Tom’s Hunter Cycles 27.5+ Hardtail Loaded Up for the Baja Divide

For the past few months, all I’ve been reading and hearing about is the Baja Divide. Lael and Nicholas created a route last year that would take riders on a 1,700 mile journey from the US-Mexico border down the length of the Baja Penninsula, almost entirely on dirt. Well, dirt and sand. They are two completely different riding substrates. The grand depart took place last week and over 100 cyclists embarked on the journey, two of which being Tom and Sarah Swallow.

In order to prep for their 45-day ride – they’re going out and back on the route – Tom and Sarah rode for two weeks along the Baja Divide route in December. Afterward, they both described their ride as “the hardest thing we’ve ever done.” But at least they now know exactly what they needed in terms of gear. For instance, they left their filter at home, because there is no fresh water on the route, only bottled and filtered water. They’re also confident in their setups, which are very similar, save for Tom is riding a Hunter Cycles 27.5+ hardtail and Sarah is on a carbon S-Works hardtail.

Tom’s bike just looked so damn good all loaded up with Revelate bags the day before they left, so I had to shoot some photos of it. Not only to give Rick props for building such amazing frames, but I rarely get the chance to shoot loaded down hardtails. All of Tom’s little hacks – like those killer King Cage USBs – to make this a proper tourer simply add to the bike’s character.

I want to wish everyone who’s out on the Divide’s course good luck. You can follow Tom and Sarah’s trip on their Instagram.

  • Still using those KC USB’s on my own ride. Love ’em.

  • Brian Richard Walbergh

    That bar set up looks great, who makes those baby bar ends?

    • Rick Hunter made them.

      • Brian Richard Walbergh

        Of course he did! I thought they looked fillet brazed.

  • Sretsok

    Those burned up canteens look pretty cool.

  • nothingfuture

    Got that Coco’s sticker in there!

  • Kerry Nordstrom

    Tom, your shoe’s untied! ; )

  • JimthePE

    I’m just curious how much the added unsprung weight of those water bottles would affect the performance of the fork.

    • Negligible when you consider the other extra weight all over the bike. Bikepacking with a suspension fork is a choice of comfort more than of performance.

    • The weight of the bottles is below the stanchions so it shouldn’t do much at all.

      • JimthePE

        The added inertia below the springs makes it harder for the wheel to follow the ground, decreasing performance in rough terrain. It can help damp out low amplitude road buzz, though. I’m guessing that’s what Morgan Taylor meant.

  • multisportscott

    Awesome set of photos, as per usual.
    What cages are being used on the fork legs? I thought they must be King Cages but I can’t see them on the K C site?

    • I think those are Velo Orange Mojave cages, with 40 oz. Klean Kanteen.

  • Jacob Felton

    I’m seeing no one answered the question about the extra weight on the fork, I just upgraded from a full rigid ss to a bike with gears and a squish fork and was basically wondering the same thing for upcoming trips when it warms up. On a second note I’ve kinda been back and forth on what pedal setup would be best for bike camping; any pros/cons for riding flats as opposed to cycling shoes/clip ins?

    • Andrew Wade

      Weight added to the lowers should not effect the forks performance. Shoes and pedal combo are a personal preference. If I’m going to be gone for a while and doing lots of off the bike hiking or pushing, I think flats are the better option.

      • Jacob Felton

        Gotcha, thanks for the reply.

    • I always tour / bikepack / bike camp with flats and hiking boots or sneakers. I like being able to position my feet all over the pedal, which is crucial during long days and since I’m always shooting photos, I like having comfortable shoes to scramble on rocks with. Plus, it’s one less thing to worry about in terms of cleat placement / wear / pedals breaking.

  • Dexter

    Looks a bike that would be fun without the packs! If only those King Cage USBs were available in the UK…

    • Jon Owen

      hey Dexter,
      You can get them here in the UK. Which is nice.
      Apparently there isn’t a King Cage distributor at the moment, so some outfits are buying direct.
      One is my local bike shop, Ghyllside Cycles in Ambleside, and I know they have USBs because I bought three from them last week!
      Hope that helps,


      • Dexter

        Cheers Jon, will check them out!

  • Alex Ball

    Wow! That’s a really small chainring! I’ve always wondered where the big advantage to 1×11 lies, especially for touring. A second chainring, shifters and cables doesn’t add that much weight, but the difference in flexibility when you add in a bigger chainring for when the going is good or the trail heads up/downhill and narrower jumps in the gears for when you struggle to find the right rhythm must surely be worth the weight penalty and small chance of mechanical problems?

    • Most people riding bikes like this find a 10-42 or 11-42 totally adequate to achieve a mountain/touring friendly low gear and enough top end for flat/downhill riding on knobby tires.

      The smaller jumps between gears argument is somewhat misinformed, as a 10-speed 11-36 cassette has exactly the same jumps between gears as the 11-speed with a 42. Go to a smaller cassette to get smaller jumps and you lose the wider range advantage of the double up front.

      The big advantage lies in a single shifter, and a simple, silent chainring that’s easier to clean and maintain.

      • Alex Ball

        I’d stick with the wide ratio cassette, just add a second chainring. Does no-one remember half-step set-ups any more?

        • Brian Richard Walbergh

          A double with half steps and 10-11 speeds is unnecessary for most people. Those half steps were popular when we only had 6-8 speed narrow range freewheels. With 11 speeds you would have a lot of redundant gears and would spend a lot of time shifting your front derailleur trying to find the “perfect gear” when you could just be riding.

          • Alex Ball

            That’s because with narrow range freewheels there *were* a lot of redundant steps.
            With a wide range freewheel those gaps can be filled by having two closely spaced chainrings.
            These would allow you to have two different shift strategies depending on the terrain.
            If you want a big range shift you can use the rear derailleur and take advantage of those big steps between gears.
            However, if you want a smaller step (say to adjust cadence, for those days when the wind is blowing in your face and one shift down is too “spinny” and one shift up is too hard, then you can use the front shifter to shift to an intermediate gear.

            Throwing a 36 and a 28 into Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator shows only one duplicate.
            It might not make sense for this application, but it would work well for a lot of touring applications and it would be really great to run this through Shimano’s programmable electronic shifting set up.

          • Doubles don’t play nice with 3.0″ tires, at least with standard width bottom brackets. 148mm rear hub spacing and 1x drivetrains make plus bikes happy.

    • Jace Cooke

      A 30t is actually about the largest front ring you’ll see in Baja – plenty of 28s and even 26s too. About as steep & loose as it gets.

  • Scott Sattler

    Great bike and superb photos. Anybody know if Tom is riding with a backpack ? That’s a long trip and he doesn’t appear to have massive storage volume – but then again, its Mexico – pretty warm most days.

    • Jace Cooke

      Tom’s not riding with a backpack, but plenty of riders are.

  • mp

    Now that looks fun. Solid setup!

  • Eli Brock

    Is that an internal dropper routing that pokes out between the downtube and the seattube?

    • rick hunter

      Yes, it’s the guide tube for the housing.

  • rick hunter

    Thanks for the photos John.. Always cool to see a bike getting the crap ridden out out of it.. This was a Nahbs show bike that Tom bought from me and I’m pretty sure he hasn’t stopped riding it since..

  • rick hunter

    Thanks for the photos John.. Always cool to see a bike getting the snot knocked out of it.. This was a Nahbs show bike that Tom bought from me. I don’t think he has stopped riding it since..

    • Bas Rotgans

      Hey Rick, thought you might know this: did this bike have bosses under the downtube for that cage, or is it rigged in a different way?