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Everything You Need For Cycle Touring

Cycle touring is all about the sense of freedom, so the last thing you want is to be weighed down! That means taking exactly what you need and nothing else - and that's where we come in. You've done the route planning and the weather checking, so now here's our guide to the kit you need on your cycle tour, whether you're heading out for a day, a week or even longer.

Bikes

People tour on all sorts of different bikes, from shopping bikes through to high-spec racers, but some bikes are more suited to the purpose than others. A touring bike should be tough, with a rear carrying rack capable of holding panniers. Different types you might come across for touring include:

 

Touring/ Trekking Bikes

 

Touring bikes generally come with a rear rack fitted as standard, dropped handlebars (like those seen on racing bikes), strong wheels, a broad range of gears, mudguards and tyres between 28 – 35mm in width.

 

Hybrid Bikes

 

These bikes tend to offer the rider a more upright position, have flat handlebars, a broad range of gears and sometimes have lockable suspension on the front forks. Some will come with a rear rack fitted and mudguards, and will generally have a similar tyre size range to a touring bike.

 

Mountain Bikes

 

If exploring hidden tracks and trails is more your style, then a mountain bike might be the one for you. Be careful though, as only a few mountain bikes come with fitted mounting points for a rear rack.

 

Don't forget, the most important thing for anyone considering cycle touring as a new pastime is your riding position, so it’s worth getting measured up as a first step to ensure you know your frame size. As a golden rule you should try to select 3 or 4 cycles that are within your budget and test them - you'll be spending a lot of time together, after all.

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Carrying Luggage

Most people use panniers for cycle touring, and sometimes a bar bag that fits across the handlebars as well. It's possible to use a pack to carry your luggage, but if you're considering a long cycle tour, a pack isn't the best option as it will put excessive strain on your lower spine.

Tents

When you're cycling touring, it's important that your sleeping space is comfortable and that you wake up feeling refreshed every morning. With that in mind, though, it's also important that your tent is as lightweight and packable as possible, with a little extra storage space for your panniers.

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Sleeping Bags

The first thing to consider with a sleeping bag is the weather conditions you'll be using it in. If you'll mostly be cycle touring in spring or summer, then a 2-season or 3-season sleeping bag will be a good choice, but if you're heading out in the cooler months or to altitude, you'll need a 3-season or even 4-season sleeping bag. You should also consider how likely your sleeping bag is to get wet: a down-filled sleeping bag is lighter and warmer than synthetic, but will lose its performance if it gets wet and could even be left unusable, so if there's any chance your sleeping bag could get wet, opt for a synthetic fill.

Food & Water

You won't be able to power your cycling tour without proper fuel. Pre-prepared expedition meals are high in energy and can be very lightweight, so carrying a few of these for emergencies is a good idea. A light stove is great to have, but make sure you check which fuel is commonly used in the area before you commit to the one you'll take on your tour. You will also need to think about how you'll access water. If you can stop off in towns every few hours then it will be relatively simple, but if you'll be out of towns for a few days, then you should carry a safe way to purify water to ensure you never run out.

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Clothing

Do you need to be covered in Lycra from head to toe? Not necessarily, although padded shorts are certainly a good idea for comfort when riding longer distances! Other essential kit includes breathable waterproofs, a jacket, trousers and overshoes. Cycling gloves should be fingerless in summer and fully insulated and waterproof in winter, but whichever gloves you choose, remember that dexterity is important for reaching brake and gear levers.

Maps & GPS

Planning the route of your cycle tour is one of the best parts, and there's a whole range of options out there to help you. You may choose to use your smartphone, but for extra reliability (not to mention battery life), many people prefer to have a GPS unit. Traditional paper maps are still a favourite of many cyclists, and if you choose to plan your route that way, just make sure the scale of appropriate to your tour. If you're touring over a long distance, a map of approx. 1:200,000 will be about right - anything smaller and you risk filling your panniers with nothing but maps!

Cycle Touring Tips

Whilst touring, carry a good-quality mini pump, preferably with a pressure gauge and one that will act as a track pump as this type is best at delivering high pressures. Remember, if your tyre pressure is low, you’ll have to pedal that much harder! You should also carry a multi tool, spare inner tubes and puncture repair kit at all times.
 
Once you’ve got all of the components together in preparation for your tour, it’s highly recommended to go on a mini ‘test’ tour for a few nights, ideally within or around your home area. This way you can make adjustments before the grand depart, and you’ll be able to head out on your real tour with confidence.

Thanks to our partners at Cycling UK for their cycle touring tips and advice.