Mawson Trail bikepacking setups

Take a look at the range of bikes we used to conquer the Mawson

Words and Images: James Raison

Check out our Bikepacking the Mawson Trail article once you’re done here to get a full guide to riding the Mawson.

A wide range of bikes are capable of tackling the Mawson so it can be tough to answer exactly what’s best. The trail is mostly gravel bike-able but with enough bumpy and challenging sections to make MTBs a viable choice. So below is my setup in detail, and three other examples for you to use as a guide.

A few tips to start:

  • The range of suitable bikes is between CX bike and short travel dualie. Don’t ride a roadie or anything with a silly amount of travel.

  • Pick the bike that best balances the comfort you want and the discomfort you can handle. For example; a short travel 29er will guarantee you can comfortably handle the small percentage of nasty Mawson sections but isn’t ideal on the open and windy gravel roads that make up most of the trail. At the other end of the spectrum, a gravel bike with 40 mm tyres will blitz most of the Trail with great efficiency but will be tough in the rougher, rockier and slushier parts of the Flinders. It’s all about where you want to be comfortable and fast, and for how long.

  • Parts of the Mawson can be very steep, up to 20%. Choose gears accordingly.

  • Tubeless setup is essential. Your tyres get hammered, assaulted with thorns, and the plushness of lower tubeless pressures are a mercy for your body. I’d highly recommend standardising the sealant used with your ride buddies. It means you can share any sealant the group brings along because mixing them is a big no-no.

  • Rain will ruin any bike. The red dirt ubiquitous for the Mawson Trail is sticky clay in waiting. A decent amount of rain will see it annihilate your bike. Our trip in 2017 was nearly ended after 200 metres of wet red clay road on the first day. Don’t ride if it rains heavily.


Bombtrack Beyond Plus 2.jpg

Bombtrack Beyond + 2, a whip made for bikepacking:

  • Rigid steel frame and carbon fork

  • Thomson seatpost & stem, Bombtrack handlebars

  • Specialized Power saddle

  • SQlab 710 grips, SQlab innerbarends

  • WTB Scraper i40 rims and WTB Trailblazer 27.5x2.8” tyres set tubeless

  • SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain


  • Skingrowsback LUNCHBOX handlebar bag

  • Top tube bags: Bikebagdude Top Tube Garage and Apidura Backcountry Bag

  • 2 Apidura Backcountry Food Pouches.

  • Apidura Expedition saddle pack 14L

  • 2 fork mounted Sea to Summit dry bags on Blackburn Outpost cages.


I have been gradually investing in a very tidy little sleeping setup over the years. Recovering is pretty darn important during strenuous bikepacking and I value a good night sleep. Our trip on the Mawson was most likely going to see us sleeping inside huts but we still had to be prepared for outdoor dirt naps.

  • Mattress: Klymit Static V2 mattress - fairly small and light, and voluminous enough to keep you off the ground even when sleeping on your side.

  • Sleeping bag: Sea to Summit Spark SP3 + Kathmandu silk bag liner.

  • Pillow: Sea to Summit Ultralight - I really rate these. They’re tiny and damn comfy. Well worth it.

  • Bivy: Kathmandu XT.


I’ve never bothered with dynamo hubs just because getting another wheel built is expensive. I use a simple USB battery pack and 2-port USB charger. Use power wisely, plug into wall sockets when available and you’re all set.

  • Battery pack: Xiao Mi 10,000 mAh battery pack.

  • Light: Exposure Joystick Mk13.

  • Garmin Edge 520.

  • Pixel 2 XL.

Mechanicals: Front WTB Trailblazer had a small sidewall split that wouldn’t seal so I had to tube the front wheel. The slow leak from the sidewall split caused a minor stack and a bent hanger which was quite a pain in the arse for the last few hundred kms.

Get a closer look with my YouTube video:


Curve GMX.jpg

I love this bike. It has conquered the Mawson Trail before under Jesse Carlsson. It’s everything I’d want in a Mawson bike with big tyres, drop bars, heaps of mounting points, and titanium frame.


  • 29er Maxxis Ikon tyres, 2.3” front and 2.0” rear.

  • SRAM Force 1 drivetrain, 44t chainring and 10-42 cassette.

  • Pedal Ed frame bag, saddle bag, and handlebar bag.

  • Oveja Negra WACK PACK Handlebar bag.

  • No front light. WTF Matt?

Mechanicals: A bottle cage bolt had to be tightened. This bike was more reliable than the sun rising.


All City Cycles Macho Man.jpg

Carl’s Macho Man was a plucky bike with a wonderfully simple setup. This was the coolest bike in our group for sure.


  • CroMoly frame.

  • Shockstop Suspension Stem.

  • WTB Riddler 37 mm tyres.

  • 2x SRAM drivetrain.

  • Hydro disc brakes.

  • Front Sea to Summit dry bag strapped to a rack, Treadlite frame bag and top tube bag, Apidura saddle bag.

Mechanicals: Strange tyre issue with the casing and inner separating slightly and creating a bump in the wheel. Karl went full bush mechanic and used a tube, and some electrical tape to keep the tyre together and it made the final 200 km.


Flanders Forte.jpg

Jo and Angus were our only ambassadors to the Republic of Carbon, running their trusted Flanders Forte CX bikes. Us metal bikers were very jealous of how light and fast their setups were.


  • Carbon Flanders Forte Frame

  • Vittoria Terreno Dry 38mm tyres with Stan’s sealant

  • SRAM Rival HRD 1x - 40t chainring, Jo pushed a mega 11-32 cassette, Angus a 10-42

  • Mixture of bags from Blackburn and Treadlite.

  • Crank Brothers pedals.

Mechanicals: One of Angus’s tyres needed some sealant added after something unfriendly found its way in. Hilariously, one of Angus’s pedals fell off in Parachilna as the bikes were getting loaded up for the drive home. Very lucky!

Tune in soon for our full Mawson Trail 2019 article! New 7-day itinerary, dirt naps, and 300% stinkier than our 2017 Mawson Trail guide.