All that I need to make a happy bike tour

This post is about what I have with me on my happiness cycling pilgrimage to Bhutan. I’ve been meaning to write this very practical post for a while now with the photos of all my stuff laid out taken over 2 months ago. I’ve mislaid/replaced some of these things already.

I thought providing a list of things I have might be useful for others embarking on a bike tour. I feel complete in what I have but perhaps experienced cyclists might have a few suggestions that might help me or others. There are some notes alongside some of the items with some hopefully helpful top tips which I have emboldened for quick glancers.

At present I’m cycling on my bike in South America and I have been travelling here for 4 months and already I’ve ridden more than 5,000km beginning in Buenos Aires. Even though I’ve been cycle touring for a number of years I still find it difficult, and at times a bit stressful, to pack for a bicycle tour. There are perhaps many things I’d like to have with me, but I’ve learnt whatever I do choose to bring has to come over every bump, hill, and mountain – and sometimes quite painfully and frustratingly so. Personally I tend towards bringing basic necessities. The things are with me because the contribute to my happiness via supporting and creating relationships, sustaining my physical and mental health, and help connect me with the meaning and purpose of my journey. However, there are still things I have with me that I perhaps don’t really need (highlighted with a #).

Bike

thebike

Model: Genesis Croix de Fer

Key Features: 2-speed front chain ring, 10-speed cassette, disc brakes

 

This is an off the shelf model. A very reliable and sturdy bike. I feel confident on the road. When I’m climbing hills I do sometimes wish I had more gears. I have the set that the bike came with.

Top tip: It’s a nice bike and someone suggested I cover up the brand.

Accessories
35mm tyres Schweilbe Marathon Plus tyres Top tip: These tyres are totally worth every penny – I have not yet had one puncture.
No special saddle

 

I’ve got used to my standard saddle but sometimes I wonder how a specialised touring saddle might feel and many people have them.
Mud guards
Immediate access tool bag Containing: tyre levers, spare inner tube, Giant multi-tool with chain breaker, patches
3 bungee cords To secure my 22 litre dry bag to my bike
Good quality hand pump I can get my tyres up to full pressure with this pump (80psi) and it would easily go higher.
D-lock + extra cable for lock
2 water bottles
Handle-bar mirror

 

 

 

 

Top tip: I didn’t have one when I left as never felt the need in the countries that I cycled. Traffic is very different here and sometimes other vehicles pass very close. It’s not malicious as far as I can tell but seems to be more a lack of awareness about how vulnerable cyclists are on the road and how to deal with them. The mirror helps me stay aware and I will move off the road if necessary no matter how much of a right I feel I have to be on the road.
#Frame pouch

 

I could live without this pouch – I used to keep money and phone here but then one time they fell out so I don’t use it to keep anything important.
Bike stand

 

I didn’t begin with a bike stand and acquired one along the way. But that one broke and I am currently without one. Quite essential though as gives more flexibility as to where you can stop.

On my bike I have a handle bar bag, 2 rear side panniers (dry bags), and a 22 litre dry bag (some people also have front side panniers – so I’m a bit back heavy). Here’s what I keep in each one.

Handle bar bag  

handlesbar-bag-e1520283345818.jpgI keep everything I need on a day-to-day basis in this bag, including food for lunch and the odd bits and pieces I pick up to cook for my dinner.

 

First aid kit

 

 

A basic first aid kit – antiseptic wipes & cream, bandages, plasters – perhaps I should have much more but I wouldn’t know what to do anyway – what I do have helped me deal with a fairly horrible dog bite wound until I got to a hospital
Sunscreen
Lights (bike front and read, and a Head torch)
Whistle
Padlock
Lighter
Journal, pencil, and pencil sharpener On the bike many inspiring thoughts come and I like to sometimes stop and jot them down.
Wallet Day to day money – I keep my cards and large amounts of money separate.
Passport
Phone I spent several years in recent years without a phone. I have an old smart phone my bother gave me that I use mostly for taking pictures. It also has GPS, but the mapping software is not at all trustworthy.
Vaseline (for crotch and lips)
Spoon
Knife
I am normally wearing the following but if not they live in the handles bar bag
Fingerless gloves
Head/neck scarf
Sunhat
Sunglasses

Pannier 1

pannier-cooking.jpg

Food Tupperware box

 

 

 

I keep most of my dried food here and I’ve found that a Tupperware box keeps all my food together and compact – I keep it full up with things like porridge, rice, lentils, quinoa, pasta, nuts, dried fruit, seasonings, etc. Another cyclist commented recently that I have a lot of food. It has made me think that maybe I do have too much.
Trangia Stove

 

Trangia stoves are excellent – they are self-contained and use methylated spirits as a fuel which is normally very easy to find
Methylated spirits

 

 

 

Although easily available, I’ve learnt in the South America the bottles that methylated spirits are contained in are sometimes not very good and once open seem to leak. The ones from the UK are pretty reliable and so I have kept one that I fill up as much as I can and then just use up whatever remains in the bottle as quickly as possible and keep it upright and wrapped up.
Water filter to purify water
Natural cleaning liquid and sponge Top tip: A natural cleaning liquid is important for the environment
Specialised blister plasters
Matches
Tweezers
#Head net
Bug spray
#Extra small dry bag I have no real use for this.
Reading material Normally a book in Spanish that I’m slowly working through
Spanish dictionary A knowledge of the local language helps build relationships and understand cultures a bit better
#Binoculars I had every intention to use these when I brought them but I haven’t developed the habit
Bike cleaning material Brush and clothes
Toiletries Towel, toothbrush, natural toothpaste, pegs, natural soap
Toilet spade This item is to dig a hole when I go to the toilet in nature
Toilet roll
#Helmet

 

 

It is attached to the outside of one of my panniers – I rarely wear it and I wonder whether it would have been better left at home. I do find it useful when I lean my bike up against the wall as it protects my panniers a bit. Whether to wear a helmet or not is a personal choice – there is no right or wrong.

Pannier 2

pannier-laptop.jpg

Laptop (cover and dry bag)

 

 

Perhaps not essential for all (on shorter tours I wouldn’t bring it) but for me at present it is important for my writing. I keep it in a dry bag inside my pannier which is also a dry bag. Just in case.
Dry bag containing other electrical stuff This includes a world plug adapter, power cables for laptop and phone, earphones, spare batteries, and USB stick
Bike clothes (2 lycra shorts, technical tops – 2 short sleeve and one long sleeve)

 

 

Top tip: A friend once made a suggestion as to how to keep the number of bike clothes down – depending on where I am and how hot it is I may push wearing the same pair of shorts for 3 days in a row if I need to. However, whenever I have access to a shower or lake I just jump in with my cycling clothes on and hang them to dry for the next day – extends their use for some days
Regular clothes (4 pairs of pants, 5 pairs of socks, 3 t-shirts, shirt, one light baggy trousers, one shorts, one trousers (detachable to shorts) I normally wear a pair of shorts over the lycra shorts as I’m cycling. I feel more comfortable around others but that’s a personal thing – not essential.

 

Tupperware box containing bike repair and tools

 

 

Chain oil, 4 x spare spokes (front left/right, rear left/right) spare chain, 2 x spare brake pads, spare chain links, 1 x brake cable, 1 x gear cable, electrical tape, gaffa tape, pliers, cable ties, spare puncture repair kit (like with my food I find keeping things in Tupperware boxes keeps things together and fairly compact)
Tupperware box containing camping repair items Seam seal, repair tape, spare tent materials, spare guy lines, carabineers
Tupperware box containing other personal items

 

Spare pencils, permanent marker pen, spare cash (euros/dollars), credit card, bank encryption pass, passport photocopy, scissors, condoms, sewing kit, nail clipper
Other personal items

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a set of trinkets that have spiritual importance to me including stones, gifts from others, things I’ve found in nature. They help me keep connected to, or remind me of, aspects of myself.

trinkets

Bags

 

 

I have two bags I use – a nice laptop sized bag a friend made for me and a bag that can be compacted down and carried with me. It is also worth carrying plastic bags to put things in. Some of the above is in small bags to keep things compact and also I like to reuse bags when I shop for food.

22 litre dry bag

I keep most of my camping stuff in here and attach it to the top of my panniers with the bungees cords allowing quick access.

22litre.jpg

Tent (Vango Apex 200)

 

I chose this tent very carefully. More than enough room for me and all my gear. Big enough for an intimate two if needs be and tall enough to sit and mediate.
#Spare tent pegs
Thermorest
Sleeping bag

 

 

 

My sleeping bag goes down to max -5. I did wonder about bringing such a heavy duty sleeping bag given where I’m travelling but in the hills it has been necessary. Other than extremities that fill the cold I’m quite good in cold weather and maybe could have got away with something thinner and the times when it was cold just worn more clothes.
Inner liner for sleeping bag

 

Top tip: An inner liner preserves the sleeping bag as I wash this regularly rather than the sleeping bag

 

 

Other
Boots

 

I’m normally wear these whilst I’m riding – quite good in the rain and keep my feet at a good temperature. They are beginning to smell. I used to wear specialised bike shoes that clip into the pedals but I wanted a pair of footwear I could use for multiple purposes.
Flip flops My only other pair of footwear. Normally they ae attached to the closing clips of the 22 litre dry bag.
Lightweight waterproof shell jacket When I’m not wearing it is strapped underneath the bungies that hold down my 22 litre dry bag.
Waterproof mittens I suffer from Reynard’s which is where extremities can completely lose circulation in cold conditions. It can be painful and so I try to protect myself wind chill on the bike. The heavy duty mittens I have might not be necessary for most people
#Bike cover To keep my bike protected from the elements when it rests at night.

There a few other essential things I have which have no fixed home because I may be wearing them

That’s all folks. I hope it helps anyone thinking about embarking on a bike trip – hopefully a happy one. I’d welcome any comments and feedback.

everything
Every-thing!

 

7 comments

  1. Totally interesting post! Great to read about all your gear and why it’s been useful/important to you. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Very interesting Christopher i didn’t realise JUST how much gear you are carrying,still looks like you have it sussed out as to packing etc,,,,keep enjoying your travels xx

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  3. Great post, thanks! I love reading about what’s on experienced world travelers’ bikes! Most of us carry far too much until they get to understand what is truly essential – part of the learning curve that makes bike touring such a rewarding activity, or for some, a way of life!

    I’d like to share a couple of things I’ve during my short European travels:

    1) A carton of milk, juice etc. can be cut open, giving you an ideal surface for food preparation (effectively a lightweight, foldable chopping board) that is also slightly curved when stood on its side so it doubles up as a windshield for your stove! You can put it in the recycling bin (if such a thing exists where you are) and buy a new one when it starts to get damaged.

    2) A kettle. Sounds extravagant, but a lightweight aluminium kettle weighs nothing and means I have clean hot water for hot drinks and for cooking, which is uncontaminated by other flavours or soaps. Good tea on the road is a major improvement to my happiness!

    I’ll be following your great blog. Have fun in your travels!

    Finn

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Finn, what is essential…on a bike…but in life too! Certainly lessons are learnt on a bicycle.
      Thanks for the useful tips – I like the carton idea. What I do with cartons is make them into little wallets/purses and give them to people! There is a post i need to write on that. Now I will turn them into chopping boards too! A kettle is a good idea – I’ll look into investing!
      Christopher

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