What to take...?
A really common question I was asked when doing my last 2 tours was what did I carry with me on the trip? I had a range of perceptions - some people asked how I lived on so little gear, whereas others asked how the heck do I manage to ride a bike weighed down by all the bags?!
Some people manage to travel lightly whenever they go away - I'm not one of them! I'm not quite at the point of packing the espresso machine (although that would be nice...) but having to carry all your belongings on a bike for about 5,000 miles - and up hills - certainly makes you think about what you really need. I do have a bit of a weakness for gadgets however that, while they may add a bit of weight, can make life easier.
The list below details a lot of the gear that I'll probably take, based on my experiences from my previous cycle tours. Once I'm fully packed up and on the way then I'll update this page with what I've actually taken this year.
Bike & bags
An obvious bit of kit this one! The main thing to focus on with a bike is getting one that's comfortable. My bike is an 'Oxford Bike Works' bike that's specially designed for touring.
At some point I'll do a proper post as to what makes a bike suitable for touring, but the main criteria is just to have strong, durable components (which thankfully does not mean top of the range expensive gear, unlike common perceptions!) and with low gears for the hills.
Ortlieb Rear Roller Pro Plus QL2.1
A good set of panniers is also another must-have for carrying everything in. These ones from Ortlieb are incredibly popular amongst cycle tourers, being great quality and 100% waterproof.
Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Classic handlebar bag
A handlebar bag gives quick and easy access to items I need during the day, such as my phone, camera, spare battery pack, wallet, inhalers, and suncream. Being quick release with a shoulder strap then it means I can take my valuables with me whenever I need to leave the bike somewhere.
Top bar bag
Attached to my top tube this bag is also easily accessible for things I need during the day, such as energy gels.
I store all my bike tools (and spare inner tube) in this saddle bag; it's a good size and easy to access when needed.
This attaches inside of my frame to give even more storage. As it's quite long then I plan to store my selfie stick & mini tripod in here for easy access, along with other bits and bobs (and yes, I am so vain as to need a selfie stick! I want to capture memories of this trip but in some places, where there are no strangers I can stop to ask to take my photo, then a selfie stick is needed).
A kickstand is really useful as it means I don't need to keep putting my (very heavy) bike down on the floor. The kickstand I have is a heavy duty one, capable of supporting heavily-laden touring bikes.
My bike has attachments for 5 water bottles, although generally I only ever have two filled at a time. And before you cry out that that's far too many water bottles to take(!) - no it's not! On my European tour in 2018 the weather reached over 30°C on many days (over 40°C in Albania, although we had a support vehicle then) - and on those days I often drank all 5 bottles dry.
Navigation & other electronics
I take a lightweight laptop with me when I go touring to be able to do route planning on the go as well as other work in the evening. Even with the charger the laptop I have is still under 1kg.
Garmin Edge 1040
I will quite literally be lost without this! I plan my route the night before on my computer and then download the maps to this.
Garmin Edge 530
Having two cycle computers is admittedly a luxury, but whilst I keep my large device fixed on showing the map display, I use this smaller one to display various details such as my speed and distance (I'm a data nerd!), as well as to record the day's cycling.
A spare battery pack is really useful for keeping my phone battery topped up during the day, as well as for emergency power if I forget to recharge my GPS unit overnight (as I once did on my Lands End to John o'Groats ride!).
USB plug adaptor
This is an invaluable piece of kit for charging my electronic devices overnight (eg bike lights, phone, camera batteries, and both Garmins); it's much lighter and more compact than carrying several separate plugs.
I love my photography and so a good camera is a must for me. iPhones take fantastic photos these days but the photos they take aren't quite at the level of a dedicated camera just yet.
Safety & security
No explanation needed!
Garmin InReach Mini 2
This tiny gizmo is a satellite communicator that allows me to send text messages regardless of where I am, even in remote countryside with no mobile phone coverage. If I ever have an accident it has an SOS button I can press to call for help from a dedicated emergency centre too. It also beacons my location every 10 minutes so family & friends can see my location in near realtime.
For a long time I'd seen these devices on the market and thought why would I need a rear radar on my bike? But then I tried it, and wow! In the countryside, where you might not see a car for miles and forget to therefore regularly check mirrors, then this device comes into it's own (it's pointless in the city). On my LEJoG ride in 2016 I once happened to glance in my mirror to find a coach was following me along a country road - it was so silent (even once I knew it was there) that I had no idea it was there or how long it had been following me for!!
If a vehicle is approaching then it sounds a beep and displays a moving dot on my cycle computer. It's range is remarkable - it alerts me to vehicles long before I can see or hear them, and can even detect them around bends too! Handily it also doubles up as a rear light.
A mirror is something I won't be without now; I just find them incredibly useful to see what is behind at a glance.
Whilst I don't plan on cycling beyond daylight hours, having some lights is useful for ensuring drivers can see me when it's raining and in poor light.
Abus Granit X-Plus 540
As far as D-locks go this seemed to be the best one out there as a balance between weight and security (although it's still heavy). With a bracket it also mounts straight on my bike for ease of carrying.
Bike cable lock
Kryptonite Kryptoflex Cable Lock
I carry this in addition to a D-lock so I that can secure my bike to almost anything.
Bike cable lock
Kryptonite Kryptoflex Seatsaver
This short lightweight cable is useful for helping to secure my panniers to my bike.
There's nothing worse than stopping to fix the bike, and not having anything to clean the oil or muck off my hands with! I soon learnt my lesson on my first bike tour to always carry these.
In addition I pack a few other lightweight medical supplies, including:
- Insect bite cream
- Lemsip tablets
- Antiseptic cream
Clothes & comfort
For my Lands End to John o'Groats ride the weather was so sunny & hot when I set off from home that I forgot to pack my jacket. D'oh! I won't make that mistake again.
I normally ride with fingerless gloves, but also carry a spare pare of full length finger gloves for cold days (a lesson learnt on my Lands End to John o'Groats ride).
The secret for keeping dry feet when cycling in the rain is a combination of sandals and waterproof socks. With sandals the rain just drains way, unlike shoes (even when used with a waterproof cover) where I find that my feet are soon swimming in a lake inside the shoe, no matter how waterproof the shoe claims to be.
Packmate roll-up space saver bags
These are just genius! They'll make your clothes take up less room (simply zip them up & roll to squeeze the air out), keep them dry should panniers leak, and help keep clothes sorted (eg 1 bag for dirties, one for still-damp washed clothes, etc). These make unpacking & repacking my bags every night so much easier.
Helmet rain cover
This is extremely useful when it rains heavily, helping keep my head dry and warm.
Chamois Butt'r Original
The cyclist's secret weapon! Sore bums can go with the territory of cycling but this helps avoid chafing in sensitive areas.
These are useful for pretending that I'm Tom Cruise. And for keeping the sun out of my eyes, obviously.
Some cycle tourists manage to get by on just 2 t-shirts and sets of underwear; I find 4 sets much easier:
- Cycle shorts (x1)
- Waterproof over-trousers (x1)
- Cycle t-shirts (x2 short sleeve, x2 long sleeve)
- Underwear (x4), including 1 pair of waterproof socks
I try washing clothes every evening (generally using shower gel as a soap - it seems to work!), but have found on my previous trips that items don't always fully dry out overnight (unless the B&B has a heated towel rail). In those cases I'm grateful for an extra set of clothes to give the damp stuff an extra 24hrs to dry.
Bringing evening wear is a bit of a luxury, however I don't want to spend weeks being in my cycling gear the whole time!
- Spare shoes
- Lightweight trousers
On days that I need to wear waterproof overtrousers then these (distinctly unglamorous) clips help to stop the bottom of my trousers from catching in the chain as I pedal.
Other smaller toiletry items I pack include:
- Travel shower gel / shampoo
- Hand cream
- Mini deodorant
I put a couple of these Electrolyte tablets in my drink each day to help my body absorb the water, as well as giving it a bit of flavour.
Something no cyclist should be without!
Whilst the multitool has some allen keys I still prefer dedicated ones since they're better for getting at awkwardly located bolts.
Instead of a full set of spanners I take this small adjustable wrench for use on any bolts that might need tightening.
This is a tool to help repair chains if they snap (as mine did in Scotland in 2016).
Spare chain links
These help temporarily replace any links in the chain that may break.
This is another basic piece of kit that needs no explanation! It has a mount for easily attaching it to my frame.
Puncture repair kit
Does what it says on the tin! Hopefully I won't need it; on both my previous trips (totalling 2400 miles) I managed to avoid a puncture, largely thanks to the excellent Schwalbe Marathon tyres.
Spare inner tube
It's much easier to quickly swap inner tubes rather than faffing around by the road fixing the puncture.
Topeak Shuttle Tyre Levers
The tyre levers that come with puncture repair kits are often (in my experience) nasty ones; it's worth having some good ones on hand for they're needed.
Keeping the chain running smoothly is a good idea when cycling 5000 miles!
I initially took these on my European trip to help attach my rear light to the bike (long story) but they can be useful in other situations too such as to secure any loose cables or help tie things down when transporting your bike.
I'd read a tip somewhere that gaffer tape could be useful - and so it has proved! By wrapping some tape around a very narrow tube (eg an old biro tube) then it doesn't need to take up much room and is very light.
Spoke nipple tool
Whilst my adjustable wrench does the job of tightening spokes, a dedicated tool makes it much easier and quicker to adjust wheel spokes if the wheel ever needs adjusting.