Bicycle touring gear wish lists can get out of hand quickly— after all, there’s so many great products to choose from, and it’s such a gear-intensive sport. At the same time, the name of the game is minimalism as much as it is with backpacking. Figuring out how to fit all the essentials into your panniers or on your frame without weighing yourself down can be as much fun as the uphill climbs and the minute you takeoff on a wide-open, winding curve.
To help you narrow down what to pack for your next bicycle touring expedition, we rounded up ten essential pieces of gear you shouldn’t leave home without. Whether it’s your first or you’re ready to take your ride to the next level, these are the items it’s worth investing in, and which will definitely come in handy.
Bicycle Touring Gear Essential For Any Adventure
Generally speaking, for long trips, especially in remote areas where stores to resupply are scarce, your bicycle touring gear should include at least two bags. For trips ranging from a quick overnight to ten days or more, your kit should focus not only on storage, but also on camping and repair needs.
1. Rear Panniers
Pannier is a French word that means basket and they are sold in a variety of styles. Depending on whether your bicycle touring gear is dedicated solely to treks or might be swapped out during the week to make your bike commute-ready removable ones. The removable style gives you extra flexibility, in addition to boasting features like water resistance and visibility.
Look for rear panniers that are designed so that your feet won’t catch on them while pedaling, even when your panniers are full. And if you do go with the removable style, make sure it’s a good quality set of panniers that fit securely, so you don’t have to worry about your essentials staying put.
Check out: Ortleib makes the Backroller Classic in a bright yellow hue that’s hard to miss. It’s waterproof, removable, fits nearly every bike, has 40 liters of storage, and sells for under $200. What’s not to like?
2. Handlebar Bag
The name says it all— this piece of bicycle touring gear is a great way to keep necessities on hand, almost literally. While handlebar bags are a great way to maximize the space around the front of your bike, like rear panniers these bags should quickly unclip for security and versatility. Waterproofing and side pockets are standard on quality brands, but also look for nifty extras like reflective tape and interior padding.
Check Out: Topeak, Axiom and Bushwhacker all make great bags, but take a look around the the web for comparison reviews. Most handlebar bags come in at under $80.
3. Tent or Bivouac
Tent technology continues to boggle the minds of those of us raised with leaky pup tents. Modern one-man tents weigh just a few pounds, and come with nice amenities like roomy vestibules and multiple windows. Go for a brand that is durable but lightweight, includes ground cover and rain-fly, and gets consistent reviews. A decent tent has ample uses beyond bike touring, especially an ultralight, and should last you for many years.
4. Sleeping pad
Don’t be a hero and sleep on the ground. Camp bedding offers several inches of softness, and more importantly, insulation. Even in warm weather, you’ll be much more comfortable with some type of ground pad and it’s easy to find good quality ones now that self-inflate or simply unroll.
Check Out: The new Thermarest air mattress, which can fold down to the size of a soda can!
5. Sleeping bag
Your goal is a small bag with large temperature range. It should compress down to the size of a breadbox.
As with all gear you wear, compare specs online but experience in-store.
Always store your bag by hanging free in the closet when not in use, as compressed bags will lose the ability to insulate over time.
6. Air mattress repair kit
If you air mattress isn’t functioning, you will instantly lose buoyancy in your mood as well as your bed. A small repair kit is essential if you carry an air mattress. Throw it in your pannier ASAP and you’ll be eternally grateful when you need it.
Flat tires hit pros and amateurs alike, and this essential piece of bicycle touring gear should be stored in front bag for quick access. Buy at least two tubes to fit your bicycle and make sure you bring the necessary tools and know-how to quickly remove and replace.
8. Tube patch kit
Run out of tubes? Dig out the patch kit — a tiny assortment of patches, glue and that mysterious metal piece that gets the glue to stick. Like your tubes, this kit will store in handlebar bag for easy access.
Some cyclists believe that if you have extra tubes a patch kit isn’t necessary. But it’s difficult to carry enough tubes in some cases, and a kit will repair ANY tube so you can help a fellow traveler.
9. Bike lock
Without a bike, your touring could end abruptly and tragically. While loaded bikes aren’t as tempting for bike thieves, most people who lift bikes are looking for opportunity.
It’s a hassle to carry a hefty lock, but these days bike locks are both durable and weigh less than a boulder. Even a bare-bones cable will dissuade theft.
10. First aid kit
A small kit should include bandaids, antibiotics, disinfectant, and painkillers. Why suffer when you can carry a featherweight drugstore on your bike? Also, dripping blood will leave a stain on your frame’s powdercoat finish.
Runners-Up: hydration system (i.e. Camelbak), Allen wrenches, headlamp
Carrying hydration on your self is eight hundred times easier than lugging a water bottle, and the usual spot for a bottle can be filled with a triangular bicycle frame bag. Allen wrenches will open or close nearly any bolt on your bike’s frame. Headlamps make first aid and cooking feasible at night and are worth their weight in gold.