If you are reading this it probably means you are thinking about conducting your next bicycle tour. It might even be that you are planning your first ever bicycle tour! If that is the case, let me start by saying congratulations! Bicycle Touring is incredible. Wherever you may be heading, whether that be around the world or just across your home country or state, I am sure it will be a life changing experience. However, before you get on your bike and start pedaling, there are a few bicycle touring must have items you should consider adding to your shopping cart. These are things that will make your life easier, while out on the open road.
Bicycle Touring essentials:
18. Bicycle Touring Bags
I am sure that bicycle touring bags is the first thing that pops to mind when you think about what to buy before your bicycle tour. You will need to decide whether to go with bikepacking bags or with panniers. Generally speaking, bikepacking bags are for shorter bicycle tours that require less items and a lighter setup. Personally, I prefer bikepacking bags because of how practical they are. I like that you can take them off in a second and put them back on in a minute. I also see the appeal of panniers, because they allow you to take whatever you want on your trip, without worrying about running out of space. You will have to decide for yourself what will work best for your bicycle tour.
17. Bikepacking Tent
The type of tent you take with on your bicycle tour will depend on two things. Firstly, how many people will be sleeping in the tent? Secondly, how much space do you have in your bikepacking bags or panniers for your tent. If you need a 2-3 man tent, then it probably means you are traveling with pannier bags that can accommodate the space needed for such a big tent. I have done all of my bikepacking trips solo and used the most lightweight 1 person tent that I could find. This worked well for my bikepacking setup, because I was not traveling with panniers. There is no way I could have fitted a bigger tent in my touring bags!
A low weight and great value for money solo tent using a proven design, makes the Wild Country Zephyros 1 Tent a perfect choice for weight and price conscious bikepackers. Ideal for both bikepacking bags and panniers!
16. Camping Mattress
A camping mattress is a common item owned by bicycle tourist. After a long day in the saddle, a comfortable rest is important. A good sleeping surface will provide comfort and keep the cold floor from penetrating through to your body. This is especially important if you are bicycle touring during the deep winter.
The standard for ultralight backpacking, the XLite backpacking mattress delivers unrivaled comfort and warmth, while mantaining a minimal weight. All things that are important to bicycle tourist.
15. Sleeping Pad
Instead of a mattress, you might want to consider buying a sleeping bad before your bicycle tour. You could also be a maximalist and use a sleeping pad and a mattress, but personally I think that this would be an overkill. If you are going to use a sleeping pad, then this is the one I recommend:
14. Sleeping Bag
Adding to your peaceful sleep is a good sleeping bag. When choosing a sleeping bag you need to take into account the season during which you will be traveling. Every sleeping bag comes with a temperature rating and you should get one that is in line with how hot or cold it is expected to be during your bicycle tour. You also need to choose between down or synthetic material. I prefer synthetic, because if your sleeping bag gets wet it will dry a lot quicker if it is made of synthetic material, compared to down. Oh and make sure the sleeping bag is the right size for you!
13. Bicycle Front Light
A good front and rear light is extremely important. This goes for all types of cycling, not just bicycle touring! Some countries actually have laws in place that force cyclist to use bicycle lights on their bikes. I remember being stopped by the police in Spain at around 5PM in the evening. They wanted to fine me for not having a bicycle light on my bike! Fortunately, I had on in my touring bag which I quickly assembled. It needed new batteries, but luckily I had those too and manage to replace them in front of the glaring eyes of two Spanish police officers.
12. Bicycle Rear Light
When I am bicycle touring I prefer using lights that are USB rechargeable. The pro’s of USB rechargable lights are that you do not need to keep sourcing batteries. This comes in handy when you are traveling through many countries and do not always know where to look for the batteries you need. The cons of using USB rechargeable lights is that you will need to charge them every few days if you use them often. They do not last nearly as long as lights that run on good batteries.
11. Bicycle Lock
How important a bicycle lock is depends on where you are traveling. For some places you do not need one, whereas for others your bike might not even be safe with a bicycle lock! In Paris my Warmshowers hosts borrowed me one of their old fixed gear bikes to ride around town with, because they said if I left my bike unattended to for more than 10-15 minutes, even with a lock it would certainly get stolen.
This U lock will deter most, but not all, criminals.
10. Bar-end Bicycle Mirror
Don’t turn your nose up to this special item! It may be somewhat unconventional to have a mirror on a bicycle, but I guarantee you it will go a long way towards keeping you safe on the road. If you are bicycle touring it goes without saying that you will be riding in many different environments and one of those environments could be heavy city traffic. That is when a bike mirror will come in handy.
It would be nonsensical of me to mention every single piece of bike equipment you need to take on your bicycle tour. Some bikes need different things than others, so you will have to decipher for yourself exactly what tools you need to take with you. One thing is for certain though, you will need a multi-tool!
This is a beautiful multi-tool and will definitely get the job done by fixing 99% of minor bike problems.
8. Bicycle Computer
I recorded every single meter of my bicycle tours. I also posted every single ride I did on Strava at the end of the day, which meant that my family back home knew where I was and that I was safe. In order to record your rides you will need a bicycle computer.
I strongly recommend Bryton bicycle computers. They are great because they have an extra long battery life. Bryton’s have a 35 HOUR battery life! This is almost double than most other bicycle computers. Bryton bike computers also sync to Strava via Bluetooth, so you do not need to have access to your computer to upload your rides.
7. Duct Tape
Don’t ask why, just buy duct tape to take with on your bicycle tour. Trust me on this! You will thank me later. I like Gorilla duct tape, but any duct tape that will do the job is good enough.
6. Arm Sleeves (sun protectors)
This is one of the most important items of clothing, that cyclist often overlook. If you are going to be cycling in the sun it is a good idea to get a pair (or two) of arm sleeves. Even if you are one of those lucky people who “never get sun burnt”, arm sleeves will still help protect you from getting fatigued by sun. Have you ever done a long ride in the sun, and although you never got sun burnt you still felt tired and worn out afterwards? That is the effect UV rays can have on your body.
I recommend black arm sleeves. White arm sleeves get dirty too quickly and start to look old.
5. Cycling Head Mask
This is another item of clothing some cyclist would be hesitant to buy. Personally, I do not use a head mask too often, but I do recommend for when you are cycling long distances in places where the suns UV rays are very strong. A perfect example of this would be if you are planning a cycling trip in Africa. A famous bicycle tour route is the Trans-Africa bike route from Cairo-Cape Town. Most cyclist who do this route use a head mask like this one:
4. Water bottles
Cheap plastic water bottles are easy to come by anywhere in the world, but they do not last long. They are also terrible at keeping your water cold. I now choose to spend a little bit extra money, but get a water bottle that will not start leaking after a month or two of use and keeps my water cool for longer.
The CamelBak Podium Ice Insulated Water Bottle is infused with Aerogel Insulation, which has been added to keep water cold four times longer than other squeeze water bottles.
3. Bike Touring Solar Charger
If you are cycling in remote locations or if you are planning on doing a lot of wild camping, you will need to find ways to keep your electronics fully charged. A bike touring solar charger is a good way to do that.
The Anker 15W Power Port Solar Lite is one of the most popular solar chargers for bicycle touring, camping, and hiking.
2. Cycling Shoe Covers or “booties”
You will notice that I shy away from talking about the most common items of clothing. I think everyone knows that a helmet, sunglasses, rain jacket etc. is important. I am focusing on the items of clothing that are often over looked by cyclist. One of those items is shoe covers or booties. There is nothing worse than cycling with cold and wet feet. Cycling shoe covers will help keep you feet warm and dry during those wet weather days.
1. Chain Lube
I only recommend the best and that is why I only recommend Squirt lube. It is the only chain lube I use on my bicycle chain. I am open to using something else in the future, but at the time of writing this I have yet to find any lube better than Squirt lube.
I hope you find some of the information here useful. None of it is set in stone. I also recommend experimenting with different products and finding what works best for you. You need to adapt your bicycle touring setup so that it perfectly fits your specific bicycle tour. That’s it from me, good luck with your next (or your first) bicycle tour!