Dirt Roads / MTB Touring, Personal setups » Steve’s 3-day off-road not-too-extreme setup


This is what I used for a recent three day solo off-road tour incorporating geohash attempt, lots of offroad, and some rather extreme mountain biking.


Bike: Specialized Tricross Sport 2009. Only significant modification is a 26t granny gear – very useful. Vittoria Randonneur Cross Pro 35mm front tyre, Maxxis Locust CX 35mm rear tyre. (The other way would have made more sense, I was lazy.) 600 mL water bottle underneath downtube, collecting mud.

Front: 1.8kg “2 man” tent stuffed into an old sleeping bag, just hooked over an existing Topeak handlebar bag mount. Cable-tied for a bit of extra security.

Frame bag: Epic Designs bag with internal divider (not used) and left side pocket.

  • Main compartment: Exped down mat 7 (bungeed, standing against seat tube), tent poles (along down tube), tent pegs, 2l water bladder, mapholder when not used, some food, softshell jacket, pump.
  • Side pocket: GPS, batteries, cable ties, multitool, spare tube, patch kit
My custom gas tank (Erics photo)

My custom-built Epic Designs gas tank (Eric's photo)

Gas tank (sits on top tube): Epic Designs custom extra large size, to fit my SLR (not taken on this trip). Filled with museli bars and other food, and usually my wallet and phone, and sometimes GPS too. I ended up cabletying the flap to the steerer tube, and just using the two zips to get in and out.

Seat bag: Size #6 Outdoor Research drybag jerry-rigged to hang from seat with a bunch of bungee cords. Inside just my Mont Zodiac 700 down sleeping bag.

Backpack:  Dsend back country backpack

  • Inside: : Burton Pinnacle gore-tex gloves, Gore City III overshoes, rain jacket, first-aid kit (including anti-inflammatories), snow Skins, 2l water bladder (yes another one), water bottle, maps, more food (mmm biltong), sunscreen
  • Outside: Pump sack for exped downmat, containing Icebreaker thermal set, woollen beanie, spare thick socks


How did it go, what would I change? Great, and not much. Although I was never far from civilisation, water is notoriously hard to find in Australia these days – hence the five litres’ capacity. I was very comfortable at night (more than I needed to be), so maybe next time I”ll try just a tarp instead of the full tent.

I used almost everything except the ski gloves, rain jacket and booties – almost no rain. I’d bring repellent next time and a good head torch.

The drybag hooked under the seat almost worked, but I had trouble getting a stable setup where it never rubbed on the wheel. And if I did, it was usually rubbing on my legs. Obviously an Epic/Carousel seat bag is the way to go.


The setup holds together even when you hit a post hole. This is exactly how the bike landed, I just crawled out from underneath.

Hanging the tent over the handlebars worked amazingly well – especially considering how little effort it took! It really helped balance the bike, and because it sits lower than a handlebar bag, didn’t cause any new problems, and best of all, didn’t block my sight of the wheel. For one extremely steep technical section, I took it off and attached it to my backpack, mostly to prevent it falling off. The bike of course isn’t suited to steep slippery narrow single track, but it did ok within the limits of its traction.

Comments (12)

slimOctober 5th, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Nice set up! Did you know the Tricross can take much wider tires? That would help both with traction and rolling resistance on the sort of terrain you seem to be on. Just because the UCI wants to keep you on the (straight and) narrow doesn’t mean you have 😉

SteveOctober 7th, 2009 at 4:46 am

Yeah I know – and I don’t race cyclocross, we don’t even have it here! I guess it’s the tradeoff between speed and comfort/traction. For genuine mountain biking, obviously something like 45mm would be better. But for every kilometre of steep downhill singletrack there seems to be 20 kilometres of flat smooth dirt road… That particular trip had something like 30km of sealed road, 25 km of good dirt road, 15 km of muddy firetrail, 5km of singletrack and 40km of rail trail. Oh, and a few laps of a BMX course 🙂 How on earth do you pick a tyre? Would definitely be interesting to try the widest possible though.

JeffOctober 7th, 2009 at 9:15 am

Looks like a good setup. For me, the seat bag would drive me crazy rubbing my legs when pedaling.
I’m curious why you went with that setup rather than racks and panniers if you’re riding the tricross.
Btw, I love the tricross and own two of them (well, three if you include the single speed).

SteveOctober 9th, 2009 at 5:18 am

For most of the trip, the sleeping bag was in a dry bag attached with a complicated arrangement of bungee cords – not too much leg rub. However I had a lot of trouble keeping it high enough, and eventually wore a hole through the dry bag. By the third day I got sick of trying to rig it up, and only had a short distance of smooth terrain so just did it this simple way.

Why no rack and panniers? Handling, clearance, rigidity, weight, basically. I really like getting off road and find that rack/panniers cause big problems. Especially on soft surfaces, the front end tends to lift up and the whole thing wants to lie down. Clearance – obvious. Rigidity: I’ve never really liked the “clunk” you get every time you go over a bump. I’ve broken a pannier clip in the past with a high speed bump. Probably Ortliebs would be more durable, but also expensive. And a frame bag is so much more fun 😉 I’d also point out that it’s quite easy for me to lift the whole bike over a fence with one hand with this setup, right at the conveniently located “handle”. Not so easy with panniers.

I’ve done quite a few 3-4 day tours with panniers on this bike, and would go back to them for on-road or long-distance tours. The one thing I don’t have in this setup is much capacity for stuff like changes of clothes. Still deciding whether I need the rack for commuting.

PS I also kind of have two tricrosses. The first was badly damaged by a careless driver. Her insurance paid for the new one, then I fixed up the old one and sold it to my gf. Definitely a great, versatile bike.

gfOctober 9th, 2009 at 6:03 am

That’s my tricross now. Get your hands off it! 🙂

JeffOctober 9th, 2009 at 9:36 am

Thanks for the reply. I’ve never toured off road so thanks for the insight. I’m going to have to start working on my own setup and get out there (off road) for a few days (after cyclocross season is over).

WesOctober 24th, 2009 at 11:02 am

Nice setup! I have a Soma Doublecross DC in the works. I’ve been considering bags of Epic or Carousel Design Works when I get the cash. My wallet is a little thin from purchasing Ortlieb bags for road tours.

thelankymanx2December 27th, 2009 at 5:02 am

Where in Aus did you ride? Looks a bit too green to be anywhere south of Cairns 😛 What time of the year was it and how cold?

Where did you get the frame bag in Aus. Have been trying to find one but alas I seem to have to buy them from overseas and would cost big $$$$, well more than I want to spent

Tricrosses rock! Crossers are the perfect commuter, just a pity (or salvation) that no one in Aus rides them cos they shit all over ugly flat bar commuters. Took Tricross from ALbury to Melb on a two day tour with (overloaded) panniers and loved it.

Steve BennettDecember 28th, 2009 at 6:23 am

That ride was Hurstbridge-Yarra Glen-Mt Buffalo-Warburton-Lilydale. The crash is the very bottom of Mt Buffalo heading into Warburton. This was the start of October, cool but not cold in the middle of the night.

The frame bag came from Epic Designs (Alaska) – definitely $$$$ but I lerv it. I love having a bike that feels like a bike…

You’re right that cyclocrosses aren’t that common in australia, but I kind of like that 🙂 I might be biased but I think that for a lot of people they would make more sense than a road bike/hybrid/flat bar roadie/mountain bike. Very versatile, quick, tough.

thelankymanx2December 29th, 2009 at 2:43 pm

It has been a wet Spring so can understand the greeness. I would imagine that it would get chilly up that way during the colder months. That year also means that there is a bit more water around (hopefully) so that would help out, though I understand why you would need to be able to carry so much water.
I assume that you dont mean Mt Buffalo? That would be quite a ride. Did you mean Mt Donna Buang? How did you work out the ride route? Was it a Keiran Ryan special?
Are you an American? I ask due to the use of a cross and the purchase of Epic Design bags?
Seems like you took alot of gears, maybe it just looks like alot. Do you have a weight?

Steve BennettDecember 29th, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Whoops, yes, Mt Donna Buang. Heh. I’m from Melbourne – if there was anyone around here making stuff like Eric’s, I probably would have gone local, but it’s pretty niche. The ride started out as a “Keiran Ryan special”, from Hurstbridge as far as Yarra Glen. Then I decided to chase a geohash (http://wiki.xkcd.com/geohashing/Main_Page) in the yarra ranges. By the time I got to Warburton I was exhausted. I should probably write this up, it was a fun trip 😉

Maybe it was a lot of gear, I’m still new to this so overpacking a bit…will reduce as I go along.

thelankymanx2December 30th, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Yes large frame bags are very niche and will probably be looking at getting something similar in the future, though it is annoying that it would only fit one of my bikes which is annoying. I prefer gear that is compatible between bikes. Definately write it up the more info available the better especially from Aus.
Guess with time you will teach you what you need to bring and what you can do without. A good weather forecast helps too unfortunately living in Australia means you need to carry lots of water

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