10 must have items on a cycling tour

So you’ve decided to take on the challenge of a self supported cycling trip. You know what you need for most holidays - clothes, warm weather gear, swimmers, food, camping supplies, passport, cash etc….but what should you take on a self supported cycling trip?

Let’s have a look at what could go wrong and what to bring to remedy the situation. Let’s start with the simple and work our way up to the larger issues.

Problem: Your bell falls off, bar tape comes unravelled, bottle cage rattles, and a myriad of other annoying possibilities.

Solution: Take a few cable ties and a roll of electrical tape.

Practicality: Stop worrying and just take them, they will come in handy.

Problem: I use cleats and they won’t ‘clip-in’.

Solution: Best bet is make sure you check your cleats are reasonably new before your trip. Otherwise you could take a spare pair if they are light. For speedplay users definitely have cleat covers to protect them. Most who tour usually use Shimano-SPD and they are very reliable.

Practicality: It is highly unlikely you will have a problem if you use Shimano-SPD but choosing a set of ‘double use’ pedals that allow you to ride in ‘normal’ shoes also has lots of benefits on a tour.

Laura uses the Shimano SH-WM34 SPD Shoes and swears by them. The difference with these to other touring or mountain bike shoes is that there is a screw-on plate that you can replace the cleats with so they can be transformed to walking shoes.

Problem: I need air in my tyres. Either after a flat or just to re-inflate after a flight or several days of riding.

Solution: CO2 canisters, hand pumps and floor pumps.

Practicality: Some airlines won’t let you take CO2, just check as some do! You can buy them at most bike shops, so plan ahead and know where there is a shop in your first destination. Taking a floor pump on your bike is a no go unfortunately and many hand pumps will get you up to 60 PSI easily but trying to get 90-100 requires almost superhuman strength no matter what the product description says. There are several mini-pumps on the market now that sit somewhere in between the hand and foot pump description. These are definitely worth looking at taking. Otherwise finding a foot pump can be problematic if you can’t find a local bike shop.

Problem: I was riding downhill in a rainstorm during the eruption of a volcano and my brake pads wore out.

Solution: Avoid riding on active volcanoes. Or take a spare pair of brake pads.

Practicality: Let’s be honest, riding on an active volcano was cool and what could have possibly gone wrong? So yeah take a spare pair of brake pads on your trip, they are generally very light and very useful.

Problem: Wheels won’t turn because of a problem with tyres or tubes?

Solution: Having something cut or pierce your tube or tyre is probably the most likely obstacle you will encounter... other than that big steep hill that will make your legs scream out in agony as lactic acid pools in your muscles. Having at least one spare tube and a ‘tube patch kit’ is a necessity (and maybe packet of antacids). Also a set of good tyre levers to help getting the tyre off and on. Further to this you need to think about if it is necessary to carry a spare tyre as well (your belly doesn't count).

Practicality: Don’t bother with the antacids, they won't help. Take a spare tube and patch kit. Also instead of a whole spare tyre think about a tyre boot. Park does some sticky ones that will probably get you through the rest of the tour or a $5 note does nicely for at least the rest of the day. Aussie plastic money is a good option if you know a bike shop is in your next destination to buy a new tyre.

Problem: Wheels won’t turn because of a problem with hubs, rims or spokes?

Solution: Again after a service your hubs, rims and spokes would be expected to be OK for the full trip. However damaging a spoke is a possibility either in transit or during the trip. Take a spare spoke.

Practicality: You can take one or two spare spokes (wrap them up and put them in your down-tube which is accessed via your seat post) but spokes come in different lengths, you may find you need spares to cover front and rear wheel spokes and often right side or left side of the drive train. There is a product call a ‘fiber-fix spoke’ could buy which is basically a super strong flexible fiber that is ratcheted tight to substitute for a real spoke until you can find a bike shop.

Problem: You can’t ride the bike because you have a problem with your drive train. Eg chain, pedals, cranks, derailleurs, chain-rings, cassette.

Solution: Again you could take spares of everything but....

Practicality: If you have had your bike serviced before leaving then this problem will most likely be caused by your chain. You don’t need to carry a full spare chain, rather take a chain breaker and some ‘quick links’.

Problem: Your bike was stolen.

Solution: Take a spare bike on your trip.

Practicality: If you think this is practical then perhaps you should go on a supported trip. Otherwise it is probably best to go with a folding bike as your spare and either drag it behind you via a rope or strap it to your back.

In summary, here are 10 tools I take on a self-supported cycling trip:

  1. Multi-tool with variety of allen keys suitable for your bike + chain breaker, philips & flat head screwdriver.

  2. Quick links for your chain.

  3. Fibre-fix spoke substitute.

  4. 1 set of brake pads

  5. Tyre levers.

  6. Minimum 1 spare inner tube.

  7. Tyre boot patch

  8. Mini-foot pump

  9. Cable ties

  10. Electrical tape

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