Bike touring is a growing way to travel and see the world. Supported bike tours and self-guided tours that transport your luggage for you are becoming especially popular. On such a bike tour, you don’t need to worry about packing up panniers with all your gear when you move from place to place. Just pop what you need to carry for the day on a bike tour in a small rear or front rack bag, in a jersey pocket, or in a pack. Then off you go to enjoy your day.
Without the care of loads of luggage, you can tour vineyards, wander down streets and through villages or along rivers, or take a side excursion on foot. All you have to do is lock up the bike and unclip any bicycle bag to carry along over a shoulder (most come with shoulder straps).
So what bike touring essentials will you need to pack for the day in your bag? We talked to numerous savvy travelers, consulted with a few experts, and tapped into our own experience to compile this list (geared to spring/summer/warmer season trips). What you eventually decide to carry on the bike with you for the day will depend on your own preferences and interests, but start here and you’ll be good to go for your day on a bike tour.
Recording your day
Camera of preference: If you are an avid photographer or videographer, you will likely want some equipment. Some travelers we talked to rely only on a smartphone for less hassle since these can take such good photos these days. We however like our video gear and our DSLR and have found ways to easily carry them in front bags or daypacks.
Tracking your travel
Most bike companies will have a cyclometer and some kind of map or daily guide. If you want more, consider downloading an app or purchasing a guide specific to your touring area. Or carry information with you and just read it on a stop as you move along the route.
Staying protected and warm
Always needed, even in warmer seasons. This includes:
- Rain jacket. We particularly like styles from bike-specialist Gore Bike Wear or Pearl Izumi.
- Disposable shower cap, like from a hotels for helmet cover on drizzly days.
- Disposable plastic gloves for extra warmth or emergency rain protection.
- Arm and knee/leg warmers (if you are sensitive, or cool days are forecast). We have had luck with Pearl Izumi items.
- Rain or wind pants are often suggested but we have found that it will need to be pretty cold and rainy for that. And if it’s that cold, blustery and wet, you may not even ride. Your choice.
- Light fleece, vest, or other mid-layer if the weather may be cooler. Merino wool from a brand like Ibex can be worn over and over, dries quickly and protects well.
- Plastic grocery bag, to cover your seat in case of rain if you stop. Then, when ready to go again, you just remove the bag and climb aboard without getting a wet behind.
- Sunglasses. A must, and even better if the lenses can switch out to a rose color for cloudy or drizzly days.
Repairing any flats or breaks
If you have support, tools may not be called for, but if you get a simple flat, a chain breaks, or some bag strap or apparel item snaps, it may just be quicker to fix it yourself and keep going.
- Bike-specific multitool.
- Duct tape (Just duct it, right?).
- Small rag, if you want to wipe grease off your hands or sweat off your brow.
Caring for personal needs
A few small personal items can come in very handy or necessary as bike touring essentials:
- Lip balm
- Hand sanitizer
- Wet wipes or emergency TP/tissue for paperless pit stops.
- Anti-chafe lubricant for, you know, personal areas. We like Chamois Butt’r.
- Reading glasses, eyeglasses, contact lenses/solution, as applicable. Sometimes just an emergency pair works for those who only need readers.
- Any personal medications.
Staying fed and hydrated
Unless you are only in complete backcountry areas, you will most likely have access to bakeries, stores or cafes. Still, we have found you sometimes just do not want to stop, or you want something quick and easy. So some kind of nibble that you find satisfying during activity should be along for the ride. For example:
- Piece of fruit.
- Trail mix.
- Sport gel or energy bar.
- Cookies or other candies.
In addition, if you want to stop at a store for a yogurt or need to cut something – like cheese for an impromptu picnic – consider stashing a:
Of course, keep bottles or reservoirs filled so you drink enough fluids, and consider electrolyte drinks if the weather is warmer or the days long.
Currency, identification, and language aids
- Money, both bills and change, in the local currency
- Credit card (preferable with chip and in RFID-protected sleeve). See our story on digital security musts.
- Language app or printed language guide. And read our story on how to communicate in a country where you don’t speak the language.
- Should a passport be one of the bike touring essentials you pack? Opinions vary: If you are crossing international borders, it is wise to carry it. However, if you know your luggage is being overseen well, it can actually be more secure to pack it inside. If you are based out of a hotel, leave it in a room safe. If you do not carry it, do make sure you either have a photocopy on your phone or in your choice of cloud storage for safety, or carry (securely!) a paper copy. Key consideration is where it will be safest.
This may sound like a lot but since rear rack bags are supplied from most touring companies, and you may find you like a front handlebar bag and/or a pack, all of these bike touring essentials fit neatly inside most front and rear bag combinations. Leaving you free to wheel along, enjoying the scenery.
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