Cycle touring guide: Essential gear, planning and navigation, and tips for the road

Encompassing every thing from overnighters on roads and trails near house, to multi-day adventures and cross-continental epics, self-supported cycle touring presents an adaptable – and infectious – expertise for adventure-seeking travellers and out of doors lovers. 

The beauty of cycle touring is that you just don’t even have to be a bike owner to take pleasure in it. Whereas the biking itself is laced with thrill and fulfilment, from testing climbs to speedy descents, it’s every thing that cycle touring facilitates which make it so charming: the individuals you meet, the landscapes you journey by way of, the end-of-day camp routine, and the satisfaction of human-powered journey.

All it is advisable start is a motorcycle (head to our guides to the best mountain bike or the best cheap mountain bike for extra on this), some fundamental gear, and an open thoughts. We’ll cowl all the fundamentals right here, and encourage you to utilise no matter gear you already personal – simply chuck it in a bag, connect it to your bike, and get on the market. 

What sort of bike and setup do I would like for cycle touring?

The excellent news is that cycle touring may be loved on any bike, so at all times attempt to use what you already personal. All bikes are very adaptable, however there are specifics to bear in mind.

In case your tour is predominantly on roads, search for a inflexible body (no suspension) that gives a relaxed, comfy driving place – in order that your palms aren’t too low in relation to your hips when holding the deal with bars. 30-40mm tyres will present an excellent steadiness of consolation and rolling effectivity, whereas disc brakes are finest for dependable braking, and a compact chainset (50 tooth on the largest chainring) paired with a 28-tooth sprocket on the rear, will guarantee you may sort out the climbs. 

In case your tour is off-road, a mountain bike can be extra appropriate. The identical guidelines from above apply for attaining a snug driving place, however the wider handlebars, wider tyres and smaller gears of mountain bikes will make driving off-road a lot simpler. 

cycle touring

(Picture credit score: Joshua Cunningham)

One other consideration is your baggage system. If you’re utilizing panniers, which may carry extra stuff and are usually extra appropriate for novices, then you definitely’ll want to verify your bike has mounts to put in them. If not, you’ll want to make use of bikepacking baggage, which may be connected to any sort of bike. Many individuals select bikepacking baggage over panniers regardless, preferring their light-weight nature, easy set up and minimal affect on bike dealing with. 

What ought to I pack for cycle touring?

To be self-sufficient, you’ll want the next:

  • Sleeping gear – Both a bivvy and sleeping bag or a light-weight tent similar to one of many best backpacking tents)
  • Cooking gear Camping stoves, pot/pan or camping cookware set, utensil
  • Meals – Rice, pasta, noodles, prompt meals
  • Water – Bottled, or reusable water bottle and filter to transform at supply
  • On-bike garments – Shorts, base layer, jersey, mid-layer, waterproofs, socks
  • Off-bike garments – Shorts, T-shirt, heat trousers, jumper, down jacket, socks
  • Toiletries – Toothbrush and paste, multi-purpose cleaning soap
  • Toolkit – Spare interior tubes, tyre levers, pump, Allen keys, lock
  • Electricals – Cellphone, GPS, charging cables, energy financial institution, head torch

Relying on the size of your tour, its relative remoteness, and predicted variation in temperature and climate, modify your kitlist to incorporate roughly of the above garments and provides. Precisely what mixture of things it is advisable pack will rely upon the kind of tour you’re planning: A multi-week tour in distant backcountry areas in winter would require extra gear than a summer time overnighter, and will additionally affect your baggage system too…

cycle touring

(Picture credit score: Joshua Cunningham)

Find out how to pack: High suggestions

Having extra stuff normally forces tourers to decide on panniers over bikepacking baggage, and most often that is completely affordable, however can change into problematic on off-road excursions (which heavy panniers aren’t appropriate for). Nevertheless, becoming all of that gear into bikepacking baggage typically requires the smallest, lightest, most costly variations of all package objects, which once more isn’t sensible. 

In consequence, panniers are normally a greater choose for novices, however in case you’re carrying little or no stuff, or can’t match a rack to your bike, then bikepacking baggage are a better option, retaining your journey expertise nimble and light-weight. 

Attempt to pack heavy issues like cooking gear and toolkits decrease down in your baggage. It will enhance bike dealing with. Lighter issues like garments and sleeping baggage go nearer the highest, whereas belongings you want easy accessibility to, similar to a cellphone or map, needs to be saved shut handy. Further baggage which connect to your handlebars, or prime tube, may be helpful right here. 

The place ought to I’m going?

You need to select someplace that gives the correct combination of journey and accessibility for you. A superb place to begin for novices could be to do a journey you’re already accustomed to, however together with an in a single day cease alongside the best way. From there, there may be completely no distinction within the strategy of cycle touring (cycle, discover a campsite, cook dinner meals, sleep, repeat) as you scale as much as a week-long tour, or a round-the-world epic. 

For those who’re after regular miles and a laid-back expertise, or have an curiosity in experiencing the native tradition, then becoming a member of up cities on a road-based tour is extremely advisable. For those who’re after technical driving, isolation and pure magnificence, then off-road touring might be for you. Will increase in distance, remoteness and the quantity of off-road driving in a tour will necessitate adjustments to your bike setup and kitlist. 

Find out how to plan your route and navigate

Utilizing your expertise of standard single-day driving, work out what number of kilometres you suppose you may cowl per day. Mix that quantity with the period of time you have got, and you’ll have a tough concept of how a lot floor you may cowl; what number of detours you can also make. 

For these with much less time, a extra detailed pre-departure plan is acceptable. Utilizing each paper and digital maps, you may mix info sources to plot a route, and even create a digital GPX or KML file to obtain to your cellphone or GPS unit. Ridewithgps.com and Komoot.com are in style mapping instruments.

cycle touring

(Picture credit score: Joshua Cunningham)

Alternatively, departing with only a tough concept of your vacation spot, you may journey fairly freely with a paper map, getting a really feel for the street on the best way, and permitting for diversions, suggestions and native information, navigating every day because it comes. That is typically the fashion adopted by tourers with a versatile schedule.

Find out how to wild camp

When the time involves discover a campsite for the night, there are a variety of choices. You possibly can both go for an official campsite or caravan park, or strive wild tenting. Wild tenting is not authorized in lots of areas, except you have got permission from the landowner (there are exceptions, similar to Scotland and components of Dartmoor within the UK). Ensure you already know the native entry rights, and ask permission from native landowners in case you can, as guidelines can differ. 

Whereas we do not formally condone tenting with out permission, in case you did (hypothetically) wish to pitch up in a distant spot for the evening, then here’s a fast survival information. To keep away from being disturbed, select a quiet second to slide off the street. Search for present protecting cowl, similar to a tree, hedge, or rock outcrop, and attempt to place your self to utilise the shelter from wind, rain, or line of sight. 

Wait till nightfall to place up your tent to be additional cautious, and use the ready time to cook dinner and eat. Be sure you are away from any dried-up our bodies of water that might fill within the occasion of heavy rain, and be cautious of drawing consideration with noise or hearth. Make sure you go away early to keep away from canine walkers and farmers within the morning, and as at all times, go away no hint. 

cycle touring

(Picture credit score: Joshua Cunningham)

High suggestions for cycle touring

  • Do not forget that cycle touring is as a lot concerning the day off the bike because the time on it: benefit from the camps and prolonged lunch stops, speak to individuals, and decelerate. 
  • Attempt to time your each day schedule so that you just go by way of a city late within the day, so that you just don’t want to hold meals and camp provides for lengthy earlier than establishing. 
  • Dividing your nights between accommodations and camps may be a good way of saving weight (cooking gear, scorching meals, bivvy solely) in case you can tough it – with the information of a mattress down the road. 
  • When packing, save weight by prioritising objects which have a number of makes use of: Garments which can be utilized on and off the bike, or a coat which acts as a pillow. 
  • Touring alone is a really totally different expertise to touring with firm, and every have their very own deserves and detractions. Attempt each! 
  • Benefit from the journey, however do not forget that the bike is only a car to help you expertise issues that attain far past biking.