This week’s Reader’s Rig belongs to Heather Plewes, who’s freshly back from a bikepacking trip in Tanzania aboard her eye-catching Esker Hayduke. Learn more about Heather, her Hayduke, and their many trips together here…

Words by Heather Plewes (@h.p.sauce), photos by Paulo LaBerge (@crankngrind)

Hi! I’m Heather Plewes, a Canadian gal from Southern Ontario. I’m a bit of a late-bloomer in terms of MTB and bikepacking, having started both a little less than three years ago. A colleague from work lined up a loaner bike and took me mountain biking on a crappy November Saturday and the rest is history. I fell in love with the sport (and subsequently, the colleague, Paulo). His plan to bikepack the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica several months later sounded pretty rad, so I asked to tag along. I bought my plane tickets before I even owned a bike!

Esker Hayduke, Heather Plewes

Fast forward nearly three years (and a bunch of bikes) and the two-wheeled love affair continues. I absolutely love riding and adventuring by bike. Last year Paulo and I bikepacked through Jordan and we just got back from bikepacking in Tanzania a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure where we’ll go next together, but I’m considering a solo adventure next year. I want to be completely responsible for every aspect of a bike adventure and I’m excited to push my limits and see what I am capable of achieving on my own. I am extremely passionate about encouraging more women to get into mountain biking and bike travel. It has changed me for the better and filled my life with things I never knew were missing. It has been a force for good in terms of my mental health and given me a new sense of purpose and self-confidence.

Nearly three years ago, after a few months of riding only a full-suspension bike, I bought my first hardtail plus bike and fell in LOVE with the platform. I think a hardtail is the best of all possible worlds in terms of trail riding and bikepacking. The Esker Hayduke is my second hardtail plus bike and it is quite simply a ‘Goldilocks’ on two wheels. (Or a Mary Poppins – “practically perfect in every way!”). The fit is amazing, the geometry is perfect, it’s light but not too light to be a proper trail shredding machine. (I’m a slim 5’2, so I need a bike to be grounded or else it climbs poorly).

  • Esker Hayduke, Heather Plewes
  • Esker Hayduke, Heather Plewes

I run it with a suspension fork for trail riding and local adventures and switch it over to a rigid carbon fork for bikepacking. I just think there is something really satisfyingly simple about having a steel bike. I’m not worrying about beating it up on trails or while on multi-day bikepacking adventures. Overall, my rig is built to be durable, reliable and efficient. I love my full squish and my fat bike, but if I could only have one bike, the Hayduke would be it.

  • Esker Hayduke, Heather Plewes
  • Esker Hayduke, Heather Plewes
  • Esker Hayduke, Heather Plewes
  • FrameEsker Hayduke (Small)
  • ForkTrek 1120 Adventure HCM Carbon or RockShox Sid 120mm
  • Rims Stans No Tube Baron MK3 (i35mm)
  • Hubs Industry Nine Hydra Classic Hub
  • Tires Terrene McFly 27.5 x 2.8″ Light and Tough
  • Handlebars SQLab 311 Med Handlebar with SQLab Innerbarends
  • Grips Wolf Tooth Karv
  • Headset Wolf Tooth Precision
  • Crankset RF Atlas with Wolf Tooth 32T PowerTrac Elliptical
  • Cassette SRAM GX 12 speed 10-50T
  • Derailleur SRAM GX 12 speed
  • Brakes Shimano SLX
  • Shifter(s) SRAM GX 12 speed
  • Saddle Ergon SM MTB Sport Gel Women’s
  • Seatpost Easton EA70
  • Front bags Blackburn Outpost Dry bag on Trek 1120 front rack attachment
  • Frame bags Homemade “Bruiser Bag”
  • Rear bags Blackburn Outpost Seat Pack
  • Accessory bags Oveja Negra Chuckbucket and homemade Top Tube Bag
  • Other accessories Wolf Tooth B-Rad, Widefoot CargoMount, Blackburn Outpost Cargo cages
  • Esker Hayduke, Heather Plewes
  • Esker Hayduke, Heather Plewes

I always say, “If it looks like a unicorn threw up, then I’m here for it.” That’s the basic aesthetic I am going for. Bright colours make me happy, so my bikepacking set-up and gear is as colourful as possible. I even spray-painted my front rack a metallic purple to make it more fun. The Esker badge on my headtube is also a custom-painted feature that reflects my favorite colours (ie. all of them!!). (Artistry by yours truly: nail polish).

You can follow Heather on Instagram @h.p.sauce.

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