Posted by Lucas Winzenburg
Welcome to the ninth installment of our weekly Dispatch series, Reader’s Rig. Each week, we’ll select a bikepacking rig from our reader community to feature on the site. To learn how to submit yours for possible inclusion, check out the form at the bottom of the page. Words and photos here by Rob Knoth.
ROB: Our family lives in Bend, Central Oregon, where we’re blessed with endless miles of singletrack and gravel roads, prime for all forms of cycling, from bikepacking to cruising.
My wife and I met while we were both discovering road biking. We each came from a background of backpacking and got into bikepacking when living in a bigger city for a time. It was a perfect form of escape and therapy. A great way – as a family with a toddler – to go far and get into the wild. Our first bikepacking trip was during a scorching weekend along the Deschutes river, complete with melted candy bars and rattlesnakes. We were hooked.
I’m not inspired to race, but more to explore the wilds both near and far from home. We just took our first international bikepacking trip, to Mexico, on the Baja Divide Cape Loop over Christmas. We’re already scheming our next targets. Recently, we were invited to become ambassadors by Fatback Bikes and are excited to see where this new adventure will lead.
We’re passionate about helping other families get into the wild and live adventurously. The benefits from a simple overnight in the wild can’t be overstated. It’s great for your kid’s sense of confidence and curiosity, same for us as parents and individuals.
MAX: I started bikepacking when I was four. I like stargazing and seeing sights, feeling like I accomplished something really big after each day, talking with Dad while riding up a steep hill (hahaha!). Sometimes I miss out on things, because of bikepacking. I like bikepacking when it’s longer than a weekend, so we have at least one full day out there.
ROB: The Cannondale Tandem 29er entered our family’s life as the next step up from an Adams Trail-a-bike. Max was turning eight years old, and after a spring outing on the old setup, it was clear we needed a new solution. We were looking for something that would still enable bigger rides without the heavy tax of the trail-a-bike.
I found the tandem on Craigslist. It was originally a surprise by a husband for his wife, both avid cyclists. Not a good idea. Tandem riding is about teamwork, and surprises are rarely good.
Our original target was a Salsa Powderkeg. However, we chose the Cannondale due to stoker stand-over height and availability on Craigslist. The Cannondale won’t win any awards for “ready to bikepack” with its poor brazon placement, lack of thru-axles, tight tire clearance, and awkward frame spaces. However, after a thousand miles, we have no regrets. It forced a lot of creativity in adapting it for bikepacking, like hose clamps on front fork, custom bags, etc. A good reminder: the best bikepacking bike is the one you have.
The first family trip on tandem was a 176-mile custom loop through the Fremont-Winemea NF, a seldom visited area of SE Oregon. The bike performed spectacularly, and we’ve since gone on to take it on more wild trips. And the Baja Divide Cape Loop, most recently, where we wished we had room to run fatter tires. Although, as route creator Nicholas Carman said, “Everyone walks sometimes.”
MAX: It’s a good contraption for parent and kids. The downside is not being able to take my butt off the seat anytime I want to.
- Frame/Fork Cannondale Tandem 29er
- Wheels DT Swiss Tandem, 40-hole
- Tires Vittoria Mezcal 29×2.6” (front), Schwalbe Nobby Nic 29×2.35” (rear)
- Handlebar Cannondale C3 with Ergon grips
- Crankset Truvativ Firex Tandem 44/33/22
- Cassette Shimano CS-HG81, 11-36, 10-speed
- Derailleur(s) SRAM X7 (front) / Shimano XT Shadow Plus (rear)
- Brakes Magura MT5 Hydraulic Disc
- Shifter(s) Shimano SLX
- Saddle Cannondale Ergo Performance
- Front Bag(s) Homemade X-Pac front roll on Revelate Harness
- Frame Bag(s) Homemade leather/X-Pac roll-top bags
- Rear Bag(s) North Street Panniers
- Accessory Bag(s) Revelate Egress and Mountain Feedbags
ROB: Tandems are great for custom bikepacking bags. I sewed the majority of the bags on the tandem, including a leather roll-top. Once you learn your way around a sewing machine, it’s not as intimidating as it looks. I highly recommended the tandem as a platform for families looking to bikepack, once your kid outgrows a trail-a-bike. They can be a challenge to transport (by car or plane), but are well worth the hassle.
MAX: Dad and I really work well together as a pilot and co-pilot.
Thanks to many who’ve helped inspire and get our family out in the world: Al Humphreys for his “go sleep on a hill” microadventure which got me “bikepacking” in the first place, before I even knew it was a thing; Cass, Logan, and the whole family at BIKEPACKING.com for building a community and keeping the adventure alive; and Cameron and Fuzzy at Fatback for believing in our family and opening new doors!
You can keep up with Rob on Instagram @robknoth.
Send Us Your Bikepacking Rig
Use the form below to submit your bikepacking rig. We’ll choose one per week to feature in a Reader’s Rig Dispatch and on Instagram. To enter, email us your best photo of the bike (preferably at a 90° angle), your Instagram username (optional), and a short description of you and your rig. If your bike is selected, we’ll need a total of five photos and a little bit more info.