How much gear do you need for a bicycle tour anyway?

Given you’re following the World By Cycle adventure you are definitely showing signs of interest in the exhilarating world of adventure travel. But I’ll bet two of the top questions placing a barrier between you and the road right now are quite likely: am I physically capable of undertaking such an adventure, and how much gear do I need.

The first question is absolutely a function of your expectations for the adventure; after all, you could head out for a cycle between vineyards stopping frequently to sample the grape juice and cuisine, or you could be heading out to traverse a mountain range. Fitness is an entire topic in itself, and whether or not yours is an ‘issue’ depends primarily on where you travel and how much ground you expect to cover.

In Brazil we were so inspired by the cyclists who shared the journey with us, from the Bike Angels in Sao Paulo who’s mission it is to promote bicycle transport in the city to the group who cycled 100 kilometres to the coast with us – we had an absolute hoot and few of these people had fancy equipment, suffice to say their equipment had plenty of ‘character’!

So, inspired by these experiences I’d like to focus on some ideas for the second point – how much gear do I need – let me give you three different approaches to bicycle travel which I identify with.

Have Card Will Travel

Otherwise known as ‘Credit Card Touring’ .

This is undoubtedly the lightest on the planning front. It can involve as little as rolling out the door with the bare essentials in your pocket: toothbrush, deodorant stick, credit card, smart phone and puncture repair kit, through to a slightly more decadent option of a Revelate bag or light backpack with a change of clothes and any other essential comforts.

This style of touring typically involves staying in hotels, where you can wash your clothes in the basin – it’s handy to have a set of super-compact pants/shirt – get a good nights sleep and be fresh and ready for the next days adventure.

Kristina and I spent a week in New Zealand using this method and had a great time. Our trip kicked off in Wellington where we checked out the town for a couple of days. Then took the scenic ferry to the South Island and cycled our way to the West Coast and down to Greymouth. The cycling was amazing and we had no trouble finding affordable accommodation where we could even cook our own meals.

Super Light

Otherwise known as ‘travel-light-freeze-at-night’!

This style often involves fast and light camping, i.e. just a sleeping bag and mat, no cooking equipment (or a low volume, super light cooker) and in cooler climates a layer-based clothing system is essential.

The huge advantage to this approach is the distance and terrain you can cover whilst remaining somewhat self-sufficient. You can head through a remote mountain trail for a day or two, without the worry of having to finish up near a town for accommodation or food.

The Revelate style bike luggage comes into its own here; closing the gap between backpack and fully loaded panniers.

In this style I once embarked on a mission to the Margaret River region, boarding the train from Perth to Bunbury, then cycling 50km to Bussleton where I slept on the end of the jetty – 2km out to sea. The next day I cycled to Prevelly Beach and slept on a grassy patch… then on to Margaret River to take a bus home. Enjoying the local viticulture and cuisine the entire way!

Load Haul

Touring with all the bells and whistles.

Our kit list for World By Cycle was designed to sustain us around the world. Our bikes built to withstand anything our route would throw at them, our wardrobe sufficient to protect us in climes ranging from hot arid deserts of West Africa to alpine passes of Switzerland. We carry a satellite tracker, GPS device, water sanitisation gear, medical equipment and many other very useful pieces of equipment.

BUT, our equipment list for this trip was heavily influenced by the distance and mission of our journey. You’ll certainly find people heading out on month-long bicycle tours with little more than the ‘super-light’ approach. Typical additions to the kit list here are a tent, water purification system and cooking equipment (home base).

What I really admire is seeing people head out on a bike they’ve dusted off from the back shed, grabbing a rack and strapping whatever bag they’ve got to it… and just getting out there.

I hope some of these ideas inspire you to find your next adventure and would be absolutely stoked if you would share yours with us in the online comments, or as a guest blogger. Keep adventuring, N.