Demand for gravel bikes has been increasing as more people are adopting the new ways of exploring dirt roads.
In India every cyclist dreams of riding the famous Manali - Leh highway or Spiti Valley in the mountains on their bicycle. When I was planning my tour I had a hard time choosing a bike which is reliable and comfortable for rough terrain and conditions. If you’ve been to Ladakh and Spiti you will resonate to the fact that roads there are very dangerous, most sections being a mix of gravel and tar inclined to be very steep.
The fair bit is, that I’ve gone through the challenge of finding a suitable bike for months before I chose to go with Marin’s Pine Mountain 1 back in 2017, but, you can straight away pick your choice from the latest list of bikes that are just right for adventure biking!
You can read this post for in depth information about Bikepacking and how to get started? (Click here)
Bikepacking is an activity similar to bagpacking. The difference being the use of a bicycle as your means to commute and carry essentials. Now where do you go once your bike is ready? I always say "Take your bike where people hike".
What are the Common bikepacking terrain types ?
Mixed Terrains (pavement, dirt roads): A mix of paved and off-roads which can be done using a touring bike mostly.
Gravel roads: Usually steep rocky sections along with lots of loose patches are involved here. Gravel bikes, rigid mountain bikes and hardtail mountain bikes are good options.
Single-track: A plus size mountain bike is the best choice for such terrains. Riding in such terrain is technical and extremely challenging sometimes.
How bikes are different for Bikepacking ?
Gravel bikes are commonly known as adventure bikes and are fit for all terrains. The best bike for your next adventurous cycling expedition is one has comfortable geometry and components similar to high-end mountain bikes which are equipped to tackle steep roads and terrain loose gravel.
I follow a simple method while choosing a bike for Bikepacking, firstly to look for a bike with gears to help climb faster on the steepest hills and secondly a comfortable geometry with a sturdy frame.
Low Gear = Easy = Good for Climbing: The “low” gear on your bike is the smallest chain ring in the front and the largest cog on your cassette (rear gears). In this position, pedalling will be easiest and you'll be able to pedal uphill with the least amount of resistance.
Bikepacking specific of the gravel bikes comes with 1 x 12 or 1 x 11 drivetrain to help you climb faster and offers comfortable geometry for all day riding.
What are the top five Gravel bikes available in India that are on my list?
1 : Surly Bridge Club
Bridge Club is for those multi-surface outings — planned or unplanned. We've all run out the clock on a dirt tour and had to add in some paved shortcuts. Conversely, when you’re feeling a little zesty on your next road tour, Bridge Club is ready for reroutes through the woods.
Some people hear "bike touring" and immediately think of long-forgotten stretches of highway, small-town oddities, and roadside attractions. Some instantly recall desolate stretches of desert dirt roads or lush green forest trails. With Bridge Club, you can have your dessert and eat it too!
Ultra-focused on simplicity, it only has the barnacles that matter most to the discerning bike tourist Two build kit options: Pavement (700c) and Off-Road (27.5) Run racks and panniers, framebags, or all of the above Disc brake-specific, single position vertical rear dropout makes it less intimidating than other bikes in the category Clearance for 700 x 47mm tires (with or without fenders), 27.5 x 2.8” tires (27.5 x 2.6” with fenders), and 26 x 3” tires (26 x 2.8” with fenders)
2 : Surly ECR - Off-Road Bikepacking Bike
As our flagship bikepacking rig, ECR is adaptable to frame bags for the minimalist approach, as well as racks and bags to maximize gear-hauling potential. ECR is most at home when your tour starts on dirt and gets more technical from there.
ECR is a plus-tired off-road touring bike designed for routes with way less pavement and a lot more trail.
- Two wheel platforms available: 27.5+ for frame sizes XS–M and 29+ for M–XL - All the accessory barnacles you could ever possibly ask for including rack and fender, multiple three-pack mounts and mid-blade. - Gnot-Boost rear spacing with Rohloff torque arm slot and Bill/Ted trailer mount - Clearance for 27.5" x 3" (XS–M) or 29” x 3” (M–XL) tires (with or without fenders)
3 : Marin Nicasio plus'2020
The Nicasio is designed to take you beyond the tarmac. These endurance models let you take any path you’d like, whether it’s on pavement or gravel road. This bike craves long adventures and it's built to carry you and your gear on your longest journeys. Rack and mudguard mounts, a wide range of gearing for climbing and a stable geometry make it the perfect choice for loaded multi-day trips and comfortable all-day adventures.
The Nicasio is for the rider looking for something different and modern, yet with traditional steel construction. Classic lines and CrMo frame tubes have the soul of a classic bike, with the geometry and 700C x 30mm-40mm or 650B x 47mm tyres to let riders handle any surface.
Why ride a steel bike? The biggest advantage of steel is its toughness. Most steel bikes can survive dings, bends, scratches and still be ridden safely for many years. This makes it the perfect frame for challenging adventures. Also, steel frames are really comfortable - they have more inherent flex to it than other materials, which lends the bike a subtle springiness. At the same time as smoothing out the road surface, good steel manages to give you feedback about it. You can ‘feel’ the road through your handlebars—how granular the asphalt, how chunky the gravel stones.
So go ahead, take the ride of your dreams with the Marin Nicasio Plus!
4 : Marin Pine mountain 1 - Steel is Real
The Pine Mountain 1 uses a butted and formed Series 2 4130 CrMo frame with Boost 141mm dropouts, full fender and rack mounts, and tons of bosses for a wide variety of gear mounting options. Step up to Series 3 tubing and cast thru-axle dropouts with the Pine Mountain 2. Both Pine Mountain models feature internal dropper post routing. Bikepacking Abilities The Pine Mountain features brazed-in cargo attachment points throughout the front triangle for carrying all of the water and gear one needs for a proper adventure. The new Bedroll Bar features a 50mm rise and a long, straight top bar for cleanly mounting handlebar packs away from cables and controls, and also mounting, lights, phones, cycle computers, or whatever else catches your fancy. Trail Geometry The Pine Mountain Trail Geometry is a mix between agility for trail riding, and all day comfort for bikepacking. Short chainsstays keep a shorter wheelbase for that active ride, while a 66.5 degree head angle makes for confident steering with or without the weight of gear. Tubeless Ready 29” Tubeless-ready 32mm internal dimension rims and 2.6” tires give the Pine Mountain a comfortable ride with huge traction and ability to roll up and over large obstacles, while still being light enough to pedal and fast enough to rip singletrack.
5 : Surly Karate Monkey - All-purpose Hardtail Mountain Bike
Karate Monkey delivers a resilient, lively ride on all sorts of gnarly terrain. Its frame is a highly-versatile canvas for whatever dirty masterpiece your brain cooks up. According to our computing machine (Thor) it can be set up in approximately 487 different configurations.
Originally designed as a 29er (and the frame that helped spark the 29” wheel movement), the latest Karate Monkey is designed to perform just as admirably as a 27.5+ rig as well. This allows you to pick your poison — provided your poison is having a really great time while permanently donning a shit-eating grin, of course.
- Modern trail standards: dropper post compatibility, 44mm headtube, Gnot-Boost rear spacing, thru-axles, suspension corrected fork - Compatibility with most mountain bike standards makes it the perfect parts bin bike (no rim brakes allowed though) - Clearance for 29” x 2.5” or 27.5” x 3” tires
These are my current top favourite bikes which can be bought in India through various dealers but, even if you can't choose any of the above then also bikepacking can be done using your already existing bike.
Pro Tip : Use your current Mountain bike with the newly launched Aeroe Bikepacking racks for storing your essential luggage.
If you are planning your next Bikepacking tour post Lockdown in India, Check out this article to get set with essential gears required - My Bikepacking Gear List