33 Essential Items for Bike Touring

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cropped-lofoten_skyline_wide.jpgYou obviously need a bike, and panniers if you’re carrying a lot of gear. But here are some other items you won’t want to be without on a long cycle tour.

PUNCTURE REPAIR KIT
Even with heavy-duty touring tyres you can still get punctures. This should contain tyre levers and patches, and a spanner for removing your wheels if they aren’t quick-release ones.

SPARE INNER TUBE(s)
If you get a puncture in the rain (and it always seems to be raining when you get a puncture) you’ll find it much easier to replace the tube and fix the puncture later.

PUMP
Surprisingly easy to forget but pretty essential.

SEWING KIT
You’ll be surprised how much wear your clothes get. Unless you intend to replace them along the way you’ll probably need a sewing kit.

MUDGUARDS
It’s really not that much fun to have water spraying all over your back and shoes while cycling so if you’re going anywhere where it rains frequently mudguards are a good addition.

LUBRICANT
Chains dry out. Brakes can seize. It’s always a good idea to have a small container of medium weight oil to lubricate your chain and squeeze into other parts. A small tube of grease is also handy.

HAND-CLEANING GEL/SPRAY
Hygiene is essential when you’re touring – you don’t want to get stomach complaints – so make sure you keep your hands clean.

TISSUES AND RAGS
If you get any chain or other mechanical problems your hands will get messy. It’s also a good idea to take a few sets of disposable rubber gloves, though you might find it difficult to do any repairs wearing them.

COMPASS
It can be easy to lose your directions when touring. Don’t rely on a smartphone. A compass makes navigation much easier.

SPOKE REPAIR KIT
On heavily loaded bikes spokes break easily and are not easy to fix. Make sure you have some spare spokes of the correct length. You should also have a spoke tool and something called an NBT (Next Best Thing) tool for removing your cassette (if you have derailleur gears).

KICKSTAND
This makes loading and unloading your panniers an awful lot easier and saves you squashing whatever is inside them whenever you need to put the bike down.

FIRST AID KIT
Chances are you’re going to pick up some injuries.

LIGHTS
While you generally won’t be cycling by night it’s always a good idea to have some sort of lights in case you’re running late or if you have to go through a long tunnel. They will also come in handy off the bike.

SUNGLASSES
Particularly if you’re heading south. It’s also useful to have a clear-lens set to keep flies out of your eyes.

SUN CREAM
If you’re wearing cycling shorts the tops of your thighs burn easily.

EXTRA WATER STORAGE CAPACITY
Obtaining drinking water can be intermittent. It’s a good idea to have as much water carrying capacity as possible, even if you don’t normally use it.

WATERPROOF JACKET
It’s really no fun getting soaked and you’ll be very cold on long downhills.

WATERPROOF SHOES OR OVERSHOES
It’s not much fun having wet feet either.

DETAILED MAPS
Road networks can be a lot bigger and more complicated than you might think. Even relatively small countries may require several maps. In fact, small countries tend to have denser road networks. 100,000 scale maps are ideal for cycle touring and for most countries anything above 250,000 won’t be much use. Don’t rely on your smartphone – the batteries can run out and network access may be unavailable.

HANDLEBAR MAP HOLDER
Having to stop and take your map from your back pocket or elsewhere will become a real chore so it’s best to have them in front of you.

SPARE SOCKS
Your feet will probably get quite sweaty so having a change of socks is a good idea.

ODOUR EATERS
Your cycling shoes can get quite whiffy on long tours.

BAR RAISER
If you use a handlebar bag your lights probably won’t reach over the top of it. It’s a good idea to have a raiser bar to ensure you can be seen.

STRONG TAPE
Gaffa tape always seems to come in handy when cycle touring. Insulating tape can also be very useful.

INSURANCE
If you’re cycle touring abroad you won’t be fully covered by normal travel insurance. In case of an accident make sure you have insurance that specifically covers you for cycle touring.

LIST OF EMERGENCY PHONE NUMBERS
IN case you get separated from your bike you should keep a list of important numbers, e.g. your bank and insurance provider, that you might need in such an event.

EMERGENCY CASH
Keep it on your person. Credit cards can fail when you’re abroad and may not be accepted. Bank accounts can get frozen for suspicious behaviour – you should also tell your bank where you are going.

NOTEBOOK
Don’t rely on a smartphone.  A pen and paper are always handy to have if you need to ask directions, take notes of the journey or just write down random thoughts.

CYCLE COMPUTER
It’s very handy to know how far you’ve travelled and what speed you’re travelling so you can judge journey times.

INSECT REPELLENT
If you are going somewhere with a lot of insects be prepared.

AN EMERGENCY PLAN TO GET BACK
If the worst happens and your bike fails completely, you should have some sort of plan for getting back, whether it means walking the whole way or catching a bus.

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