Our big wide world is full of variety and ready to be explored! But before you jump in the saddle for your two-wheeled adventure make sure to prepare for the journey ahead and local conditions in your chosen destination. To help you along we've polled our team with many years combined experience, and asked them what they would consider useful to bring on most cycle tours. Some may be familiar, others easily overlooked - Here are top 10 essentials to keep in mind when packing for your next bike tour.
1. Sun Protector Sleeves
Our Guide Heang recommends riding with sun sleeves, these sleeves protect your arms from the sun and if made with quick dry material actually have a cooling effect as they wick away sweat. This saves you from applying sunscreen multiple times a day. There is nothing worse than re-applying sunscreen mid-day to then have sweat and dust stick to your arms. Cambodia has some beautiful hard-packed red dirt roads, and although we all love to ride them, at certain times of the year they can get dusty.
Grasshopper: Mr Heang (Guide, Cambodia) | Favorite Tour: Cycle Angkor to the Sea
2. Chapstick (Lip Balm)
This handy essential will assure your lips remain cool and collected throughout the ride. A wax-based balm is excellent to keep away chapping in the cooler climates like on the Alaska & the Yukon Bike and Kayak Adventure. The stick versions are easy to carry and quick to apply. Our team member, Christie, adds that it also gives protection from the steady breeze, which you can't avoid when cycle touring. She suggests choosing a variety made of beeswax and with SPF protection for the best results. Her preference — Burt’s Bees! Add an extra couple of dollars and go organic to treat your lips to an array of oils and vitamins (coconut, avocado, jojoba oils, shea butters, and vitamin E for starters), and maybe avoid the tastier kinds or you could find yourself licking it away and risk chapping after all!
Grasshopper: Christie (Communications & Tour Host) | Favorite tour: Mekong Bike & Boat
3. Wear-Over Shorts
Cyclists and lycra (spandex), it's a notorious combo, and in most instances we say live and let live. But there are some touring locations, especially in rural Southeast Asia, where it pays to err on the side of modesty. For example, some remote villages in Myanmar are more conservative than others. The last thing we want to do is shock or disrespect someone, especially in one of the many beautiful temples and pagodas we visit on tour. Wearing some light running shorts over your cycling shorts is a modest compromise and also adds a few handy pockets. Alternatively, if you prefer to ride in lycra only, roll up some lightweight running shorts and store them in your jersey pocket to throw on as needed.
Grasshopper: Nay Thway (Guide Leader, Myanmar) | Favourite Tour: Inle, Bagan & The Irrawaddy
4. Riding with Clipless MTB Pedals and Shoes
Riding with clipless pedals (shoes attached) can increase your efficiency, power, control and comfort on the bike. This is great for touring, but it's very important to choose the right combination of pedal and shoe. Mountain bike specific pedals (like SPD, Crank Bros) offer durability, easy entry/exit and some movement in the pedal. This can ease stress on your knees on rougher terrain.
Road bike and some mountain bike racing shoes have very stiff soles and no tread for traction. Both of which can be dangerous when cycle touring as you are on and off the bike a lot. Make sure that your clipless compatible shoes have ample tread that provides grip and a little flex in the sole. This means that you can comfortably walk around off the bike without looking like a baby deer on ice skates. Photo stops and sightseeing become a far nicer experience! If this is your first time using clipless pedals, please practice cycling with them, clipping in and out. Doing this before the tour saves you from the embarrassing stationary falls that we have all experienced!
Grasshopper: Adam Platt Hepworth (CEO) | Favourite Tour: All of them
5. Microfibre Neck Tube
These light-weight neck tubes are incredibly versatile. This was demonstrated best in China. Our “Yunnan Bike Tour” tour starts up in the Tibetan foothills of Shangri La where temperatures can get quite chilly. Wearing one of these tubes helps keep you warm by keeping wind off of your neck and face (when pulled up over your nose). In some of the busy cities, dust can be a problem and this item made a great dust mask. In the southern lowlands, the neck tube came into use again keeping the sun from burning your neck and wicking away sweat in a cooling action. They can also be worn under the helmet to help absorb sweat.
Grasshopper: Tim (Guide, China) | Favourite Tour: Yunnan Bike Tour
6. Hydration Backpack
The importance of water can never be understated. Carrying enough of it and remembering to drink it, though, can be challenging. It’s easy to forget as time passes and you don’t always feel thirsty as dehydration gets closer. Countless riders have sworn by the convenience of having a water tube on hand via hydration backpacks. There’s no need to stop or even slow down to grab a water bottle. You’ll likely drink more water, conveniently sipping away as you enjoy the ride or stop to explore. On our Tasmania Bike, Hike and Kayak tour, you can stop off to visit the Mclachlan sculpture studio, salmon farms and more without having to remember to grab your water bottle. Reservoirs in the packs can hold up to 3 liters, though a popular size for cyclists is the 2 or 2.5 liter. Cycling-specific hydration packs have a more compact style and low profile for wind resistance and comfort.
Grasshopper: Jake Stalker (General Manager) | Favourite Tour: The Bangkok to Saigon Explorer
7. Ziplock Bags
Across all of our tours, we provide optional Ziplock bags. These simple items are just the right size to store your wallet or phone or camera (or a combination of these) and be stored in your cycle jersey pocket. In some of our tropical destinations like Taiwan, you don't want a light rain to dampen the enjoyment of spectacular views. Being re-sealable keeps the dust and dirt out as well as making them waterproof, but more importantly “sweatproof”. This stops your valuables from getting ruined while riding in hot, wet, or dusty conditions.
Grasshopper: Tot (Operations, Taiwan) | Favourite Tour: Bike Taiwan
8. Power Bank
We all love taking photos on tour and the quality of our phone cameras makes it the most used item for the job. The only issue is mobile devices have multiple jobs and short battery lives. Packing a small power bank with you on tour means that you can charge your device while away from a power source in the middle of the day, or in remote locations or during a power cut (known to happen in South East Asia). Don’t miss a fantastic shot by running out of battery!
Grasshopper: Pleng (Tour Operator, Thailand) | Favourite tour: Cruising the Coast to Samui
9. Windproof Vest (Gilet)
Laos can be hot, hilly and subject to tropical downpours. You find that 2 minutes after putting on a typical waterproof jacket, you are wetter inside than out due to the humidity and hard cycling. Windproof vests (like Castelli brand pictured) made of water-resistant materials are lighter, more packable and cheaper than jackets. Being sleeveless, they also breathe better! They keep the heavy rain off of your core, yet let your arms get wet and be cooled by the rain. Usually, they have a mesh back that helps you cool down. These are perfect for the mountains of Laos and other areas subject to tropical rainfall, providing a balance of weather protection and breathability.
Grasshopper: Touy (Guide & Operations, Laos) | Favourite Tour: Mountains Of Laos
10. Handlebar Bags
We provide handlebar bags for all of our guests on tour. Some customers choose not to use them, which is not a problem. But while cycling on our Sri Lanka by Bike tour, we see a lot of wildlife. Being “wild” the animals do not usually hang around posing for long, especially when they catch an eyeful of brightly colored cyclists! So having your camera or phone up-front helps your chances of capturing those magical, fleeting moments… and proves that you really did see that Purple-faced Langur swinging through the trees!
Grasshopper: Nishan (Guide & Naturalist, Sri Lanka) | Favourite Tour: Sri Lanka by Bike
We hope you found some of our bike touring essentials handy enough to include on the packing list for your next adventure! Our experience on the road has shown these small additions can help keep you comfortable and prepared, enhancing your overall touring experience - It's why we provide some of them on our trips! Whatever your packing list entails, we hope you are ready to enjoy the adventure and look forward to seeing you on the trail!