Essential Gear for Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking

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bike touring essential gear

The best touring bike accessories and essential bicycle touring gear. A basic kit of equipment for a cycle touring trip

This article aims to be the ultimate guide to bike touring gear and touring bike accessories – of course, we’ll list the essentials and what is for us the best/most-affordable cycle touring equipment, but I want to start this blog post with a note.

Too many people worry about the gear they should bring on a bicycle trip, and somehow think that if they don’t have the best bicycle touring equipment then their tour is going to be a failure. Let me say this straight, you don’t need any of these fancy expensive cycle touring accessories to have the bike trip of your life!

For our first multi-year bicycle world tour, we set off on old refurbished mountain bikes and with very basic bike touring gear, and we had the time of our life! During our bike travels we met people cycling on all sorts of stuff: using buckets as panniers, riding grannies or handmade tall-bikes, sleeping in cheap tents, and so on.

So don’t let budget be an obstacle between you and your dream, set off with what you have and welcome the issues and misadventures, they are the real memory-makers!

So, if you don’t plan some extreme expedition our advice is not to worry too much about the gear. If you’re on a budget, don’t invest too much money in equipment, save it for the trip instead.

That said, having proper gear sure saves you a lot of trouble and ensures some comfort so, if your wallet can afford it, consider the motto “You get what you pay for” – quality gear though is an investment that could last a lifetime or at least several touring years.

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bike trip equipment

Essential Bicycle Touring Gear and Touring Bike Accessories


First of all, ask yourself these three questions: where am I going? When? and for how long?

The choice of the gear really depends on what kind of trip are you planning: are you going to ride the Tibetan Plateau in winter? Are you going to be traveling through South East Asia? Or is your plan “just” a two weeks cycling holiday in Europe?

So let’s organize this list starting from the bike trip essentials and working our way up towards long-distance cycle touring.

But first, here’s a quick checklist for those of you in a hurry or with a short attention span 😉


Essential Bike Touring Gear in a Nutshell


Bike touring essentials


Basic accessories for Cycle Touring

  • Fenders (Mudguards)
  • Mirror
  • Bell
  • Water Bottles
  • Lock
  • Sunglasses
  • Bike Lights

Non-Essential Accessories for Bicycle Touring


Bags and Racks for Cycle Touring and Bikepacking


Essential Camping Gear for Bike Touring

Read more about bike camping gear!


Tools and Spare Parts For a Bicycle Expedition

  • Tire levers and patch kit
  • Allen Key or Bike Multi-Tool
  • Chain Link
  • Spoke Wrench
  • Chain Tool
  • Screwdriver
  • Lubricant
  • Zip Ties

To be added for long cycling expeditions

  • Duct Tape
  • Sewing Kit
  • Hard Toothbrush and piece of cloth
  • Cone Spanner
  • Cable Cutter
  • Spokes
  • Tube
  • Brake Pads
  • Bolts and Nuts

Read more about Bikepacking Toolkits!


Bicycle Touring Clothing Essentials

read more about cycle touring clothes

Electronic Gadgets

read more about bikepacking gadgets!


Bike touring essentials


The Bicycle

touring bike accessories
my Stanforth Kibo in Mozambique

The most important piece of equipment, it’s your bike that will make your dreams come true, together with your force of will.

Depending on your plans, you probably won’t need the best touring bicycle on the market, I toured my first 25,000km on an 80-year-old refurbished leisure bike.

I like to say that “every bike is a touring bike, as long as you tour with it”, I’ve seen people touring on folding bikes, cheap mountain bikes, and even grannies. Of course, you need to check your bike properly before going on tour, your safety depends on it.

How to choose the right bike for an expedition is a topic we thoroughly explored here:

The Best Travel Bikes – 7 categories compared

If you already have a bike or know what bike you want to use, you might find these useful

> Gravel Bike Touring – The Why and the 6 Best Gravel Bikes for Touring and Bikepacking
> Mountain Bike Touring – The MTB Set-Ups for Bikepacking & Cycle Camping
> Why Folding Bike Touring + The 6 Best Folding Bikes For Touring in 2023
> Bikepacking bikes / Touring Bikes Under $2,000 / Budget Touring Bikes / Touring bikes for women


Saddle

As you’ll be spending most of your day on it, getting a good saddle that fits your sit bones size can totally change your bike touring experience. Of course, saddles are the most personal thing and what works for others might not work for you.

Here we compiled a list of
> the best bikepacking saddles for all body shapes

Tires

If you don’t want to spend half of the day repairing punctures, we recommend upgrading your tires with something puncture-proof.

Here are our favorite
> tires for cycle touring.



Basic accessories for Cycle Touring


bike touring accessories
Bike Mirror on Perfomancebike.com

Fenders (Mudguards)

Fenders keep you dry and clean on rainy days. Most touring bikes already come equipped with it. If you plan on cycling dirty roads in the rainy season, bear in mind that the mud can stick between the fenders and the tyres, stopping the wheel from rolling.

This can’t be avoided, the best thing to reduce this phenomenon is to have a wide clearance between the mudguard and the tyre.


Mirror

Most bicycle travelers did not use this but to me is fundamental. Knowing what’s coming behind you improves your safety by numbers. Have a look at these and see what fits your handlebars.


Bell

Another one of my favorite items, a loud bell helps you get noticed by cars, trucks, and people on the road. Moreover, it can save you from having to say all those “hello” in countries like The Philippines or Indonesia.


Water Bottles

Well, this goes by itself. Plastic ones tend to be smelly after a while, insulated water bottles are the way to go for a long trip. Some people like Hydration Packs, but I don’t.

Another thing you might consider if heading to remote destinations is water bottles with built-in filters, which would solve the problem of finding drinkable water in some countries.

Here I’ve compiled a list of
> my favorite cycling water bottles


Bike Lock

Having your bike stolen will most likely put a sad end to your tour. Having a good lock will make it harder for any malicious folk to deprive you of your dream.

We personally use TiGr Locks, a titanium lightweight bow lock made in the US, Kryptonite U locks are maybe the most used by owners of pretty cool bicycles.


Helmet

At the beginning of our bike touring “career”, we rode a lot without helmets, basically because we were so prone to leaving them somewhere behind us – I don’t know how many we’ve lost.

We sure are not proud of that, and nowadays we never ride without a bike helmet, we think it is a great way to improve one’s chance to survive accidents.

Have a look at the
> safest helmets on the market.


Sunglasses

Cycling glasses are a fundamental ally, and not just during sunny days.

Cycling eyewear, in fact, in addition to the fundamental role of protecting our eyes from UV rays, also keeps dust, smog, wind, and insects at a due distance – also, they provide a barrier between your eyes and any flying debris or objects in case of an accident.

But not only this, cycling glasses can improve your vision by reducing glare and enhancing contrast, making it easier to see obstacles on the road ahead. They can also help you see better in low-light conditions, such as when cycling at dawn or dusk (if you do not choose a super-dark lens).

Check our guide:
> best cycling glasses – from cheap to pro



Bike Lights

Bike touring is full of surprises, even if you don’t plan on cycling at night you always should have at least basic bike lights.

Imagine a dark tunnel, or find yourself stranded by a mechanical problem – having proper bike lights can be life-saving!

Check our curated selection of the
> brightest bike lights in the market.


Non-Essential Accessories for Bicycle Touring


gear equipment cycle touring
TiGr bow lock, buy it on Amazon.com

Kickstand

When I used to ride with a trailer, I wouldn’t have survived without a kickstand. Anyway, I still consider it a must for me, I can stop wherever I want to take pictures, take a leak, or whatever, without having to worry about finding a place to lean my bike, and helps a lot when loading.

Some like to lay the bike on the ground, I personally hate that, it ruins the panniers, makes the luggage move in an unwanted way, and may scratch the bike. Elena though doesn’t have one and never wanted one, so it’s completely up to you.

A kickstand for a loaded bike must be sturdy, so double kickstands, like the Velo Orange Copenhagen or the Ursus, definitely work better.

We compiled here a list of
> the best kickstands for cycle touring.


Map Holder

For those who are fond of paper maps, this is the stuff you need to keep it open and dry on your handlebars. Have a look at this incredibly sturdy one from KlickFix, it uses the same mount as most handlebar bags.


Phone Clamp and/or GPS clamp

If you’re more into the technological type of navigation, you’ll need something to hold your GPS device or Smartphone. Something like these or with an integrated power bank.

here’s our list of
the most reliable bike phone holders


Hub Dynamo

Dynamo Hubs are great for bicycle touring. They can power your lights and USB devices (see the “electronics” section), getting energy from your cycling.

Good ones really have an almost unnoticeable drag. There are various models from several brands,


Bags and Racks for Cycle Touring and Bikepacking

At the time when this article was first published (2016), bikepacking wasn’t even a thing. Instead of Panniers VS Bikepacking, the hot topic at the time was Pannier VS Trailer.

Now we are almost in 2024 and so much has changed in these years in the world of bike travel, with an infinite array of new and hybrid setups to choose from.

Of course, we’ve updated this cycle touring gear and touring bike accessories article to reflect the latest trends, but you might also want to have a look at:

> Bikepacking Bags! The Best For Each Category from CHEAP to TOP
> Bikepacking Gear! The Packing List


best gear bicycle touring
Pletscher Double Kickstand (photo by johnnyisaak.com) Available on performancebike.com

Panniers

The best friends of the touring cyclist, those are the bags where you put your stuff. The most famous and appreciated brand is Ortlieb, they have a lot of different models. Other brands are VaudeThule, Rockbros, etc.

Despite being dominated mostly by Ortlieb, the bike panniers market is very lively, also for bicycle touring, with dozens of brands making very good alternatives to Ortlieb, most of the time for a fraction of the price.

Hoping to help you figure out which pannier to buy we compiled this
list of the best bike panniers in 2023

We also wrote field test reviews of Crosso Panniers and MSX-Mainstream

Check also this Dry Bags buying guide


Racks

Where your panniers are going to be hanged. Racks must be good quality, they are one of the pieces of equipment most likely to fail.

Tubus is one of the most trusted brands, Tortec makes some really lightweight ones, or you could go for a top-notch Lynskey Titanium Rack, able to carry up to 77kg (!), of course, it is quite expensive.


Handlebar Bags

Most tourers agree that the handlebar bag is the place to keep your most precious belongings – passport, and money. I also love to keep my camera there, always at hand when the surroundings require a portrait.

Here also Ortlieb is the most appreciated although there are many alternatives.

check our list of
> the best handlebar bags.

bike touring gear
hybrid setup – panniers/bikepacking

Bike Trailer

A trailer is a nice companion for touring, the main advantage is taking some weight out of the bicycle frame. I toured for two years with an Extrawheel Trailer and absolutely loved it, the Topeak Journey also looks quite nice.

A bike trailer is also the easiest way to bring your toddler or your pet with you, check these:

> 8 Best Bike Trailers for Dogs – Large and Small
> 8 Best Bike Trailers For Kids for All Budgets


Saddle Bag or Seat Packs

Bikepacking is becoming increasingly popular nowadays. Bikepacking is a way of bicycle traveling that reduces or eliminates the use of traditional panniers. Belongings are stored in capacious frame, handlebar, and seat packs.

There are a lot of saddlebags out there, from small to huge. The cool Revelate Spinelock is one of the largest on the market, while Ortlieb also makes some nice ones. We are currently using MSX Mainstream and Zefal.

Here’s our buying guide to
> 12 Best Saddle Bags in 2023. Road, MTB, Gravel, Bikepacking


Frame Bag

Another way to get rid of the panniers is using a Frame Bag. Those can contain a fair amount of luggage without depriving your bike of its aerodynamics.

Bear in mind that full-size frame packs must fit your bike’s geometry and size, that’s why many of them are tailor-made.


Dry Bag

Dry bags are increasingly popular among travelers. They are basically cylindrical bags made of impermeable material. In bicycle touring, they are often placed on the rear rack or used as handlebar rolls.


Racktop Bag

An alternative to dry bags is rack-top bags, specifically designed to be held on top of the rack (as the name suggests) – like this one from Topeak.

here’s our buying guide about
> The 8 Best Bike Trunk Bags for Rack-Top Reviewed – Waterproof!


Bunjee Cords

Useful to Secure your luggage, tight your bike on the roof of a boat in Borneo, or on top of a truck in Kazakhstan.


The FULL Bike Touring Kit – All the Equipment You Need for a Cycle Trip

This blog post is really becoming too long, so we’ve split it into a few more articles that dive into the detail of the ultimate bike touring kit.

> Essential Camping Gear for Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking

> Tools and Spare Parts to Bring on a Bicycle Expedition

> Electronic Equipment Gadgets for Long-Haul Bicycle Expedition

> Bicycle Touring Clothing Essentials


bike touring gear


Where to buy? Have a look at
> The Best Online Stores for Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking


cycle touring gear

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