Adventure Cycling - Guide on what to pack Part 2
In this fourth and final part of this series on what to take for bicycle adventures, we look at fully self-sufficient cycle touring.
Some might argue that ‘fully self-sufficient’ means that you also have to find your own food, by hunting or other means, like an episode of Survivor or Bear Grylls. But we’re not taking about that extreme definition. Instead, it means that you carry everything you need to set up camp overnight and cook your own food, so you don’t need to rely on finding a hotel and restaurant.
If you want to ride through remote areas, such as the northern and western regions of Australia, or the back roads of Canada or Alaska, this will be virtually your only option as there are rarely any supported rides in these areas.
Self-supported cycle touring is the third of three broad categories of cycle touring. What to pack for the first two - supported rides and ‘credit card touring’ - was discussed in part three of this series. You’ll need to take everything listed for those two categories plus the following additional items.
Tools and Spares
So you’ll need to know how to fix some of the most common problems that can occur and have to the spares and tools to do the job.
You’ll already have spare tubes and a pump but for a remote trip you should add a puncture repair kit and even a spare tyre. If your tyre is badly gashed, either in the tread or sidewall, you can sometimes make running repairs with some plastic (even Australian currency is quite durable) to form a sleeve between the tyre and tube (if you’re not using tubeless tyres).
You need to be prepared for one or more broken spokes. The most common spokes to break are those on the drive side of the rear wheel. You might think that’s just to annoy you because they’re usually the hardest to replace. But it’s actually because the rear wheel carries more weight and the drive side takes the most strain. If you're riding derailleur gears, it’s also the weakest point due to less ‘dishing’ of the spokes to make room for the rear cassette.
You can usually get away with one broken spoke, especially if you’re riding disk brakes and don’t have to worry so much when it causes the rim to go out of true. But if you break a second spoke, which is more likely because when one breaks the surrounding spokes are under more strain, then you’ll need to replace them. Make sure you know how to do this before you depart for your ride and make sure your spokes are of the right length.
Modern chains are normally reliable but as they say, only as strong as the weakest link. They’re also vulnerable to sticks and rocks. You’ll need some spare chain links and a chain breaker tool, plus the knowledge and practice of how to insert the spare links. One way to avoid all of this is to buy a touring bike with a belt drive, which means you’ll also need an internally geared rear hub, avoiding the relative fragility of a derailleur. Many long distance touring cyclists prefer a Gates carbon drive belt coupled with a 14 speed Rohloff internal geared rear hub. This set up is expensive, but virtually maintenance free and as close to bullet proof as you can get on a bicycle.
In hot weather we recommend drinking up to one litre of water per hour of cycling. That means you might need to carry eight litres or more if there’s no place to refill during the day on a hot ride.
This is one item where you should definitely not travel light! Dehydration can quickly become dangerous to your health and safety.
You might also consider carrying a small and lightweight water filter of some sort so you can utilise running streams and creeks that you pass.
You’ll need a tent, sleeping pad (mattress), sleeping bag, camp stove, and a cooking pot or canteen, cutlery - and some food!
If you just go to a regular mass market camping store for all these items, they’ll weigh far too much. It’s amazing how light specialist camping gear can be. For example you can get sleeping bags rated to 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) that weigh 600 grams (1.3 pounds).
You can get a one person tent that weighs 900 grams (2 pounds) including poles. Items like these will cost four or five times more than your basic camping store versions, but will pack down smaller, weigh less and be better in strong winds and cold temperatures. Wiggle has some great options you can check out through their tent selections here.
The most comfortable sleeping pads are the inflatable versions, which are still very lightweight.
With camping stoves, you cannot carry gas cannisters on a plane so if you’re flying for your upcoming cycle tour it might be best to buy your stove overseas to make sure its compatible with the local canister type.
How to Carry it All
If you’re going to carry all of this gear on your bike, you’ll need a heavy duty bike, ideally a purpose built touring bike. You’ll need front and rear panniers plus a handlebar bag. With all of this weight, good disc brakes are a far better option than rim brakes, especially if you’re riding through mountainous terrain.
One way you can avoid all of these bags, and even getting a special bike, is to buy a bike trailer. Traditionally these came with two wheels but now one wheel versions are popular, particularly with mountain bikers, because the wheel tracks in the centre line of the bike’s wheels.
Some trailers pack flat for traveling on planes. More expensive lightweight trailers are barely heavier than empty pannier bags and racks. They can carry everything you need in a single large bag. Another advantage is that if you can leave your trailer somewhere safe for the day you can go off and explore on lightweight bike with no luggage.
Happy cycling adventures!
Thanks to cycle touring expert Noel McFarlane of Vivente Bicycles for his advice for this blog. You can see more of Noel’s advice and amazing cycling adventures here.
To help make it easier for you, we've partnered with the good folk at online retailer, Wiggle. To take advantage of great prices for all your adventure cycling needs, check out their full range here. It's your one-stop-shop for all the gear you could possibly need.