Bike Friday designer Willie Hatfield took a 2024 All-Packa prototype to the Oregon outback to fully test all the new features.
By Willie Hatfield
When does a bikepacking trip begin? Is it when the vision starts repeating and permutating through the imagination? Or later when the Trip Distance reads Zero at the start of the official GPS track?
I like to begin from my doorstep. For me, living car free means that getting to the start of any ride is always going to be a bit of an adventure. So I include it in the adventure.
Ah! How amazing it is to be out on a bike, moving through the world, with the end of the ride far enough out of mind that it might as well be a continent away! There is a feeling of existing as a sort of pedaling animal, of a way of life, that I can never tap into when I’m on the S24O and weekend bikepacking trips around Eugene. Designing and building bikes is very cool, but spending a week riding is sublime!
My July ride of the Oregon Outback began with a short pedal to the Eugene Amtrak station. But not to catch a train. My train had been cancelled the day before with no warning. My friends and I scrambled to re-book our tickets. I found a bus that got in at 7 that night, but they didn’t allow bikes. Non-folding bikes that is… Thankfully my friends managed to secure the last two spots on the Coastal Starlight, due to get into Klamath Falls at 10 that night, so their travel-challenged bikepacking bikes didn’t derail the trip, only delayed it.
And what a delay. I got a sweet layover in Bend, where I could quickly unfold my bike and visit the Midtown Yacht Club, leaving with a vegan breakfast burrito in my Take-A-Trip frame bag. Next, I had a lovely sunset ride out along the OC&E trail to a quiet camping spot in the sage. My tough friends rode from 11-3am trying to make up the time they’d lost due to Amtrak and their choice of bikes.
I rode past their tent at 7am, pitched right in the middle of the trail. Once I found out what kind of night they’d had, we agreed to meet 30 miles down the trail at the next food/water supply.
Trip details: The route, my bike spec, what I tested and what I learned
I rode 265 miles in 3 days with my friends, from Sprague Valley to the Ochoco National Forest on the Oregon Outback route. They decided to do the last 185 miles in 3 days, while I pushed it in 2 so I could get back in time for the Oregon Country Fair. In the final stretch, I left the Oregon Outback route in Shaniko, and headed through Maupin following some of the original Oregon Trail routes, including the Barlow Trail, up and over the Cascades on the shoulder of Wy’East (Mt Hood). Once I arrived in Gresham, on the outskirts of Portland, I boarded a TriMet commuter rail train to downtown, and then a bus back to Eugene.
If you would like to learn more about the Oregon outback route check it out here:
Most of the tips I could offer prospective Outback riders are the same regardless of what bike you ride. I brought more water capacity than I needed, 5.5L to start and 7.5L for the longest stretch. I’d drop those numbers by 2L next time. I was very satisfied with my basic cowboy camping setup.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the perfect tires. My 2.4″ Odyssey Super Circuits, set up tubeless, were nearly perfect. On some of the mountain descents, I wished for a touch more tread, so maybe the perfect 20″ gravel bikepacking tire doesn’t exist yet.
On a hard, hot, dusty, ride like the Oregon Outback, both the bike and the rider get tested. I think I struggled more than the bike did. I had to adjust the fit several times since I hadn’t gotten enough miles in the saddle this the spring to prepare me for a ride like this. The bike did just fine.
What I tested and what I learned:
On this trip my testing was concerned with features I was considering for the 2024 All-Packa, including frame features, gear placement, and continuing component durability testing. My build is an odd mix of very cheap and very expensive because the mid-level testing was done last year!
Over-all results were very promising, and I’m excited about the upgrades I’ll be able to share with folks on the 2024 All-Packa. I had a few bolts loosen up by day 4, but that’s on me for not checking them.
The only test that “failed” was the ultra-light tubeset I attempted on my prototype. Our current tubing spec has superior ride characteristics. (better torsional stiffness while still providing vertical compliance) Otherwise, everything performed as expected.
Gear test highlights: I had a 12 speed wireless shifting set up
- Generic carbon saddle and seatpost: no creaking
- Generic 48T narrow-wide with flattop chain: no drops or noise
- Generic lock-on ergo grips: excessive wear, but didn’t get sticky like Ergons can
- Cargo cage mounted in front of headtube: very stable, aero, and convenient
- Problem Solver Bow-Ties: Low profile enough so bike can be quickfolded with them on downtube and left fork leg
- Shimano MT-200 hydraulic brakes: solid
- SRAM AXS Rival XPLR 10-44t 12 spd: no issues, didn’t need biggest or smallest cog. Cage is close enough to ground that while this drivetrain is wonderful for most gravel and bikepacking, I can’t recommend it for extremely rocky, technical trails. Which is fine, because the All-Packa isn’t best at those anyway.
- SRAM AXS Eagle shifter: same battery after 8 months, no issues
- Alienation Vandal rim: yet to find a tire that can’t be run tubeless on these excellent rims
- Wolftooth Components seatpost collar: squeaks when tightened.
- Take-A-Trip framebag: holds a 3L bladder, filled to 2L. Hose needs to exit zipper, rather than hose-opening in top of bag, to have enough reach to handlebars.
- Packalope bars: my knuckles hit the brake levers when I slid my hands back down the extensions. I will increase the bend here and lengthen the grip length, while keeping ends of extensions at the same width. This should create more knuckle clearance for an additional hand position.