My Bikepacking Setup
One of the big curiosities cyclists have when they meet other cyclists, especially on the Munda Biddi, is what kind of gear you have. Unlike hiking where the main consensus is having everything on your back in some kind of large vessel, bikepacking can have many different options and styles for how you cart your gear around. From what type of bike you ride to the way you attach gear in the various forms. Bags, panniers or trailers, there is no one setup that will cater to all so it's a case of finding what works for you and your budget. Before I started writing up posts on my Munda Biddi end to end, I thought it would be nice to run through my setup for the journey and talk through what worked and what didn't work.
I'm not usually a light packer when it comes to hiking so I wanted to keep my options open when it came to bikepacking. With the three bags attached to the frame maxxing out the space available to 36.5L, this left me well short of my 65L backpack that sometimes can be very full on a week long trip. Working in my favour for bikepacking was that I wasn't going to need a weeks worth of food and I would be splitting gear with Aron. I carried the tent, first aid kit and PLB while Aron had the Jetboil and bike maintenance gear.
To view what my hiking setup is and to understand what I'm talking about when I mention what is put into what bag, visit this page where I go into more detail.
The Bike - Norco Storm 1 SE
As much as I wanted a carbon framed mountain bike for the Munda Biddi so I could ride through the Alcoa mining hellscapes firmly on top of my high horse, my budget unfortunately wouldn't extend that far and decent second hand bikes were thin on the ground. Given my old mountain bike was limited to the bottom derailleur, very heavy and on it's last legs, I put it up on Gumtree for free and set about searching for something that would fit a variety of uses from a Munda Biddi E2E, general single trail punishment and local trips to the shops. In the end I settled on the Norco Storm 1 SE as it was a good spec for the price, a decent weight (about 13kg) and looked pretty clean in grey.
Wanting a 1x11 gearset so I didn't have to worry about changing between two sets of gears and stuffing around on hills, this bike was perfect and I have enough gears to see me up the steeper hills and have enough speed to cruise at around 22-30kmph on the flats (not that there are many of those on the Munda Biddi). The frame and handlebar setup provided good space for all my packs and the wide tyres and fork dealt with the pea-gravel, rocks, mud and sand very well. As this will be my only mountain bike for the next decade (I hope), I'm planning on getting good use out of it as the Munda Biddi E2E is only the beginning of my mountain bike journey.
Handlebar Bag - Restrap Bar Bag - 14L + 1.5L
Restrap is a Yorkshire based company that provides quality bikepacking gear at a reasonable price. With a short supply of any type of bikepacking gear for most of 2021, I was happy to find this brand in stock and it didn't hurt that the colour scheme was to my liking (very important of course). I purchased the biggest handlebar bag available at 14L and it came with a 1.5L snack bag that clips to the front and is secured with magnets. The bag was easy to install, didn't require adjustment for the whole of the Munda Biddi and was super convenient as the dry bag just comes off at the end of the day without any fuss.
In the dry bag I put my clothes, camp bowl, lantern, towel, sleeping mat/pillow, first aid kit and a few other things. In the snack bag I had my spare point and shoot camera, snacks for the day, sunscreen, lip balm and spare buff just in case. I couldn't fault the performance with minimal jiggling, no strap adjustment required during the day and the whole system was easy to put on and take off at camp. The feel of the bike was slightly noticeable with the extra weight but from the start it felt pretty normal and didn't require a big adjustment from normal riding. All in all this was a great choice and the extra snack bag was great for smaller items that I needed to be fairly accessible during the day.
Cockpit Bag - 2 x Restrap Stem Bags
On the last training/test ride before setting off on the Munda Biddi, I thought it would be better to have two larger water bottles within easy reach that also freed up space/weight in my backpack so purchased a couple of matching Stem Bags. This held a couple of 700mL water bottles for easy access and also had the added benefit of reducing the turning circle of the bike, useful when the front wheel wanted to slip under the bike when I had stopped.
Frame Bag - Blackburn Outpost - 7L
This was my first bag purchase for the bike and thus spoils the Restrap theme but I am very happy with the result. Finding a frame bag can be difficult as all bikes are different sizes but this one fit fairly well in the end. It comes as a 5.25L bag that has an expandable section at the bottom that extends it out to 6.95L, which I ended up using the whole time. There are plenty of loops and velcro straps on the outer edge to help you secure it to your frame and I never had an issue with the straps coming loose. In here I put my tent poles, PLB, 2L water bladder, Yeti keep cup (if not carrying the full 2L of spare water), drinks powder, map for the day, phone, chain lube, clothes pegs, hot chocolate sachets, butt cream and condensed milk (managed to avoid confusing those two tubes). It was a tight squeeze but the bulge was never so wide that my legs rubbed on the bag so that was a win.
Saddle Bag - Restrap Saddle Bag - 14L
I had toyed with the idea of a rack and panniers but the whole system looked needlessly bulky and expensive for such little storage space so when I found out about Saddle Bags, I was a happy boi. Being able to fit a 14L bag on the back without stuffing around with racks and excess strapping was exactly what I wanted, my only concern was the feel of the weighty bag as I went around corners or twisty downhill sections. I found the Restrap bag to be well secured, have good waterproofing, easy to load in and out (only the bag comes off at the end of the day) and I hardly felt it was there.
In here I packed my technology bag, food, port/wine, some clothes to utilise the unused space, my sleeping bag and my tent. It was a tight fit and quite bulky but the Restrap system of strapping it all in worked wonders. That was until I was tightening up the main strap one morning and one of the plastic clips flew off. It wasn't obvious how it all fit together so I ended up tying off the strap manually for the remaining two weeks and that worked just as well. The bag also has webbing on the bottom that I used to store my thongs but after the third time of these rattling loose and falling off, I decided to store them in my backpack. As a bonus it serves as a nice rear mudguard.
Backpack - Kathmandu Day Pack - 34L
Despite some people hating the experience of riding with one, I was always going to carry a backpack purely because it was the best spot for my DSLR that I used to shoot the trail. My Peak Design camera clip fits on the front straps and is the best solution to carrying a camera while hiking/biking so this was a no-brainer. Needing some weight to balance out the camera on the front, I didn't think I would need to carry much in here but most days it was pretty full. It varied day to day depending on if I was carrying lunch secured in towns or if I needed to carry spare water in my frame bag but it usually held my hiking chair (a big luxury), rain jacket, normal jacket, protein powders, snacks, lunch container, maps/book and any dirty clothes. I didn't mind carrying the weight on my back and tried to pack it with the lightest/comfiest gear. I don't think I could have fit everything in the various frame bags so this provided a good option just in case I needed to carry extra gear over the course of a day.
I noted on several times to my riding partner Aron that I lucked out on the gear I had chosen with nothing really presenting a problem at all. As the journey went on, I re-jigged a few things with the main change being my sleeping bag moving to my saddle bag as I didn't realise the new compression sack I bought for it meant it now fit in the dry bag provided, whereas with the old stuff sack, it had not. On the first day I tried to strap my hiking chair to the frame but it kept moving about and coming loose so quickly abandoned that idea and put it in my backpack. The only piece of bikepacking gear I would have changed would be the Frame Bag, I think a custom Restrap setup would have provided a bit more space but I'm still happy with the bag I have and it would be a waste to buy one now.
If you are looking at doing an E2E of the Munda Biddi then I can recommend buying a mountain bike with wider tyres (2.25 inch minimum) and front suspension. If riding the trail in summer, autumn or late spring then a gravel bike will be hard work as the tyres will dig into the pea gravel and sand, so for that reason I would recommend a good hardtail mountain bike. It's tough selecting what gear to use on your bike as it's a big financial commitment for most, so do your research, read reviews of what people used it for and always take things with a grain of salt.
If you have any queries then post them in the comments section below and I'll be happy to answer them.