personally would have gears. I’d much rather twiddle away in granny gear than be pushing or breaking my knees while touring. Others may disagree.

    Some other options?
    Salsa Fargo
    Genesis Fortitude Adventure

    Or to be honest, just about any other mountain bike is great for bikepacking. I use a bike with suspension and without any braze-ons perfectly happily thanks to the wealth of bags/packs/bodge info there is out there these days.
    This summer I’ll be going on my cross bike, to see how that fairs. I suspect it will also be ace.


    If un-sure by 2nd hand.
    And because I take any opportunity to post pictures of my bike!!


    Premier Icon scotroutes

    You’ll adjust your riding to whatever you buy. However, the Salsa El Mariachi is currently considered to be one of the leading bikepacking bikes. Things like handlebars are easily modified or replaced if you need some fine tuning.

    Premier Icon jameso

    All the handling joy of the spaceframe and less weight + cost, more bag space too.
    It isn’t the cheapest option but it makes a fantastic loaded bikepacker / tourer, the ride position and handling with the frame/fork stiffness really work in its favour. I’d be happy riding a number of other bikes for loaded trips but I’d miss the handling of the Jones when things got fun. Feels like a good value buy now that I’ve had it a while.

    I do wonder if the Jones can be bettered.

    ‘better’ is subjective but it’s possibly the most fun rigid bike you’ll ride, imo. Wonderfully balanced and very adaptable.


    Are you going to be doing much technical descents if you’re touring or with a fully laden backpack? Any decent 2nd hand hardtail from ebay would be fine, wouldn’t spend more than £600 and I’d say never bid on something without going and checking it out first. 🙂 happy trails

    Premier Icon deejayen

    I’m thinking about buying a bike for solo longish day rides and bike-backing trips in the north of Scotland. I’m more of a road rider, and haven’t ridden an MTB for about 15 years or so. That was on a rigid steel frame with canti brakes. I was never very happy on the descents – although I’d try to relax and let the bike do its own thing, I hated the way the speed would build up whilst clattering over stones and ruts. However, I’d like a change from road riding, and would love to be able to get away on some remote routes. (I’d probably look into getting a few lessons to help with the off-road bike handling skills and confidence).

    I have no idea what sort of bike to buy. My natural preference is for olde-worlde simplicity – I’ve ridden a lot on fixed wheel. Although full suspension (or even hard tails) don’t really appeal to me, I suspect they could make the descents a bit less stressful. I popped into a bike shop the other day, and they had some interesting bikes – everything from full suspension race bikes through to things like the Surly Pugsley, a Salsa singlespeed, and some bikes with hub gears. The one bike which jumped out at me, and which I knew nothing about, was a steel Jones Spaceframe with Alfine gears. I was encouraged to ride it around the car park, and it immediately felt ‘right’. I liked the riding position, and the handlebars were comfy (I have problems with nerves in my fingers, and can’t ride very far on normal flat bars). Once I psyched myself up to it I was able to hop up and down a fairly high kerb, and the bike never faltered. It also seemed to handle great – it was neither too slow nor too fast – it just carved into turns, and encouraged me to go faster. However, I was then told the price (about £1600 for the frameset). I’ve spent more than that on some bikes, but I wasn’t really looking to buy something like that at the present. I’ve since been idly browsing some other bikes, including the fat tyred Pugsley and the Salsa Beargrease, but I’m not really sure if they’re suited to the sort of riding I’d like to do. Also, I’m wondering if a singlespeed would be okay for lightweight camping trips in the Highlands. There are so many choices! I do wonder if the Jones can be bettered. If not I might be persuaded to go for it – even if I have to wait a little, and try to sell a bike or two to help pay for it. However, I wouldn’t want to pay over the odds for a ride that wasn’t really any better than other bikes, and I haven’t ruled out other styles (including FS) if they would work better. Whatever I go for, I’d probably want the Jones’ H-Bars, and I’m not sure if they’d be compatible with other makers’ frame geometries.

    I know I’ve rambled a bit, but I’d be interested to hear some opinions and experiences.


    If you’re considering bikepacking now before you’ve even bought a bike, decide what types of bags you’re going use and how much you need to carry. Certain bike designs lend themselves to it more than others. Here’s some links to other folks’ setups if you haven’t already seen them (these will probably make your decision even harder!): – ‘Post up your rigs‘ and ‘Personal Setups
    MTBR – ‘Post your Bikepacking Rig (and gear layout!)

    Premier Icon Blackhound

    Other opinions can be offered here:

    Any hardtail with bags from Wildcat or Alpkit will do you well.

    Premier Icon deejayen

    Thanks for the info, and the pics (nice bikes, including the Jones diamond frame) and the links.

    The guy in the shop had a Salsa El Mariachi, and it looks lovely. However, he said that although it rides and handles well, (and I’m paraphrasing here) there are times when he finds himself knocked off course and pointing in the wrong direction, whereas the Jones is a bit special in the way it follows the trail.

    I do still have my mountain bike, although I’d have to dig it out. At the end it was set up more as a road bike with narrow slicks etc so I’d probably have to buy some new kit for it. It’s a Saracen something or other trax – maybe a Powertrax. It’s purple and came with mainly Alivio, although I upgraded the shifters, chainset, bars and stem etc. I don’t know how it compares to a quality steel frame – maybe it rides quite harshly. I also remember the seat post having to be extended quite a bit out of the frame, yet the bars were pretty low, so it was quite an aggressive riding position with a lot of weight on my wrists. If I could get it set up then that might be a good way to test the waters, although I suspect it might turn out to be quite expensive if I start replacing things.

    I also have a Kona Jake The Snake cyclocross bike. I used it as my winter fixie with studded tyres, although I do have the gears etc stashed somewhere. I did take it camping a few times (road trip) with panniers, and it was okay, but I’ve never been that impressed with its handling – it’s a bit barge-like. I rode it on a track once, and can’t say it inspired much confidence, although that might have been due to the tyres I was running at the time.

    From what I’ve read on the Jones’ website, their seat angles are quite relaxed, and the top tube length is designed with the H-bars in mind. That’s why I’m wondering how difficult it would be to replicate the feel and position.

    I’ve got enough camping gear, and have done some bivvying with my track bike – I used a large saddlebag on a Bagman support, and strapped a Thermarest to the handlebars etc. I’d probably do something similar with an MTB, although I’d maybe knock up something out of corrugated plastic.

    I’d also happily consider a secondhand bike or frame if I knew what I was looking for.

    Hmmm – lots to think about!

    Premier Icon jameso

    The Jones ‘feel’ will be tricky to replicate but loads of bikes will work with an H-bar. One thing that makes the Jones ride well for distance riding and adding confidence on anything tricky or steep is having your weight well back and off the front wheel – any bike with a shorter stem / top tube, not too-low front end and a layback seat post will offer that to some extent.

    Premier Icon deejayen

    That’s helpful, thanks.

    The Jones framesets seem quite expensive here in the UK. I know there’s delivery, a weak exchange rate, import duty and VAT to take into account, but I suspect that the UK distributor isn’t getting much of a discount from Jones, and then has to add on a bit of profit, and then the dealers need to make a bit.

    I’d consider the diamond frame with the unicrown fork. Looking at their blog, it looks like it’s had a recent update, and they say it still rides great. I’m not sure how much compromise from the titanium spaceframe there is in each cheaper variant, but this cheapest model might still be okay.


    deejayen – Member
    … he finds himself knocked off course and pointing in the wrong direction…

    I find that the handling of the El Mariachi can be completely transformed by running the chainstays in their longer position. When they are at their shortest, the bike is really twitchy in a good way, and I tend to steer it a lot in my hips, but it gets a lot more stable (and thus better in the snow) when it’s longer.

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