2021 Bikepacking Predictions (and Desires)

In our latest YouTube video, a few of our editors share their 2021 predictions for interesting new gear, adventures, and the bikepacking community at large. Watch it here, plus find out a few things we hope will come to fruition during the upcoming year…

Looking back, 2020 was maybe the strangest year we’ve witnessed in the bike industry. Will 2021 bring more of the same? In our latest video, some of our editorial team share a few predictions for the year ahead. Neil walks us through each editor’s thoughts about what’s to come and what they’d like to see from the bikepacking world, such as what bikes we might see, components that would make sense, and the types of adventures folks will be going on. Watch it below, and make sure to leave any predictions you have for there coming year in the comments below…


Here is the full written set of predictions used as a base for the video script:

Logan Watts’ Predictions

Local Knowledge-based Routes

We’ve always thought that people who really know their own backyards make the best bikepacking routes. And with the stay-at-home challenges Covid-19 has imposed, people have been exploring their home terrain even more. We saw a lot of incredibly creative local overnighters submitted last year. Given the uncertainty of when travel will open back up, we expect this trend to continue and people to get even more creative with local route creation. And we hope to see more blank parts of the map filled in.. hint: the Midwest US, Europe, Scotland, and Australia…

Gravel Components Play Catch Up

OK, maybe this isn’t a single prediction, but a set of similar predictions. Logan thinks that companies are going to finally listen to all of our complaints and fill in the gaps for dirt-centric drop-bar bikes. Over the last couple years, these bikes have been released in droves, and they’re getting more mountain bike-like, with more aggressive geometry and bigger tire clearances. And, they’ve become more bikepacking-friendly with added mounts and provisions. But, components have fallen behind. This year will be the year when we finally see a major 12 or 13-speed 1x drivetrain with an appropriately low and wide-range cassette. No, unfortunately, that won’t be a standard “Big 2” drop-bar shifter that works with an Eagle or Shimano 12-speed derailleur. We’ll still have to hack the Mullet Drivetrain, but maybe we’ll see a more affordable wireless wide-range drivetrain… like Rival AXS shifters and a GX AXS Derailleur. Also, we’ll see a few more big (2.0-2.3”) gravel/mixed terrain tires following the lead of the Rene Herse Fleecer Ridge and Teravail Rutland. P.S. And please, somebody make an affordable 27.2mm electronic dropper post with adjustable travel.

Desire: More Rack/Bag Hybrids

There’s no doubt that bag interference with cables, dropper posts, and other bags are a real problem that we all face. Handlebar bags can crimp cables and even damage the head tube. Conversely, racks and panniers are heavy, and not the most appropriate for singletrack. There are workarounds, and over the last few years we’ve seen some compelling new solutions, such as Tumbleweed’s minimal T-Rack, Tailfin’s unique rack/bag, Trek’s integrated crown-mounted dry-bag rack, Mason’s Condenser rack, and the Salsa Anything Cradle, each designed to hold a dry bag, or something similar. And of course, there’s #basketpacking. However, there’s still room for companies to innovate. We hope to see a couple new minimal and lightweight front rack / handlebar bag hybrid carrying solutions this year.

Lucas Winzenburg’s Predictions

Less won’t always be more

Today’s bikepackers are increasingly realizing that they don’t need to choose between a traditional four-pannier setup and an ultra-minimalist bikepacking rig. When bikepacking first exploded, it was all about carrying as little as possible, but these days everyone can find their niche between those two schools of packing. Now, after a year when racing and speed weren’t a big part of the conversation, I think we’ll see even more demand for things like long-flap saddlebags, Wald baskets, and small panniers that allow for more luxuries on trips.

A rise in backyard adventures

Up to now, most of us have been rediscovering our immediate surroundings out of necessity, with COVID-19 lockdowns and other restrictions keeping us close to home. But even if we could put the pandemic behind us tomorrow, I think a lot of people have found the magic of the local overnighter over the last year and won’t feel as compelled to fly across the world to ride their bikes, even when the skies are open. This less ambitious version of bikepacking will hopefully continue getting lots of new people involved.

Desire: Creativity reaching new heights

In the year ahead, I hope we see more art, more films, more zines, and more creative documentation of bikepacking trips than ever before. And I hope folks aren’t afraid to break the mold of what’s been done up to now. More diverse voices and new ways of telling stories can only add value to our community. I was impressed with the many creative projects that came out of the bikepacking world in 2020, especially given the restrictions, and I hope that momentum only accelerates into 2021 and beyond.

Miles Arbour’s Predictions

A more diverse cycling industry

Following last year’s Black Lives Matter movement, there was a call to the cycling industry to amplify black voices and increase diversity and representation. Some brands were quick to admit their faults and take steps towards this, while many have (unfortunately) remained impartial and resistant to change. I think we’ll continue to see brands taking steps towards positive change within our industry, while the others play catch up.

Local makers unite!

Due to Covid-19 and a surge of new cyclists, it was hard to get a bike in 2020 and many manufacturers are planning for similar availability in 2021. I think we’ll see more coverage and more growth among the smaller makers that have previously been overshadowed—it’s their time to shine! Besides the regular locally made bags, expect to see bikes and other components being manufactured right in your backyard.

Desire: The Gravel Plateau

Remember those bikes with flat bars and big tires? Over the last five or so years, gravel bikes have reigned over the rest of the industry, and have played a huge role in how people “see” bikepacking. I have nothing against this, and I think the availability of wide bars and big tire clearances have turned many cyclists on to the gravel scene and dirt road touring. At this point, I feel as if we’ve seen every iteration of what a “gravel bike” could be—surely there has to be enough to choose from. Let’s see some interesting new takes on hardtail and rigid mountain bikes, eh?

Joe Cruz’s Predictions

DIY Bikepacking Rigs

With the reverberations of covid-related manufacturing delays and supply chain slowdowns in 2020 plus massive demand for tools for outdoor recreation, bike shops are going to have a hard time filling their floors with shiny new bikes through ‘21. More people are therefore going to be talking about and sharing insight on building up a great bikepacking bike from garage or eBay parts and legacy frames. Shops like 718Cyclery in Brooklyn that have quickly pivoted to putting their hands on solid frames and then digging through the parts bin to create unique and functional rides are going to thrive. To me this is all to the good. Of course I wish for manufacturing and commerce to regain its stride, but it’s not a bad thing for us to be enthusiastic about the alternative. People can build up a tremendous bikepacking rig by getting a ten year old, heck 30 year old, frameset and dressing it up with affordable parts that will work great.

Return of the 29er

It’s a drum I keep beating in bike reviews on the site: The most versatile and adaptable bike for bikepacking is your pretty standard flat bar hardtail or fully rigid 29er. Drop bar bikes for gravel races and dirt road touring are obviously ideal for those formats, and dual suspension if you’re trying to go fast on the Arizona Trail, or fat bikes for full on expedition touring. Those are cases where a specific tool is called for. But if you like all kinds of riding and don’t print money in your basement to fill a garage with mission purpose rides, the one bike that is perfect for bikepacking under all conditions is a 29er. Put Rene Herse 700×55 tires on it if you’re joining your friends on a fast gravel trip. Put 29×2.6 knobbies on it if you have a ticket to Bolivia or Kyrgyzstan (after the frikkin global pandemic people, I’m speaking metaphorically here!). The flat bars mean you can carry more in your wide front roll, the confidence on single track means your skill is the only terrain limiter. 2021 is when people realize that a bike that they already have is the perfect all ‘rounder. Load that thing up and go ride.

Desire: Stop the Dangle

Joe’s hoping that folks will clean up their act and stop dangling mugs off their bags. “I’m just kidding, do what you want, it’s totally great for your bike to be a mobile clanking junk circus.”

Neil Beltchenko’s Predictions

More e-bikes in bikepacking

We have already seen mountain and gravel ebikes, but I suspect we will see ebikes that will be more bikepacking focus, big clearance drop bar mountain bikes and even short travel mountain with longer battery life. E is the most successful sub industry right now, and it’s not going away.

A new short travel, big volume fork

We have seen lots of short travel suspension forks built for gravel bikes, FOX, MRP, Suntour but nothing that has a clearance for anything that fits 2”+ (only 40/45mm clearance) tires and boost spacing. With the growth of bikes in this category, it seems only fitting. Something in the 40/50mm of travel range, that is relatively light would be a game changer for some of the bikes on the markets such as the Salsa Cutthroat or the like.

Desire: More bike bag manufacturing partnerships

last year we saw Rockgeist acquire Porcelain Rocket which was the biggest bikepacking news we have seen from a bikepacking manufacturer, ever! While I dont suspect we will see folks acquire other companies, I do hope we see a bit more partnerships and collaborations with bags manufacturers. I also selfishly want to see a seat pack built around the Reverb AXS, and maybe more general, one that allows for more clearance for shorter riders.

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