Next year I was planning a bike tour down through Southern France and ending in Barcelona. Due to logistics I have had to call this off, and am instead flying straight into Barcelona and completing some rides around there. However, being organised meant that I took extensive notes when planning this trip, including a big note to myself of all the best tips I saw from across the web.
- Take every opportunity to fill up your water bottle. You never know when you’ll get the chance again.
- Pack cable ties. Perfect for so many running repairs.
- Never rely on electronics alone if you are on a bike tour into the unknown. Have a backup of cash and maps if you’re not sure if you’ll have access to electricity. If you just can’t survive without then Anker make some amazing portable chargers that come in different sizes/powers.
- A little trip bag is perfect to sit on the top tube, and give you easy access to anything you don’t want in your rear pockets, such as the Topeak Tri Bag.
- On the continent, carrying toilet roll is essential.
- If you’re caught in the rain, put your foot in a plastic bag before putting on your overtrousers. Makes it so much easier to avoid snags as you put your trousers on.
- Ship your bike in a free cardboard bike box from your local bike shop. Clad with bubble wrap/pipe insulator and save yourself hundreds of pounds. You can then dispose of it at the other end.
- Plastic gloves from petrol stations are great to slip over your normal gloves in the rain.
- Pack your kit in lots of small bags and write on them what’s inside. Makes packing/unpacking alot quicker and also provides some protection against rain.
- Take a map. Technology fails, a map won’t!
- It’s behind you! Some of the best views might not be straight ahead. Stop and have a look around every once in a while.
- If you wear underwear on the bike, consider swimming trunks instead. They are easier to clean, dry quicker and you can wear normal underwear in the evening off the bike whilst the trunks dry.
- If you use a sleeping pad, why not try a person sized strip of bubble wrap instead? It can last for as much as 50 nights, and double up as a waterproof liner for panniers or bags.
- At night, if your feet and head are warm, the rest of you will be warm.
- For longer tours try and build in a luxury day every so often. A nice hotel and warm shower can give you something to look forward to and help you recuperate.
- Don’t try to take a rucksack. They become really uncomfortable after a while and can also destabilise you. You should be able to fit everything in to front and back panniers, if not review how much gear you’re planning to take.
- Keep a small wedge and push it in the front brake handle to stop the bike moving when you are packing the panniers each day.
- If in doubt as to whether to pack something that you don’t think is essential, consider whether or not you’ll be able to buy it on route. If you can, then leave it behind.
- Wrap a load of duct tape around your seat post. You won’t even notice it’s there and will find so many uses for it.
- If you don’t want to carry spares leave your cables long at the end and wind them into into a loop. If your cable breaks then you can at least tie it until get you to the next bike shop.
- Try a quick tour a few weeks before you head off. Take everything you’re planning to carry with you away for a one night stay to iron out any obvious issues.
- Buy a lightweight wind up torch and never be left in the dark by an empty battery.
- A metal water bottle filled up with really hot water and wrapped in a sock makes a great hot water bottle alternative for cold nights.
- A lid from a yoghurt pot can make a good plug alternative if the sinks at the camp site don’t have one.
- Down sleeping bags tend to be the best for cyclists. Aim for a weight around 1kg which should see you good down to about -8 C (fully clothed!).
- If a restaurant is busy then eat there. If it’s full of locals then it’s probably good.
- Paint your tent pegs a bright colour before you leave so they are easy to see when you pack up each day.
- If you are going on a really long tour, consider a steel bike. You are more likely to find a welder in remote parts of the world than someone who can deal with cracked carbon.
- Try to plan your tour so it is not all about the distance. There will be things you just want to stop and see. The idea of travelling is to experience things, meet people and reflect.
- In non English speaking countries try speaking to the youngsters, they are more likely to have learned English.
- Make a check list of the things you absolutely cannot do without and double check it everyday before you leave (wallet, phone, passport, camera etc)
- Have at least one day when you haven’t planned anything at all. Just amble along until you get somewhere interesting, then stay there.
- Double tape your handle bars for better grip and less numbness.
- Make your tea or coffee the night before and leave it in your flask. It should still be warm in the morning and saves waiting for the stove to be fired up.
- Buy decent quality water bottles so your water doesn’t taste of plastic and stays cool. I suggest the Camelback Podium Chill. If you’re looking for other great cycling gear check out my article for some of the best beginner gear.
- If you plan on shaving, take oil not foam. The bottles weigh only 20g, and is better than just using soap.
- Swiss army knives were designed for this kind of adventure. Bottle opener, small knife, screwdriver, scissors. No better practical multi tool.
- Cheap earplugs hardly add any weight, but are great for getting sleep at a busy campsite.
- VISA debit cards are accepted in more cash machines around the world than any other.
- Buffs are brilliant. They can keep your head warm, double as a scarf off the bike and work as an eye mask on a bright camp site. Check them out here.
- Triple check your camping spot before you leave. The worst miles are heading back to pick up something you’ve forgotten!
These are sites I had bookmarked when doing my research into bike touring tips, I hope you find them useful.
A great site, and this page is particularly handy showing everything you’ll need for a one week tour.
Mr Lik is a man with an obsession. To travel as light as possible and tour as much of the world as possible. Some of it is a bit extreme, but this blog is an incredible read with amazing tips throughout the site.
The Daddy of bike tour sites. It may not be the best presented, but if you can get past the superficial and dig in you with find everything you will ever need to know about completing a bike tour.
An absolute wealth of information on this site on all kinds of bike tour subjects.
This site is slightly different that the others in as much as they actually sell bike tours too. Beside this though they have amazing content on their site to help you prepare for and plan out the perfect tour. The first time I landed on this site it was a good half an hour before I left, the articles are well written and incredibly helpful.
If you’ve never used reddit before then it’s worth a look. It’s like the ultimate forum where users can share information and ask questions. There are a number of subreddits related to cycling which I follow, and I even have my own CyclingTipsHQ subreddit. The Bicycle Touring subreddit will give you loads of great bike touring tips.