Packing your Touring bike properly

Packing properly for a bike trip

Janis 11. February 2020

Whether a one-week bicycle tour through France or an extended adventure through South America lasting several months, the question is: What do I pack?

"What am I taking with me on this journey?"

This is the question every cyclist asks themselves before a tour, no matter whether your trip sends you on a well-deserved holiday for a week or whether you are planning a cycling adventure in South America lasting several months. I'm tempted by adventure.

I am studying Spanish and German to become a teacher, I work in the service department at bike-components and I am currently writing my master thesis. This combination of cycling enthusiasm and affinity for languages gave rise to the idea of cycling through South America for half a year. I love cycling because it gives me the opportunity to build a bridge between myself and the local culture. With a bicycle I am fast enough to discover a lot and at the same time slow enough to be able to get be a part of the smaller details of the Latin American world. But before I left for Brazil in mid-January, I naturally asked myself the all-important question: "What am I taking with me? What can I do without?"

Bombtrack Hook EXT: a Gravel bike for a bike trip

My bike choice: The Bombtrack Hook EXT with slight adjustments: Brooks saddle and oval chainring

Bombtrack Hook EXT Gravel bike - details

Reliable components are the end-all be-all on such a journey

Bicycle tour with a Gravel bike

Of course, a light is a most because camp might be set up at night.

Bicycle tour with a Gravel bike

Fully loaded and ready for the adventure

Choosing the right bike for the journey

My packing list has changed with every bike trip. Over time, experience removes the unnecessary stuff from bike bags. But the fact is: The motivation behind the trip is a decisive factor in deciding what to take with you. For me, experience is at the centre of my journey. Experience in the form of cultural diversity, sporting challenge and scenic impressions that will accompany me throughout my life.

First of all, of course, the material must be right. When going out into the wide world, I have to be able to rely on the material. You never know what is waiting around the next bend and what the bike will have to endure. On my bike trip I will cover approximately 8,000 km and I often think about what a Bolivian that I got to know in 2010 told me: in Bolivia, only 10 % of the roads are paved. Today, ten years later, that will probably not be much more.

So in order to have the necessary comfort on the trip, you need a bike with thick tyres, but which can also go the distance without any problems. It has to be a jack of all trades and handle everything that comes its way. In my opinion the closest thing is a Grave bike. That's why for this adventure I chose a bike with a steel frame that can be welded anywhere at any time and a light carbon fork: The Hook EXT by Bombtrack is my bike of choice.

The packing list

The minimum of gear for this trip should at least contain everything that will allow me to ride easily and safely through Latin American countries. This includes, above all, tools and spare parts for carrying out minor bike maintenance: A multi-tool, mini-pump, bicycle chain, a few spare tubes, brake pads and other small parts make up the basic gear.

Apart from these technical basics, a certain degree of safety is also important to me for further gear. The helmet is of course standard, but reflective clothing also belongs in my panniers. At dusk nobody expects a cyclist on the roads in South America and you never know if you will make it to your camp/hotel on time.

Some of the equipment on my packing list is not exactly basic. Since the bike trip also serves as a preparation for my master thesis, I want to document as much of the cultural and scenic conditions as possible. So I have a DSLR with three lenses, a small drone and an action cam with me on the trip. The accessories like tripod, solar panel, spare batteries and the chargers probably weigh as much as the necessary equipment. But: How often do you take such a journey? The captured memories are definitely worth the extra weight.

Bicycle tour with a Gravel bike

Choose your gear: Tools and spare parts to be prepared for smaller mechanicals.

Bicycle tour with a Gravel bike

Replacement tube and patches are a must

Bicycle tour with a Gravel bike

Brake pads. There are a lot of fast descents waiting for me

Bicycle tour with a Gravel bike

See and be seen: In South America, nobody expects cyclists on the roads after dusk

Bicycle tour with a Gravel bike

Not necessarily standard, but important to me: My photo and video equipment for a unique adventure

Comfort: Sleep well, eat well, and the rest comes

Two aspects of my equipment are particularly important to me. If you live on a bike for six months, you should be able to sleep well and have proper meals. Therefore I decided to buy a big enough tent, a good sleeping bag with inlay and most of all a good pad, which gives me the necessary comfort to be fit again on the bike the next day. Nevertheless, every now and then you have to find a good compromise between weight and comfort.

On the subject of "nutrition" I rediscovered the gourmet in me. First of all, I learned on previous trips that you should never rely on the assortment of foreign outdoor shops regarding gas cartridge standards. So if you don't want to cook over tea lights, it should be a multi-fuel stove. This can be operated with gas, alcohol and petrol, even kerosene.

In small film cans I carry "vital" spices with me. Curry, Himalayan salt, pepper, oregano, a garlic mixture and the most important thing: a green and a red curry paste, which effortlessly conjure up a real meal out of every vegetable. In Latin America it is not easy to find curry pastes and so I decided to choose the brand I trust and simply packed it into an empty XXL can of Tick Tacks. Even a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and another sauce, packed in small bottles, find space in my bags.

I stow the necessary water supply in two bladders, which I place in a baking roller and in the frame bag. On remote parts of the journey I also have a backup canister on the rack. On the Ortlieb panniers there are two additional bottles, which are used as emergency rations. For the water treatment I decided to use the chemical variant with tablets. It weighs less, works fast and cannot break as quickly as a filter.

Packing list - sleep:

  • Tent: Vaude Lizard
  • Thermarest Prolite Plus pad
  • Inlay
  • Down sleeping bag

Packing list - food: 

  • Multi-fuel stove with windscreen, fuel bottle, spare parts + adapter
  • 2 pots
  • Titanium cup
  • Spices (Himalayan salt, oregano, wild garlic mix, chili, pepper, curry, curry paste green/red)
  • Mini sauce dispenser
  • 2x hydration bladders
  • bc bottle
Bicycle tour with a Gravel bike

My mobile kitchen: The multi-fuel cooker is advisable if you don't want to cook over tea candles at some point

Bicycle tour with a Gravel bike

Spice collection in the photo tin: A tasty meal recharges the soul

Bicycle tour with a Gravel bike

Red and green curry paste are a most for my trips

Bicycle tour with a Gravel bike

Practical bottle cage: Besides two bladders in the bags, two bottles round off my water supply

Safety first, hygiene second

The last important piece of equipment is the first-aid bag. There I store my first-aid kit, bandages, tick tweezers and everything for hygiene. The first-aid kit includes standard medication for pain and diarrhoea, but adapts individually to each trip and is therefore only finally assembled in Brazil.

Hygiene standards are probably getting lower and lower as I ride, but that's exactly why I want to use every available moment to freshen up and that's why I have my shampoo and toothbrush handy in my first aid bag. When in nature I also have a curd soap along with my shampoo. This way I do not harm the ecosystem and can wash-up with a clear conscience.

 

The following applies to clothing: Pack little, but pack well

For clothing I have four t-shirts, four boxer shorts, four pairs of socks, two cycling shorts and long trekking pants with detachable trouser legs. Because, in my experience, I will reach a body of water after four days at the latest where I can wash everything.

Due to the big differences in temperature that can range from over 40 degrees in the Brazilian cities to -10 degrees in the Bolivian salt flats, I paid special attention to be sufficiently dressed in all temperature ranges. From a down jacket to good gloves and a helmet cap, everything is included.

I’ve prepared myself against the weather with good rain pants and a rain jacket, which together with the overshoes should keep everything dry.

Packing list - clothes:

  • Rain jacket
  • VAUDE Men’s Moab rain pants
  • Down jacket
  • Fleece jacket
  • Cap
  • Old bib shorts
  • Old cycling shorts
  • Roeckl Gore Tex gloves
  • 4x boxer shorts
  • 4x T-shirts
  • 4x pairs of socks
  • Sweater
  • Swimming trunks
  • bc Buff
  • Warmer Buff
  • Cycling shoes
  • Old comfortable shoes
  • Havaianas
  • Normal sunglasses
  • Sunglasses for sun at high altitudes
Bicycle tour with a Gravel bike

Packed and ready for my 6 month tour through South America © bc GmbH & Co. KG

Complete packing list:

 

Bags:

 

Safety:

 

Spare parts and tools

 

Food: 

  • Multi-fuel stove (with windshield,
  • fuel bottle, spare parts
  • + adapter)
  • 2 pots
  • Titanium cup
  • Spices (Himalayan salt, oregano,
  • wild garlic mix, chili,
  • pepper, curry, curry paste
  • green / red)
  • Mini sauce dispenser
  • 2x hydration bladders
  • bc bottle

 

Sleep:

  • Vaude Lizard tent
  • Thermarest Prolite Plus pad
  • Inlay
  • Down sleeping bag

 

Hygiene and health:

  • Towel
  • Shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Cream
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Bandages
  • Disinfection
  • Tick tweezers
  • Medication

Racks: 

 

Clothing:

  • Rain jacket
  • VAUDE Men’s Moab rain pants
  • Pants
  • Down jacket
  • Fleece jacket
  • Cap
  • Old bib shorts
  • Old cycling shorts
  • Roeckl Gore Tex gloves
  • 4x boxer shorts
  • 4x T-shirts
  • 4x pairs of socks
  • Sweater
  • Swimming trunks
  • bc Buff
  • Warmer Buff
  • Cycling shoes
  • Old comfortable shoes
  • Havaianas
  • Normal sunglasses
  • Sunglasses for sun at high altitudes

 

Electronics: 

  • Solar panel
  • Laptop + adapter
  • Smartphone
  • Power bank
  • D7500 + three lenses
  • + spare batteries
  • Gorillapod
  • DJI Mavic Mini + replacement
  • Action camera + accessories
  • Backup GPS
  • External SSD
  • Micro SDs 1 TB
  • Chargers
  • Garmin mount

 

Documents and finances:

  • Vaccination records
  • Passport
  • Copies of all documents
  • Wallet
  • Wallet with expired
    cards + some money