June 2020 Kansas Flint Hills Bikepacking

I just finished up a short bike tour in eastern Kansas. It ended up being just over 400 miles in 7 days. The tour was about half solo and half with a small group.

The group had originally been scheduled to ride the Biking Across Kansas tour, but that event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so they decided to do their own version. They had someone drive them out to the Colorado border, then rode the Trans-America Bicycle Route through mid-Kansas, before shifting over to ride the Flint Hills Trail, ending up at the Missouri border.

I opted to ride a loop, starting and ending in Iola, and overnighting in Madison, Cottonwood Falls, Hillsboro, Council Grove, Pomona, and Richmond. I met up with the group in Hillsboro, and split off from them in Osawatomie.

I rode my Salsa Journeyman, set up pretty much the same way as on my 2019 tour, except:

  • I used a 650b wheelset (the stock wheelset), shod with Panaracer Gravel King tires (650b x 48), setup tubeless. I’ve had these tires for awhile, but it’s the first time I’ve used them on a tour. These are semi-slicks, with a nice comfy ride and seem to roll pretty well. They worked flawlessly.
  • I had to retire my Moosetreks frame bag after its zipper failed. This was a fine bag, but once the zipper goes, it’s kind of useless. My understanding is that the zipper has been improved in later models of this bag. I replaced it with an Ibera Triangle Frame Bag, which is an inexpensive Chinese brand. Probably not the greatest quality, but I had it on hand, and it worked fine on this tour.
  • I used some new panniers, Altura Ultralite Vortex 30 Panniers. Altura is a UK brand, and this particular model seems to be discontinued. It’s basically a pair of dry bags that can be attached to a rack. The mounting system is very fiddly and not designed very well, but with a bit of extra velcro, I made it work, and the panniers worked fine on this tour. Their main advantage is weight, which at 550 grams, is considerably less than a pair of Ortlieb Backroller Panniers (1900 grams for 40 liters), and less than a single Roswheel Sahoo 14891 Pannier (720 grams for 15 liters), which is what I used on the 2019 tour.
  • Since I ran a pair of rear panniers, I dropped the handlebar roll bag that I had used on the previous tour.
  • I added a pair of Topeak Versacage‘s to the fork. I used them to hold extra hydration: a Nalgene-style bottle on one side, and a Gatorade bottle on the other, each in an insulated bag. Not sure if that’s the most efficient use of those cages, but it worked fine.
  • For even more water capacity, I added an insulated bag attached to the rear rack. I ended up not using that water too often, but with long dry hot miles through remote Flint Hills country, it was reassuring to have.

I ran aero bars again, in a similar configuration as last time. Although I did occasionally use them for their intended purpose, I actually value them more as accessory mounts. In this case, I used them to carry a bluetooth speaker (Puridea), and an extra bottle between the bars. The bungee straps provide a place to attach even more small items, if needed. Here is a picture of my cockpit. A bit busy, perhaps, but very flexible and functional:

Some more photos from the trip:

Camping at Madison City Lake (Alps Mystique 1.5 tent).
Crossing a cattle guard in the Kansas Flint Hills open range.
On the Flint Hills Trail, with the group.
Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) along the Flint Hills Trail.
At the depot along the Prairie Spirit Trail in Garnett KS.



DirtBum Written by:

I enjoy riding bicycles all over -- city streets, suburbia, rural roads, gravel roads, dirt roads, rail-trails, and singletrack. I love exploring the countryside and finding the interesting and historical treasures hidden in plain sight. You can follow my rides on Strava.