Readers Rig is a series of articles that showcases bikepacking kits from riders around the world. Be it long rides or short, races or slogs, everyone has their own unique set up. We hope you enjoy these rigs and maybe pick up a thing or two to add to your set up.

Kristen Tonsager
Denver, Colorado
Job: Director of Interior Design

I am an athlete, a lover of adventure, and a Colorado native.  I grew up playing sports, and ultimately landed a volleyball scholarship that took me to the East Coast.  I returned to Colorado after college and met my future husband (Joe), who happened to be really into mountain biking.  Growing up, my parents owned a bike shop in Northern Colorado where they did basic repairs, but we never took our bikes off the path.  So, at age 27 I went on my first mountain bike ride.  By the end of that first ride, I knew mountain biking could challenge me, but I didn’t realize how much it would change me.  7 years later, and I am addicted.  Addicted to the rush of the descent, the grind of the climbs, and constantly daydreaming about the next adventure.  I started bikepacking about 4 years ago and have found that it marries everything I want to do, all at once: I get to ride my bike, I get to experience places that very few people get to see, and I get to spend time with my husband.  We have bikepacked through Europe, all over Colorado, Utah, Minnesota, and most recently completed the Colorado Trail (Denver to Durango) in 12 days and 8 hours in August 2016.  Pegasus was my trusty steed – a 650b+ hardtail.  Why a hardtail you ask?  With the b+ tires and added frame bag space, it paid dividends in traction, comfort, and capacity.  I’m planning to reverse the route next year and perhaps entertain the thought of a full suspension bike, but this Zen totally rocks my world.readers-rig-kristen-tonsager-2

Bike Build: I call her Pegasus: Zen EXP, 650b+, Size: XL, running 1×10, tubeless, Industry Nine hubs, Manitou Magnum 120mm fork, Selle Anatomica saddle, RaceFace Atlas handlebars, ESI foam grips, Shimano pedals, RaceFace cranks, Avid BB7 stainless brakes/levers, WTB Scraper rims, WTB Trail boss 3.0 (rear 18psi), WTB Bridger 3.0 (front 13psi).

Bike Bags: JPaks kit – FramePak, SeatPak, HandlebarPak, Snakpak, Ruksaks x 2, ManythingPak (mounted in anything cage), ToolPak

Clothing: Novarra Boyshort chamois, Victoria’s Secret Angel sports bra, prAna Jasmine Knickers, SmartWool NTS Micro 150 t-Shirt, Surly wool long sleeve, SmartWool midweight long underwear, Woolie-Boolie knee-high Socks, Woolrich crew socks, Jockey synthetic long sleeve, North Face Thermoball hoodie synthetic jacket, Showers Pass rain pants, North Face rain jacket, Fox Digit MTB gloves, Giro Westerly wool gloves, Icebreaker merino wool beanie, Giro Terraduro shoes, Giro Xara helmet, Halo sweatband, and for a few days I sported some very stylish white trash bags on my feet.readers-rig-kristen-tonsager-181328

Sleep System: REI Halo 40° sleeping bag , Exped SynmatUL sleeping pad, Nemo Equipment Fillo Elite ultralite backpacking pillow

Shelter: Hyperlite Cuben Tarp Tent with ZPacks Cuben Fiber Bathtub and a homemade bug net

Extra Gear: Keen Clearwater sandals (priceless!), Sawyer Water Filter with Platypus bags for carrying additional water, Camelbak Long-Neck Water Beast Reservoir [70 oz], Salsa Titanium mug, Jetboil (mostly for boiling water for dinners, but more importantly making french press coffee every morning), clear vinyl phone/route holder by JPaks (also priceless!), lots of snacks (the Chicken Sriracha bar by Epic is epic!), leatherman, wet wipes, hand-sanitizer, camp towel, bandana, Light My Fire ppork, Sea-to-Summit X-Mug, Amoeba bike light, Lezyne head Lamp, Insulated butt pad (cut from old foam sleeping pad), all terrain Herbal Armor insect repellant, KT Tape, Icy Hot, field notes notebook, Samsung S5 phone for navigation (Colorado Trail App).  

Instagram: krissym5 


  1. Great write up Kristen! You and Joe are AWESOME!!!!!

  2. You rock.

  3. Joseph Koziol

    I too like a hard tail! What did your fully loaded Pegasus weigh?

  4. How tall you are Kristen? I wonder why you have XL size Zen. I am fan of larger frame bikes but there are always people telling me it is not good choice. Keep riding and writing. It is so kind you shared your gear setup.

    Have you fitted XL bike to your body frame somewhere, or you just took it and started riding.

    • Kristen Tonsager

      Hi Zoran! I am 6′-1″ and originally thought I would go with the L, but my husband has the XL version (he is 6′-2″), and after talking with the guys at Zen, I was convinced on the XL. The reason being one of the guys who is 6′-0″ had the seat post almost fully maxed out on the L frame. I have no issue with the stand over height and the seat post sits in a comfortable position with room to move up/down.

  5. GMAndres, USN(ret)

    I am curious on the XL size as well….I am on the verge of pulling the trigger on a Chumba Stella Ti….they are encouraging me to go Large….Im 6’2″ with a 34″ inseam.

    • Kristen Tonsager

      Hey! I’m 6′-1″ with about a 32/33″ inseam. When choosing a bikepacking rig, I would choose the larger frame size! Cheers!

  6. you seem to have spd pedals?? what about the keen clearwater sandals, have not found them with cleats, would really like to. the keen commuter sandals are not sandals any more, they are shoes with holes in them..
    also your thoughts of having a seat bag on a hardtail. that bag means a lot of vibrating momentum on the seat post, would it not be better to have rear rack? or in my world keeping the seat bag and use a bike with rear suspension minimizing that momentum. or do you have an extra long heavy-duty seat post:) ?

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