Wheels & Tires
Although the Voytek can take up to 4.6 inch tires (with a 26 inch wheel), our requirements for long distance bikepacking are best met with the combination of a 27.5 inch wheel and 3 inch tire. Neither of us are particularly tall, so 27.5 (especially with a 3 inch tire) suits us best for technical riding. Because the clearance of the frame is designed for a fat tire, when running 3 inch, we have a ton of clearance all around both wheels which makes riding in mud a breeze. Conditions would have to be really bad for this wheel combination to get clogged.
We have spent a lot of time in past months in sandy regions and on sometimes very rough roads (with no suspension fork) so 3 inch tires have been our go-to as they strike a balance between efficiency-over-distance and traction/float. However if you were running a suspension fork, or riding firmer and less extreme conditions, 2.6–2.8 would be ideal for long distance riding on this bike, giving you even more generous clearance for mud. Likewise, were we on a shorter trip with desert riding or rocky trails, we’d probably opt for a 4 inch tire.
Our rim of choice, the Hope Technology 35W, is at the narrow end of the spectrum for a 3 inch tire (40mm external), but the reason for this is that plus size tires are very difficult/expensive to obtain outside of a select few cities in Latin America, so we like to have the option to run a more widely availble tire size, such as 2.35, in an emergency. A narrower rim saves us weight and we like that this model is also eyeleted for longevity.
The traditional school of thought for heavy loads and long distance is that 36 spokes are the way to go, however, in general plus rims have greater inherent strength making 32 spoke wheels sufficiently strong as long as the rim is eyeleted, they have strong spokes and are correctly tensioned. We have not broken a spoke on these bikes yet.
Hope Technology supplied us Fatsno Pro 4 hubs to combine with their rims and so far these have not skipped a beat, despite some extremely wet and dusty riding conditions for days at a time.
Riding these Voyteks was the first time either of us had used a 1x drivetrain (Sram Eagle GX), which again is a system that has its skeptics when used for long distance bikepacking. We have found that the pros, so far, outweigh the cons of these drivetrains for touring, but this will also depend on the riding style and requirements of individual riders.
For us, with older knees and a penchant for finding rough and remote roads that are often steep, an easy climbing gear is key. So we paired the 10–50 12-speed cassette with a 28 tooth Wolftooth CAMO stainless chainring, giving us a minimum (easiest) gear-inch of 16.24, which has been enough, even with nearly 3 weeks food on board. We do get ‘spun out’ riding paved descents, but while touring this is not an issue for us. If were running a consistently lighter load (say for short trips back home) we’d use a 30 or 32 chain ring.
Eliminating the front deurailler saves weight and improves mud clearance, providing a more capable bike when conditions are bad and after six months now we have not missed our big chainrings at all.
We put new chains on the bikes after roughly 1800km of tough riding but due to lack of availability didn’t try to change them again until we’d done nearly another 4000km, by which time the second chain had stretched enough to have worn the chainring causing the new one to catch badly on the teeth. Interestingly that third chain seemed to work ok with the cassette, but this probably confirms that 12 speed chains do stretch faster than 10 and 11 speed, and require regular changes to extend longevity of the rest of the drivetrain.