If your bike is in good working order before the ride, you’ll be fine. If you fitted a new crankset / headset / chain etc the day before you set off, you are asking for trouble.
You need to have ridden the current configuration before you set off – just because you have fitted a new part it doesn’t mean it will work!
Out of the six of us, two were on hardtails, two on short travel full suss (100mm), and two on long travel full suss. Nobody complained about their own bikes, but nobody on a full suss would have swapped for a hardtail.
Bikes, luggage and gearing.
This is my bike, a Santa Cruz Superlight. I carried luggage in an oversized saddlebag and an 8litre drybag bungied to the handlebars. The configuration worked well – the bike didn’t feel top heavy at all.
I ran a 1 x10 setup. 32T on the front, 11-40 on the back and nothing was unrideable – in my eyes the perfect gearing. Tyres were 2.25 Racing Ralph on front, Panaracer FireXC pro on rear, both tubeless.
Barn’s bike is a Cotic Soul. He carried his luggage in a 20litre Ortlieb dry bag strapped to the bars, with a map pocket on top. Standard 3 x 9 gearing, Kenda Nevegal on the rear, Fire XC Pro on the front.
Mike’s Pivot Mach 4 carried the luggage with a Wildcat Gear Tiger Medium seat pack. It was the first outing for the pack (except for a practice run) and worked brilliantly. Mike ran a 1×10 setup with 32T on the front and 11-40T on the back. Again, no complaints. tyres were Nobby Nic on the back, Racing Ralph on the front, both tubeless.
The expensive option! Nick’s bike is a Santa Cruz Nomad with Alpkit Koala seat pack, StemCell bar bag and Fuel Pod. Nick ran Schwalbe Rocket Rons, tubeless, and his gearing was 1 x 10, but with 32T front and 11-42T rear.
Sam’s Kona Dawg Deluxe was burdened with a huge dry sack bungied to the seat post and a Dueter frame bag. He also had a special sponge on the seat post, but never told us why. He ran normal 3 x 9 gearing, with a Schwalbe Smart Sam on the rear.
Steve’s Marin Nail Trail was quickly named ‘The Hybrid’ due to the unusual seat post mounted rack. The system was designed for a mountain bike and the panniers kept fouling the tyres, but Steve ignored it and carried on. Standard 2 x 9 gearing. Schwalbe Racing Ralph on the front, Specialized Ground Control on the rear.
In addition to the bike mounted luggage, we all carried backpacks of ‘normal’ size (approx 10 litre luggage capacity).
None of us put on special or new tyres for the trip – and none of us had any complaints. We rode over mud, gravel, tarmac, stone, water and slate, and they were all fine. We had one puncture (a thorn), but were probably lucky – the slate coming down the big drop looks lethal.