Out of interest... why do most 'bikepacking' bikes look like BMX on big tyres?

I’m interested to understand, why is it that nearly all frames aimed at bikepacking look like they’re oversized BMX bikes on big wheels?

I appreciate that most builders are coming at this from a MTB perspective, but it doesn’t naturally make sense to me. Sure the fit for larger tyres, sure the slacker HT angles and and more comfortable fit, but a lot of room is lost in the front triangle that would accommodate frame bags etc, in the sense of what?

Just curious…?

Regards, Ed

A photo is worth a 100% words, can’t say I’ve seen bikepacking bike that looks like a bmx bike. unless you’re talking about some custom builds on the Radivist, because hipster :rofl:

I’ve got a Mason ISO as my bikepacking rig, so it does exactly as you said: Big frame triangle, Slacker HTA, tire clearance, and suspension fork compatibility. Doing all that left if looking a bit odd, but fulfills its needs, and probably a Bike I’ll still ride in 10 years time.


I could definitely fit a frame bag on my Fairlight Secan but I’m personally not a fan of them as my legs rub on them.

Several photos on the Fairlight website of Secans with a framebag:


I can’t think of a single bikepacking bike that I’ve seen that made me think “that looks like a BMX bike.” As far as I can figure from your description, they look like BMX bikes because they have a sloping top tube? This allows more size range and standover for a bike with a taller front end, plus the exposed seatpost is often used to mount more bags.


Thank you for comments, very much appreciated… perhaps my BMX comment was just out of ignorance although the degree of TT slope causing almost a straight line between TT and STs on many frames prompted that. I’m merely interested to understand how MTB geometry has influenced bikepacking so dramatically and what characteristics of bikepacking are calling for the particular geometry that a lot of bikepacking rigs appear to have. You go big tyres on largeish rims and I guess you’re immediately into a bunch of frame trade-offs regarding performance but also luggage attachment? Nice looking bike David…

A couple of my friends had these big moto Salsa Cutthroats which they used for bike packing and general gravel riding. FWIW, these bikes are basically a drop bar mountain bikes. They change the frame a bit to accommodate the drop bar but it’s still a mountain bike.

What I can say is that these two friends with their 65mm tires were practically faster than me in almost every gravel condition especially if it got sandy or extra chunky.

I ride a very light S-Works Crux with 38mm tires. I was probably only faster than them on the road or the rare hard pack smooth gravel. I initially bought the Crux because it appealed to my roadie sensibilities. Had I stayed in that area (southern NM) I would have been looking to also buy a Cutthroat just to keep up!

Buy a gravel bike for your conditions. If you are bike packing, you probably need/want the big tires.

I took a look at Mason cycles and the ISO in particular, thank you David it’s a very nice bike and I can only imagine you’ll easily be riding it in another 10 years, you’ll probably wear out before it does… ;O) How do you find the aero bars and shallow wide drop bar combo? Also importantly how’s the stand-over height? Cheers…

Really… perhaps you need to get out more Dan… exhibit A:

This is fairly typical of bikepacking ‘rigs’ irrespective of make, I still don’t really understand why the super long seat post and steep angled top tube, but hey, I guess it fits the 29’er style? It looks pretty inefficient in terms of baggage and carrying capacity, but then who am I to be the judge.

Please excuse me, I’m not trying to be simply critical… what I’m trying to understand is why this ‘tight’ frame on 29’er wheels for covering long distances over mixed terrain, it doesn’t immediately make sense to me?

But I guess it’s a thing and everyone is doing it, so who am I to question the common wisdom.

Regards, Ed

That doesn’t look like a BMX bike, IMO…a MTB maybe, but definitely not a BMX bike.

As for reasoning of the design, there are a couple of plausible design criteria…

  • Lower center of gravity, especially when loaded with packs.

  • maneuverability / top tube clearance. When you have a bike fully loaded (as pictured) swinging a leg over the saddle to mount the bike becomes increasingly difficult.

The above picture is just a 29" MTB used for bike-packing, right?
I would even say it is a Cotic SolarisMAX

The BMX-look may also have something to do with the long-low-slack geometry of modern MTB’s. And if you go seriously offroad you definitely want to have a low standover height. If you have to put a foot down on terrain that’s lower than your wheels, you will otherwise regret not having enough clearance down there.

The short seat tube is also to allow room for a dropper seatpost. That bike doesn’t appear to have one, but most mountain frames allow for that now.

Okay, now that you point it out with a picture, I can see how a mountain bike frame (and therefore a bikepacking frame) looks similar to a BMX frame, but there’s more to the bike than just the frame. I was mostly noticing the differences, like BMX bikes having quite high rise bars, chunky stems, and singlespeed drivetrains.

Sure, there are singlespeed mountain and bikepacking bikes, their stems are getting as short as BMX stems, and some BMX bikes are being made with disc brakes and suspension forks, but the high rise bars are still pretty unique to BMX.

I agree, bikepacking bikes seem like they should have larger main triangles for better cargo capacity, but that’s making compromises on dropper post length, standover clearance, and triangle bag size. But how much can it really matter if there’s a bento bag in a position adversely affecting the standover clearance? One could rationalize that the extra bags that are added to make up for the smaller main triangle capacity, while increasing the how much can be packed, also make organizing and access to things easier.

Bikepacking bikes are still evolving. As mentioned before, they used to be just mountain bike frames with bags strapped to them. Bike builders may start to reassess the above compromises based on feedback from riders with more and more bikepacking experience.