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Two folding bikes that are great for packrafting

Since we last wrote about bikerafting a year ago, several folks have e-mailed for an update, so here it is, from Ron, the Flatbike customer new to bikerafting who had just purchased a CHANGE 611 folding rugged hybrid. (This model has since been replaced by the CHANGE 811 rugged folding hybrid with internal cabling, making it even better for bikerafting).

But first… the basic concept about bikerafting, sometimes called bike packing or packrafting, although technically you can carry a packraft without a bike. (You just start wishing you had a bike).

The goal: Remote adventures on land and water.

Combine the freedom of a mountain bike with the freedom of an inflatable raft, and you can have all kinds of adventures.

bikerafting on a river

Bikerafting the Sacred Headwaters, British Columbia. [Photo credit, Pinkbike.com]

All you need is:

  • A rugged, reliable backcountry bike
  • A rugged, sturdy packraft kit that (boat, paddles, bag) folds down small
  • A lot of patience during the transitions to/from the water

Why patience? Well…this isn’t like an amphibious craft, where you head for the water’s edge and keep on going. Look at this idyllic scene of a guide-led bikepacking trip at the transition zone, and one thing becomes very clear. They’re taking off both wheels.

bikerafting transition

Transitioning from remote biking to remote paddling. [Photo credit: Instruments of Adventure]

With today’s quick-release or thru-axle setups, removing both wheels is not inherently a complex endeavor. But it does increase the number of moving parts. Accidentally leave an axle on the beach and the fun part of your trip is automatically over.

disassembling a bike

After all, you’re already getting a watercraft inflated and flotation-ready. How much more time do you want to spend doing and redoing this? [Photo credit: Pinkbike]

What makes a good bikepacking bike?

“Ruggedness” is a major trade-off word. You want your bike to be sturdy enough to handle whatever terrain you throw at it, with gearing to make any climb easy. And yet, the features that help most with those challenges, such as shocks and extra gears, are also complexities and potential risks in a remote, perpetually sandy, muddy, or wet environment.

Exactly how wet are we talking about? Well… it depends on where you’re going.

whitewater packrafting

This bike will need some TLC and drying out when it gets back. [Photo credit: Pinkbike.com]

Depending upon where they like to go, bikepackers sometimes choose to dial back on shocks, or gearing, or just assume that everything is going to need a thorough cleaning and drying post-trip. With that in mind, here are two options for bikepacking with two transition-area advantages over more commonly used bikepacking bikes: (1) they fold in half, and (2) with pop-off pedals, there’s no need for a pedal wrench.

CHANGE 812 folding MTB

The CHANGE 812 is an ISO 4210-certified rugged, performance hardtail MTB, with FOX air shocks, hydraulic brakes, and internal cabling.

CHANGE 812 folded

One minute later, the CHANGE 812 folding MTB is raft-sized, with no dangling chain or derailleur.

One thing you don’t see here is how pop-off pedals come off without a wrench.

Bike-packing advantages of the CHANGE 812 folding MTB:

  • Folding frame, pop-off pedals, internal cabling
  • Less gearing complexity: 2 * 10 speeds
  • Knobby 2.2″ tires for loose soil and mud
  • Hydraulic brakes with no cables to rust
  • Front air shocks for rough terrain (and no spring rusting)

Another approach is the CHANGE 811 folding rugged hybrid. It’s passed the same ISO 4210 ruggedness certification as the CHANGE 812, but features a rugged carbon monocoque solid fork instead of air shocks.

CHANGE 811 (riding)

The carbon fork and smaller, 1.5″ tires on the CHANGE 811 make it about 5 lbs lighter than the CHANGE 812.

CHANGE 811 rugged folding hybrid (folded)

And yet, it still folds up just as small, to 30″ x 15″ x 37″ (mostly handlebar)

Bike-packing advantages of the CHANGE 811 rugged folding hybrid:

  • Folding frame, pop-off pedals, internal cabling
  • More gearing range: 3 * 9 speeds
  • Smooth 1.5″ tires for efficient road and trail riding
  • Disc brakes with cables that are field-serviceable
  • No shocks to get wet inside

Ron’s bikepacking experience with a folding bike

A lot of features separate full-size CHANGE bikes from other folding bikes, including 27.5″ wheels and the ability to select from a whole industry of add-on components for “normal” bikes. In this case, Ron added a shorter-reach downhill stem and some add-on grips for a more relaxed back position, and a Blackburn frame bag that fits perfectly in the bike frame.

blackburn bag for CHANGE bike

That leaves the bars free for an Alpaca packraft kit. Here it is fully loaded, and it gets to the trailhead folded in the trunk of a Toyota Prius. That’s an advantage whether or not you’re bikepacking!

CHANGE bike with packraft

CHANGE bike fully loaded and ready for packrafting

In the first fit test on the Alpaca raft, side-to-side distance is fine with the rear wheel still on, but the bars hang down. That’s an adjustment for later.

Alpaca packraft

Alpaca packraft fully loaded

One nice feature is that the pedals don’t need wrench work before each raft use. They’re in the seat bag above.

pop-off pedal latch

pop-off pedals are a perfect combo with a packraft.

And finally, out on the water…

Packrafting on the Huron headwaters

…social distancing in the most relaxing way possible…

Packraftng with a CHANGE folding bike

Seeing the sights along the way…

Seeing the sights from a packaraft and a CHANGE folding bike.

And enjoying beauty form a different perspective. In Ron’s own words…

bridge over still water

Oakwood Park Bridge over the Huron River, as seen from the river.

“Hi Bob, hope all is well with you. Sunrise found me on the Huron River near Lake Erie this morning. I paddled for 2‘ 20” going 6 river miles downstream. I pedaled for 35” on 3.7 pavement miles on a packed Flatbike back to my car. I passed under the major highway I-75, see pic. Having a blast…”

“I’ve paddled 30 river miles on the Huron River in five separate day trips and pedaled back on the Flatbike – the urban bikerafter, a legend in my own mind. I am going up north (northern Michigan) on Sunday, spending a lot of time on the raft and bike. I’ll try and get some good pictures to share. The Flatbike and Alpacka Raft are a perfect match. Also, the weight of the bike on the bow helps one to paddle straighter. The hard-core wilderness guys would prefer the mountain bike, or even if they had the frame, they could build their own.

“Besides its durability it’s the quick breakdown and reboot of the Flatbike which would be attractive to bikerafters. When you are outdoors time is very precious especially when you are on the move…”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Now that sounds like a great summer! For anyone else interested in bikerafting, Ron has shared some more guidance:

The two major manufacturers of packrafts:

Alpacka https://www.alpackaraft.com/rafting/#

Kokopelli https://kokopellipackraft.com/

Articles about packrafting:

Alpacka Bikerafting https://www.alpackaraft.com/rafting/category/bikerafting/

Packrafting for Cyclists http://bikepacker.com/packrafting-for-cyclists/

7 Bikerafting Tips https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PluDyl75mhg

Bikerafting – A Beginners Guide https://bikepacking.com/plan/bikerafting-guide/

Are you into bikerafting? Would you like to be?

See you on the water,

Bob Forgrave's Signature

Bob Forgrave is president of Flatbike, an
ecommerce company offering full-size folding bikes
and kits to make any bike take up half the space.




  1. Stu says:

    Planning bike touring in Europe and i want to bring a bike.
    Cost of hybrid?
    What brand of hinge do you use?
    How long is the guarentee on the hinge?
    Component spec sheet?
    Closet dealer to nh that has one i can look at?

    1. Bob Forgrave says:

      The CHANGE 811 has a monocoque carbon fork and retails for $1580. The hinge is custom-designed by Changebike, LTD and works only with their bikes. Changebike has a 3-year warranty on their frames (including the hinge), which Flatbike, as US dealer, extends to lifetime. Components are listed here: https://flatbike.com/product/811/ under Specifications.

      The biggest challenge during COVID is supply chain. The 811s we ordered in January won’t get here until September. When finally do get them back in stock, it will be in matte black, pine green, and arctic blue.

  2. Ole Seberg says:

    Hi Bob,

    Thank you for the post. This is great news indeed. My girlfriend and I are already bikerafting multiday tours with two MRS Alligator 2S and two Surly Long Haul Trucker bikes. We ride mostly offroad, when on the bikes. We are planning a round-the-globe tour, which will last some three years, and will take trains between trails and rivers of the most beautiful national parks on the planet.
    Train (and plane) rides, and the ease of transit between raft and bike have brought us to the same conclusion as your article: A full size folding bike is needed.
    The only two reasons why we may not end up with a hybrid Changebike frame to build our bikes up from (we like to select very specific components for our bikes), is that it is unclear, if the frame will take a 26″ wheel (A must for us due to parts availability globally) and the potential issue of tail wagging when loaded heavily at the rear end.
    I have already written to the main company with those questions, and hope to receive answers soon. If the answer is positive, there will be going a Changebike around the world.

    Best regards
    Ole Seberg / Denmark

    1. Bob Forgrave says:

      Ole, my apologies for the extremely slow reply. We redid our website just before November, and I hadn’t been seeing the blog responses. We have built some of the newer frames up with 26″ wheels, and in fact have a 26″ set still in the shop.

      Not sure what I can say about he tail wagging, other to observe that (1) these frame have passed the ISO 4210 test suite of impacts and 100,000 cycles of vibrations that would have blown apart under flex, and (1) I communicated with a guy who had put 9,000 Km on his Changebike frame.

      Hope this helps…


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