Gravel and Bikepacking Kit Review from Eurobike 2017

Bikepacking and gravel adventure bikes were a hot topic at this year’s EuroBike show and it was a great chance to check in with brands new and old to me.

The busiest dedicated bikepacking stand was probably Apidura with a series of talks from ambassadors like Lee Craigie, Nelson Trees and myself doing Facebook live and audience sessions. We all put some serious miles and time in using their bags so it is also a great chance for us to feedback on their products to ensure they stay ahead of the competition.

While there were quite a few gravel bikes on display there were actually very few that set the heart racing, generic carbon Gravel road bikes all look a bit the same after a while. Here I look at a few things that caught my eye.

My highlights of the bikes on display included the new Moots (Handbuilt US Titanium frames) gravel offering which looked stunning and would ride like a dream looking at the shaping and geometry;

However to me it had one slight flaw the clearance on the rear wishbone stays was pretty tight….

There were so many gravel adventure bikes that didn’t get the demand for wider tyres and good clearance with 32mm being seen as acceptable for gravel. For reference it’s too narrow 45mm should be an option on these bikes.

Chiru is designed by the crazy French endurance rider with the same name. I loved this bike in the picture below, it was quirky and off the wall, but practical and served a purpose. He won the French Divide race on it. THe frame shape is to maximise a frame bag luggage shape. The bars and seat post had some clever material in them to dampen the ride down for him.
It has low seat stays to improve the compliant ride, a belt drive for reliability and a pinion gearbox on the BB is thrown in on this money no object looking project.
Will they sell many of these bikes? Probably not, but I enjoyed looking at it and learning about his logic for the design. Good on him for looking outside the box and interesting to see what works for him giving food for thought.

The other bike that caught my eye was the new True Grit from Lauf complete bike. Icelandic brand Lauf are famous for their Grit gravel leaf spring forks. I got to ride this bike on a challenging extended test in some seriously testing conditions, so watch for that review.

Now I might be biased but Apidura’s kit did stand out above so many other brands attempts at bikepacking luggage. To many traditional bike brands it seems they don’t actually go bikepacking much to test out the kit judging by the designs.
I missed the Ortleib stand and some other popular brands that are making good kit weren’t here to look at. Those that were here had some interesting designs…

Vaude the outdoor brand from Germany have a new range out all hanging from a trendy bamboo built bike. The quality looks good on these bags but there were some odd designing going on. First up I don’t get harnesses for bags, they’re not as secure but mostly I don’t like how they get filled and coated with mud and grit. In Scotland they just don’t make sense to me. A wedge shaped dry bag helps to give shape but they’re still not as good as a standard saddle pack that you can choose to put dry bags inside. This harness bag from Vaude was pretty loose and the shape didn’t offer support for the liner bag, I hope it’s not the final version.

Then on the frame bag they had this odd eyelet attachment design that looks like it just takes up vital luggage space in the frame. Finally the way the straps hang down from the top tube means the bag will lose some structure when full and sit lower than it could or should. Not super impressed.

Ace packs were new to me, I stumbled upon them while checking out the new Pipedream adventure bike called ALICE that was on display. A solid looking steel framed, all road, wide tyre clearance bike that has a lot of potential and just a well thought out bike it seems. It’s a bike designed to take on whatever you can throw at it, take a look at the link. I’d love to test one out.

Onto the ACE bikepacking bags, at first looks they seemed ok with a tough looking construction and not a bad design. However digging a bit deeper I was confused by some of the designs and asked about them.
The frame bag rolls up at the top and around the top tube, neat idea, but why? “Well to seal better than a zip” I was told. “However it is a non seam sealed waterproof bag so it will still leak?” I replied, “Ah it has a liner inside that also rolls up”, “Well why does the outer bag roll up as well if it isn’t waterproof?” Ah, urm not sure.. was the response.
I did however like this strap to haold external bags on the saddle bagm a clever design for loading up an extra bivy bag or dry sac:

While some positives in the designs, I’d wait until the second generation of bags from Ace is out before I buy, as the saddle pack and seat interface looks loose too. Along with this loose harness design. Close but no cigar.

I also saw the funkiest design I have seen so far from this Chinese brand that I can’t remember the name of (useful I know!!):

The shiny fabric was a bit off putting and reminded me of the less than perfect Specialized bikes bikepacking kit I have seen, but these Chinese ones certainly win the most random styling from any bags out there. Here’s another view of them:

Sadly I missed Otleib so I can’t comment on the revised bags they had on display.

The show in general was fascinating for a first timer but being trade focused there was a limit on the exciting new releases. The gravel sector is growing but without many big US brands here at Eurobike it wasn’t a key segment. It was also cast into the shadow of E-Bikes, and man was it a big shadow that the billion+ e-bikes cast.

In case it all looks too normal here’s a classic from Eurobike for bikepacking:

2 Comments
  1. Quite a few sweeping and unsubstantiated settlements there about bikepacking bags. To say that harness based saddle packs aren’t as secure is a misjudgement. I use one and I find it much more practical than a floppy and soggy Apidura pack. And I don’t have to strategically pack it.

    You only have to look at the amount of floppy Apidura bags on this year’s Transcontinental Race for real life proof.

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    • I don’t think it is sweeping to say harness bags are less secure, liner bags can and do fall out of some of them! It is pretty obvious that an enclosed bag from the industry leaders be it; Ortlieb, Revelate, Miss Grape or Apidura doesn’t lose your kit off the back which could be disastrous in some situations, even if you do pack it really badly and it sags a bit that’s not the end of the world.

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