We’re fans of “run what you brung” but there really are just two choices to make sure you have a great time*:
A gravel bike or a mountain bike. And each will be a compromise at some point on the ride. You don’t need a full suspension, but if that’s all you have, ride it. Front suspension is nice for some sections but not mandatory. We’ve had folks ride Downhill bikes, fat bikes, dual suspension, no suspension. After many years of Rambling, the most all-rounder would be a 29 hardtail with front suspension. But I’ve only ever ridden the routes on my gravel bike.
A “gravel” bike is any 700c wheel bike that can take wider tires. You’ll want to use at least 38c and we recommend 40c if your bike can fit it. We’ve had folks ride Rambles on 1970’s era touring bikes to the most recent carbon fiber wonder machine.
Whether you’re riding a gravel or mountain bike, there are some recommendations:
- Use disc brakes if you can. They just make everything better and if you’re doing the Steamboat edition, your hands will thank you.
- For gearing, bring a lower gear than you think you’ll need. On a gravel bike, I ride a 34/32 and sometimes wish for more. On the Asheville route especially. That route is steep and just keeps coming after you.
- But, gearing is up to you. Folks ride single speeds (even single speed/coaster brakes) and everything in between. Just know what you are getting into.
- Have a good seat.
Niner will have a fleet of bikes available to demo for free. These will be limited but a good chance to try something out if you’d like. More information on this will be provided after registration. Niner is making probably one of the best gravel bikes at the moment and has a full lineup of mountain bike specifically targeted at bikepacking. Check them out.
The bikes on the Ramble are as varied as the folks you’ll meet and become friends with.
Bags for your bike are another consideration. I like frame bags so don’t require racks for my bike. You can travel light on the Ramble by not needing cooking gear so no need to overdo it. A seat bag, frame bag, and handlebar bag are more than enough. But, some folks prefer panniers and racks and you’ll see both on the Ramble. I’ve used both and if the Ramble is your first adventure bike packing, the bag route is the way to go. I’ll use my frame bags for all sorts of rides throughout the year and don’t have to mess with taking racks on or off. The good news is if you’re signing up for the Ramble, Blackburn is offering a pretty sweet discount for you. Head over to their site to check out the different options you have.
* Segways don’t count. Most important is the Ramble, even though low key, isn’t a ride to test out a new piece of gear. Make sure whatever bike you want to use is one you have spent some time with and understand it’s capabilities.