A person on a bicycle can carry more in comfort than a person with a backpack and inherent in that statement is the temptation to carry too much on your bike when on the road.
As with lightweight backpacking, though, your legs and back will thank you for shedding the pounds. A balance needs to be struck by the individual, although the basic mantra of laying out all your kit and leaving half behind generally applies.
The following list is by no means a definitive view of what kit to carry on the road. It has been refined with the benefit of experience, but I do acknowledge that more weight could be shed. Still, I would happily tour for a month or so with the kit listed here in a wide variety of conditions.
Four Caradice Super C panniers and bar bag.
An Exped dry bag
This combination more than swallows my kit for a life on the road. Distributing the weight across the four panniers gives a predictable and sure footed ride when in the saddle. Only the bar bag upsets this weight distribution but the advantages of having valuables and snacks to hand is a major plus, as is the simple removal of the bag when you’re leaving the bike locked.
2 Tent and sleep system
Vaude Hogan XT
Mountain Equipment Co-op Merlin down bag
Thermarest Neo Air
The Hogan XT s a great tent for cycle touring. Although not super light, it’s light enough for one and offers a suitably large vestibule to stow your bike and kit. Although stowing the bike in the vestibule offers little real security advantage, it keeps your steed hidden from prying eyes and out of the worst weather. The shock-corded poles can be a pain and the seams do need sealing, but I’ve spent many a happy night out in this.
My sleep kit mirrors my chopice for backpacking and I’ve rated the kit elsewhere on this blog. The Snooz is a real luxury that I wouldn’t do without though. Having tried numerous inflatable pillows with little success, this beanbag pillow is truly comfortable and helps me get reasonable sleep on the NeoAir. It weighs about 370g which is not light, but it’s a worthwhile compromise.
Spare spokes and nipples
Two adjustable spanners
Spare chain links (SRAM gold links)
Spare brake and gear cab les
This is pretty comprehensive and can get me out of most scrapes.
Abus D lock
Kryptonite steel cable
Two merino tops
Gore Windstopper gilet
North Face Primaloft jacket/fleece (depending on expected conditions)
Two pairs Gore cycling shorts
North Face trekking trousers (evening wear)
Tshirt (evening wear)
Crocs (evening wear)
Montane mountain jacket
Altura waterproof ‘nicks’
I pair merino underwear
Small microfibre towel
Glasses for riding
The basic principle with clothing is to wear one riding set during the day while the other is being cleaned/is drying. This works fine unless the weather is really bad and laundry facilities are needed (and usually available at campsites).
I don’t carry a cycling-specifc waterproof jacket as my Montane is light and more versatile. The same applies to cycling jerseys and Icebreaker merino tops do a sterling job and don’t stink after a day in the saddle.
I don’t go anywhere ‘outdoors’ without a couple of Buffs. They are wonderfully versatile as headwear, neck protection, sweatbands, handkerchiefs, basic water filter (to remove crud before boiling)…
MSR Pocket Rocket
MSR Titanium pot
This is pretty straightforward, save for the fact that I prefer a gas stove to a meths stove when I’m cycling as my diet can be more varied than dehydrated backpacker food. I tend to buy my food on the road every day and get a bit more creative due to the wider variety of ingredients on offer. Having a stove that you can adjust is a great help when softening onions and garlic!
Ipod with booster battery
ECB earpiece radio (Bought at a cricket ground for listening to commentary. Makes a great, compact FM radio!)
Canon compact camera and mini tripod (optional)
8 Other stuff
First aid Kit
Sudocreme (for those most intimate bits!)
Thera-Band for back exercises
Tent flysheet and inner
Sleeping bag and mat
Exped stuff sac (attached to the top of the rear rack)
First aid kit
D lock and cable
Spare maps etc
Map in use (in top-mounted case)
Snacks (M&Ms usually!)
Food is generally spread over the four panniers with lighter bulkier items in the rear and smaller denser items in the front to balance the weight. I aim for weight distribution of 60%/40% back/front if at all possible. Tools are spread evenly over the four pockets of the Caradice panniers.
In total, including two bidons of water, it comes to just shy of 16kg.