The decision about what equipment to take with you on a bike trip really starts with how much room do you have to carry it. On a touring bike it is possible to fit both front and rear panniers, however, after many years of backpacking I am definitely of the opinion that if you have the space then you will fill it. So, with this in mind, I had a choice to make – just set off with rear panniers or to take the front ones along aswell? In the end I opted to ride with the front panniers from the outset and would use the left one to carry my cooking equipment, pan set and chair. The right front pannier I would use for food. The rear panniers would be used to carry everything else.
I think what swayed my decision was that I didn’t want to have to unpack and dig through my kit to find a particular item in the middle of a monsoon downpour. By setting off with 4 panniers I could compartmentalise my kit into distinct areas.
In Asia, I anticipate that I will only carry snacks and dried noodles with me for lunch as food should be readily available from roadside shacks on the way. The only time that I think that I will have to carry upto a weeks supply of food is when I get to South Island, New Zealand, where hopefully, I will be living days away from ‘civilisation’, and so will need to carry more supplies with me.
The choice of panniers to carry my gear was a little like the decision of which saddle to use because there is only one real contender – Ortlieb, and with the motto of ‘if it ain’t broke why fix it’ ringing in my ears I parted with the best part of £100 and purchased myself a new pair of the 40L Back Roller Classics. They really are the cycling equivalent of a tardis, and the first time I used the bags on a long distance cycle I was amazed at how much kit you can fit into them.
The set up on the bike to carry my equipment will be 2 x 40L Back Roller classics either side of the back wheel. My tent, sleeping bag, mosquito net and sleeping mat will be in dry bags on the top of the rear rack. On the front rack, I will carry my bike tools and spare parts, and all of the things that I need to hand will be in a front mounted bar bag.
Cost of Racks and Panniers
|Racks, panniers and Dry Bags||Description||Cost|
|Rear Pannier rack||Tubus Cargo Rack||£54.00|
|Front rack||Surly Nice front rack||£76.00|
|Rear pannier bags||Ortlieb Roller Classic 40L||£99.00|
|Front pannier bags||Ortlieb Front Roller Classic 25L||£80.00|
|Bar bag||Ortlieb Ultimate 6 plus 8.5L||£61.00|
|Map holder||Ortlieb Ultimate 6||£17.00|
|Compression pack XS||Sea to Summit||£20.00|
|Dry sack||Sea to Summit 20L||£25.00|
|Dry sack||Dry River 20 L||£25.00|
|Dry sack||Sea to Summit 13L||£21.00|
|Dry sack||Dry River 13L||£21.00|
|Straps||ROK commuter Strap||£9.00|
|Straps||ROK Motorcycle Strap||£20.00|
The single most expensive piece of kit that I purchased was the MSR Hubba Hubba tent. I talked to a number of people about whether I should go with a 1 person or 2 person tent and each had their advantages and disadvantages. I ended up buying the larger one with my rationale being that if I was going to live in something for a few months then I would like to have room to swing the proverbial cat.
In terms of security, the larger tent ticked all of the boxes as I wanted a tent where I could comfortably fit my gear inside the tent with me at night time. A number of years ago a friend and I were sleeping rough while travelling through Morocco. We had sleeping bags with us and at night we used to tie fishing line from our kit bags to the end of the sleeping bags. One night we were kipping in a park on the outskirts of Rabat when I was woken by my sleeping bag being pulled off me as a guy tried to run off with one of our bags. I don’t know who got the biggest fright, but the guy soon dropped the bag and legged it.
The other reason why the larger tent is a better option is that as I will be living out of it for over 6 months on this trip and there is bound to be days where I lose large chunks of time due to bad weather. The tent will then have to double as my living space and dining room.
The sleeping bag comes in a costly second in terms of cost. It is a Flash REI 3 season duck down bag. It weighs in at only 700g and compresses down to under 7 inches in length. My cycle route, and timings, see me circumnavigate the world following the summer season throughout. As I don’t anticipate having to camp long term in conditions below freezing I think that the 3 season bag and a set of thermals will be sufficient to keep me snug in the mountains. For fairer weather camping, I will just sleep in a sleeping bag liner rather than breaking out the sleeping bag.
The other piece of equipment that I intend to take with me that can only ever be placed in the comfort category is a chair. How the hell are you going to fit a chair on a bike I hear you say. Well, those clever people at Helinox have come up with a very novel solution. Weighing in at an ultra lightweight 890g is the amazing Chair One. For me, the only downside to pulling up by the side of the road and getting a brew on the go is that there is often nowhere comfortable to sit and enjoy the view. That problem is now history, and on a recent cycle trip to Dalat, in the central highlands of Vietnam, the Chair One came into its own and for me is well worth its hefty price tag.
Cost of Camping Equipment
|2 Person Tent||MSR Hubba Hubba||£253.00|
|Tent Footprint||MSR Hubba Hubba||£38.00|
|Sleeping Mat||Exercise mat||£10.00|
|Sleeping Bag Liner||Alps Mountaineering||£20.00|
|Sleeping Bag||REI Flash||£168.00|
|Camping Chair||Chair One||£75.00|
|UV Water Purifier||Travel Tap||£24.00|
|Water bladder||10 Litres||£20.00|
The ability to cycle the back roads and to camp long term in the wild depends on having a constant source of safe water. As natural environments where this is still available become scarce then the ability to purify water becomes vital. On this trip, I am going to take 2 different methods with me. The first is based on a Ultraviolet purification system – The Travel Tap. This is the most effective method for disinfecting bacteria from water. The UV rays destroy illness-causing micro organisms by attacking their genetic core (DNA).
The Travel Tap is a British product, and quite weirdly, a claim on their website states that it even purifies Urine as tested by UK marines. My back up water purification system for this trip will be Chlorine Dioxide tablets. I have used these before and I can confirm that treated water really does not taste good, but then as long as they allow you to keep on safely pedalling I will put up with it.
The last equipment that I needed to purchase was the cooking equipment. At £135.00, the Primus Omnifuel comes with a reputation that puts it at the top end of light weight camping stoves. What I like about this stove is that you can just about burn any type of fuel – kerosene, diesel, petrol, alcohol or even aviation fuel, and it easily converts to burn butane gas canisters as well. The stove has 3 different brass nozzles that are interchangeable dependent upon which type of fuel you are using. A tip though is that if you are sleeping near to other people don’t light it in the middle of the night as it sounds like a jet taking off.
Throw in a set of cooking pans, something to eat the food off and a fire starter and I was just about all set for the trip of a lifetime.
Cost of Cooking Equipment
|Cooking Stove||Primus Omnifuel II||£135.00|
|Pans||Vango Cook Set||£25.00|
|Camping Knife||Opinel Outdoor Knife||£18.00|
|Eating Bowl||Outwell Collapse Bowl||£5.00|
The first time I went travelling overland was when I went to Africa. This was in the early 1990’s and a time when the internet had just been invented and you traveled without any form of electronics let alone a mobile phone. Back in 1993, myself and a friend had just finished working the summer season in Portugal and decided to hitch hike to Egypt. Off we set from the Algarve and hitched our way through Spain to Gibraltar in order to catch a ferry to Morocco. As there was no internet we went to the public library and photocopied the relevant pages of an Atlas. This was all we had with us when the ferry landed in Tangier and could explain the reason why we never actually made it to Egypt.
Instead, we ended up hitch hiking our way south straight through the Sahara Desert and ended up living for a while in Lome, Togo. I think that this is the only time that my parents thought that something tragic had actually happened to me as, no matter where I was in the world, I would always phone home at Christmas. When we found ourselves sleeping in the middle of the desert in northern Niger on Christmas day this was obviously not possible. A couple of weeks later we finally arrived in a town big enough to have a working phone line, and when I phoned home mother was not impressed to say the least.
Today, it seems unthinkable to travel without any form of electronics. I have met a few cyclists who have tried it but I think that it can actually enhance the whole experience, especially with finding good quality accommodation without having to spend an hour traipsing around a city after a long day on the bike. So, in order to make life slightly easier the electronics for the trip set me back another £460.
Cost of Electricals
|Phone cover||Shockproof phone cover with stand||£3.00|
|SD card 128GB||SanDisk Ultra 128GB||£30.00|
|Battery recharger pack||Portable Power Bank Pack||£20.00|
This aspect of your packing can really make a difference to the size and weight of the luggage that you need to carry. Every time I go on holiday I always take too much stuff with me, but it doesn’t really matter as I don’t have to carry it very far. Even when I have been ‘backpacking’ the amount of time that I carried all of my equipment was fairly limited. However, when tour cycling the weight and bulk of equipment does really add up, and so I wanted to focus upon minimising the amount of clothes I took with me.
For short cycle trips of up to a week I have found that you really do not need very much with you. I recently cycled from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Bangkok in Thailand in 7 days. The aim of this ride was as a ‘training ride’ rather than a ‘sight seeing ride’ and so I rode my road bike rather than a touring bike. The total distance for the route I chose was around 950 km and so I needed to cover roughly 140 km each day. To cover this distance in just 7 days meant that I needed to only carry essential items and so I only took the following with me:
- 1 t-shirt
- 1 shirt
- 2 pairs of underpants
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 pair of flip flops
- a small bottle of clothes washing liquid
- small pot of vaseline
- phone + charger
- credit cards/cash
The guest houses that I stayed at all provided toiletries and towels, and each evening I washed my cycling gear by hand so that it was clean for the following day. For a camera I used my phone, and carried everything in a handlebar bag as I do not like cycling with a back pack.
For my round the world trip, I knew that I needed to add a few more items of clothing, but I intend to set off with the bare essentials. If I need to buy specific items for different sections, such as a jumper for the mountains, then I will buy these as required and give them away to locals when I no longer need them.
Cost of Cycle Wear
|Short sleeve cycling top||Endura||£10.00|
|Long sleeve cycling top||Endura||£15.00|
|Cycling gloves||Altura fingerless||£10.00|
|High Visibilty sleeveless Jacket||Ironman||£30.00|
|Lycra cycling shorts||Endura||£30.00|
|Baselayer longsleeve top||Northface flash dry||£45.00|
|Baselayer tights||Northface flash dry||£45.00|
|Bike shoes||Giro Vibram||£55.00|
|Cycle socks x 2||DHB short||£5.00|
Cost of Clothing
|Quick dry T-shirt x 1||Generic||£10.00|
|Walking trousers||North Face zip off at knee||£10.00|
|Long sleeve hoody||North Face||£20.00|
|Waterproof jacket||Endura Pakajac||£23.00|
|Waterproof trousers||Gelert Packaway trousers||£9.00|
|Trainers||Saucony Virrata 2||£50.00|
If you have any comments, tips or recommendations for equipment that you found invaluable on your own cycle tour I would love to hear from you – please leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can, or alternatively click here to email me direct!
For a complete breakdown of the myriad of additional expenses that you may incur if you set about planning your own cycling adventure click on the following links or use the ‘Costs’ tab at the top of the page:
Finally, if you have read my other pages, you will already know that I intend to record my journey via blog posts. So, if you haven’t already signed up I would love it if you would ‘join’ me on my journey as I cycle around the world by adding your email address to the form at the foot of this page to receive automatic updates.