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 “lowdown” 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: Kaitlyn Boyle
Ride: Pivot Cycles Les 27.5, 2019 and Pivot Mach 5.5 Carbon, 2019
How tall are you? What size frame is this? 5’2″, size small
Why did you choose these bikes?
The Les is a light, trail capable hard tail. With a 27.5 wheel size I have room for a seat bag with a dropper post and it conveniently has a large frame triangle for the size of the bike. With a 120mm fork and dropper post it handles well on singletrack and is efficient and comfortable on dirt roads.
The Mach 5.5 is the most fun all around mountain bike I’ve ever ridden, so for a singletrack oriented trip, this is my go to bike. With a 27.5 wheel platform I can use a tiny seat bag and larger handlebar bag. It pushes me to pack lightly but the bike handles incredibly well on trail.
How would your rate them for bikepacking on a scale of 10, 10 being best ever?
Both get a 10 for their applications. The Les for mixed dirt road/trail and Mach 5.5 for trail!
Tell us about your packing technique!
I pack my bulkier and lighter items that I don’t need during the day in my handlebar bag. This includes my sleep kit and warmer/night layers. My frame bag is generally stuffed full of food and water. My seat bag holds day-time layers mixed with miscellaneous cookware, possibly food, and sometimes watercolors. I keep my day food and camera in my Mag tank. I always use a fanny pack or 10-20 L pack for water and bulkier food or a layer. I often use a small bag under the downtube to store repair/first aid/batteries.
Can you fit all your gear?
Yes, though I exercise packing comfortably lightweight and minimalist to do so and if bikepacking alone, I can only fit a bivy in my full suspension Mach 5.5 set up. And on the Les, a bivy makes fitting things easier than bringing my Black Diamond Beta-mid.
What are they good at? What do they lack?
They are great at being pedaled and descending loaded! The challenge I have with taking these bikes bikepacking is protecting the frame from bikepacking blemishes. They are nice, carbon frames and it takes diligence to protect the frame from bag rub.
Do they have mounts for cages/racks?
They do not.
How is the handling while loaded?
Fantastic. I can descend and climb as confidently and strongly as my fitness allows.
Any additional notes on fit you’d like to mention?
As a shorter person a 27.5″ wheel platform has hugely improved my packing and riding success on mountain bikes with front and rear suspension. It opens up space in the frame triangle, for bar-front tire clearance, and of course between the seat and rear tire. Using this wheel size allows me to bikepack with a dropper post, which in turn increases my confidence and fun-factor while descending!
Check back laster this week to read the bike + kit reviews from Rebecca Rusch on her Giant Revolt Advanced 0 and Elisa Meza on her Otso Waheela S! To see our other blog posts click here!
Kaitlyn’s love of wide-open spaces and wild places has inspired her to create a life filled with skis, ropes, boats, and packs as she has adventured and taught adventure education throughout the American West. She began cycling while recovering from a climbing injury, toured the GDMBR not long after, and has been an avid bikepacker ever since, tackling long, exploratory bikepacking routes across the west and internationally, and pursuing riding fast and light on the side. In 2018, she took home the women’s record for the AZT300, cementing her place in endurance racing. Her latest pursuits include penning the first guidebook for bikepacking and co-founding Bikepacking Roots. Follow her adventures here!