i put this list together to share with friends who want to ride together on a bikepacking route! also to think out loud what i am planning on bringing on my next trip.
huge caveat: i once met some people who had biked from boston to santa barbara on cruisers with giant plastic square buckets attached via bolts to their frame. they stuffed their belongings in black plastic bags and that was waterproof enough. so while i want to write down some of my own personal thoughts on gear that works well, you definitely don’t have to buy a bunch of fancy or expensive gear in order to ride a bike a long distance.
- a helmet
- a lock
- water bottle cage
- appropriate tires for your route
- skinnier if its more paved
- fatter/knobbier if its more offroad
- tools needed to change a flat
- a crescent wrench if your wheel requires it
- tire irons (levers)
- a patchkit (make sure the glue isn’t dried up)
- an extra tube
- a tire pump
- a multitool for tightening or otherwise working on your bicycle
- generally i only end up using my hex/allen wrenches
- a chainbreaker and a small bit of extra chain
- while its rare, last ride we broke a chain!
- we had no extra links to repair the chain sadly though
also, before embarking, make sure to lube your chain!
- sleeping pad
- sleeping bag
- fuel and flame source
- coffee making device
- toiletries & bug repellent
- lol i’m sure you’ve gone camping
- why am i even listing this stuff >__<
unless you’re biking in foul weather, the clothing you’d need is mostly what you’d expect - clothing thats comfortable to bicycle in for a long time. often, people prefer having shorts with added padding in them which can more comfortable on long rides, and help you from getting saddle sores. for upper layers, its most importantly just to have a somewhat breathable wind breaker in my opinion. otherwise, i like wool best since it dries fast and doesn’t smell as bad after riding all day.
from what i can tell, there seems to be two main approaches to storing things on your bicycle. for folks that spend more time going offroad, doing gravel, or have suspension on their bicycle, frame mounted bags and handle bar/seat storage seems preferred - mixed terrain cycle touring
- this ends up looking something like this:
some of the major advantages of this type:
- no racks needed, which is less weight and gear
- no works much better for bikes with suspension
- doesn’t require mounting points
on the other hand:
- no racks is less flexibility for carying bulky or large boxy objects
- center of gravity is high, which causes some instability when riding
the other type is more suited for paved, road based routes - where the bags (called panniers - from the french for “basket”) are mounted on racks and usually much closer to the ground:
advantages to me:
- lower center of gravity, which makes me feel more stable going fast
- overall more room to bring more things, tools, snacks, clothes etc.
- good racks can hold a lot of weight and awkward sized objects - for example, we once put my friends bicycle on my rack, and she sat on my handlebars, so we could get back to where we were fixing her bicycle - much harder to do without a rack
another common approach is just to get a cheap basket! the washington area bicycle organization posted a good article on carrying things on a bike which shows an example of how a few of my friends use baskets instead of racks/bags to hold their stuff:
baskets like this can be found for very cheap and also don’t require any type of mounting points on your frame, which make them attractive as a quick and affordable option.
- works great even for doing random stuff
- adding a cargo net over it can expand the space
- any bag works as basket bag
- somewhat higher center of gravity
- your bag might need to be waterproof?
personally, my gear is bit of a mix. i have bags on my front forks, a frame bag, a handlebar bag, and rear paniers. so it is totally up to you to figure out what feels best on your bike. if you wan to read about what i specifically have on my bicycle, you can see more about my bike.
regardless of what you chose, you’ll be more comfortable riding if you distribute the weight somewhat evenly on the bicycle - some in the front and the back, and some on each side of the bike. this ends up making you feel a lot more balanced, and avoid a silly fall when you’re tired at the top of a hill.
usually when planning a ride with friends, i try to coordinate at least a few things so we don’t end up having a full copy of everything. for example, we usually only need to heat one or two cups of water at a time, so one stove for heating water is enough. we also often don’t need to have a bike pump for each person, some people share tents, etc.
incoming links: bikepacking