Adventure Cycling & Cycle Touring

Cycle Touring Gear | The Essential Kit

Your basic packing list for a two wheeled adventure.

Having the right cycle touring gear can make all the difference for your next cycling adventure. If you are a beginner to cycle touring, then this guide is your next step towards making your first journey a reality. When packing for a cycle tour keep in mind the less is more philosophy. Limited storage space on a touring bike forces you to bring only what you really need and having the best gear for the job is crucial.

“Limited storage space on a touring bike forces you to bring only what you really need”

Many cycle touring packing lists can be exhaustive, so this guide focuses on the bare essentials that will see you cycling across Europe in no time. Each cycle tour is different, so your needs will be based on the season and climate of where you are going.

If you haven’t sorted yourself out with a touring bike yet, then check out our buying guides for affordable bikes under £1000, and more premium models above that price. Once you’ve chosen your ride, you can begin assembling the rest of your touring gear around it.

Beginning with….

1) Panniers

A reliable set of panniers is the foundation of a good touring setup. Photo: iStock

Many tourers will argue whether it’s pronounced Pan-YER or Pan-EER till the cows come home, but unless you are a native French speaker then it’s open to interpretation. These bags will form the basis of your cycle touring kit, and will surprise you with the amount of stuff you can pack into them. Short distance tourers will have just two larger bags on the rear wheel, whereas long distance tourers will also have two small panniers on the front wheel.

Waterproofing is the main feature you want to look for in a pannier. The Ortlieb range are industry standards in this regard, and their Back-Roller Classic is their entry level offering.

Buy from:
Prices from: £90 pair

Top tip: When packing keep your panniers evenly balanced weight-wise on each side of the bike.

2) Tent

Tents come in all shapes and sizes, but lighter is always better for cycle touring. Photo: fotoVoyager

Camping is a highlight of travelling by bike and a solid lightweight tent is a must. The ridiculously small and impossibly light Nordisk Telemark 2 ULW is perfect in this regard. Other features to look for are freestanding options where you can remove the waterproof outer layer. This A) means you can pitch up easily even if the ground is too hard for tent pegs, and B) you can take the roof off when it gets too hot/you want to gaze up at the stars at night.

Buy from:
Prices from: £425

Top tip: A basic tent repair kit for broken poles or ripped membranes is a good asset.

3) Sleeping Bag and Air Mattress

Touring after a bad nights sleep is always a struggle. Photo: iStock

Having the right season sleeping bag for your cycle tour is an important consideration. Temperatures can drop surprisingly quick at night so having a cold-weather sleeping bag is essential for a good night’s sleep on the road. A great model from the Alpkit range is the Pipe Dream 600, featuring ethically sourced down feathers, and a low-temperature rating in a low-weight package. They also have even lighter sleeping bags that are great for warmer climates.

Buy from:
Prices from: £230

After years of getting terrible nights sleep on a cheap foam pad, I finally made the upgrade to an inflatable air mattress for cycle touring and never looked back. The NeoAir Xlite from Thermarest is one of the smaller options out there, but with over 2 inches of depth is still very comfortable. Weighing in at just over 300g, this will boost your comfort whilst cutting down on weight.

Buy from:
Prices from: £130

Top tip: Check your camping surface for sharp objects to avoid punctures.

4) Camp stove and Cookware

Having a hot meal at the end of a long day in the saddle is always a bonus. Photo: iStock

Another great touring space saver, the Kraku from Alpkit is slightly bigger than an AA battery – saving you space and weight. Compatible with most camping gas canisters – you can easily restock your supply on the road. Lightweight titanium cookware is also available from Alpkit in a variety of different combinations to suit your needs.

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Prices from: £25

Top tip: Don’t use a gas stove inside your tent!

5) Clothing

‘Hope for the best, plan for the worst’ is a good rule of thumb when choosing clothes to bring. Photo: iStock

Cycle touring in the UK, you will probably encounter rain at some point. Even if you’re touring in summer, having inadequate clothing can ruin a ride. Páramo’s waterproof Ciclo Light Jacket is as good on the bike as it is around the campsite, making it an ideal option for cycle touring.

Buy from:
Prices from: £200

A quality base-layer is another versatile piece of clothing for on and off the bike. The merino options from Icebreaker are second to none, and being virtually odour free they’re perfect for long stretches away from home amenities.

Buy from:
Prices from: £50

Top tip: Pack some rope if you want to do laundry by hand and need to make a washing line.

Other essentials

Being ready for any eventuality on the road is crucial, so being able to repair your gear (or yourself) is always something to be prepared for. These are some simple but essential items that you should never be without:

Bicycle pump

Puncture repair kit

Tyre levers

Spare inner tubes

Cycling multi-tool

Camping multi-tool

Sunscreen (even if it’s cloudy)

First Aid Kit

Best bike upgrade

So you’ve got the best tent, and panniers to carry it, but your tour is being ruined by constant punctures. Consider a tyre upgrade before you head out. Your touring bike will probably come with a good pair of tyres, but upgrading will give you a longer lasting and a more flat resistant set of skids.

Punctures suck! Having a decent pair of tyres is a must. Photo: iStock

The industry standard in this regard is the Schwalbe Marathon Mondial Folding tyre. The protection and durability of these tyres are legendary and many prolific cycle tourers swear by them

Prices from: £35 

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