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  • Writer's pictureLydia Schuldt

15 Essential Items to Bring on a Bike Tour

From biking across Europe, around Lake Ontario and down the Oregon coast I have been able to experience bike touring in all different kinds of weather and conditions.

One thing I have learned from bike touring is that there is some specific gear you can’t go without that will bring you ease and comfort whether you are on an overnight bike trip or preparing to go on a long bike tour in a different country.

Here is my list of items you can't go without:

🚲 Handlebar bag: A handlebar bag is essential for the comfort and ease of biking all day long. This is a place where you can grab items you may need while you are pedaling without stopping the bicycle. For example, you can easily grab your sunglasses or dig into a handful of trail mix when you start to get hungry.

🚲 Patch repair kit, pump & new tubes: You will get flat tires. You will probably get multiple flat tires. I got at least 8 flats on my bike tour across Europe. Learn how to change a flat before you go on your trip as well as patching a tube to save the new tubes for emergency situations.

🚲 Chamois Cream: Sitting on your saddle all day and biking will eventually lead to dreaded saddle sores. In order to prevent or take care of saddle sores quickly, having a good chamois cream is essential so you don’t have to take 3 days off in a row to heal. For women, I highly suggest Hoo-Ha ride glide. This is a PH balanced chamois cream that will help prevent UTI’s and yeast infections. This has been my saving grace on every bike tour and without a doubt one of the most important items I bring.

🚲 Chargeable battery pack: I often use, google maps or ride with GPS on my phone as my main source of directions while bike touring. When you use your phone for directions it will die significantly faster and you may not have access to an outlet for a few days. Make sure every time you do have an outlet you charge your battery pack so you can charge your phone around 4 times or more while you are in the middle of nowhere for a few days.

***Pro tip: If you download the maps ahead of time and keep your phone on airplane mode it will save more of your battery.

🚲 Ultralight camping gear: Sleeping bag, pad & tent. Not everyone swears by this, but I sure do. Unless you can afford to pay for accommodation or find a Warmshowers host every single night- you are going to want to camp. Having ultralight gear is essential to cut down the weight on your rig. I have friends who have just cowboy-camped without a pad or tent, but I enjoy the comfort of having a tent.

***Pro tip: If you are stealth camping, wait until the sun goes down to pitch your tent.

🚲 Waterproof panniers on your front and rear racks: If you are mainly biking on paved roads and some well packed trails you are going to want a set of at least 2 panniers. I personally use 4 panniers, 2 large Ortlieb bags on my rear rack and 2 smaller Swift Industry panniers on my front racks. I have biked through thunderstorms and pouring rain and having my waterproof bags keeps everything dry.

🚲 Luci lights: These are small inflatable solar lights that I attach to my bike rack with carabiners on sunny days while I’m biking. I use them as my main source of light when it gets dark and they are small and lightweight.

***Pro tip: Make sure to put them away in your panniers on rainy days since they are not waterproof.

🚲 Bike lights: In a perfect world you will make it to your destination every day before the sun goes down, but that’s not going to happen. You need to remain flexible and being prepared with bike lights is important for your safety for cycling at night. Biking at night is actually a lot of fun if you are in an area where you can bike safely. I took a night ferry in Montenegro and biked through the winding roads on the edge of the Balkan Sea at night.

🚲 Electrolytes & plenty of snacks: If you thought you could eat a lot, think twice. While bike touring you will eat at least double the amount of calories you normally consume in one day. Make sure you have tons of snacks easily accessible as well as electrolytes. The electrolytes were able to keep me hydrated and energized on really hot days.

🚲 Bike gloves: I found it necessary to wear my bike gloves almost every day on my trips. Wearing them consistently will help prevent blisters forming on your hands. It is also common for your hands to go numb and your wrists to hurt while biking long distances. Wearing your bike gloves will ease the pain and help prevent numbness and tingling.

🚲 A comfortable and broken-in saddle: Make sure you have biked enough to break in your saddle before your trip. I use a leather Brookes saddle. Make sure you have comfortable bike shorts as well, padded or not, whatever your preference is.

🚲 Specific bike accessories on your bicycle frame: fenders, water bottle cages, U-lock and a bicycle bell. Water bottle cages are helpful so you can easily take a sip of water safely while pedaling. Fenders will keep mud and water off your back and bags when your bike through puddles or on rainy days. Having a U-lock is important so you can lock your bike up at night or when you are shopping. Having a bell is helpful on days when you are sharing the bike path in a city with several pedestrians.

🚲 Use the Warmshowers app. If you haven’t heard of Warmshowers yet, your mind is going to be blown 🤯. Download the app or sign up online. Warmshowers is a community for people specifically who are on bike tours where other bike enthusiasts will host you for free. Sometimes you might stay on a questionable bed shared with mice in a barn or you might be spoiled in Niagara wine country in a private room on a queen size bed after a night of appetizers next to the local country club.

🚲 Water and a water filter: Make sure you carry enough water until your next stop. You will often come across grocery stores while bicycle touring. There may be times you might not be around stores for several days though, so make sure you are prepared with enough water. In some places if you are in the backcountry or along rivers/streams bring a water filter so you can filter your water along your ride.

***Pro tip: The Sawyer Mini is lightweight and easy to use.

🚲 Reflective vest/high visibility clothes: Safety is key on bike tours. I have had too many close calls on busy roads. Taking up the whole lane when you can will help with safety and having high-visibility clothes will help drivers see you. I also always wear my helmet unless I am biking very slowly in low risk areas.

Check out my website to learn more about my virtual assistant services for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the outdoor industry.

Lydia Schuldt,

from the waves.

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