Depending on what part of the country you live in, you may have experienced quite the winter this year. Up here in Washington/Northern Idaho, that was definitely the case. That said, the skiing was incredible but it’s made for a slow start to spring bikepacking.
On April 31st I was finally able to get out and go camping off of the Reid Bikes Vice 2.0, and boy did it impress. Upon first look, the bike seems to be a good all-around platform for bikepacking but also seems to be a bit “base-model-ish”. When I got my hands on the Vice I rode it primarily around town at many of our local trailheads, and the rigid trail bike and the slack geometry had already impressed me with its capabilities. The geometry in conjunction with the wide tire clearance make this a very capable trail-packing rig.
With enough snow having melted off in the mountains I decided it was time to head for the Bead Lake Loop on the border of Washington and Idaho. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to pay this one a visit. The views from the top section of forest service road are insane as you look down at the lake you’re about to descend upon. The singletrack along the lake is something else as well. From massive cedar groves to largely exposed sections of sidehill, it’ll keep you on your toes. At times the risk of falling into the freezing cold water doesn’t outweigh the reward of saying you stayed on the bike.
Before we get too deep into the route itself, let’s talk about the build changes I made to the bike before taking it out. The bike comes stock with an Alexrims set of + size wheels with WTB Ranger 2.8 tires. I really like the Ranger’s but thought that with the risk of snow I might as well cram as large a tire as possible between those chain stays. That said, I chose to use a set of Stan’s Flow MK3 wheels with Maxxis Chronicle 3.0 tires. They fit swimmingly but I did wrap the drive side chain stay to keep the derailleur cable housing away from the tire, along with re-routing the rear brake hose. Before having secured these better, I ran into a little rub at times. From there I really only swapped out the bars for some h-bars and the rotors for some TRP rotors. I swapped the bars simply for my own comfort, the 710mm riser bar that the bike comes with is great, but I like the hand positions available with the h-bar. I swapped the rotors to have a little better cooling properties, I would probably recommend stepping it up even more if you’re spending days on end on this bike (some sort of two piece rotor with heat sinks). I left the Deore drivetrain alone along with the entry level Shimano hydraulic brakes.
As we started up the forest service road, it became clear that we were going to run into snow. We rode about 5 miles before we ran into a few hike-a-bike sections. Trudging on through the snow left on the road, our hopes were high until we turned around a knob only to find the road covered in about 2 feet of snow anywhere there was shade… so we started hoofing it. We followed the tracks of elk with fresh scat and kept hoping that around every corner we would see a sun break and find some dirt once again. Unfortunately the higher we went the more snow there was, not only “compacted” on the road but also in the trees now. With the sun dropping we decided we would flip around and take the entrance to the lakeside singletrack we had planned on finishing our loop at.
The descent was fast. Once riding loaded downhill I realized that a 180mm rotor in the rear would’ve been quite nice. We arrived at the singletrack with plenty of light to cruise into a good lakeside campsite. As I said before, the lake is littered with cedar groves and the dirt was nothing short of hero-status. The bike really began to shine when it came to the technical rocky sections of trail. Simply put, it climbs like a mountain goat and with the wide tire clearance it rolls over everything like a monster truck.
The only thing that I would say this bike lacks is more braze-ons. The frame has spots for racks on the front and in the rear but I’m partial to running without any racks besides cages. The frame space on the medium is also pretty limited, the top-tube and down-tube meeting where they do cuts out a good bit of useable space. I understand why they ran with oversized alloy tubing for strength and gusseted the downtube, but I’m always a fan of more space. I ran my sleeping pad hanging off the bottom of the downtube with an alpine touring strap, but a bottle cage mount on the bottom would be another nice touch for more carrying capacity.
All in all I would highly recommend the Vice 2.0. I think this bike is especially important with the growth the bikepacking world has seen in this past year. Custom steel frame prices are intimidating for those who are first approaching the bikepacking world, and the Vice is coming in at a very approachable price point of $999. I hope to see more and more butts on bikes, and especially more people enjoying bikepacking and bicycle touring in general. With the Vice 2.0 you definitely get a lot of bang for your buck.