Damn it, I stay at home and don’t go anywhere, I think every time I start packing for a bike tour. If hell exists, I am convinced that’s what it looks like.
Deciding what to leave (you always have to give up on something), choosing the right gear, and the silent voice in the back of your head: you have forgotten about something! – weeping and gnashing of teeth!
Ok, it is actually not that bad. I admit, my nails before every trip are bitten to the nab, and it happened to me to burst into tears while sitting among the piles of stuff to pack in the middle of my room. But all in all, it is just about finding a system. The first time is the worst: you cannot imagine what awaits you on your trip.
Below, you can find my personal list of things I pack for my bike tours and some recommendations of the gear I use and am happy with. Nevertheless, there is no one size fits all, so it doesn’t mean you will be satisfied with them too.
STALL, AKA YOUR BIKE AND CYCLING GEAr
Is the bike that stands in your basement good enough for a tough bike tour? I know people who travelled the world on a folding bike or on a supermarket bike. I have one motto: IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO GO THAN NOT TO GO, even if you only have a crappy bike at your disposal. Sure, conquering the alpine passes on a Dutch bike with three gears is a debatable pleasure, but on the other hand: it is a good challenge. The main point is to have a working bicycle. Although, of course, it is more pleasurable to ride a decent bike.
I use a basic Lidl set I bought in Belgium for 12 €, charged with a USB-C cable.
Basic one from a hardware store for 2 € can save your life in the fog or inside the tunnels)
I usually carry two 800 ml bottles.
U-lock or a proper chain. Unfortunately, every lock that is not easy to cut in 5 minutes would weigh around a kilogram. But it is better to carry an extra kilo than wake up without a bike.
Chain lubricant and a cloth + an old toothbrush
To clean the chain.
I am happy with my Giant Control Mini Combo Enduro. It is attached to the frame, weighs nearly nothing, and pumps almost as good as a garage pump.
Spare inner tube and patches + tire levers.
Multitool – I’ve been using the cheapest one from Decathlon for a couple of years. Although it is not at the top of ergonomy and versatility, it has all the essential Allen keys to assemble my bike at the airport and fix the basic faults.
Zip ties and duct tape
Universal means to fix everything.
Bungee cords and rack straps
To fix everything on the luggage rack. I also use the bungee cords to hang my laundry.
Very useful if you use the phone navigation. I am using Quad-Lock – quite pricey for a piece of plastic but very convenient to use and sturdy – holds the phone stable even on bumpy trails.
Do your research and buy something solid. The only point in wearing something that uncomfortable and looking that stupid is to wear something that really will protect your head.
For me, a pair for the rear rack is enough, although many people claim it’s better to distribute the weight evenly on the front and back. My rationale is that if I take more bags, I’ll also take more stuff and will have to carry too much.
I am using the Crosso Dry 60 with the click system. Sturdy, waterproof and light. Produced in Poland and way cheaper than the world’s market leader Ortlieb. The click system is a bit expensive and less durable but makes taking the bags off and putting them back on easy and fast. It is also compatible with any baggage rack.
For years, I was using an old bag found in my parents’ basement. Recently, I bought Agu Venture. It is more spacious than most handlebar bags (17 litres). It is a bit pricey but easy to attach, light, waterproof and made for eco-friendly and recycled materials.
Most people wonder how I can stand it, but I usually cycle with a backpack. It is always worth having it for the non-cycling days with hiking or sightseeing. After 5 years, my super comfy Coleman Hayden Creek 40 died, and I replaced it with a cheaper Quechua NH500 from Decathlon. So far (after one year), I am happy with it. It has a lot of pockets and is suited for carrying a laptop too.
This one depends on where and when you go. My list is prepared for summer/early autumn trips, taking into account unpredictable mountain weather.
From a breathable material, x2. I am a big fan of this super cheap and eco-friendly shirt from Decathlon (Quechua MH100). I have had it for a few years already, wearing it constantly, not only while travelling but also for the workout at home, and it still looks new.
I have a rotation system: 1 t-shirt on me, another one (washed after being worn a day before) drying attached to the luggage rack.
The ones with a diaper, x2. Is it a must-have? Not really. If you have a perfectly comfortable, soft saddle, you’ll survive. But for me, good padded shorts save my ass. Literally.
Or something to put on your back when it’s chilly. Very useful on the long downhill rides in the mountains.
Something properly warm to wear in the evening and to sleep in when you’re camping and the nights are cold.
Plastic raincoat aka trash bag
Weighs nothing, takes no space and can save you in the pouring rain when every jacket would already be soaked. Not to be used over a long time because you sweat in it like a pig, but it’s perfect for short intense rain.
When it is raining and cold, they will keep your normal gloves dry and prevent your hands from freezing.
I usually have cycling gloves without fingers, and a pair of skiing gloves, if I plan to cycle high in the mountains. Made my life much more comfortable when I was camping in the Tien-Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan at -3 celsius.
You can use it as a headband, scarf, hat.
When I started bicycle touring, I was still using SPD cycling shoes and pedals. I decided to replace them with platform pedals, and now I only carry one pair of shoes for cycling and walking/hiking. I am a big fan of Salomon Speedcross. They are super light, comfortable (I don’t feel like I am wearing any shoes at all) and have a solid grip, so they are perfect for hiking in the mountains.
One or two t-shirts, long pants (better thin and not as heavy as jeans), shorts.
Something to sleep in
Usually a t-shirt and shorts.
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Hairbrush, hair bands
Much lighter and more compact than traditional shampoo.
weighs less than shower gel. I am using it for the laundry as well.
I have one from Decathlon, super cheap and of good quality).
In case there is no water where I camp.
A complete gamechanger! My period hygiene on the road became so much less annoying thanks to this little silicone thingy, and I will never ever go back to tampons again.
- Gauze swaps
- Adhesive bandage
- Emergency blanket
- Disinfectant spray
- Diarrhoea pills
- Effervescent electrolytes tablets
Bedroom and kitchen – Camping gear
I am using Fjord Nansen Tromvik II.
Smaller and more compact than a regular mat. I am using Fjord Nansen Enmo Light – weighs ca. 0.5 kg and doesn’t take much space.
A down bag is smaller but costlier and not really good in a humid climate. I am using The North Face Gold Kazoo. It weighs less than 900 g and is warm enough to have a good night sleep in sub-zero temperatures.
I use a multi-fuel MSR WhisperLite International V2 Combo that runs on petrol, kerosene and white gas. Better than a gas stove in places where cartridges are difficult to find.
I cook in this Decathlon pot which comes in a set with two bowls and foldable spoons.
Swiss army knife. Since 2015 I’ve been using Victorinox Handyman that is still super sharp and has a knife, can opener, wine opener, mini saw and a couple of more functions.
I use one from Petzl.
A Life Straw water filter removes bacteria, parasites and microplastics and I always use it if I am not 100 % sure that the water source at my camp is clean.
For many years I was carrying a DSLR Canon 550D with a kit lens 18-55. In 2021, I changed it for Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III with a 12-40 mm pro lens.