So you want to go away riding with your mates – what should go on your cycle tour packing list? It’s understandable to want to keep weight down, so that you aren’t carrying too much on the bike and so you don’t incur too many extra charges if you’re flying to your destination. However, there are some essentials that all good cycling tourists simply can’t be without.
It can be difficult to strike the balance between travelling light and being equipped for every eventuality, so we’ve put together this guide to help. Within it, we’ll cover all the different categories of items that you’ll need to take with you, along with some suggestions of things you may want to remember based on your personal preferences.
What to pack for a cycling tour
Now, you’ll notice within this list that we haven’t mentioned the bike itself. Obviously if you’re flying or driving out to your destination with plans of riding your own bike while you’re there, then don’t forget it! However, many cycle tourists choose to hire a bike from a local rental company, rather than deal with the faff and expense of bike boxes and extra airline baggage charges.
To help you make sure you cover every base when you write your cycling tour packing list, work your way through the following 11 categories:
One of the first things to consider is to make sure you have all the kit you need for the place you’re riding in. How much kit you need depends on how long you’re going for, the time of year and the likely weather conditions. For example, if you’re going for a long weekend of riding in Tenerife, then the weather is likely to be good even in winter, and so only a couple of sets of summer kit should be fine. But a trip to Belgium, the Netherlands or Germany can be wet and chilly even in summer, which means you’ll need waterproofs and warm layers. And don’t forget your shoes and cleats!
This is an especially important area because it contains many of the little things that often get overlooked but can be vital for making your ride enjoyable. For example, you’ll no doubt be taking your water bottles (and putting small items within them can be a great space-saver when you pack!) – but if you’re hiring a bike, do you need to take bottle cages with you? Similarly, do you need to take a lock with you, so that your bike is safely stored at your accommodation, or at any bars or cafes you stop at along the way? There’s also the usual bits and pieces that live in your saddle bag to think about, too.
No cyclist on a tour should be without a helmet: even if you’re used to riding without one, it can help you avoid expensive medical bills overseas if you have a crash. Furthermore, in many countries it can be a legal requirement to wear one (check local regulations before you go). In much the same vein, it’s always a good idea to bring your lights with you, even if you only intend to ride in the daytime, so that other traffic can see you.
A good micropump can be a lifesaver if you need to fix a puncture or simply top up your tyres while you’re out and about. While it’s become more commonplace in recent years to use carbon dioxide canisters as a lightweight quick-fix instead, proceed with caution: many airlines prohibit them from being carried on flights for safety reasons. So, while it might take you a bit longer to use a micropump, it’s generally the most travel-friendly option.
You never know what might happen on a ride from a mechanical perspective, especially if you’re riding a hired bike that you aren’t familiar with. And of course, if you’re taking your own bike abroad in a bike box, then you’ll need to be able to put it back together again when you arrive, and dismantle it at the end of the trip for the flight home. That’s why taking a basic set of tools with you is absolutely essential: multitools, spanners or allen keys, spare inner tubes, tyre levers, lube, and ‘quick-links’ for chains can all prove useful.
Spares for long trips
Connected to the previous point, any long-distance riding, or unsupported trips such as bikepacking, demands an extra level of spares to be carried. You may want to consider taking spare sets of tyres and brake pads, and even a fresh chain and cables with you, as these items are more prone to becoming worn out over a longer period of time. Investing in a variety of frame bags is vital for storing these items, and while they represent an extra amount of bulk and weight, the disruption you’ll face if you get stuck in the wilderness without them can be severe.
Of course, you won’t be riding every hour of every day, so you should give careful consideration to what you’ll wear off the bike. If you’re going somewhere warm, staying in a hotel and just plan to hit the bars and restaurants in the evenings, then you’ll probably get away with T-shirts, shorts, underwear, flip-flops and a swimming costume. But you may need to take more layers, again depending on the length of the trip and the likely weather conditions. We also recommend taking a towel with you (even if it’s just a rollable microfibre one) so you can dry off as and when needed.
Unless you’re familiar with the routes you’re riding – or you’re old-school and like working from a map – then you’re going to need to take your GPS system with you to keep you on the right routes. Along with this, you’ve also got your personal electronic devices to take into account, such as your phone, tablet or laptop (depending on your requirements). And don’t forget to take the chargers for every device you bring along, as well as a suitable plug adapter to fit in foreign sockets.
Food and drink
Energy is vital while you’re riding, especially if taking on big mountain climbs, so you shouldn’t overlook the need to keep fuelled and hydrated. If you prefer energy gels, hydration powders and/or tablets, it may be a good idea to take these with you as they may be difficult to find once you’re away. Do bear in mind, however, some of the rules regarding taking liquids on flights: a normal gel is less than 100ml so can be carried, but you may only be able to fit a limited amount of them into the transparent bag required by security.
If an accident does happen while you’re away, or if you or one of your companions becomes unwell, then having some basic health-related kit can reduce the severity and disruption of the issue. A basic first-aid kit can be useful (but beware of airline restrictions on sharp objects like scissors), as well as any medication that you may need. Suncream is always a good thing to carry if you’re going to a warm country, while it’s also worth considering a few hygiene basics such as chamois cream, a travel wash kit and even a few tissues.
Depending on the nature of the trip, you may need to take a substantial amount of documents with you, along with the usual essentials like your passport. Carrying printed copies of things like boarding passes and confirmation of accommodation is good practice, especially if going to an area where good-quality phone signal can’t be guaranteed. You should also carry your European or Global Health Insurance Card (EHIC or GHIC) to cover you for any basic medical care you need, and proof of specific cycling insurance for any care required beyond that.
Get cycling travel insurance with SportsCover Direct
As you can see, there’s plenty to remember to take with you when you go on a cycling trip, whether it’s in the UK or overseas. But one thing you must never travel without – especially if you’re going abroad – is comprehensive insurance cover.
At SportsCover Direct, we’ve been providing cycling insurance policies to riders of all levels of ability and experience for more than a quarter of a century. If you suffer an injury while riding, need extensive medical care while abroad, suffer damage to your bike or kit, or your travel plans are disrupted, we can make sure that you don’t end up out of pocket.
Our affordable policies can be paid for monthly, making them easy to factor into the budget of your next cycling trip, and giving you peace of mind to climb, descent and sprint with confidence. Take a moment to explore our cycling travel insurance options in more detail.