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I'm somewhat new to biking, and I've been commuting to work on my new touring/hybrid bike for a few months now (it's a 2014 Novara Safari). I am very interested in doing some actual self-supported bike tours, but I'm unclear on what type of routes I can expect to tackle.

Obviously, I can do paved and gravel trails/roads, but will any type of single-track or dirt-path be unthinkable for great distances? I suspect anything with jumps is a bad idea, but that's probably true for any loaded bike. What other things should I look out for on these trails with a non-MTB?

As a follow-up, what can I do to improve my bike for these rougher paths? I have already installed Schwalbe Marathon Pro Tours (original continentals kept slipping in wet grass and getting flats at the sight of a thorn), which have some decent tread.

For context, I'm considering segments on the Ozark Trail in Missouri. If I can't reasonably expect to do this on my current bike, I'll be settling for the Katy Trail.

  • Depends how you feel about carrying the bike :) I've done some hard walking tracks (in the mountaineering sense) on a loaded, non-suspended MTB but that involved a fair bit of carrying the bike, often carrying the panniers in separate trips. And I've toured with people who rode skinny-wheel touring bikes in similar places. You really can tour anywhere you can carry your bike. But the more carrying the less fun, IME. – Móż Nov 19 '14 at 0:09
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    Short answer: Mountains. – ShemSeger Nov 19 '14 at 2:36
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I think you would find the bike handles reasonably on single track, 4x4 tracks and dirt paths but there are a few things to bear in mind.

I'd ride single track but stick to trails graded easy.

Where an MTB would be mandatory would be anything above that. The following features would require a MTB (or at least no gear or being on a short ride ie. mud).

  1. Gradient (up) - fine on a short ride, horrible on a long ride carrying gear.
  2. Drops and Jumps - wrong bike type and not worth risking damage.
  3. Rocks and Roots - you could do it but wrong bike type and not worth risking damage.
  4. Switchbacks - more difficult when on a loaded bike.
  5. Mud - infinitely more annoying when you can't have a shower at the end of a ride, worse if the options days away.
  6. Gradient (down) - what impact will extra weight have on your brakes.

Upgrades wide to handle more off road riding I'd look at disc brakes and 32mm + cross tyres. Play with pressure until your happy.

  • jumps and drops are more of a "carry bike down" when you're loaded up, even with full suspension MTB - they're just not designed to do "full suspension" at the same time as "heavily loaded". – Móż Nov 19 '14 at 0:08
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The Novara Safari is a bike designed for off road touring.
Novara Safari Bike

With a load you are not going to be doing real technical stuff. But you should be a be able to handle "improved trails". The biggest tires it will take is the best thing you can do - and practice.

The link says it has Alex ATD 470 rims. Those are not high end rims and more of a road width. Higher end wider wheels would help but you would need to spend $400 for a significant upgrade so I would run with what you have. I think they support tubeless - you may want to consider that but for loaded touring I would not go tubeless as you need to run at higher pressures for the weight.

I ride trails on my cycloross all the time. And it is not that different from my fixed suspension mountain bike. What you lose on more full sized frame is get your weight back on a drop off. But you are not going to be doing steep drop offs with a load.

This bike is a little higher end than yours but the same style bike
bikepacking trip

As for what type of terrain makes MTB mandatory?
- Steep drop off
- Jump into drop off
- Big bumps / rocks

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