As part of our mega guide to the best bikes on the market, we talk you through what to look for if you're keen to go on big riding adventures.
Wait. Multiple Wheel Sizes?
Imagine owning one bike to use for the occasional morning road ride all the way through to some loaded bikepacking. Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a bike that could handle a 700c road wheelset during the week with a 30mm tyre, but was also able to have proper mountain bike hoops dropped in at the weekend to go shred on 2.2 inch 650b rubber? This is something we’ll be seeing more and more of, and modern adventure bikes allow this.
Excuse me, HOW wide are those bars?
Wider bars offer more control, especially once you get well and truly off the sealed roads and have to navigate minutia on long forgotten fire roads. Add at least 20mm to your preferred road width (hood to hood). But it’s not just the width that is important. A bar with either a little, or a lot more sweep than a traditional road bar improves handling on rough terrain. It also offers much better access to the brakes from the drop of the bar, improving control and confidence and allowing for a wider dry bag to be mounted to the bars.
Show me the headtube
Your most controlled position in the rough stuff is in the drops and a lot of manufacturers have adjusted their geometry to allow this to be your main position on the bike. Longer head tubes, often combined with slacker head angles, all point towards security and forgiveness on boulder strewn logging trails. Don’t be scared by bikes with a 20mm longer top tube than you are used to riding either. The mountain bike influenced geometry of long, slack frames has made its way to adventure bikes. A much shorter stem than usual, in conjunction with wide bars and slack angles adds to rider confidence at speed or when the hours are taking their toll.
How Much Rubber?
If you’re coming from riding on the road, a 38mm tyre seems huge. Long rides on varied terrain require two things – comfort and reliability, with speed a close third. 40mm tyres on a 700c wheel has become the minimum for exploring, especially loaded with gear, with many companies now offering bigger tyre clearance and the option of running various wheel sizes. As a simple rule, bigger is better. You can always run a smaller tyre on a bike designed for big rubber, but if your bike only takes 40mm treads and you are craving some cush, then it’s new bike time.
Mounting Bolts Everywhere!
You need to be able to carry your gear. As a minimum we’d suggest making sure a water bottle could mount under the downtube but you’ll find more and more options with hidden rack mounts, fork leg mounts for light goods like sleeping gear and even mounts for integrated frame bags. Again, it’s the kind of stuff you might not feel you need today, but having options as your riding evolves is a glorious thing.