Cycle Touring or Bike Packing

A step up from this would be self contained ultralight. This is an opportunity to purchase some amazing bits of equipment. You can probably live off sandwiches and discard the need for a stove at all. Dehydrated meals and water boiled on spirit stoves would be the trade up from this and the bonus would be the hot drinks. I have toured using this method and an ultra light wood stove ( you do have to dismount and walk a bit close to the time to camp or you may find that your camp place has not got enough tinder and wood for the night - you do rather forget this when you are travelling by bike with a  wood stove. )

Tents and sleeping mats for this sort of enterprise would probably be from the NeoAir or Exped ultra light  range. Tents close to science fiction are now available. We use tents by Big Agnes which fall very near the Ultra light category, particularly for two people sharing the load. The usual suspects of Tarp Tent and the Akto would be ideal, particularly if you want the wind stability for northern UK tours.

Waterproof panniers are a must. With no problems with airflow over your sweaty back, the materials are quite literally 100% water-proof. The best are Ortlieb, with Vaude very nearly as good ( My front panniers are Vaude and have done 35,000 miles ), and I know that you can get panniers slightly lighter but lets not start worrying about wet kit. Up there on the handlebars is a good place for stuff. Both Ortlieb and Vaude offer handlebar bags with built in map holders. This is almost a must-have as it puts things to hand allows the stuffing all your ' mission-critical documents'  in here. Which means that you can grab this one item and sit with coffee in hand without worrying too much about the security of your bike outside the cafe.

Going on a longer tour, or widening the temperature range that you can travel in may require you to start looking at hooking four panniers from your bike. Getting the weight off that back wheel has got to be a good idea. Unless you are riding an internal hub machine, your back wheel is actually weaker than the front because of the way it has to be built. Spread the weight out if you can. Get front racks and try to resist the urge to buy the top bag that Ortlieb make. Once again, I guarantee you will fill it with stuff, so don't give yourself the option.

If you are going for a longer tour then the equipment had better make it to the end. A bit more robust is what we are looking at here. The sleeping pad is possibly the Exped Downmat or similar and the bag is going to be a Rab 600 or 400 or perhaps something by PHD. A silk or cotton-silk liner with this and you can sleep cosy over a wide range of temperatures, with the liner doubling on duties by keeping you from contact with questionable bedding in exotic locations.

As we have gone up the distances, the cooking can become more elaborate, but still light. Most people on multi month tours use the Primus Omni fuel stove. Even in Scotland there are panicky moments and cold meals ahead if the gas canister does not have quite as much fuel left in it as it sounds last time you shook it. Petrol stoves are the answer most of the time for the more remote tours. Beyond about five days to a week the dehydrated ready meals do not work and it is back to good old camp-craft and pans.

Again, in Scotland, do not expect a dinner, grill, restaurant to come along, you really must have a plan. Snacks in that front box on your handle bars are going to play a big part in stopping you from suffering ' the bonk '. Grazing as you pedal along from trail-mix or some such gloop will help you to avoid hitting the wall. Cycling does tend to hit you with this more than walking. You are just half a snickers away from going from pedalling with a feeling so close to that of flight, to grovelling wretch who cannot remember his mothers maiden name nor pin code.

Part 1 - Introduction

Part 3 - Ready to go



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