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 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.
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