How to: prepare your bike for wilderness trips

A true wilderness bikepacking trip in the UK can still see you far enough from roads that any failure on your bike could result in a very long push back to the nearest road. There are numerous ways you can protect yourself against this risk;
– keep your routes within pushing distance of help
– get your bike set up dialled to minimise failure risks
– carry a load of tools and spares

When you’re starting out, keeping your routes in areas that are busy enough, or close enough to help is certainly a good idea, at least until you’re confident in your kit, your navigation and your problem solving abilities.

If you’re heading into big wilderness alone, simplifying your bike so that there are less things that can fail outright is a popular option.

When choosing tools and spares it can be hard to decide how much to take and you can rapidly end up with a huge pile of tools and spares. Ultimately the choices you make will be as personal as your bike and your route are.

Here I’ll go through the changes I’ve made to my setup and go through the tools and spares I choose to carry on personal trips. This bike is set up for solo, wilderness big mountain rides that will include big sections of hike a bike, very technical descents and hours of ‘off piste’ riding, and as such is quite a specialist beast, but it does highlight some of the weaknesses that you can choose to design out of your set up.

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To start with I opted for a fully rigid fatbike frame set, this cancels out all the potential problems associated with suspension forks, linkages and shocks. By opting for a fatbike I gain traction, floatation when on soft trails and some added ‘suspension’ on the front end by using the large tyre to take the sting out where a suspension fork normally would.

Adding a little more comfort on the front of the bike I fitted a set of carbon ‘alt’ bars, these give various hand positions (for added comfort on long rides) and the carbon bars combined with the large front tyre run at low pressure compensate for the lack of suspension fork.

The next area of potential weakness is the hydraulic systems that most mountainbikes now run – hydraulic disk brakes. I’ve seen so many hydraulic system faults and failures over the years I couldn’t gamble on them not failing me, so fitted Avid BB7 cable disks which I’ve yet to see fail under any circumstance.

The last major alteration I opted for was to shed the derailleur gears from my bike. Rear mechs are prone to damage and failure and on a big wilderness trip you can pretty much guarantee that if it can happen it will. Previously I have opted for an internal gear hub in place of derailleur gears but on this build I wanted to keep weight down and simplicity high, so opted for a double single speed set up. By making sure the total number of teeth on the front and matching rear cog are equal across the two gears I can run the same length chain and simply swap between the easy and harder gear. (Here I run 26×22 and 30×18, both gears have a total of 48 teeth, thus share the same chain length).

Carbon-Monkey are a specialist MTB skills course provider who run mountainbike courses in North Wales, the Lake District, Peak District, Scotland and on Cannock Chase. We grew up riding the trails of Snowdonia and MTB all over North Wales. From Jumps and Drops courses to multi day MTB expeditions, at Carbon-Monkey we are ready to welcome you on a MTB skills course that will provide real improvement to your riding. MTB skills are our passion and Bikepacking adventure expeditions our escapism, when will you join us?

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