Golden Saddle Rides: 44 Bikes 27.5+ Rigid MTB – Ryan Wilson

Golden Saddle Rides: 44 Bikes 27.5+ Rigid MTB
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson

As I was planning for this trip to South America I started thinking about what bike would be ideal to tackle a broad range of terrain and would be comfortable over the long haul. I went back and forth through a number of options, but I never quite found a stock option that fit all of my criteria (and fit me). I knew I wanted a rigid steel frame that could fit a plus sized tire, have loads of mounts, thru-axles, ample mud clearances, and a good amount of space for a frame bag. I started to focus in on B+ as the happy medium between 29 and 29+. I also liked the versatility of being able to put on a standard 29er wheelset at some point in the future without it throwing the geometry way out of whack.

With that in mind, John immediately connected with Kristofer Henry at 44 bikes in New Hampshire, who built his hardtail 29er Marauder last year, and we worked out all of the details. Kris is massively knowledgable on building a bike that is going to ride well, so other than my handful of specifics, I left him to dial it in.

Golden Saddle Cyclery
handled the build with a pair of tubeless Maxxis IKON+’s on Velocity Dually wheels laced to Industry 9 and SON hubs, a SRAM GX group, and all of the Porcelain Rocket, Jones, Paul, Wolf Tooth, and Thomson bells and whistles.

Much of the setup for me revolves around the front rack/bag setup. After my last two trips, I knew I needed to change it up from a standard dry bag bikepacking setup. I needed somewhere to be able to safely store my camera and computer, and have a way to easily remove it all from the bike to bring with me when I go into a restaurant, shop, or hike. It also still had to be easy to access my camera while I was on the bike. On previous trips, these things were split up and thrown in smaller bags that don’t come off the bike easily. I’d end up with things sitting out-of-sight, and constantly worrying about them, or pulling them out of the bags and flashing them around in front of everyone. Both are bad options.

44 Bikes 27.5+ Rigid MTB

The F-Stop Kenti seemed to be the closest to what I needed, so I ordered one hoping I could customize it to mount on the rack. As it turned out, the number and placement of straps made this relatively easy and afforded multiple secure mounting positions. I had the straps reinforced (thanks mom!), cut off the bulky waist band to minimize clutter, and added a strap to cinch down the shoulder straps when I wanted to mount it to the bike. While I was a little concerned about the weight and position, it hasn’t been a problem at all thus far. The added benefit of being able to remove the bag and wear it as a backpack to improve handling on more technical descents makes it the best option I’ve tried so far by a long shot.


Follow 44 Bikes on Instagram, Ryan on Instagram and at his Tumblr. If you want a custom build like this and live in Los Angeles, hit up Golden Saddle Cyclery.


  • recurrecur

    That front fork!
    Both a front rack, and bottle cages? Genius.

    • doub

      Salsa has been doing the fork-mounted bottle cages since at least the launch of the Fargo. I love them!

      • recurrecur

        I thought the Salsa forks put the cage mounts facing forward, where they would interfere with a front rack?
        I could be wrong.

        • doub

          I think it depends upon the year & model. My gen2 Fargo (’09) has them in this same 4&8 o’clock position with options to mount higher or lower on the fork. With cages you can still run a pannier setup as well as a front rack.

    • The bottle cages are mounted directly to the fork.

    • The fork’s details are as follows (there’s a lot going on): Tapered / Uni-crown / 15mm TA with internal routing for Son generator hub. Mounts for both a Pass and Stow rack but also ability to run traditional low rider mounts too. Bottle mounts on fork legs are Salsa Anything Mount configuration. Which is 3 bottle holes spaced at 64mm apart – so standard bottle mount which is stacked – so he could theoretically run Anything cages or run a set of bottle cages high or low.

      • recurrecur

        I’m giving you a standing ovation right now

        • Thanks you. The bike really came together nicely but that was really aided by asking Ryan a bunch of questions and getting a good idea of the “how” he would be using the bicycle. That really helped to inform what needed to happen. He also had some specific requests based on previous builds / experience. His wants were translated into what he needed. So we worked together from the start to solve those issues and come up with clean and simple solutions that are functionally driven.

  • I am so happy to finally see this thing kitted out. The Fstop bag Idea makes a hell of a lot of sense. This is great. Be safe in your travels, cannot wait for more coverage!

  • Kerry Nordstrom

    Wow, great idea with the backpack. Do you find that it’s going to put your computer and camera at risk of taking too many hits by being strapped directly to the rack? I see in one photo you have it sort of cantilevered away from the rack and strapped to the bars…it seems like that would isolate the load from direct impact when on rough descents.

    • I’ve had my cameras in a wald basket in that Monkey Wrench bag with no padding before and it’s been fine. “Pro” level stuff is resilient and the F Stop bag has plenty of padding.

  • Michael Schneider

    I loved visiting Peru, great place to explore. I need to do some biking there now that i have seen this! I remember it getting pretty cold there at night, was this a problem for your trip?

  • Will Ashe

    Those pedals look great!

  • So good. What’s the smaller bag strapped below the saddlepack?

    • Tripod

      • multisportscott

        Any idea what Tripod that is? Fantastically small looking package. This set up is so tight for a photo centric tour…

  • Erik_A

    What model front rack?

  • J P

    Great build!

    What pedals are those?

  • Brian Sims

    Brilliant work as always Kris! There are so many YESs going on with this whole rig. Major kudos!

    • Thank you. Although I’m not on the trip, it’s really something unique to build something for someone and then see how far it’s taken them.

  • James Shingles

    a gear break down would be sweet!

  • tsmak31

    What pedals are those?

  • ap

    Pretty neat bicycle.
    Laptop too in the fstop backpack?

  • Richard Carle
  • Holger Unseld

    Why are you not using a rear rack?

    • Sebastian Burnell

      I guess to keep as much stuff as possible closer to the center of gravity, to improve handling…
      And what is more, a rear rack looks shi*. All the dirty little bags make this bike even more “fury road”

    • The bike is low trail, it’s designed to specifically carry the weight on the front. That way you can get out of the saddle, without a rear rack and bags sloshing around. Also, if you have to push the bike up a trail, it’s easier to do so.

      • rocketman

        Low trail with BPlus wheels? Love to hear the geo details on this.

        • Presently working on getting some content for John on this actually. To be continued.

      • Not only that, but a bike carries about 70% of the weight on the rear wheel anyways because of the rider. Having more weight in the front distributes weight better so your rear wheel doesn’t explode. It’s smart, if I were building a touring + bike I’d absolutely go low trail.

  • I had a very similar set-up for my recent tour of Iceland (I’m actually in the airport in Keflavik right now). I don’t trust a camera on the bike at all, so my camera is on my back in a backpack about the same size. My wheels are 29+ (It’s a Pugsley)

    That big roll on my rear rack is a 2-person, 4-season tent since I’m touring with my girlfriend, and I was really glad to have it!

    • Chris W

      Jealous! I’m dreaming up a similar trip for summer 2018 (2017 is booked up with work unfortunately). Is it doable on ‘cross bikes or do you suggest the 27.5+/29+ platform?

      When I get a minute I’ll be browsing through all your blog posts longingly.

      • It’s “doable” in that we saw people doing it, but for the roads we preferred, I’d say 2.4″ tire minimum or you’ll just be miserable.

    • I’m planning a tour in Iceland in July 2016; about a fortnight leaving from and ending in Reykjavik, using the cycletracks and equestrian trails in the city, and the unpaved (black!) tracks and trails elsewhere.

      The idea is to go north.

      I’m doing it on a single speed Troll, the same one I’ll use for my Great Divide ride in a few weeks.

      • Go east instead of north. You can pick up the F-roads to the interior faster, and you don’t need to worry about the north-side tunnel, which doesn’t allow bicycles.

  • Jace Cooke

    Ryan/John, any updates on how well the IKON+’s are holding up?

  • paulj

    Does anyone know what the little seatpost rack thats holding up the seatpost bag is? or is custom made?

  • Ryan stayed with us a few weeks ago and his setup is pretty amazing. Most of our travelers are on the TransAm and ride your classic touring rig with the panniers front and back. When Ryan rolled in it was like seeing a dune buggy among touring sedans. You can catch a glimpse of his rig here…

    • Must be a different Ryan!

      • Indeed it was. The coincidence is uncanny. Our guest was riding an identical setup and his name was Ryan. He’s from L.A./San Diego. In looking back through the guest book at the hostel, it was Ryan Forrest Thiele. Well, if you ever get out to Oregon, look us up. Good trails, roads and scenery await your lens.

  • Alex

    Might sound like an odd question – but with for a tour like this with flat pedals – what sort of shoes are you wearing for the riding?

    • I’m wearing a pair of Vasque hiking shoes. I wanted something that was pretty bomb proof / water resistant and comfortable off-the-bike. I was a little worried about the on-the-bike performance, but honestly I’ve never even thought twice about them while riding.