Los Andes off-road trip


In a couple of months I’m traveling to South America. I’m going to be visiting Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. I would like to do some tracks in the mountains of Los Andes, but since in my area we have no mountains I don’t know what bike would be recommended for this. Is rear suspension a big thing? What about the wheel size? There’s a lot of different sizes now, I thought there was just one.


@eahazelton It really depends on where you will be riding. Will you be on trails? road? a mix of the two? It also depends on your riding style individually, are you looking to ride hard off road? or just cruise?

If I know more I can definitely help you find the right bike for the trip!



Road and trails both, more off-road than on, but we might change to more on-road if it turns out to be too much. Nothing too challenging, besides elevation changes; mostly unpaved roads, some gravel (even some sealed, we hear), and known trails rumored to be fairly easy. Day trips, not camping. It would be nice to be able to carry some stuff though. There are way too many bikes out there.


I would suggest going for a decent 29er MTB. This way you can load it down with gear, you can choose to lock out the suspension for long stretches of road. You can also play with the width and aggression of the tires to best suite your trip. For example, you can run a 1.95" set of semi-smooth tires for the stretches on the roads, and then you can swap them out for a 2.1-2.3 set of more aggressive trail tires.

Full suspension is nice, but it will almost double the cost of your bike, increase the weight, and give you something else to fix trailside, you can do it, but I would recommend sticking with a hardtail.

If you are a road rider by nature, then you may also find your self gravitating to a gravel grinder road bike. They make great touring bikes and can be leaded down with gear. Keep in mind the time you gain on the roads while riding a gravel grinder road bike, you will lose on any set of trail. You may also find yourself walking with your bike more times than not off roads which isn’t ideal.

What is your price range? I can make some suggestions to help you find the right bike.

here are a few articles you may find interesting as well for planning your trip and buying a bike:








US$2-3,000, maybe a little more. I saw a Scott in one of your links for eight grand, that’s not happening; full suspension bikes are that much more expensive?

I did look at some drop-bar bikes. Gravel grinders are too lightweight, it would be nice if there were something a little tougher, maybe with a flare bar, like the WTB. Is there still a WTB? Appreciate your suggestions.


@eahazelton Full suspension MTB’s do cost considerably more than hardtails yes. They also require more maintenance and they weigh more. Half decent, trust worthy full suspensions usually start around $2500, while a hardtail of the same quality (and build kit) will usually cost around $1200. Full suspensions also very rarely have any rack mounts, and it’s not uncommon for it to be impossible to mount a rack to one, so most people who are touring usually rule them out.

With that being said, they do offer a more comfortable ride, and can be ridden harder off road so I would see why some would want one. My suggestions for a full suspension can be found in the article I wrote about affordable full suspension XC bikes.

The Rocky Mountain Instinct is my favourite. The adjustable geometry would give you so much freedom and comfort riding whatever your trip throws in your path. If you want a bike with a little less travel and steeper angles Rocky does make a Thunderbolt which is just that. The Sherpa from Rocky, mentioned in the 4 Plus bikes you need to ride may be your full suspension solution as it is meant to be a touring full suspension XC bike.
Both the Trek Fuel line-up and the Specialized Epic are worthy of considering as well.

Hardtail MTB’s are a mixed bag of performance, recreation, niche, and retro cool… Companies seem so make them in every possible incarnation so you want to be clear with your intent. Spending $3k USD will open a lot of doors for you in the hardtail world but you may end up paying for un needed performance, or quirky cool. You just need a good quality, reliable, do everything ride. Hardtails will also come in all frame materials possible for $3k as well. I would stick to aluminum and chromoly options. Carbon is light and fancy, but it cannot be repaired roadside and carbon frames almost every have any braze-ons for mounting racks.

Kona makes some nice hardtails that are a mix of all the aforementioned attributes. The article I wrote, AM, XC, PLUS - What am I? A beginner’s guide to who you are and what MTB to buy briefly runs through the different genres and their price points. For touring you do not have to spend any more than $1500 if you don’t want to. If you still want to spend upwards of $1500 you have to be carful with you selections for the reasons I mentioned earlier. take a look at this Kona as it blends cool with performance and reliability: Kona Explosif

Salsa Bikes also have all sorts of road/hardtail blended bikes that you may find more appealing. I haven’t spent enough time on some of their more obscure bike packing bikes to say how they would ride long term, but they do seem cool and well built.

Here is also a set of beefy road bikes to look at:

Surly Disc Trucker
Kona Rove Series
Trek 920
Specialized AWOL

That should be enough to get you started. If you have any questions about specific models or anything don’t hesitate to ask!



This is great. I looked up almost every brand and bike you listed. The Rocky Mountain bikes are all full suspension, so I looked for rack options. Thule makes a rack that will mount on full suspension bikes - it looks adaptable. Supposed to carry a good 20 kilograms. The full-suspension bikes seem a little complicated - if something goes wrong, which it always does, I don’t even know what tools to pack.

The road bikes are a little bit the other side. I had looked at the 920 before, but you have encouraged me to seriously consider suspension, and I think you’re right about that, and room for bigger tires.

Salsa, now. They were thinking of me. I found the Fargo, which has a suspension fork, fat tires, Salsa sells a rack that fits, and a flared drop bar. This looks just about right. Back in the day I used to have a Yeti I’d converted to a commuter, with WTB’s flare bar, barcon shifters, and those fat 26" Continental slicks. It would survive anything. The Fargo looks like it’d do the same.

Thanks Josh, you’ve been a lot of help. I’m going to check out the Salsa, there’s a dealer not too far from here, and see how it rides.