My recent trip around the Brecon Beacons called for a revamped setup. Unsurprisingly, my gear lust got the better of me. I decided I would need a full-suspension bikepacking rig instead of my usual rigid 29er with panniers. Fortunately, I already had my dusty but trusty 2008 Stumpjumper. I just needed to tweak it for bikepacking, right? Just a few new bike bags, a tarp tent and a bivy sack. Hmmm, the cost was quickly adding up!
In an effort to keep it cheap, I decided I would order materials and make this gear myself. In hindsight, perhaps it was a little overambitious given the short notice. I spent a few solid days swearing at the sewing machine, fumbling about with my shaky coffee hands. In attempting these ‘making your own gear’ (MYOG) projects, I developed great respect for the pros who are making the top tier gear – Wildcat Gear, Porcelain Rocket, Revelate and AlpKit.
To top off my excessive gear prep frenzy, I decided to build a new front wheel with the shiny PD-8X dynamo I received from my Charlie at Intelligent Design Cycles. I was planning to pair it with a new kLite Bikepacker 1000 light for super bright off-road light pollution. Unfortunately, the light didn’t arrive in time from Australia, so I had to jerry rig a temporary solution with my broken B&M Cyo light. This worked for about four days until the cables disintegrated on a jaw rattling descent.
The Tarp Tent & Bivy Sack
Bikepacking is (obsessively) focused on a lightweight camping setup tailored for off-road cycling. This normally includes a spartan one-person tarp and bivy sack which can be easily and securely strapped to the bike, normally without pannier racks.
I decided to build a simple A-frame catenary tarp design and waterproof bivy. I found some helpful designs posted by Jamie Shortt. There are lots of variants of this posted on backpackinglight.com and the MYOG section of the BBB forum.
I ordered all my materials online from Point North Fabrics. Simon was really helpful in recommending the best fabrics, webbing and fasteners. For the tent, I used a polyurethane coated ripstop for the tarp tent and a DIY seam seal for the ridgeline. It was a good first project, because the sewing is quite basic and the material is easy to work with. The bivy sack was a little more complicated, partly because of the curving zipper and bug screen. I used the same PU coated ripstop for the base and a lighter, more breathable Pertex material for the top side.
Some New Bike Bags
In order to leave my old Ortlieb panniers at home, I would likely need a handle bar bag, frame bag and seat bag. I managed to find a used AlpKit Kanga, Fuel Pod and Airlok dry sacks on the cheap, but the frame and seatpost bags would have to be custom builds.
I ordered some Cordura and buckles from Point North and set off on another coffee fuelled sewing binge! I started with the seat bag, which turned out to be much more difficult that I had imagined! It’s a tricky design to get right! Consequently, I spent too much time refining it and didn’t have much time left for the frame bag. I ended up hurriedly stitched together a frame bag the night before and didn’t capture any photos of the build process, but you can see the finished bags on some of the photos below.
Another Hub Dynamo Wheel
I actually considered sticking with my rigid 29er for this trip because I couldn’t stand the thought of riding without my PD-8 hub dynamo. I was thrilled when my friend Charlie @ IDC gave me the chance to test out the new PD-8X. I ordered a Stan’s Arch rim and some DT Competition spokes and laced it up as per my usual ritual.