Building My Rig: A Work in Progress

Building My Rig: A Work in Progress

Building My Rig: A Work in Progress

Be it a quick morning trail run or a multi-day bikepacking trip, I’ve always taken joy in dialing in the kit required to complete the task with as little friction as possible.

From a young age, I took great joy in crafting survival kits, bug-out-bags and ultralight hiking kits. Now that my interest has shifted towards cycling, I have allocated my focus towards bikepacking and have always approached it through my own lens and philosophy. 

Build Philosophy

My philosophy on bikepacking kit has always revolved around the core elements of minimalism, simplicity and as much analog componentry as possible. Computers, highly technical proprietary bullshit and difficult-to-maintain things are what I am seeking refuge from when I hop on the bike for a quick overnighter or when I saddle up for a long day on gravel roads. 

Simplicity, reliability, and versatility are top of mind. 

I spend enough time fixing other people's stuff. My goal when on the bike is to feel as close to the natural world as possible, and the core principles of simplicity, reliability and versatility minimize the barrier between my sense of self and the world around me by allowing me to forget my equipment is even there. 

Technology, noisy marketing blabber and the latest and greatest tech invariably detract and distract from the quiet and passive but awe-inspiring beauty of the natural world. 

All of these ideas have been applied as well as possible to my current bike build and set up. Mind you, it’s an ongoing project and it will evolve over time. Right now, there are a few loose ends and some mild dissatisfaction. Largely, I am very happy with my current build. 

Frame Choice

The most important choice on any bike build is the frame. I had been eyeing up the Surly Bridge Club for years, but in the end the All-City Gorilla Monsoon’s thru-axle setup, lugged, double-crowned fork, and 27.5” large tire clearance made it a more appealing option for riding both loaded and unloaded. 

The geometry is also suited for both drop bars and flat bars, so the amount of potential for future builds was nearly endless. I could build a zippy drop bar gravel rocket with 40mm tires or a heavy hauling dump truck on 2.35” wide rubber for grocery gettin’ and loaded touring. 

The frame is incredibly versatile. I knew I wanted a steel frame, but I loved that I wouldn’t need to compromise with quick-release wheels that often lead to brake rub and reduced stiffness/strength. The thru-axles also vastly expanded the amount of modern hub options available for future wheel builds. 

Oh, and the pop of purple is a nice psychological tailwind on a long, rainy ride. 


I opted for flat bars. Virtually all of my bikes over the years have been drop bar builds, and for good reason. Drops offer a lot more hand positions and a more aerodynamic, forward leaning stance on the bike, which can be huge on long days. Nevertheless, I wanted to try something new. Because I was building this bike around bikepacking and carrying large front loads, I figured the additional leverage I would have over the front of the bike would be a good excuse to break away from the drop bar meta and try something new. 

So far, I’m loving the extra comfort and control I’ve gained with flat bars, but I am admittedly envious of the speed and three hand positions of drop bars when I’m cruising on smoother, less technical gravel and riding without a load. 


I ended up choosing a gravel groupset over a full blown mountain bike drivetrain. I still wanted some high end gearing for unloaded riding, leveraging the rare tailwind, and taking advantage of a long downhill. I can always slap a smaller chainring on the front if I need more low-end gearing, and the GRX groupset I opted for is substantially lighter than a full blown SRAM Eagle setup. 

I hung some simple and inexpensive Shimano hydraulic brakes on the build for some affordable and powerful stopping power. 

Rack & Basket

Racks are a must. I have tried pure bikepacking bag setups, and I just can’t warm up to them. I love the idea of bags directly affixing to the bike frame via straps, but I can’t stand the constant swaying and shaking of a seat pack, as well as its limited capacity.  

I love the simplicity, durability and versatility of the humble rear rack. I can slap panniers on it, strap a tent on there, and even carry a load of firewood from the gift shop back to my campsite. An additional (and rarely mentioned) benefit of a rear rack is that, when it is loaded, it does a fantastic job of dispersing small vibrations and impacts. The cargo and the movement in the rack absorbs a noticeable amount of energy from the road, smoothing out the ride. 

Unfortunately, my 1372 Wald basket is not currently supported by a front rack. The stock support stays it comes with are flimsy and the fasteners holding them in place frequently back out of the fork mounts. They can support a decent amount of weight, but they’re constantly flexing and bowing. Soon, I will mount the basket to a front porteur rack for extra strength and to bring the basket closer to the wheel for a lower center of gravity.


The wheels on this build are probably the biggest point of dissatisfaction for me. I snatched these suckers for a song from a guy I built up a custom bike for. They work. 

Eventually, I’ll replace them with the hoops of my dreams: a high-polish set of Velocity rims laced to an all silver SON front dynamo hub and a rear White Industries CLD hub, also donning a nice high polish sheen. For now, however, I rely on battery operated lights and a large power bank to charge my cell phone. 

Pedals & Cockpit

I selected the Wolftooth Ripsaw pedals for their convex profile, sick CNC lines and silvery shine. I love to use products that are engineered and manufactured in the U.S. when possible, and these puppies were machined from a single block of alloy up in Minnesota. The convex pedal profile meshes nicely with my midfoot position, keying perfectly into the arch of my foot and giving me a perfectly stable and grippy platform to push against. 

Speaking of Made in USA products, I chose a Paul Components Boxcar Stem to hold my handlebars in place. It looks great, is very sturdy (don’t overtorque these machined alloy parts, though. They’re prone to cracking!) and was made by a fellow American getting paid a living wage. 

The Soma Dream Lowdown Riser Bar ended up on this bike for its perfect rise and sweep profile. It put me in the goldilocks-zone of reach, stack and control. It keyed my body in with my Brooks B17 leather saddle phenomenally and makes for some really comfortable days on the bike. In order to get the correct saddle setback, I had to go on a deep dive to find the Interloc Racing Designs Wayback seatpost, which gives me enough setback (50mms!) to accommodate for the B17’s shorter seat rails.  


Overall, I’m really happy with this bike. I’ve already taken it on half a dozen long days in the saddle and a few overnights. I’m happy to say that it has faithfully served its purpose: hauling my body and equipment to my destination simply and reliably through a variety of terrain; be it asphalt, gravel, or singletrack. 

Build Kit:

Frame: All-City Gorilla Monsoon

Groupset: GRX 11 Speed

Brakes: Alivio Hydraulic

Wheels: Used-takeoff 650b WTB wheels

Tires: 27.5 x 2.25 Panaracer SK+

Bars: Soma Lowdown Dream Riser

Stem: Paul Components Boxcar Stem

Rear Rack: Axiom Streamliner Disc

Basket: Wald 1372 Basket w PDW Loot Bag

Grips: Lizard Skin North Shore Grips

Pedals: Wolftooth Ripsaw 

Bottle Cages: Wolftooth Stainless Morse Cage

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