Making More Gear For Bikepacking

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.

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I used a bit of guy rope to approximate a 3 inch catenary ridgeline.

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Mixing up equal parts of white spirit (paint thinner) and pure silicon creates a DIY sealant make it easier to brush onto the seams…

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… brushing the goop onto the seam with a few inches on either side to cover up all the holes from the sewing pins and needles!

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All rigged up with Bear Bones lightweight Pole-A-Bear poles (thanks Stuart!)

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The mosquito net on the bivy sack provides great protection from the bugs, but requires a simple tie-up to keep it off my face.

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Double stitched seams, but not particularly straight stitching!

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The wrap around zipper makes getting into the bivvy much easier…

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I used Jamie Short’s corner folding method to create the foot box…

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Top view of the head box with mozzie net and tie up harness

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.

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Prototyping really helps to visualise the shape and fit before committing with expensive fabric.

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Getting used to sewing things together inside out to hide the seams…

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Adding some ‘box x’ stitches to secure the webbing

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‘outside in’ with the seams hidden

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… a bit further along with some internal padding and more fastening points

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… In my haste, I didn’t capture any photos of the frame bag build process, but here’s a shot of it in use! It worked alright, but I need to add a strap around the steer tube to keep it from sagging and rubbing on the rear shock. I may also add some more foam to stiffen the sides for a more well defined shape.

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.

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All the bits for a new front wheel, with the new PD-8X dynamo hub from Shutter Precision

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Taking measurements to double check my spoke length calculations

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… and my super ghetto DIY dishing tool carefully measured from a scrap of cardboard…

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the finished wheel fitted with some dirty ol’ rubber!

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Unfortunately, my new kLite 1000 didn’t arrive in time, so I had to jerry rig a mount for my broken B&M Cyo light. I used an old Cateye mount with some plumbing hose clamp stuff and some random nuts and bolts! It lasted for about 4 days before falling apart on a rocky descent.

Packed And Ready!

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Side shot of the packed rig, showing all the new bags

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My finished compression seat pack inspired by the Wildcat Tiger design, but not nearly as good! I think a MKii will be necessary at some point!

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Clearance below the saddle could be better, panels could stiffer and lateral sway could be reduced!

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Bikepacking toolkit and spares, including a bottle of eyedrops repurposed for chain lube. Works a treat and much smaller than the mini Finish Line bottle

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The whole kitchen including meths stove packs away inside the 750ml MyTiMug.

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