Making a Whyte 901 suitable for bikepacking
Lockdown has made me realise that there is an enormous amount on stuff on my doorstep. I have spent the past few weeks making my Whyte 901 suitable for bikepacking and adventure riding. This means I my photography adventures will be pedal powered for the foreseeable future which means less driving, less fuel and more exploring..
How to make a Whyte 901 suitable for bikepacking.
This is a 2015 spec bike that was starting to show its age, this meant I had a bit of work to do. I live in an amazing corner of the country with a wealth of ancient roman roads and brilliant long distance cycle paths. These are like off-road highways out in to the areas that I would normally drive to. By using Komoot to plan my routes, I am able to discover SO MUCH more that I would miss if I was driving.
Obviously cycling 100+ kms at a time requires some preparation. The first thing I addressed was the old and slightly worn out, freehub and wheels. I whacked some Hope Pro4 Fortus 35 goodness on there for their supreme reliability. The Vittoria tyres I had been using were great but I wanted something to roll a bit better on the long gravel/road sections so I put some Onza Svelt tubeless tyres on also.
I have been a fan of SDG saddles for years so I spent some time getting the fit and position just right, this is now the most comfortable saddle I’ve tried (although it’s not perfect.. maybe I should try a Brooks?). I have this mounted on a Brand X dropper, which is apparently one of the more reliable dropper seat posts on the market.
Fitting Bikepacking kit to a Whyte 901
The biggest part of bikepacking is knowing how to pack kit on your bike. I’ve used some Alpkit bags and a Dakine Hot Laps wrap along with some Voile straps to get as much off my back and strapped to the bike as possible. This keeps the weight lower which keeps everything feeling stable and comfortable. Have a think about this bit. No two bikes are the same, for example I have chosen not to use a saddle bag because I don’t want the extra weight to interfere with the dropper seat post.
The Whyte 901 is a well suited to a frame bag but my current configuration does slightly restrict the use of one. As I will be carrying my camera, I am still using a Camelbak Octane with spare clothing and food in.
Bike Packing Kit List
Bars & Top Tube
- Alpkit Fuel Pod – on the go snacks, batteries & powerbank, Lezyne pump with Gorilla tape wrapped round it.
- QuadLock with my Sony mounted for Komoot navigation
- Light – One23 1000lm light mounted to a Light in Motion bracket with a big shim in to get some extra height (to stop shadows from my bar bag)
- Alptkit Tivaro 20 Bar bag – Alpkit Hunka Bivi Bag, Sleeping bag, Neoair roll mat & downjacket
Extra Fuel pod (not pictured) frame mounted
- Spare bolts, jockey wheel, gear cable, mech hanger, extra tube, extra Co2 cylinder, chain links and a leatherman.
- Plus some go to bits like a midge net, lip salve, emergency rations, zip ties, glasses cleaner etc.
Dakine Hot Laps (mounted near to BB)
- Spare tube, tyre levers, Co2 with pump and a multitool
- Fuji XT-3 with 16-80mm and Peak Designs mount in a small Lowe Alpine case
- Evening food, Alpkit Kraku and Ti mug
- Emergency Bivi bag, first aid kit etc
- Patagonia Nanoair (if needed)
- Water filter
- Inflatable pillow
Other little tricks and modifications
- I stuck and zip tied a cut up bit of foam roller to the headtube. This stops the bar bag crushing the hoses and cables so much.
- I am strapping my tarp/homemade shelter to the underside of the top tube with Voile straps
- I have made a velcro strap to hold the light battery tucked out of the way on the downtube
- I’m now running 1×10 with a 30T up front and 11-36 cassette – I’m yet to be defeated by a climb that I would have been able to ride up with a bigger range. This keeps everything really clean with less to go wrong and frees up space for the dropper lever
- I fitted a sealed headset, because everything’s better when it’s sealed
How does the Whyte 901 ride with bikepacking kit?
Loaded up, the bike is amazingly planted. Keeping the weight low keeps it stable enough to attack single track just the same as normal. I tested the set up (without the bar bag) on a 140km ride out to Bradford upon Avon and back over the Mendips.
I was amazed that at 100km in I had a rough and fast descent back in to Cheddar. Dropping the seatpost out of the way, the bike just lapped it up without missing a beat – even though my legs where knackered!
Should I just buy a gravel bike for bikepacking?
Ride whatever bike you’ve got, just strap some kit to it and go for an adventure. I am not interested in going anywhere fast – I just want to go anywhere.
That is what bikepacking and adventure riding is for me, the ability to explore, sustainably, from my doorstep. This means I don’t need a specific gravel bike, moreover I wouldn’t feel as comfortable on rocky bridlepaths without the forgiving 66° head angle of the Whyte. For me, I’m just better suited to a trail hardtail… I think.