When I started mountain biking, there were very few options for bikes that would fit me. At exactly 5 feet tall (not a half inch more!), I’m definitely on the short end of the spectrum of riders. My first mountain bike that I bought in 1995, was a steel, 26-inch wheel Gary Fisher. When I look at photos of me on that bike, I wonder how I managed to ride it with that long, long top tube and stem combo, which was the norm back in the day. But at the time that was my only option.
Not too long after learning how to mountain bike, I became interested in bike touring and bikepacking. In 2000, my husband and I went on our first month-long, mostly dirt road bike tour in Central America…on that Gary Fisher, towing a B.O.B. Trailer. At that time, we used the latest and greatest gear, which was pretty big, bulky and heavy compared to today’s ultra-small and lightweight gear.
Then in the summer of 2003, Chris and I rode the entire Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. I rode a teeny-tiny custom Vulture frame and I towed that B.O.B. Trailer that was nearly as big as my bike. I also had a rear deck that attached to my seat post with a trunk bag, and a small handlebar bag to supplement carrying the gear and provisions that we needed. We rode an average of 50 miles a day, with the longest day being 100 miles. That B.O.B. Trailer and I got to know each other really well by the end of that trip!
Fortunately, bike shape, size, and geometry have mostly evolved to accommodate short riders. I say “mostly” because it seems there is a swing back to bigger bikes with 29-inch wheels in the last year or two, so I am nervous about getting a new bike in the future. But that’s an entirely different blog post. Over the last 15 years, with some modifications like stem length, crank length and handlebar width, I have been able to find mountain bikes that fit me and feel good to ride. My current rides are a 27.5-inch wheel, extra small Yeti Beti SB5 mountain bike and a small Juliana Quincy gravel bike.


Hello! I’m Katy, the CEO of Old Man Mountain. My husband Chris is the COO, and when we’re not working hard to bring you the best products, we try our best to get out on our bikes as much as we can. Lucky for us, we are located in Bend, Oregon, so we have tons of opportunities to get out and ride on all types of bikes.


2019 YETI SB5

Tires: 27.5 x 2.4
Pressure: 12psi


Tires: 650X47
Pressure: 22psi

I still have tiny bikes, and modern day bikepacking poses a new challenge, with the advent of soft bikepacking bags.

Don’t get me wrong, soft bags can be great, but they aren’t always the best option for a small rider like me for the following reasons:

The Challenges of Bikepacking with a Small Bike.

Overall Volume

Small bikes just don’t have much room. In fact, even if I’m just out on a day ride, there is nowhere to put a water bottle on my mountain bike frame, unless I put it under my downtube, which is not the best placement especially when riding in mud or cow poop. That means I need to carry water on my body, so I have more room to carry gear on the bike. While I’d prefer to not carry anything on my back while touring, I’ve had to concede on this one. Gotta have water somewhere on me.

Frame Bags Are Useless In A Tiny Frame

Frame bags are definitely a no-go, especially on my mountain bike. The amount of volume available in my itty-bitty frame triangle is enough for about a tube and a multi-tool. My gravel bike has more room inside the main triangle, but still not enough to carry anything substantial.

Seat Bags Don’t Work With Small Bikes & Dropper Posts

Stand over height, as well as top tube length, can be a challenge for short riders. When I stand over my top tube on my mountain bike, my back touches my seat and my belly touches my headset, so any type of bag that sits on top of the top tube impedes my stand over significantly.

Top tube bags impede standover height

Stand over height, as well as top tube length, can be a challenge for short riders. When I stand over my top tube on my mountain bike, my back touches my seat and my belly touches my headset, so any type of bag that sits on top of the top tube impedes my stand over significantly.

Handlebar rolls are too big

Little bikes have short head tubes. Additionally, for every bike that I have owned, I have put an ultra-short, negative rise stem. This combination causes the front tire to run into a handlebar roll when the suspension compresses causing some very dangerous crashes.

Weight distribution is a challenge

Weight distribution is an interesting challenge for some small riders. I think that shifting my weight, especially forward and back, is a little harder, especially when riding up really steep hills when I want to have equal traction under both the rear and front wheel. My shorter arms and shorter legs make it harder for me to shift my weight around when I ride. I just don’t have the longer levers that allow a “normal” sized rider to more easily shift their weight. A loaded bike compounds this, so I like to keep my weight lower, which doesn’t work with a seat pack and a handlebar roll.

So, how do I go bikepacking with a small bike?

I use racks to carry gear on my bike.

Using racks, front or rear, or both, allows a small person like me to efficiently and comfortably carry gear on my mountain bike and my gravel bike.

Racks allow me to:

Have much more volume & carrying capacity

As mentioned above, soft bags don’t get me nearly enough room to even carry the basics such as a tent, sleeping bag, pad, food and water. Using racks means I don’t have to rely on the size of my bike frame, but I can load what I want on to the racks using panniers and by strapping items to the top deck.

Use a dropper post

I go bikepacking on my full suspension mountain bike because I love to ride singletrack and sleep deep in the woods. Using a rack gets my gear out of the way from under my saddle, so I can use my dropper post to shred trails.

Lower my center of gravity

This is definitely a personal preference, but I like to have a lower center of gravity, and a rack and panniers allows for that. I found that last summer, while riding a portion of the Oregon Timber Trail, I actually liked to have that weight low while riding singletrack. In contrast, all bikepacking bags ride relatively high on the bike.

Distribute weight more evenly

Again, personal preference here. Some people like more weight in the rear, some like more weight in the front. I find that using racks allows me to distribute my weight a little more evenly, and I can more easily move the weight around from day to day, depending on the elevation profile or the type of riding for the day.

Stay organized

I’m not super keen on having to dig through an entire bag to get that one thing that I need that is at the bottom or the back of the bag. Instead, I like having a few places to put things and a rack and panniers feels more organized to me. I can have food in one pannier, clothes in another, and my tent or sleeping gear on the top deck.

As for racks, I use Old Man Mountain’s offering.

Not just because I am their CEO. I’ve used OMM racks since 2013, when I was just a customer and well before I ran the company. Old Man Mountain racks easily fit on all my bikes, and I am confident they will fit on all my future bikes as well. They have carried my gear over thousands of miles of singletrack, gravel roads, and tarmac, and they have never let me down. They are racks that I am proud to stand behind, and even more stoked to use on all my adventures.

Katie’s Ideal Setup



Elkhorn Bike Rack


Run it as a front or a rear

3-pack mounts on the uprights

Solid deck for mounting dry bag, trunk bag, basket, or get creative!

Weight Capacity 25lbs

Divide Bike Rack made to carry panniers and cargo on any bike


Run it as a front or a rear

Pannier Rails on the Sides

Solid deck for mounting dry bag, trunk bag, basket, or get creative!

Weight Capacity 75lbs

North St. Trunk Bag


Convenient accesss on deck

Secure connection with robust velcro straps

Comes with waist belt to convert into hip pack

Made in Portland!

Micro Pannier


Run them on front or rear

Secure connection with robust velcro and voile straps

Large carry volume

Made in Portland!

QR Fit Kit


Allow you to fit racks on any bike

Lower center of gravity

Allows for one set of racks to be swapped between multiple bikes

Increases weight capacity compared to eyelet mounts


Best straps in the business

Great for gripping water bottles, or anything smooth

Work great for strapping things to your racks!