Geared Up: Bikepacking Edition

Scott MTB RC Lace, $200

Scott’s lace-up cross-country cycling shoe performs admirably as a bikepacking and touring shoe. Originally aimed at off-road racers, it is fairly stiff, rated at 9/10 by Scott, looks great, and has a sticky rubber sole that covers the carbon fiber last. Walking in the shoes is actually quite comfortable because the toe articulates under pressure. While the high-vis laces are bright by any standard, the MTB RC Lace ships with a set of black laces as well if you prefer to keep it low key. Its upper is very supple, and because of the lace-up design it can easily accommodate a wide variety of instep sizes and shapes. This is also handy when you want to wear thicker socks. The MTB RC Lace shoes do run a tad large. I normally wear a 42.5, and the 42 offered a nice roomy fit. –NL

Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch II, $160

Along with Shimano’s XM7 (featured in the March issue), Pearl Izumi’s X-Alp Launch II are the most walking friendly of the bunch. They even look like a pair of hiking shoes. With a single Boa closure and a Velcro strap, they easily adjust on the fly. While they are a treat off the bike, they do give up some rigidity to do so. Because of that I would recommend them for mountain bike trips with shorter days or routes with plenty of time in camp. The X-Alps are a roomier shoe, great for riders with wider or more voluminous feet. Note that Pearl Izumi shoes run small. I wore a pair of 43s instead of my normal 42.5. –NL

Specialized Recon, $225

Specialized designed the Recon for mixed-surface riding. While it’s also offered in a bright yellow/orange, the subtle look of the black with tan rubber sole will appeal to more touring cyclists. It’s a great shoe. The upper is not as supple as the Scott RC Lace, but that’s not a concern. The Recon’s comfort is excellent, and its SlipNot tread offers fantastic traction. I wore them in Sedona on some slippery rock and never felt in peril. Specialized rates its stiffness at 10/13 (don’t ask), putting them at the more efficient end of the spectrum. Sizing is spot on. I wore a 42.5 and it was ideal, allowing for thicker socks if needed. –NL

Giro Terraduro, $180

While known for its helmets, Giro’s shoe line, like its apparel, is very strong. The Terraduro is not a new model, but it does have features that appeal to bikepackers. It is heavier than a pair of XC race shoes, but this is due in part to its excellent Vibram sole. Off-bike confidence is really high with the Terraduro, and it offers great protection from rocks when barreling down a trail. Two Velcro straps supplement a ratcheting strap. Adjustment is easy and secure. All-day comfort is great, so much so that a couple of guide friends of mine wear the Terraduros while riding with clients. I did go up a half size with the Giro shoes, using a pair of 43s. –NL

Rolf Alsea XR Plus wheels, $1,899

Now these are fancy! And yet for the price they offer great value compared to many other carbon fiber wheels. It’s been said before, and it’s worth repeating, that taking weight off your bicycle’s wheels and tires, because they rotate, is where you should focus your spending efforts. Carbon fiber truly is a wonder material in this arena. For mountain biking, it reduces weight while also increasing strength. Where aluminum rims can dent when hitting stones, carbon rolls on happily in most cases. Rolf’s new Alsea Plus wheels are designed for 27.5+ (2.8–3.0”) tires and use a 40mm internal-width carbon rim made to Rolf’s specs in an overseas factory. The hubs are produced in the U.S. and the wheels are hand-built in Eugene, Oregon. If you’d like to match your wheels to your bike, Rolf offers custom sticker colors for $80 to $96. Take it a step further by picking your hub and decal color for $180. (Note: The Alsea XR Plus wheels are no longer available, but the Alsea Plus wheels are similarly featured.) –NL

Wolftooth 49T GC cog, $90

The trend in mountain bike drivetrains is away from front derailers and toward ever-wider–range cassettes. This isn’t all bad, even for bikepackers riding a loaded bike. It reduces weight and the number of items that require maintenance. But getting a sufficiently low gear was tough with a 1x until Shimano began offering its 11–46T cassette and SRAM debuted its Eagle 12-speed, 10–50T cassette. If you run Shimano or SRAM and want the wider range but don’t want to buy 12-speed shifters and derailers, Wolftooth offers its excellent 49T GC Cog kit. It actually arrives with a large aluminum 49T cog as well as an 18T cog. You mix this into one of Shimano’s 11-42 cassettes to expand your gear range. It’ll work with a longer chain on a SRAM 11-speed drivetrain. For Shimano derailers, you’ll need to purchase Wolftooth’s WolfCage, an additional $40. Shifting across the 11–49T cassette is great, and it really provides a significantly lower gear than a 42. Top marks. –NL

Western Rise Elkton Stretch Flannel, $109

More in line with “performance flannel” prices from brands like Patagonia, the Elkton from newcomer Western Rise promises stretch for activities like cycling, and it delivers. Though lacking the trick shoulder panels of the Kitsbow Icon shirt (watch for a review next month), the Elkton makes up mobility in stretchy elasterell polyester woven with COOLMAX fibers and wool. I was between sizes and went with the small. While perfect for around-town wear, it’s a hair snug for long cycling outings though still features long-enough sleeves and a much-appreciated lack of billowing. Big bonus points for a subtle rear zippered pocket that’s both a style nod and a perfect phone stash. –AS

Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System, $40

All traveling cyclists know the most crucial ingredient to a successful trip is access to potable water. To guarantee you won't lack this precious liquid on your next tour, check out the BeFree. It's super lightweight and packable, and it couldn't be easier to use. Each replaceable BeFree 0.1 micron microfilter will purify about 1000 liters of water and protect against harmful organisms, removing protozoa (99.99%) and bacteria (99.9999%) to EPA standard.  –MD

Sea to Summit Delta Spork/Knife $4

Once you've secured water, it's time to think about feeding yourself. If you're looking to travel ultralight but still want a utensil to cut food and then shovel it into your pie hole, look no further than the Sea to Summit Spork/Knife. It's constructed of bombproof nylon, its curved ergonomic shape is comfortable in the hand, and, best of all, it weighs less than half an ounce. If you prefer separate utensils, Sea to Summit also offers the 3 Piece Alpha Set for $20. –MD