Bike-packing is a relatively new term which aims to describe cyclo-touring on back roads, forest tracks and mountain trails. With the popularity of gravel bikes, people have rediscovered the attraction of riding bikes in places where few people or cars may go. Bigger tyres open up more terrain for the cyclist. Bike-packing takes the gravel bike model and pushes it to the next level by increasing tyre size. This type of cycling is done on mountain bikes or all-road bikes like the Genesis Fugio. Blending camping and cycling is a way to enjoy each of these respective hobbies at once. Taking this into consideration, I recently decided to build a bike dedicated to trail riding with a focus on the bike’s touring capability. I decided to build up a Brother Cycles Big Bro for some upcoming bike-packing trips which will be documented here later. As Brother Cycles is an English bike brand, I wanted to use as many English parts as I could while using some parts I had lying around. I had been imagining a colour scheme for the components that would marry well with the Stone Grey frame-set. In the end, I chose some blue and red colours to bring to mind the colours of the French flag. The bike was built up during France’s world cup run and around Bastille Day so it is no surprise these colours came to mind.
The bike was built around a 27.5+ tyre platform as I will be running it without suspension. The component choice was easy. I have used Hope hubs on two other of my personal bikes. I have always thought Hope bicycle components are the best bang for the buck here in Europe. They are also milled in England so the craftsmanship is excellent. The finishing kit was a classic for me: Thomson stems and seat-posts have been a long time favorite. Aesthetically they are sharp and their durability is proven. This time I even took the pleasure of putting on some titanium bars for the added comfort on the rigid bike. For the drive train I chose the affordable no-frills Shimano XT 1×11. With the clutch on the rear derailleur, Shimano has made it possible to utilise a cassette ranging from 11 teeth to 46 teeth. Matching the incredibly wide range of gears at the back I chose a 34 tooth chainring in the front for some swift pedaling while the terrain is flat. This set-up still provides a low enough gear for steep off-road ascents with a loaded bike.
I’ll be riding some trails and camping at the weekend to test it. All that remains to do is find the right bike-packing bags. Of course, a custom project with our friend Pierre-Yves from Bum Bags is in progress for a special trip to be taken in February. More info to come on that. In the meantime, here is an improvised bike check video done with a live soundtrack from Bernard on the mouth-harp. Quite a funny time…. Enjoy !