A kit list for cycle touring

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.

Kit for a cycle tour

1 Luggage

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
Snooz pillow

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.

3 Tools/spares

Chain whip
Multi-tool
Spare spokes and nipples
Freewheel remover
Two tubes
Puncture kit
Tyre levers
Two adjustable spanners
WD40
Spare chain links (SRAM gold links)
Spare brake and gear cab les
Spoke key
Pump

This is pretty comprehensive and can get me out of most scrapes.

4 Security

Abus D lock
Kryptonite steel cable

5 Clothing

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)
Two Buffs
Gloves (riding)
Crocs (evening wear)
Cycling shoes
Overshoes
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)…

6 Kitchen

MSR Pocket Rocket
Gas
MSR Titanium pot
Titanium Mug
Spork
MSR Mugmate
Lighter
Knife

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!

7 Gizmos

Smart phone
Charger
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

Book
First aid Kit
Sudocreme (for those most intimate bits!)
Embrocation/Deep Heat
Toileteries
Thera-Band for back exercises

Packing

Thorn Club Tour 620 loaded for the roadMy packing routine is as follows. I’ve done this so many times now I almost do it on auto pilot.

Rear panners:

Tent flysheet and inner
Sleeping bag and mat
Bulkier clothing
Crocs

Exped stuff sac (attached to the top of the rear rack)

Tent poles
Pillow

Front panniers

Kitchen
First aid kit
Overshoes
D lock and cable
Book
Spare maps etc

Bar bag

Map in use (in top-mounted case)
Ipod
Phone
Wallet
Radio
Camera
Waterproofs
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.

Thinking of buying a touring bicycle? Here are some thoughts and suggestions.

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