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Kickbiking. How’s the set-up?

Back rack on a kickbike? Trial and error brought me a good set up for longer distances on the kickbike.

A set-up of any form of transport is important. Not when you are cycling or rolling back and forth to the bakery but when you try to get some distance done, it better be the right set-up for you. We did not had the chance to test any kickbike before we started the journey through the USA. We ordered straight from the Kickbike supplier and that is not the way I’d recommend. When I ordered my bicycle years prior I had it more or less custom made. This is crazily expensive, something I would not recommend either.

The handlebar

The Cruisemax comes with, not so surprising, a cruiser-style handlebar which I find not suitable for long distances. For Geo, who is over 1.85 meter tall, the handlebar is too low. There are three rings attached to the stem of the handlebar to heighten the stem about 4 centimeter. I have exchanged the cruiser-style handlebar for a straight one, and that works much better.

Back rack and front rack to carry your load

The Kickbike comes without racks. The kickbike never designed to carry much luggage, has not yet come with its own system to attach a rack at the back. There is not a particular rack that fit. I guess many racks will fit one way or another. We attached each a back rack but it is done in a way that it can not carry much weight (we usually had around 4 kilogram) nor is it attached very secure (though Geo did a good job). While touring in the USA Geo his rack, attached to the mud guard, broke and it needs a handyman to repair it.

We had to fix this rack without proper tools and access to the builders market was not an easy task in the USA. Geo attached a front rack and I had two Salsa cages. The front rack was easy to attach and the Salsa cages were secured with extra tie rips.

An Ortlieb set-up is what I had for my 5-year touring through many parts of the world (these bags can hold a lifetime), now I want to figure out how a bike-pack set-up feels. Geo goes for a rack and prefers the good old Ortlieb set-up. I think that was a smart move, as it turned out my bike-pack set up did not work well. As soon as we got back in Europe, I changed my set-up to a front rack with panniers (I basically took all Geo his stuff).

What I wanted were American brands and American stuff and the American way: bike-packing. Besides that we are both of the opinion that racks with a click system such as Ortlieb or Vaude works best, it might also turn out to be cheaper. A bike-pack set up is not handy: to get something out of your bag, you need to unload gear which is placed over vertically. There are straps involved to hold rolls into place and nothing really gets off easily nor fast. It might look sleek, its far from handy when you want to dig out something, unless you unload the whole bike for erecting your camp.

Bike-packing turns out to be rather expensive when you try to have it all work out. A few dangling chalk-bags here and a few frame-bags there and voilá, the money flies out of your wallet. I refused to have a fashionable set-up only to comply to the bike-packing fashion (although it was far from cheap to have the set up we started off with. We bought at REI store but were rather disappointed by their selection). But only when you got the real whole deal, it probably is possible to stash your energy bars and banana into one of those pouches. To have the peanut butter jar strapped to your front fork with elastic unbreakable straps and to have the frame packed with bottles in the most intelligent cages might look pretty cool, but less efficient it is.

One click-system or Velco attached pannier is equal to a few straps, a bottle cage and a river-bag, the last mentioned not easier. The river-bags I choose don’t hold that much and are not designed for the purpose I use them for. The panniers works way better. There are many neat systems to stash your gear and when having the time to choose, review and order, you’d be better off with a designated pannier.

Eventually I took off the stand as this had the habit of continually opening itself while cruising. Also, when I did use the kickstand the fully packed kickbike would easily fall over by the uneven distributed weight. I have to add that parking the kikebike without a stand is often a hassle as well.

Bike-packing minus

1. In my idealizing of a newer set-up I forgot about practicality. And so we soon figured out that Geo his classic set-up works better. A bike-pack set-up is solely good for moving from camp to camp, not for staying in camp days on end and needing to go for groceries and resupply the water-bag and bottles. A bike-pack set-up does not suffice a quick, easy access to your belongings.

2. Also, a bike-pack set-up does not allow you for a quick packing in the morning, as straps need to be tied, often in all sorts of orders and manners. Sure, the handlebar bag, Revelate Design, is designed for quick attachment and release, and the brand did succeed in that. It however did not succeed in designing a handy way to stash the sleeping bag. The Sweetroll will succeed in giving you a hard time stuffing your sleeping bag in to it (this can be overcome by lining the Sweetroll with a big plastic bag cut open at the end).

3. When you need a particular item, or when you want to leave your fully loaded kickbike behind while grocery shopping (or to get married, as was the case with Geo and me) but do not want to leave the most precious items behind, you need to dig them out or take them off. This requires opening straps and rolls falling out and it never goes quick. In my opinion, bike-packing looks sleek, but is not practical unless you go for the bare minimum.

4. Everything needs to be wrapped, rolled, packed into rainproof material and this is an expensive fashion. Since you want it to be lightweight, only the most thin sacks will do and they do not come cheap. They will rip quickly as material is thin (unfortununfortunately the Sweet Roll from Revelate Design is ripped, as you can see on the photo below). So, you need to buy sufficient repair stuff to mend your gear on the go.

5. I do need to confess that I was not the least bit prepared and therefor could not try certain set ups nor examine materials, gears and bags. We had three days to get the kickbike out of the box on to the route, and even that (the nightmarish exit out of Atlanta) had to be figured out first. We were not even able to find the most essential parts, and that led us to start a tour without sufficient water-bottle holders. By now I have received all my husbands good gear and my set-up is now just fine and all right.

Does a backpack work while kickbiking?

‘We can never fit our things on a kickbike’, is what Geo kept repeating. Geo is a minimalist, of the highest order, and so I am sure his gear fits easily. It is me who carries a laptop, camera, cables, cards, USB sticks, embroidery material and a diary, things only growing in weight by time passing. All these items needs to be packed in a backpack, something I am sure is fine. But Geo somehow knows better, and he is, again, correct.

A backpack, as it turned out for me, does not work. Your body needs to be able to move freely, your back wants to be able to swift effortless. Soon I developed pain in my back, at the height of the lungs. I figure the backpack made my back wet from perspiration and when I would take the pack off, cool wind would cause too big of a temperature difference. At night, sleeping, I would feel a pressing pain in the organs in my back. Breathing deeply would hurt. As soon as I took off the backpack, it felt a relief and the pain was gone in two days.

However, all that stuff -a notebook, diary, electronic cables and embroidery material- had to be incorporated on to the frame of the kickbike.

Try to kick without a backpack. My kitchen goes in two 8 liter river bags, strapped on Salsa’s Anything Cage, with a 750 ml gas canister this is not a very fitting way of packing. An Ortlieb would have been easier…

But I wanted American brands and American stuff and the American way: bike packing.

Conclusion: a front rack with a back rack works good. Cages at the front wheels for stashing bottles doesn’t disturb (when you got short legs). The back wheel needs to be free to have your legs swing without restraint. In my opinion panniers with a click system are the best (surely the fastest) but there are plenty sleek systems to choose from. I wanted a harness to mount the sleeping bag but besides that this was an expensive item, and heavy as well, it turned out not to be neccesary. The brake cables were free from being pressed by the sleeping bag as the first set up and the latter, the front rack, prevented this.

I wish you happy kicks and feel free to leave a reply when you have a question.

When you want to support my creative activity and have a handmade embroidered pouch send out to you, visit my website CINDYneedleart

To read our start in kickbiking, read USA 1

By Cindy Servranckx

Years of traveling brought me many different insights, philosophies and places I needed to be. I lived in Pakistan, went over 15 times to India and when I stopped cycling the world, that was after 50.000 kilometer through 45 countries, I met Geo. Together we now explore many facets of life, including those by foot, by truck, by motorbike and by kickbike. Being an artist who's chasing the simple life, I keep embroidering in the abundance nature offers me. The pouches I create are for sale on www.cindyneedleart.wordpress.com

14 replies on “Kickbiking. How’s the set-up?”

Hi Cindy,

I totally agree with your point of view regarding the bikepacking vs traditional set-up. Unless you are on a short (say less than 3 week) trip and your focus is on being on your way with the bare minimum and just move, move, move and then ‘crash’ for a few hours.
If you want some comfort, carry cooking gear, a laptop, maybe gear to survive multiple seasons, the ‘classic (proven) way is much superior. Also, an Ortlieb bag will survive many years. No bikepacking gear will do that.

Few questions:
What do you love about kickbiking over cycling ?

What distance do you cover on an average day (knowing that covering distance in itself is not a goal).

How hilly could you go ? Like climbs of max what percentage ?

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Hi Koen,

1. I not necessarily like kickbiking more than cycling but since I am married, I like to spend more time with Geo. It is not an option anymore to cycle years on end. Not because of Geo, but because I was done with it. Therefor, the kickbike came in handy, as it is more hard to propel yourself forward, and a few days on end is already a challenge. Cycling would only be a challenge nowadays when the environment is harsh, conditions difficult and countries unusual. And when I would be on my own, I think. Geo is not into cycling and I, not anymore either ; )

2. Together we did average 35 a day. Our personal rhythms were SO immensely different that when I was done in the morning, Geo wanted to have lunch. When we then had lunch, I was at my peak performance, munching on some fast food (USA) instead. It did not work at all. Also, cycling or kicking together really requires a mind set, which we did not have aligned well. Geo likes motorbike, I kickbike. So…. what to do?

3. Hilly is not possible, only downhill goes remarkable well : )) When uphill, a very mild grade, needs pushing. But pushing with a kickbike is a lot easier since there are no pedals, and thus no turning Rohloff hub.

Ah, nice to hear that you have the same opinion. Whenever you open Facebook, its all bikepacking, and you yourself were also into it. And I at one point thought it would be cool too. Well, its not. Its just a fashion, it does not make cycling better. Its a whole different aort of cycling. As you said: fast and speedy and focused on breaking records, or something. The only record I try to break is leaving camp later ; )

Have a speedy uphill you (figuratively especially) Greetings Cindy

Liked by 1 person

It’s nice to hear others comment on the bike packing phenomenon. I share your thoughts. And Cindy I’ve always appreciated your blog. I’ve been following it for a few years. It’s really one of the best. Honest, reflective and earthy. I most appreciate your observations about cultures you experience from the margins afforded by the ways you, and Geo, travel.

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Hi Someone, thank you for your fantastic compliment. I think there will be less and less of posts about other cultures as Geo and I are not planning big oversees trips (as of now). To be honest, I rather be in nature than among cultures as so often they loose their inheritance, becoming more and more ‘American’. It seems to me that the ‘American’ television has such a pull, that many want to look like a ‘rapper’ or a ‘Kardashian’. But I guess me becoming older has to do with it as well. Also, when I was young, other cultures were younger too and the race to become modern has gotten faster and progressive. I was talking with Geo about this while we were in Ecuador, so all my thoughts about cultures are in the “Piuntza” post. I will not start here ; ))

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Hiiii, great post and great points. Yeah bike packing is not touring, it’s a different beast. It’s touring light imho, kind of like a week or two trip, then you come home and clean everything up and put it away. Touring is typically ….. a few weeks to years, you keep going. So the kit is different because the purpose is different. Bikepacking you take remote routes and camp with bike with you, touring you resupply in towns, you sometimes sleep in hotels, you have test days…. you take your packs inside. Bikepacking you leave the packs on bikes. The focus is different, bikepacking is not necessarily needing waterproof kit as you pick the weather, touring… you might pick the season but no chance, you get what’s coming. Everything needs to last and be waterproof and quite heavy-duty. Touring, you are on roads a lot, so click on panniers don’t rattle much, on tracks they drive you nuts and the clips break on rough tracks. Bikepacking you take the rough tracks so everything has to be packed tight and the mounts have to have a bit of give to not break, to absorb the bumps and thus not rip or crack. It’s a different beast but we can look to opportunities to learn adapt and get the best of both worlds. I carry a bar roll but I use a breathable stuff sack. So far it has lasted but I baby it a lot. I want the breathability so I can stuff in my wet tent fly to dry it out later and not risk it going mouldy. Same reason I use same type of stuffsack for my sleeping bag. It allows steam out so my sweat does not accumulate as it did in the waterproof but not breathable panniers. It works for me. It might not be good for a week of rain though but at that point I might stuff it into my panniers which I leave lightly loaded and I use a compression band on to minimise rattling. Both are great systems and have strengths and weaknesses. Most long distance bikepackers/tourers adopt parts of both disciplines to achieve something flexible, adaptable and suitable to their style. Neither is perfect. Panniers and racks weigh a lot which makes bikes heavy and not that nice on steep and rough tracks but there s much beauty and solitude on such tracks and camping opportunities abound. BTW how is your hammock ideas, have you had a play yet? awe have been in a lockdown here but I have been assembling a hammock tryout from spare pieces just to see if I find it preferable to sleeping on the ground. I haven’t had a chance to go try it out…. Cheery O to you intrepid lovelies. 👋

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Cindy I had some more thoughts on this after checking back with another long term (years) bikepacker’s setup. I think the main change is the adoption of a bikepacking bike like the Surly ECR which is more like a 29er MTB than a touring bike. It used to be called expedition tourer but I don’t see that name used much lately. Then they use cages, front roll, framebag and panniers. Some shorter trip people combine micro panniers with a seat pack but that is not so common. The panniers are needed for capacity, water food and clothes for multiple seasons and situations etc as you know. Pure bikepacking is way shorter and has no need to pack that much food nor that many clothing options. Ortlieb now also do some bikepacking components and typical to their thinking it is waterproof and a bit sturdier – it’s a trade off for lightness. With light gear you have to baby it along and lot more than touring gear. Having said that I have seen a friends Ortlieb pannier sliced completely open (30cm) as he rode past a bush with an obviously very sharp thorn. He did not even notice! So even the “good” touring stuff is not immune to accidents. BTW I would take that Sweetroll back. Stitching ripping out like that is very poor form indeed. Maybe that fabric or stitching had a flaw in it? Most of these companies are very good at replacing faulty gear.

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Hi Miro,

Your two comments are so voluminous and much details are added that it has become a post in itself. And I must add, you are the pro, and I the beginner in this matter. Geo would no doubt agree : ))

The thing is this: I was not aware even that bikepacking needs a closer touch to the frame. I had a bag with clips on it and no clue what it was for? It turned out to be tightly attached to the frame indeed. I dislike that, as especially a handlebar bag needs to be clipped free/detached, very quickly. Now I am busy quite long do undo all the clips and velcro’s.

Of course, even Ortlieb has flaws. I am pretty sure they can manufacter something unbrakeable, but that means less sales ; ) My bags have many holes but with patching them up, they are still okay enough.

Our Sweetroll which is broken, so quickly after buying, is a shame. But honestly, we did not use it as if it were a baby. Geo used it, was never happy with it, and for carrying food. I told him that this Sweetroll was not for that purpose. We also bought it in Atlanta, where we are far removed from now.

Backpacking gear and bags are so precisely made for a purpose that it is not recommemded to use it any other way. That is a pity.

I thank you for adding this information, as it adds a lot for other readers, I imagine.

I have to confess that it was me who wanted backpacking and I did not even know what it really was. That said, with the Kickbike I was often only off road and on forest tracks and the bikepacking stuff did perform well! I always left the bags on the kickbike, except for the stuff I need, like handlebar bag and Sweetroll.

And so, as you said, it is a whole different ballgame and bikepacking is best for shorter tours, as I do. And you too, apparantly. It is an enrichment to be able to alternate, so, all in all, I am satisfied.

Have a good trip here and there, by Ortlieb and bike packing set up.

Greetings from the two of us.

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Hi, ha ha no pro here, I am also coming from the classical touring setup. I found that of the trips I have done the most enjoyable have been on the coastal tracks and in comparison I found the highway sections quite boring. I have been watching the bikepacking movement for a little while and see the sense in what they do and how they apply it. It isn’t touring un a classical sense but a few of them have done epic trips using hybrid setups which make sense in the long run. None of these setups are perfect and they all have compromises we need to understand to make sure we don’t have a failure that puts us in danger. Hopefully they have particular features which enable us to enjoy our trips even more. Cheery O

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Good day Miro,

I think most cyclists, not the one who cycle every day to and from work, but the ones likes us ; ) will at one point come to dislike the highways or any road with relative too many cars. And indeed, tahn the classic Ortlieb set up might be too bulky. One tend to pack according the volume and Ortlieb can handle a lot of volume! I think also that every choice will habe negative sides to them.

I am happy with both, but never did long distances/many days with the bikepack set up so far. I think its not very handy to pack enough food and water in summer.

Anyway, you sound like a pro!

Greetings Cindy

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Well said. Its a whole different ball game indeed. Though I met a woman in the Atacama who was extremely light packed. She was young and very fit and I think she made huge distances, only to be able to have her extreme light set up able to make use of it. I mean, she had hardly water and food storage, so she had to make a 150 km at least to get to the next town. But I guess she had a bike pack set up although I did not know about the existence of such a thing back than.

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Yeah I hear of these ultraendurance people from time to time. Certainly there is a reverse tradeoff at play in that as you cut back and cut some more everything can be lightened up, with a light person and very little ultralight gear even the bike can become ultralight and thus is joy to ride and big distances become possible BUT if anything goes wrong or you just want to rest for a day or two the problems do start to show up with lack of clothing options etc. These are race setups and they aren’t touring as such in much the same way as flying in a plane is not the same as travelling through that territory. These people rarely say hi and exchange much beyond a wave. Still as long as they enjoy it then all is good. I like to stop for a coffee, chat, little rest, check out the map then when it feel s right drift off often stopping for a photo or just to take in a sight or check out a possible camp.

But that’s just me, am not a pro but happy more or less in being “in my own skin”

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Hi Miro,

about the hammock, I wonder how we got there because I dislike them much. Geo had one and liked it, but mainly because he was so tired that he was able to sleep in such a limp banana : )))) So for me, I stick to my Hilleberg and Big Agnes (replaced the zipper).

As for touring, it has to wait a bit as I am awaiting snow and curious to see how the countryside looks in a white blanket. Also, much work to do which I enjoy.

Started to collect wild rosehips lately : )

I either will tour by bicycle and Ortlieb classic set up and take a lot of food or with the kickbike and do shorter distances.

I do like the thought of a longer tour with the kickbike but I think it need much more preparations to see where water and food supplies are, but than again, I prefer to be out of towns.

Choices choices choices.

I wish you possibilities to get out and use the Caldera and be on tiny tracks and have panniers full of food ; ) but perhaps both options don’t go hand in hand (tiny tracks and lots of food) (is bikepack set up and Ortliebs) ….

Nice trails to you anyway!
Greetings and sorry for late replies…

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