Some items on a bicycle tour packing list are essential. A bicycle, appropriate clothing, water bottles, tools, spare tubes, and a pump come to mind. I would even put maps and duct tape on that list. But another category of items are nonessential. Of those, you will regret not having taken these six with you:
1. A rearview mirror. This is simply one of the best (but often overlooked) bicycle safety devices going. Forewarned is forearmed. Remember, you aren’t just traveling around the neighborhood. A long-distance tour will invariably take you to more hazardous roadways. This device lets you see and prepare for what’s sneaking up from behind before it startles you or, worse yet, runs you over. My wife, Debbie, became a convert and proponent after a scary incident on I-84 in Oregon.
2. A camera. Don’t underestimate the value of visuals in capturing the memories and sharing them with others. The tour will be over before you know it, but the memories will last for a lifetime. Take the appropriate gear to preserve them. A digital camera will serve you well. You may also want to consider a helmet-mounted video camera.
3. A mobile computing device. Just like the camera, a mobile computing device helps document the trip of a lifetime. Although a computer smacks against the spirit of freedom and adventure of a bicycle tour, and also adds weight and a security concern, its benefits far outweigh the negatives. Keeping an electronic journal may seem laborious, but it will pay huge dividends later. Pictures can be transferred to the computer and shared over the Internet with family, friends, and total strangers who will appreciate your thoughtfulness. The computer can also aid with navigation and logistics, and serve as portable power and data storage for other electronic devices.
4. Bicycle gloves. Some might think of these as essential, but I never wore them before my first bicycle tour in 2010. Being without the additional padding of gloves on a long-distance bicycle tour is like entering a marathon without sneakers. Even with gloves, your hands will likely suffer callousing, numbness, and tingling. Gloves also enhance the grip of sweaty-palmed cyclists. Don’t risk permanent damage or loss of control on the bicycle by being without well-padded gloves.
5. Extra fluid capacity. Two water bottles will only get you so far. The heat and the inevitable long serviceless stretches on a bicycle tour will require more fluid capacity. In addition to the water bottles, which double as cups at the campsite, take a hydration system, such as a 70-ounce Camelbak, that will provide a constant flow of water for several hours–and without having to reach for bottles.
6. Sunscreen. Perhaps this should be moved to the essentials list, but I put it here because I rarely use sunscreen. But being without it can jeopardize your trip. Think about it. Being exposed to sun for 10-12 hours a day can cause severe temporary, if not permanent, damage and end your tour early.
Don’t shortchange yourself on a bicycle tour. An opportunity like this doesn’t come around very often. Maximize your experience by taking the right gear.