This is a beginner’s guide to the Essential cycling kit I’d recommend for a cycle tour in the UK. For what to bring see Beds for Cyclists Top Touring Tips. There are various other bits of kit that you could take on a tour but I these are the absolute essentials and why. I hope you find it useful…
(1) Your bike– ideally you should use a touring bike specifically designed for touring which means it will be strong, quite heavy, reliable and most importantly comfortable over long distances. You will also need a pannier rack to hold your luggage and preferably mud guards as they protect you from a lot of water and dirt from the road. Touring bikes aren’t cheap but they are often beautiful.
- Three top touring bikes:
(2) Panniers – after holding your stuff their most important function is keeping water out. Wet kit is extremely discouraging. It’s also best to have either two or a double pannier so they spread the weight on either side of your bike. Ideally split your dirty clothes, waterproofs and tools, and your clean clothes & shoes and your food between two panniers.
- I haven’t tested loads of different panniers because I am 110% satisfied with my Ortlieb Classic Roll-Back panniers. Completely waterproof, hard as nails and can hold an awful lot. You can also buy this superb product and support Sustrans, the charity behind the National Cycle Network:
(3) Waterproofs – Unfortunately it rains quite a lot in the UK but cycling with decent waterproofs you stay dry and much more chipper. In priority order the top waterproofs:
- Jacket – absolute essential for most regular cyclists. They keep your most exposed body parts dry and therefore warm. Really good waterproof jackets are also breathable so you don’t overheat. If you’re going to fork out for any waterproof kit the jacket is definitely the most important.
- Major online retailers provide women’s and men’s waterproof jackets. Price range is massive and is eye-wateringly expensive on the high side. A few suggestions in price order:
- Overshoes – I think these are more important than waterproof trousers as I find wet shoes, socks and feet far more unpleasant than wet legs. Also keep the wind off your feet and therefore warm. I’d say an essential as very difficult to dry sodden shoes overnight for the next day’s riding.
- Not over expensive but really valuable item for cycle touring:
- Trousers – If you really don’t like getting wet legs then these are important but they are not very breathable and therefore cause sweaty legs quickly. Also restrict the movement of your hard working legs.
From Sustrans, Men’s and Women’s From Wiggle
(4) Padded shorts – For men and women alike the extra comfort achieved from wearing padded shorts over a long distance is invaluable. Can feel odd at first but you will be inseparable (not physically) before long.
- I can recommend these Madison shorts as the padded inner lining is removable so the shorts can also be worn for more casual rides:
(5) Inflation apparel – spare innertubes, a pump and puncture repair kits are absolute essentials and tyre levers very handy. It is unlikely you won’t get a puncture over a tour of two or three days and having to walk a long way with your bike to fix this primitive cycling problem is a real pain.
- Innertubes and puncture repair kits vary little in price or quality but not the case with mini pumps. Can be bought cheap but avoid super cheap to get something with a bit of longevity.
(6) Multi-tool – most things on your bike can be adjusted with Allen keys which multi-tools always have a selection of sizes of. Ideally you want one with a Philips and flat head screw drivers and a chain device. A snapped chain can leave you stranded but you can often fix them with a chain device until you can get to the next bike shop.
- Loads of choice but I have to recommend this super compact multi-tool with everything you need at a good price:
(7) Bike lights – most cycle tourists want to get their riding done in daylight however it’s always worth having lights for poor visibility conditions and in case unforeseeable delays mean you have to ride in the dark. Very handy for campers to for tent light.
- Loads of choice but for back up lights it’s not worth spending loads of money.