5/12/21 Canyon.com
5/12/21 Canyon.com

Best Bikepacking Bikes

Bikepacking setups provide the freedom to go wherever your heart desires, unlike a heavier, more traditional pannier setup more synonymous with bike touring.

Best Bikepacking Bikes Canyon Grizl

What’s the best bikepacking bike?

With so much choice - gravel bikes, mountain bikes, cyclo-cross bikes, road bikes - how do you know which one is right for you? The spectrum of bikepacking bikes is as broad as their riders, with anything from sleek, lightweight speed-machines to rough and ready adventure rigs, and everything in between.

How to protect your Grizl and fit bikepacking bags

The world is your bike path

There are no rules when it comes to picking bikepacking routes. Some of the greatest adventures can happen in your backyard, but bikes are made for exploring. While backpacking, you can choose from adventures taking place a couple of hours from home, to wild camping trips in your local woods, to a multi-week epic spanning hundreds of miles.

There’s just something about carrying everything you need for a days-long expedition that you can’t get anywhere else. If you’re just starting out, try linking some of your favorite routes, and then gradually expand your radius. As the saying goes, you’ll only find the best paths by getting lost and that’s the beauty of bikepacking. Take the road less traveled - that will make all the difference.

Venturing further afield adds to the appeal for many. Travelling abroad with your bike is one of the best ways to experience other cultures, particularly when you’re off the beaten path in remote places seldom seen in travel brochures. Bikepacking setups provide the freedom to go wherever your heart desires, unlike a heavier, more traditional pannier setup more synonymous with bike touring.

Canyon Grizl Canyon Grizl

Bikepacking can be as fast or as slow as you like. There are a myriad of established routes, such as the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (the same route the Tour Divide bikepacking race tackles) and the Highland Trail 550 in Scotland, which lend themselves to a leisurely pace as much as they do a speedy one.

There’s a whole world of bikepacking races and their routes to sink your teeth into when you have the right bike.

Canyon Grail Canyon Grail

Choosing the perfect bikepacking bike

Bikepacking is rather self-explanatory: you pack everything on your bike! The amount you bring is entirely up to you, and depends on your comfort levels. It’s true that you can ride almost any bike, but we’ll highlight some important features you’ll need to consider when looking for the ultimate bikepacking bike.

Canyon Endurace Canyon Endurace

What to look for in a bikepacking bike

Wheels and tires

You’ll need to decide what kind of terrain you’ll be riding while seeking adventure. As the main point of contact between the path and the bike, wheels and tires make a huge difference to your bikepacking experience.

Riding off-road brings its own challenges, but there are a variety of options to suit every rider. 650B wheels are increasingly popular due to their ability to run wider tires than their 700c counterparts. You’ll see 650B wheels on our smaller size Grail and Grizl bikes, as they enhance handling while eliminating toe overlap when you’re twisting and turning along the trails.

Skinnier tires are great for trips on tarmac, but you’d be best served going a little wider than the classic 25mm clincher. Nowadays, a lot of endurance road bikes have room for 30mm+ tires, which is great for adding comfort over long distances on a loaded bike while maintaining speed on the road.

Off-road riding requires more grip - there’s no two ways about it. Those tree roots, loose rocks and muddy puddles need more traction, so make sure you get familiar with knobby tires.

Ever wanted to go on a bikepacking adventure in the snow? Now you can explore the tundra thanks to the enormous tires on a fat tire bike. Thanks to ultra wide tires and ultra low pressures, fat tire bikes can glide over just about anything in its path.

Steel, carbon or aluminum?

Riding your bike for days on end with everything you need to keep going is a tough ask for the humble bicycle. The frame needs to be strong and ready to endure the adventure. Steel bikes are heavier but they’re often very comfortable and easy to fix if the worst happens. Aluminum bikes are as popular as they are budget-friendly, and they’re tough enough to handle plenty of extra weight.

Carbon is the ultimate lightweight bike material and has come a long way where durability and capability are concerned. It’s a solid material and increasingly common in the bikepacking world, but take note of the weight limit.

Carry all the things!

Bikepacking bags are a staple for most riders these days. They’re lightweight, compact, and they’re easily transferable to your other bikes. While panniers have greater capacity for everything including the kitchen sink, bikepacking bags are great for adventures where weight and speed are important. They strap on to the seatpost, top tube, and handlebars, so you can play around with where you stow your kit.

Canyon Dude Canyon Dude

Some gravel bikes and mountain bikes have extra mounting points (on the fork, for example) to hold more gear than you can shake a stick at. These mounts can also be used for extra bottle cages so you never run out of water. On that note, make sure you can fit your water bottles in your frame alongside your bags, otherwise you might want to consider a bladder that either slots into a frame bag or a backpack.

If you want to protect your frame’s paint, consider protective film to prevent straps from rubbing against the frame.


A lot of bikepacking bikes incorporate slacker frame geometry, meaning the headtube angle is less aggressive. More relaxed geometry lends itself to more technical riding, offering increased stability when the going gets rough. A longer wheelbase, and therefore overall longer bike, provides greater confidence over loose terrain compared to shorter (twitchier) bikes.

Handlebar technology has significantly improved in the last few years, including developments like the double-decker bar on the Grail. Wider bars offer more stability while riding on the tops, and if you add flared bars into the mix, you’ll relish a tricky descent with the increased control.

Endurance and gravel bikes like the Endurace, Grail, Grizl or Inflite have drop-bar setups, while a cross-country mountain bike like the Exceed has wide flat bars for more technical off-road terrain.

Canyon Exceed Canyon Exceed

Don’t grind your gears

Hills, particularly those that take you off-road, require a wider range of gears. It’s a personal decision and depends on how fit you are and how heavy your bike may be. You’re less likely to need your 11T cog and are more likely to need a bigger bail-out gear to crest the summit.

Single chainring setups (a.k.a. One-by or 1x) are a favorite among bikepackers for their simplicity (no front derailleur or gear shifter) and reliability. Even road bikes can have 1x setups these days, though there’s still a case for two chainrings when you’re on long Alpine descents.

Grand Canyon Grand Canyon

What does all this mean?

Bikepacking bikes don’t have to stick to the rules. Comfort is key where multi-day trips are concerned, and what this means for your setup will depend on the terrain you’re riding. If you want to fly along the tarmac with the ability to shred on some gravel, the Grail is a perfect starting point. If you want remote riding as far away from paved roads as possible, take a look at the Exceed. As for those looking to truly go off grid in extreme terrain, the Dude fatbike is hard to beat.

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