One thing you learn early on about bikepacking is that every trip is an evolution of strategy and kit. One common dilemma, especially amongst the “vertically challenged” is that it can be hard to find the right combination of capable bike + gear. To get the “low down” on kit and strategy we asked Elisa Meza– a city commuter, Kait Boyle — a mountain bike endurance athlete, and Rebecca Rusch– a high performance all arounder, to give us the breakdown of their rigs.
BikepackHER: Elisa Meza
Ride: Otso Waheela S
How tall are you? What size frame is this?
I am 4’11’’’ on a typical day (but 5’1’’ when I feel particularly powerful). I have the size small in the Waheela S, and it is absolutely a perfect size for me. I think a lot of it has to do with its unique geometry (I’m not a geometry expert), but I’ve learned a lot from folks like Pathless Pedaled that this factor is especially important for small folks like me. The way that the top tube on the frame slants slightly makes it very comfortable for me, for when you get off your saddle to reroute, take a break, or stop at a red light. I normally ride a 49cm Soma Grand Randonneur, and it was a struggle to get it to fit me right, even requiring serious cuts to the seat post. But when I got on the Waheela S, I felt comfortable immediately. I’m sure I could even position the handlebar stem and seat differently to be in a sportier position too, but I like the more upright, “in control” feel of it to help me get up San Francisco’s hills easier.
Why did you choose this bike?
Thanks to the #bikepackHER contest I have the Waheela S, but it is everything I had been envisioning in a bike (and I’m not just saying that!). Originally, I was definitely looking for a frame that I could experiment different tire sizes with, and wow, that’s exactly what this bike is for. Even with knobby 43s, I still have so much potential for monster truck status, which I absolutely love, especially the more excited I get about gravel. I was also looking for something that I could go long distance on without needing racks, with a sporty edge, and this bike also checked those boxes for me. I seriously feel like Revelate and Otso just answered all my daydreaming wishes and boom, here was the Waheela S! I was super nervous about even the size small not fitting me right, but the first time I rode it around the block from my bike shop, I noticed immediately how responsive it was. After my full build, it came out to 23lbs and 10oz, a super light, agile, responsive bike that can literally go anywhere. I honestly feel like I would have chosen this bike compared to others I had been looking at, particularly because of how it fits my small size. I have a small torso, and small legs, so I always knew I would have a hard time finding the right thing. But here it is!
How would your rate it for bikepacking on a scale of 10, 10 being best ever?
Well, I’m no expert in bikepacking, nor can I say I’ve actually done it (yet!) but I do commute to work with my Waheela S loaded with a seat bag and my mountain feedbag and I don’t notice the load at all. Because I feel the bike is so compact, even for me as a small rider, it feels so comfortable with weight on it. I’m definitely not planning on putting any racks on this frame to carry weight because it definitely feels pretty good with a packed seat bag and I will try out my larger handlebar bags soon when the weather gets warmer!
Tell us about your packing technique!
I am mostly a commuter, so I use my 8L Revelate Designs Terrapin seat bag the most of all my gear. I put my work clothes, lunch, wind jacket, and any other small necessities in it. I love my Revelate Mountain Feedbag too, to store my keys, phone, inhaler, and snacks. True story, my Terrapin seat bag is so incredibly useful for daily commuting that my partner went ahead and ordered his own after trying mine out. The commute packing is real here in the Bay Area, so special shout out to Revelate for changing this game for me!
Can you fit all your gear?
Unfortunately I haven’t tried out all my gear yet, but plan on to soon! For commuting and day trips (25-35miles locally), I always pack a flat kit, snacks, and my necessities for the day, so on my Waheela S, everything fits perfectly. I was so stoked about how many mounts it has, and so I put a my small Wolftooth Components bag under the frame by the bottom bracket and it fits perfectly. It’s actually so much more zippy and fun to take the long way home after a day’s work on my Waheela, so sometimes I’ll pack extra gear like my camera and my speaker just for fun.
What is it good at? What does it lack?
Right away, I could tell that the Waheela S is really good at handling and climbing. In San Francisco, you come across hills constantly, stop signs, horrible drivers, and trolly tracks. In the Marin Headlands, you climb a lot, and there are many sharp descents, gravel, and horrible drivers, so I learned quickly how agile the Waheela S was with any kind of ride. I feel so stable, safe, and quick to respond to anything in front of me, especially crossing over busy traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. For a small rider like me, being able to feel in control of the bike is really important, and I feel the Waheela S has been more stable and responsive to me than any bike I’ve ever ridden in the past. In terms of the lacking department, I just haven’t come across something that has seriously made me think something was missing. It’s like when you find that perfect pair of jeans, you don’t question them much, right?
Does it have mounts for cages/racks?
I was so stoked about the mounts on this frame, especially for the long distances. I put two Wolftooth Component bottle cages on it and got their small frame bag that I attach to a mount under the frame by the bottom bracket. You can definitely put a rack on this bike, and some fenders, which I keep daydreaming about but I’ll see how I feel about that later on.
Any additional notes on fit you’d like to mention?
For both the seat post and drop bars, I went with Origin8, and I had no problem with adjusting the position of either of them to fit me right. With my other bike, I had to seriously cut the seat post to adjust it to the shortest possible size because the frame was just a tad too tall for me. But with this bike, I didn’t have to do anything special, which was so relieving! I also went with the Shimano GRX derailleurs, and have nothing but amazing things to say about the shifting!
To read the bike + kit reviews from Kaitlyn Boyle on her Pivot Les 27.5 and Mach 5.5, and Rebecca Rusch on her Giant Revolt Advanced 0 click here!